I’ve already set the foundation for why I did the 48×2 Animation challenge. I already discussed my writing process. Now let me tell you about how the overall production process went – was it simply getting it done quickly because it was due? or was it “working better under pressure” ? This is the first of two discussions of my production process – there was a lot of work in the two and a half days after writing the script.
After the script was written the other pre-production planning began. First, I gathered my essential props and set items. That list included about a dozen items that were needed or I thought would be helpful to the setting and story. Some were typical office items, others I added for effect. I made a point to use my Einstein coffee cup, and the coasters were from various international friends and places. The coasters were somewhat central to the plot: the coasters changed throughout the story helping to indicate that things were continually different and needed fixing.
I even had to create some images that would appear on the computer screen to make it look like an active office instead of a dead computer. I tried to make them ‘futuristic’ to match my story setting. I thought that would be better than some random web page or image, and it would change during the shot. I know computers work so much faster in the future (at least according to other futuristic movies).
Other images (still and moving) I needed included a meme, a ‘video’ of VP Talbert at a meeting, and background images for the transport pad and the “wrong place” – a nebulous area that Jefferson gets transported to incorrectly. This was a ‘complication’ in the plot to increase the tension. This creation process took about 2 hours total, though I did parts at various times throughout the production process – inspiration knows no real schedule, I guess.
I then had to choose the settings for the action. Thinking while writing helped speed up this process, and knowing that it would be at my home helped narrow the decisions. I needed a desk for the main character, Jefferson, the lab manager. His coworker, Phil, the lab technician, slaving at the computer needed his own workspace. Then there was Jefferson’s trip back in time to try to fix the problem and his run-in with Vice President Talbert. These three sets could be small since there would only be one person on screen at a time (me). The ‘hallway’ for the past-time action was not my best setting, but the tile wall in the bathroom that I wanted just wasn’t big enough for the action – I would have had to do nothing but extreme close-ups, and I knew that wouldn’t be good.
Just after writing the script, I did a list of shots for each character. A bad version of a story board, but with only one character in each shot I didn’t really bother sketching anything out, I just indicated if it was a medium shot or a close up, and a few extreme close ups.
Production – taking initial video
So, I set up the desk, put the camera on a tripod, and plugged in a lamp to keep the lighting somewhat consistent (since the fluorescent lamps in the garage tended to flick on or off at random). Then I checked the framing with a test shot. After a few minor adjustments I began recording all of Jefferson’s lines.
That first set took about an hour. On to Lab Tech Phil’s office. I could use my home office area and the old computer, printer and other equipment piled closely for his set. Lighting there was the track lights already installed. Camera set up and check once more, then I ran through all his lines.
The more difficult set and character was VP Talbert. I had the choice of Alex or Alexis for Talbert, the required character, and decided to go with a female character. While looking for the required mask prop I saw that my family had quite a variety of wigs, so no problem, right? At this past-time setting, I had to record Jefferson’s lines and Talbert’s. I decided on a different camera angle for each to make it more like they were actually talking to one another (there’s smart planning!).
The lighting was stark, the little spot lamp was all that I had available there. But with the time pressure limits, I had to go with that.
Check the script; check the shot chart; double check the list of scenes. I found a few voice over lines that I didn’t think I had, so I fired up the camera and recorded what I thought I still needed.
Done? No. Just done with recording. Now I had to put together my rough cut so I could animate. I had Saturday and Sunday to put the rest of it together. I didn’t know if I could do it. I knew there was a lot of work, a great deal of tedious, repetitive work that will take an unbelievable amount of time.
I’ll write about the animation process in my next post.