This interview was to help inspire people potentially interested in pursuing film and video editing courses via the portal site hotcourses.com.
Postchat is a weekly discussion on issues surrounding post-production amongst the Twitter community of which I am a part.
This week I was asked to be featured during a discussion on animation editing. I've summarised the proceedings before and tried to link questions and answers together - although at the time a lot of conversations were occurring in parallel, with diversions - and I went back a few times to questions asked earlier. For a full transcript, see this Storify.
The BAFTA Film nominations were yesterday. Unfortunately, Pirates not only failed to win - they were not even amongst the three animated features nominated in the relevant category.
However, this was more or less righted by the nomination in the 85th Academy Awards - announced earlier today. Pirates is one of five films nominated for Best Animated Feature, and one of three stop motion films within the category! So, fingers crossed for the 24th of February.
Another recently announced set of nominations that I eagerly browsed were those of the Visual Effects Society Awards - having been the previs/ VFX editor on Pirates, I was rather hoping to see a few nods in that area. Indeed, there's an Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture - competing against Brave, Hotel Transylvania, and Wreck-It Ralph - all of which are fully CG. I personally attribute a large part of this (corrrectly or not) the seamless overlap between stop-motion and CG to a fair amount of confusion over the nature of the film and its effects. Not only amongst lay-people (although I have had to clarify on a few occasions that the water was indeed generated and yes - CG CAN do that these days), but also amongst VFX pros - for whom I answered several questions on Twitter about the production and stop motion, previs, vfx, CG animation, etc. at the time the film came out.
Pirates also has a Best Animated Feature nomination in the 40th Annie Awards, as well as Outstanding Achievement nominations in four categories:Character Animation in a Feature Production, Production Design in an Animated Feature Production, Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production, Writing in an Animated Feature Production. So... exciting times.
Working on Pirates was an amazing experience in its own right, especially as it was the first feature I ever worked on - but it's certainly amazing and fulfilling to see it get some outside recognition too, from people who didn't actually work on it - or who don't feel they have to say nice things because they know me.
It's been almost exactly a year now since VFX finished on the film, and it's immensely gratifying to see it still making its way out there. I really hope that it continues to get the same level of love and commitment from the rest of the world as those of us involved in its production put in.
I got my first business cards when I was 20. At the time, I considered it pretentious - and I'm sure that was also the view of my peers when they happened to notice, but the fact was that I was starting to be asked for my phone number and email address by people who may want to pay me money for work. They were very formal based on a template at the company I ordered from, and were basically what I thought a business card should look like; if slightly different from the black text on white card "business" business cards. I didn't have a website, and just a single personal email address through which all of my email went. I still have a stack of them somewhere, gathering dust.
Time passed, and as I prepared to move on from film school back into the world, I got my own website and domain - and therefore new cards. This time I went with a style which has usually been described as funky. Again, they were based on a website template with custom colours, but they were significantly less formal; whilst still standing apart from the black on white formality.
These are currently the cards which I give out to the places where I work, and at certain other times - usually for people who already know me but don't yet have the full set of contact details. They fit neatly into existing systems for card indexing, they're reasonably distinctive amongst many cards, and all of the information is on the front with a plain white back (for additional notes). What they lack is any aspect of me - after all, they're once again based on a template at the site I used.
So what I now have are these half-sized cards from moo.com (they also do full-size, postcards, stickers....)
Utterly generic front (top left) with all of the relevant information, but on the back I was able to select photos to upload. I selected images from 3 different projects to match different areas of expertise:
I carry these cards around with me at all times in their nifty custom case, and by far collectively they're currently my most-used. Certainly in networking contexts, being able to hand someone my card and show them the image from the film most relevant to the type of opportunity I may be offered, and then talk a little about it - it's a great visual aid, and hopefully something which will inspire them to check out my website to find out more. Next time I order them, I'll probably get different sets with different job titles - these were a trial on a special order, and they'd only accept one 'front' - but they've proven to be pretty popular.
Then, of course, there's the issue of social networking. I have a large number of links (LinkedIn, Twitter, various UK job site profies) on the top right of every page of my website - do they belong on a card? Increasingly so, it seems. And since I know that I've instantly followed (or at least looked up) someone on Twitter when they've included their username in a presentation, it seems increasingly relevant. At least until the next big thing comes along?
This film has a lot of Aardman firsts – it’s the first stop-motion feature for which they’ve used previs to guide the floor when setting their shots up. It’s the first time they’ve managed their VFX in-house, with a team of around 100 VFX artists up in Bristol working on the 1500+ shots which are in the film. Every single shot has some form of visual effect, some are entirely CG, and some have additional characters or buildings added in amongst what they shot on the floor. But it’s all entirely in-keeping with the Aardman style. I challenge anyone to tell me where the stop motion animation ends and the CG begins!
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists is released in the UK on Wednesday 28th March 2012 (today).
Principal shooting on The Pirates! has finished. The cut is (mostly) locked. Many of the sets have been dismantled, shooting crew have left, and we can still get parking spaces if we arrive slightly late. We even have Shaun The Sheep setting up where the Pirates sets used to be.
We had a spectacular wrap party last weekend at Bristol's Mshed, where everyone dressed up as Pirates, Scientists, and some of the lesser-known (and potentially spoiler-y) characters.
We have 4 more weeks of work before final delivery. That's two before Christmas, and two after - in which all versions are finalised, confirmed with edit (who'll be finishing in London by that point), and delivered. It's getting quite close - after 5 years in the making.
However, it's proving quite difficult to get the company to get out of the mindset that now that filming's finished the film is over. Yesterday (Friday) afternoon and this weekend, half the phones aren't working while they "upgrade" the system. We've had whole days of not being able to access the viewing theatre. And we're not a small department - we've easily over 100 people. Plus there are outsourced shots to be approved. And still some final bits of sequence which aren't even locked yet.
So, please - everyone.
It's not over when the fat/ thin lady sings at the Wrap Party.
Some of us are still going, and really hoping to not have to work over Christmas - with or without added disruptions! Spare a thought for your post people this Christmas. We're still working really hard to make everyone look good.
Here's a sample day to show what I presently do at Aardman as the editor in the VFX department on Pirates. My job has evolved a lot since I first started and basically loaded and exported shots, and after 6 months I gained an assistant of my own - which helped a great deal.
Of course, there's no such thing as a typical day in a job like this. Some days are packed full to bursting, others more relaxed. On some days nothing breaks, on others.... well, yes. It changes around a lot. And of course it's all much less segregated than this.
The first teaser trailers are out for Pirates!
The first is the UK version, with the "In an Adventure with Scientists" tag. Based on a good old sea shanty, this is the one that most of us (in a rather informal poll around the table at lunch) prefer:
And then there's the international version, tagged "Band of Misfits". The more cynical among us wonder if the mention of science in a movie title could put some people off. Probably. Still, it's of a different tone to the first. And less claymation-Aardman, in a sense. Which would be fair - the techniques employed in the film are significantly more technologically advanced than anything they've done in a feature film before - see Wired's "How Aardman is embracing the digital age" article for further musings.
Still, public reaction so far seems to have been good, our director and producer are off out in Cancun and LA doing the initial promotional circuit, and I'm looking forward to the world finding out more about the film.