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“Salty Toons” Title Sequence Film (Show and Tell)

April 9, 2013

Peter: It’s here! My title sequence for the “Salty Toons” animation show at Big Irv’s Gallery, which I curated and hosted this past weekend. I was so excited to create something that emulated the dark and gritty tone of the films that were screened, and to have a chance to do some mixed media stop-motion photography (it’s been 5 years since my last stop-mo film!). This was also the first time I used DragonFrame software and shot with a DSLR camera (courtesy of Andy London) which made everything beautiful – make sure to set the Vimeo player to HD resolution!

And since I always enjoy looking back on the process of making a film and seeing the similarities and differences between original ideas and final result I thought I’d post some storyboards, sketches and behind the scenes photos from the 2 weeks of start to finish production.

Below are the original boards, which include an alternate beginning involving making popcorn on top of the salt-machine (boards #1-8). I decided to scrap this portion when I realized the story was more about the journey of the salty mixture:showandtell_notes1.1showandtell_notes2.2

(click to enlarge)

Here are some early concept sketches of the salt machine and basement set (as well as the film’s well-worn supplies list). I usual do more sketching for films but my schedule was so tight on this that I ended up running with most of my initial ideas:


Below is the basement set before the dead plants and dirt floor were added. While there are lots of little details included that may not completely register to the viewer in the brief moments they’re on screen, I do think they subconsciously get recognized and contribute to an overall reality. Plus the more detailed the set, the easier it was for me to feel inspired and immersed in the environment while shooting:



In actuality, the countertop set was pretty small. I made 3 tiled wall sections that I could rearrange according to each shot, in order to convey the sense of a larger space:showandtell_notes6

Set lighting is VERY important (as is a good camera). I used regular 40w party bulbs and desk lamps, nothing fancy, but I spent a LOT of time readjusting and getting the lighting right. I was heavily inspired by Italian horror director Dario Argento‘s older films which were often bathed in over the top technicolor lighting. Just check out the before and after difference:showandtell2

The room where I shot everything was a mess of homemade solutions to get the desired results on screen – you can see I put a blue t-shirt over my globe light to add some cooler toned diffused ambiance, and I separated the colored lightbulbs on top of the set with cardboard beer cases to keep the colors from bleeding together and to help define them better in-camera. I don’t think you’d ever know that looking at the final shot:showandtell3

Lastly, I went back over some of the footage and animated flames and flowing salt goop by hand (frame by frame) using Flash. After I roughed out the animation, everything was cleaned up and then composited onto the original footage using After Effects:showandtell

Finally, all that was left was the sound design – which can really make or break a film. I set the tone with this great version of “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Trent Reznor that had a lot of distortion and electronic interference, which suited the style of the footage really well and helped set an audio direction. Having a partner who is a professional film sound designer was also pretty helpful. We sat down together and figured out ways to include subtle sound effects that complimented and integrated with the soundtrack. There’s a lot of film projectors, record players, television tubes, static and even some deer rutting calls and a cash register!

And so that’s how I made a 1 minute film in 2 weeks! Looking back on it, it was a lot of work but extremely fun and gratifying. Now I can’t wait to start something new!

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  1. Salty Toons « ASIFA-East

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