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Friday, 5 December 2014

The Composer: Sergio De La Puente (Part One)

Finally we get to the music! Music in film is one of my great passions which is why it was such a pleasure to work with my composer on the film Sergio De La Puente who created an original live orchestral score for the The Ledge End of Phil.

I'm going to depart from the normal blog set-up here to leave you in the hands of the Maestro to tell you about his experience on the film and to let you check out some of Sergio's personal video clips from the live recording sessions. In the clips you can see Sergio's talented collaborators performing to a workprint of the The Ledge End!

"It was both a great experience and a challenge for me to tell the story of a man and a bird through the music alone. From the beginning Paul had told me that he wanted to differentiate the world inside the office from city outside musically. So I searched for that balance in the instrumentation, assigning wind instruments to the seagull and strings to Phil. Always joining them with piano. Then ultimately merging the two instrumentations so the two characters "fly" together. For me it is a great honour to work with Cartoon Saloon and talents like Paul."

Sergio De La Puente

In the next blogpost I'll be writing about how we came to the final sound of The Ledge End as well as posting more examples of Sergio's beautiful score!

Friday, 28 November 2014

14. The CG guy: Ian Claffey

Ian Claffey who I wrote about in the How it all Began... post had been a part of Phil from the very beginning. I've known Ian since we went to college together in Ballyfermot College Dublin and The Ledge End of Phil had originally been written and conceived to be a low/no budget CG film between the two of us, with Ian doing the CG modelling, rigging and animation. The film was then slated to be cartoon saloons first CG film, and eventually became an almost entirely traditional 2D film... almost!

When I rewrote the film in the new 2D direction it was with the concede that the film would be 2.5D. Which can mean anything from drawings rigged with CG bones giving a 2D look, to cel shaded CG animation. In our case it meant that the character animation would be created with traditional 2D hand-drawn animation in TVPaint and then elements like the buildings, specific props and sets would be created in CG. Which would allow us to use more elaborate CG camera movements, depth of field etc.

We had ideas to use painterly focus, so that when we racked focus between characters the backgrounds they wouldn't just blur they'd become something closer to a painterly sketch. Which we thought was ingenius for about a week and then realised that Disney had already done this in Bolt! Still we did tests to see if there was a signature way we could approach it. But eventually with our timeframe and budget we eventually decided it wasn't essential to the story. Which is why we focused it into the painting style of the backgrounds instead.

A crucial plot point in the film is that Phil's work is so important to him that he would blindly risk his life for it by following a page out onto the ledge. So it was important to me that the page at least have something written on it! Instead of the bargain bin trope of having a hand drawn animated page which is blank. So we decided that the pages would be CG with Ian animating a hurricane of pages and creating a line style for the CG that mimicked the characters rough pencil style.

In the script the fan rotating back and forth was an important part of the story. So at the beginning it seemed the fan would have to be created in CG and Ian set about modelling and animating a great looking deskfan. In fact here is an early integration test with Ian's fan model on one of Stefano's backgrounds.

Design sheet by Stefano Scapolan based on Ian Claffeys CG model.

It was important from the script stage that the city be a character in the film. the thing is we weren't really sure what that meant visually, what the buildings would look like, how vast the world was and exactly how many buildings we were talking about! Ian and his CG toolbox became a useful tool throughout for pre visualising cityscape compositions and angles. 

But as we moved further into production we began to realise that the strength in the films visual storytelling was going to be less is more. The more flashy camera work I had thought was essential gave way to a more restrained/controlled approach because the story required it. As clich├ęd as it sounds it became more about what the story needed from us rather than what we wanted to show we could do. 

Ultimately we lost the rotating fan because it wasn't essential to the storytelling, instead Ian's CG model became a great reference model for Stefano who painted it into the 2D backgrounds. The buildings and cityscapes Ian had built where again not used directly in their CG form but where used as reference for 2D drawings for backgrounds, and for finding more dynamic cinematography. In the end the vast array of options that CG opened up to us allowed us to see the possibilities of what was possible with the story, but also forced us to look at our design decisions more clearly, and eventually to strip it back to it's bare essentials. But the point is we never would have reached the look of the final film without Ian's awesome contribution!

Next week we finally get to the MUSIC! Where I'll talk about Sergio De La Puente and the original score he created for The ledge End of Phil!

Friday, 30 May 2014

The Ledge End of Phil to represent Ireland!

We're very proud to announce that 
The Ledge End Of Phil (From accounting) has been selected to be the sole representative of IRELAND this year at the

"ONE Country ONE Film Apchat International Film Festival"! 

The Ledge End will have it's French premiere at the festival between July 24th to July 27th

And if you're in the Louisiana area in July you can catch Phil at the 2014 Baton Rouge Irish Film Festival! July 18th

Also a big thanks to the lovely folks at The Corona Fastnet Short Film Festival last weekend, where The Ledge End of Phil (from accounting) was shortlisted in no less than three categories!

