Obsolescence is a 3 minute graduation film I made at Vancouver Film school. I started developing the story and exploring ideas for the visual look before we officially started working on the project.
Creating this film took around 9 months. The first pre-production challenge was condensing the complex concept I had into a short film, doable in the limited time frame we had. I cut the 5 characters I had down to 3, allowing me to develop and apply the same basic structure to each character. The only difference between each character became their hairstyle, which had to reflect the time in history they had to represent. I applied this concept to the picture frames as well, creating a cohesive look through the design.
Then the time came to develop the background and the prop design. Because all the characters’ heads were constrained within their squared frames, I decided that all the elements in the environment had to follow the same rule, fitting in a square or cubic shape.
The first visual development of the story consisted of blocking out the main feelings through colours. I divided the script into sections and roughly visually represented each section in the colour script.
From these first boards, I deepened the story, dividing it into 18 shots. I drew 5 versions of the storyboard, until I came up with the most successful way to convey my concept.
From the storyboard I cut an animatic. When I was satisfied with the camera movements, I started painting the 18 different background elements with watercolours. I scanned and edited them in Photoshop, adding the fieldguides and the key poses of the characters.
The actual production started with the animation of every character in rough and blocking the key positions of the ghosts’ frames. On top of this first version I cleaned the drawings and added the inbetweens (around 1600 different single drawings). This phase took around 3 months.
To help myself animate the heads of the characters, I built a real reference head using a paper mache technique. It was really useful for weird angles, especially at the beginning, when I was not totally confident drawing the structure of my characters.
I started the post-production digitally painting the characters and assigning the proper colour IDs. The next stage was to composite everything together, adding all the effects and connecting all the elements, building the final product.
The last things I dealt with were the dust particles floating in the room. Instead of using particle systems created by the computer, I decided to animate each particle by hand. Being able to control each one’s path and eases, I moved the particles according to the path of action created by the characters. This method was successful, particularly when I added the blue petals floating in the room.
In a few cases I created hybrids, adding to the scene both particle systems and particles animated by hand. For instance, when the ghost wakes up at the beginning of the film, there is a particle system of dust falling from behind the frame. There are also particles animated by hand which fall from the painting that respond to the ghost’s face and arms movements.
The last step was to fix any imperfections in the footage and incorporate the sound effects and the final version of the music. Below is an image of my notes during this stage.
And this is the poster for the premiere at VFS.