Best of Festival

Best Irish Short Film

Best Screenplay

Friday, 16 May 2014

13. Layouts and Backgrounds: Stefano Scapolan

As I mentioned in the colourscript post Stefano originally came onto Ledge End to work on the colourscript and then stayed on to do layouts and backgrounds which was supposed to be for 6weeks.... but instead Stefano ended up staying on the project for 6months! Creating somewhere in the region of 96 original backgrounds for the film.

I had very clear ideas of what I wanted going into the film, of how the backgrounds would be designed to be part of the visual storytelling. But working with Stefano brought a sense of painterly texture and subtlety i couldn't have imagined. Though alot of the crew members on Phil worked remotely in other parts of Europe Stefano was sitting beside me throughout the production, which meant we came to understand each others strengths and weaknesses and evolved the storytelling style within the artwork intuitively.

Depth of field was something that had been crucial in the script stage in how I wanted to reflect Phil's inner story. As we started to push the style of the backgrounds we expanded our explorations from the colourscript (our using a painterly approach to mimic the effects of live action lenses and focus) to a painterly style based that collapsed the interior depth crushing the office into a flatpack, and expanded the outside world into daring vibrant landscapes.

We worked alot with the idea of "eye protein" (a term im stealing from guillermo del toro) if "eye candy" is beautiful things happening on screen with no real depth or input to the story "eye protein" is trying using all of the elements within the frame to reinforce what you're trying to tell the audience. The characters surroundings reflecting his inner emotional life.

Stefano's input to the film is immeasurable, the backgrounds went from what could have been pretty backdrops to beautiful animation to being cinematographic elements inherent to the films storytelling.

You can check out more of his great work on his website here: Stefano Scapolan

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Upcoming Festival screenings!

Hey folks so we have some festival screenings coming up, maybe in a town near you!

The Corona Fastnet Short Film Festival
Schull, Co.Cork, Ireland

Fri 23rd of May

Palm Springs International ShortFest
California ,USA

June 17-23, 2014

The River Film Festival
Padua, Italy

28 May to 9 June

Monday, 12 May 2014

12. TRAILER 2D Breakdown

I think it's hard to process what goes into each shot of an animated film when you're only seeing the final polished visuals

So to pull back the curtain a little I've taken a section of the film we already have here on the blog, the trailer and recut it with the original layouts and animation as they look before we go into painting grading and fx.

With character animation by Jose Antonio Cerro and Vittorio Pirajno. (Excluding the opening shot of the hand straightening the picture which was animated by our great production intern Alex Bernas)

and layouts by the incomparable Stefano Scapolan, enjoy!

Friday, 2 May 2014

11. Animating the Seagull: Vittorio Pirajno

Animation had started, the production was building momentum, sand timers were filled with coins and were accumulating small piles at the opposite end, Jose had started animation on Phil...and still no animator for the gull....

We had in fact found a couple of animators who hadn't worked out for one reason or another, couldn't get the style or scheduling conflicts with other projects. I had spent so much time more worrying about Phil, I hadn't considered the gull being the hard sell

So compared to other members of the crew Vittorio came quite late in the game. Even when i was given his reel his stuff was great but i just wasn't sure if he was the right guy. It was Jose who said "trust me, this is the guy". So I gave vittorio the shot below, and he nailed it straight off! Vittorio brought the fun and spontaneity that the gulls character needed, and through out the film always added a little something to the performance that made it better.

This was the first shot Vittorio worked on, here you can see the progression from the initial rough (i spoke about above) to the final shot


On the animation for both characters I tended do redraws (taking take key poses from the animation and drawing over them) with Phil it was usually about bringing it back on style, making his movements more restrained, doing more with his eyes or small hand gestures if we could.

But with the gull it was the opposite, myself and vittorio went back and forth alot not to bring it back but to see how far we could push the little guy. When Vittorio would do a first draft of the animation, i'd often be inspired by his drawings, do redraws over his poses (usually in photoshop so i was concentrating on the graphic illustration not a frame of animation.) and then he'd take those drawings and reincorporate them back into the animation

Though phil needed to feel like he had flesh moving over his bones sometimes it was nicer with the gull for him to just feel more maleable, were as Phil was frail and weak the gull could squash,stretch and bounce back, nothing gets him down, the animation style reflected his character.

The chuck jones adage rang true of no matter how far we pushed, pulled and distorted this little bird beyond physical reality when you ran it through on screen it actually came across quite natural, like the character had always been able to do that.

Vittorio also happens to be CEO of the fantastic Monigotes studio in Madrid, so you can check out more of his studio's amazing work over on their website: