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Dearmad

Short Film in Production: Ballet Pour Ma Fille

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pre0302a.jpg

 

Homepage for Ballet Pour Ma Fille: AppleSnake

 

Original discussion thread: http://www.hash.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=2288

--

 

Ok, the title to the old thread just sucked- can't figure out how to edit titles... so, new thread.

 

Anyway, here's a simple little Fouette-type turn by RG, who is the dancer in the film.

 

Animating ballet is very hard, I've discovered. It is not made easier when the proportions of your character are... not anything like a real ballerina. This took three days to get to this point, and I need to move on- though I'm not satisfied. Need to tone down her head a bit when it moves forward, and I may make her poses a little stronger and not so in passing, though they are held longer than a real ballet dancer would hold them.

 

And no, this clip is not the setting for the dance in the film, just a checkered plane and the action dropped on the puppet.

 

Anyway, here's the clip (1mb, DiVX, 8 bit mono sound):

fouette_m_.avi

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In order to better appreciate the dance, you may want to light her feet better. So much of the time they are in the shadow of her skirt that you can't see what they are doing.

 

BTW, I love the style of you film. It has a charming miniature feel to it.

 

I'd love to see a discussion of your materials, lighting and composition. But only after you finish your work. Keep up the good work.

 

Scott

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Only Fellows can edit their thread titles, so... win a contest, and you're set.

 

Anyhow, it's great to see another large-scale project coming along! (But must you be so secretive?)

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I agree. I can't wait for this to be finished. How long is it going to be again? The above image looks great and especially the DoF which is so underused generally.

In the animation, I notice the ballerinas left elbow bends in two directions. Or that's how it looks anyway.

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That is nice - agree about making sure the feet are somehow lit - the dress casts a big shadown on them. It looks good though. I too cannot wait to see the finished product :) Although after having worked on my simple 34 second mini, I know what you are up against - you have my sympathy ;)

 

Tom

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fishman: Yeah, believe me, I'm very careful about lighting in final shots. :( So attuned to crafting the action and just testing it out, I didn't much think about it in this "test." Stupid of me.

 

"Minature feel..." Yay! I wanted it to have that feel a little bit, like we're looking into a microcosm of sorts. Going a tiny bit for stop-mo puppet scale feel with much more details (and hopefully some realism) to the animation than one would see in a Rankin-Bass production, for example. Certainly not shooting for Corspe Bride completeness... but, yeah... that sorta feel. Glad you noticed.

 

And yeah, once I'm done, I'll be sharing a lot more about the "making of" part depending on areas of interest. Just not a lot of time right now.

 

Luckbat: Secretive? How so? There's more details at my website. Maybe there's some area to the film I'm blindly overlooking about sharing? If you mean the story and plot? Well.. yeah, how the story unfolds is one of the keys to the whole film, so I'm keeping that one under my hat, but heaps of the plot are revealed at the site- just not concisely. :/

 

Kenh: 10:30 (minutes:seconds) is animated now, which takes it up to section 5 (of 12). So the best guess I have from story boards and having animated that third of the film is it will be between 25 and 35 minutes long.

 

I'll check on her elbows- and yeah, I break them purposefully a few times- given her anatomy, I discovered it was about the only way to get things to look right. But I think there are a few spots where it doesn't read right.

 

Pixelmach: again- it's embarrassing. In a way I was so careless about lighting my test- lighting is one of the things I focus strongly on. And yeah, it's an uphill fight every moment of animating it. However, the dance scenes will be the hardest pieces in the film and I'm working on one of them now, so after this, no more real technical hurdles to jump in the animation, just artistic ones.

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Alas an update ! My only comment (besides the fan boy type) are regarding the dress. The material doesn't look like a dance dress so therefore I'm wanting it to not be so stiff. If it were a more light material I guess it would be more "believable" to me that it could stand up as it does. Other than that, splendide.

 

Doug

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Secretive? How so? There's more details at my website. Maybe there's some area to the film I'm blindly overlooking about sharing?

Sorry, I meant no disrespect. It's just that, you always post these really excellent looking still images, but when you post clips, they're usually accompanied by, "This is a clip from my project, only it was rendered realtime so there's no lighting. And also I removed the background."

 

So it sometimes feels like the clips are "crippled" somehow, as if you're avoiding showing more than the barest glimpse of the project as a whole. Those lush still images always make me feel like I'm missing out when I watch the clips.

 

And sometimes when you post updates, they're accompanied by comments like this: "Between this scene and the last one I showed there's quite a bit of stuff, but they're long scenes which reveal a little too much about the story..."

 

That's all I meant by 'secretive.' Once again, sorry if I offended. I'm a big fan, really!

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<snip>

"Minature feel..." Yay! I wanted it to have that feel a little bit, like we're looking into a microcosm of sorts. Going a tiny bit for stop-mo puppet scale feel with much more details (and hopefully some realism) to the animation than one would see in a Rankin-Bass production, for example. Certainly not shooting for Corspe Bride completeness... but, yeah... that sorta feel. Glad you noticed.

 

<snip>

You finally helped me realize what it was that I loved about the look. It is that "Rankin-Bass" look. I loved Rudolph and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. I think that look with the smoothness and other qualities of CG will make for a winner!

 

Count me as a fan as well!

 

Scott

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Secretive? How so? There's more details at my website. Maybe there's some area to the film I'm blindly overlooking about sharing?

Sorry, I meant no disrespect. It's just that, you always post these really excellent looking still images, but when you post clips, they're usually accompanied by, "This is a clip from my project, only it was rendered realtime so there's no lighting. And also I removed the background."

 

So it sometimes feels like the clips are "crippled" somehow, as if you're avoiding showing more than the barest glimpse of the project as a whole. Those lush still images always make me feel like I'm missing out when I watch the clips.

 

And sometimes when you post updates, they're accompanied by comments like this: "Between this scene and the last one I showed there's quite a bit of stuff, but they're long scenes which reveal a little too much about the story..."

 

That's all I meant by 'secretive.' Once again, sorry if I offended. I'm a big fan, really!

No way, man. I didn't take offense. Seriously.

 

On the animations:

LOL to your characterization of me. I see your point now. The reason animations may seem "crippled" is that there's only one section of the film with final renders done- I share what I got in the state I have it (if I share it at all). So the animation stage you see is basically just that- not final rendering, just animation. I'm not using time to final render stuff that I'll be going back over one more time through again as I edit the final film together using my proxy clips.

 

LOL again- that is a seriously funny quote! Sometimes I DO remove backgrounds because I know exactly what they do and look like, and need to focus on the characters.

 

On the stills:

I render out stills at various *key* points in any animation sequence as I set it up (lighting, positioning, camera angles) and work on it (animate) to ensure lighting, shadows, materials, particle effects, etc... are all exactly as they should be at certain points. I make sure shadows are falling where they should, highlights are punched up enough, the materials don't read as too busy, etc... I share a few of those stills with you guys.

 

A good example is the still at the top of this thread: the plant shadows on the rock, the depth of field, the smoke in the background, Ravel's self-shadow depths and color highlights on his face, the overall color-quality to it (greens versus gold-red tones), how the procedural gruond material read, and the framing of the shot- that's what I was checking on.

 

So the lush look to the final images will be there but I'm not hiding them from you all. They aren't rendered yet. After animating the film, then editing together all the clips and finalizing sound, I will, during that process, be going back over sequences to touch up the animation, and maybe even reframe/repace.

 

Only things I've consciously hidden are:

1: The actual sequence of the storyline- as the revelation is important to the plot

 

2: A few of the more "showy" segments of the film already animated. Some of the things I try to do visually are components of the plot which I don't want to reveal yet. I reserve a little right to go for a few "Ooohs and aaahs..." when you see the final film.

 

;)

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I always get a little jump of anticipation when I see you have a new clip.

I like it but I think that dance could be exagerated a little more, maybe it's the camera angle that weakens the poses(or maybe that's what the story needs, if so , ignore me :) ).

25 minutes...whew..that's not a short film.

MORE! :D !

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"Ooohs and aaahs..." when you see the final film.

 

;)

Ooooo....one of those planes is going to explode? Huh huh? :D

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John:

You're exactly where I am with that action. And no, no camera angle in my film is designed to weaken anything- that would be my acolyte status as "head" animator doing that. Crits on this clip are all spot on, as far as I'm concerned- and I'll keep at it.

 

Ken:

Um... it blows just like a firework- and I expect the appropriate oohs and ahhhs on que. I even put a little pilot inside the cockpit so a rag doll can fly out when it goes. Working on blood splatters still, but first the kung-fu moves for the little girls are on my plate; -er- after the robot.

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I just finished listening to the animator commentary on the Incredibles DVD.

 

There is the scene in the movie where the mother and two children are underwater. The commentators mention how the animator for that particular scene really nailed the fluid body movement of Violet swimming... they even said to step frame the sequence to see the poses.

 

One thing they mentioned is that the animator "broke" the rig... meaning... he bent elbows and knees backwards to create a more fluid look... it is amazing and even though these items are bent beyond what is physically possible it works and doesn't look strange. It is subtle but effective.

 

In your ballet animation... you may want to consider even more extreme "fluidity" of the limbs in that respect... if Pixar does it... it's okay. ;)

 

I suppose if it is done subtly it would add to the dance like feel. Ballet is so fluid and floaty.

 

Just some observations.

 

Vernon "!" Zehr

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YOu know how much I am waiting for this film :). I can't believe your nearly halfway finished animating! Hurry up! :)

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More ballet dancing- since this clip is longer, there's no sound attached- wanted to keep it below 1mb. A ballet variation comprising quite a few moves.

 

Not to piss off Luckbat ;) but again, this is not a final render, just 90% completed animation ready enough to face critiques. Camera angles will be different in the film etc...

 

3 days of animating, 2-3 days of planning and arguing with my wife about how to interpret the music through ballet choreography: filmmaker vs. dancer = filmmaker wins. husband vs. wife = wife wins. YOU figure out how that worked itself out... :rolleyes:

 

This time I made sure feet are visible for the test I share with you guys.

 

The pony tail and dress is hand animated, as 8.5 has no dynamic constraints, etc... but I find that I enjoy animating the follow through a lot- though all the soft bits like the pony tail and dress take at least a day to do in a clip this long.

 

This clip is at the speed I animated it as an Action- however in the film it will be about 30-40% faster depending on how I want her to hit the counts. That's a part of the "puppet" look I'm going for.

 

What I'm happy about:

This is REAL ballet dancing I managed to get into the film. I never thought I'd pull it off, but it looks like I might.

Her anticipation and sense of weight given that this is ballet.

Foot positioning- my RIG HELD UP!

 

What I'm unhappy about:

Some of the extremes are a little hard- want to smooth them a bit, especially her head.

Her anticipation and sense weight, given that I suck and am learning too much with each new shot- wish I was a better animator.

Some of the elbow positioning... grr....

 

And luckbat, I am just kidding, pm me if I piss ya off, though... B)

8_bar_ballet_variation.avi

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Fantastic! It seems everyone is working on a short film but no ones posting. Dearmad, you did a really good job on this, I love the animation, your balance is solid through out. Dress needs a little work though. Great job.

 

 

Uodate: Never mind I take back what I said about the dress, looks great.

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Fantastic! It seems everyone is working on a short film but no ones posting. Dearmad, you did a really good job on this, I love the animation, your balance is solid through out. Dress needs a little work though. Great job.

 

 

Uodate: Never mind I take back what I said about the dress, looks great.

Well what was your initial impression on the dress, let me know. Tell me specifically. I have my concerns and resons, but what a viewer thinks is very important, IMO.

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Interesting. Is she an actual character in the film or kind of a doll? She looks different to the others.

 

I don't know the first thing about ballet, but one thing that stood out to me was the first "step off". It feels like she should put more of her upper body (even bend her head down) as steps into the next pose.

 

Regarding the dress....If she's a real ballet dancer, I'd expect her to be wearing a pink fluffy one. But it might fit the story better like this.

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Interesting. Is she an actual character in the film or kind of a doll? She looks different to the others.

 

I don't know the first thing about ballet, but one thing that stood out to me was the first "step off". It feels like she should put more of her upper body (even bend her head down) as steps into the next pose.

 

Regarding the dress....If she's a real ballet dancer, I'd expect her to be wearing a pink fluffy one. But it might fit the story better like this.

Both points are perceptive of you.

 

She is a little girl... but all the girls in the film (3 of them) have something sorta going on with them that pulls them out of the world of the film. Their design is based on an old model I made in Polyray, and I liked it enough to want to use it again. So when I crafted the story, I had a reason to keep them deisgned differently from the other characters that are more "in" the world.

 

I was totally happy with that initial weight move- and then you comment on it, and WHAM- it's totally obvious what needs to be fixed. Trust me however, in ballet, the answer will never be bending the head/chest forward unless it's for a purely dramatic reason... my wife'd kill me if I pulled that. Thanks, though, I do see how it can be improved.

 

As to the design of the dress, versus how its animated- yeah, I tried a ballet type design and it ruined the look I was going for. I'm torn between both looks. However, the model rig is the exact same for either, so swapping her out later if I change my mind will be no problem.

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Dearmad

 

I think that dance looks beautiful. You are very fortunate to have the disciplined eye of a real ballet dancer at your service. Think what you could do with a mo-cap rig? You could do a whole ballet. Someone's going to do it, it may as well be you and your wife. :)

 

I love seeing the progress of your short.

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That is looking very nice. What is that null contrrolling? I can't seem to figure it out.

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Pixelmach and Paul:

Thank you both for the comments. And yes, without my wife to help, this part of the film would frankly suck. I animated a simple "balance" move which is a 3/4 step- a waltz step, before I had her help. It was hilariuos how many errors in *basic* ballet technique I commited. I had completely misunderstood how the move executes.

 

Zaryin:

The null is for aiming her head occasionally. The enforcement is only 100% for the few frames she holds it still in her turns, then released to an identical keyframe, and animated through the turn. And alos toward the end I use it just 'cause.

 

Her head actually has a geometry bone (of course), and then a more conventient control bone, but that control bone is beneath the chest bone in the hierarchy so moving her chest moves her head- in order to break it out of that I use a null in some shots (like when they walk) to stabilize the head more naturally.

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Nice work on the dance! From the fine foot work to the details of the hand motion, great work all around. I would think being married to a dancer would be both a wonderful resource and at times a real challenge as an animator. I would think dance would lead to some wonderful insights into motion in general. I learned a tiny bit of mime years ago and even that little bit of training taught me more than I expected about creating a convincing illusion of motion and mass. Wish I had learned a lot more.

 

Have enjoyed following the developments of your film! Love the style.

 

Bill Gaylord

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Wow, can't wait to see it with music. Very nice work with the arms follow through.

 

Doug

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Lighting took 3 days of work... balancing the sunlight from a wall of windows with the reflected sun from a wall of mirrors, and dealing with the shadows. And faking the pink radiosity that would occur... shew....

 

Anyway, something about this frame is evocative for me... thought I'd share it.

post-7-1115324965.jpg

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Love the dance. I think what impressed me the most was the motion of the feet, you captured the quick up and down off the toes wonderfully. Way to go.

 

On the still I understood everything in there except for the low bar on the left. Couldn't figure out what it was. Also, in that particular frame, it seems to be resting on the cat's head. The slight curl of the poster was an excellent touh of detail. The only other comment is that based on the size of the cat, the scale of the room seems a bit off.

 

Dying to see the completed film! Love the style, enjoying the process and am intrigued by the story.

 

Scott

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Love the dance.  I think what impressed me the most was the motion of the feet, you captured the quick up and down off the toes wonderfully.  Way to go.

 

Dying to see the completed film!  Love the style, enjoying the process and am intrigued by the story.

Good call on the cat's head. I might rethink that angle- it is a moving camera shot with the cat walking too, and this is where the cat and camera come to at the shot's end. Oh, that's a bench, the cat just walked in front of its support legs.

 

Now that ya mention it, you're RIGHT! The bar (on the right, that's a bar) should be higher up. The girls aren't supposed to fit perfectly into the world they occupy.

 

Oh... I love things that are easy to change and still benefit the film.

 

Thanks for both crits! Consider both fixed.

 

 

Heh.. the story. Well, suffice it to say, it's a film I want people to be able to watch once and be satisfied- feel they completely got it... but after the second viewing they go: wait a minute... play that again... And then the third time they watch it, they go: oh, THAT'S what it's about... And all three times, they're right!

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Peter - How I do enjoy these updates.

 

Of all the things I like about your production, and there are alot of them, I feel the lighting is super. I hope that you will give us more info about your lighting process as you go. I think we would benefit from your knowledge. I know I would.

 

I also know that time is precious so fit us in when you can eh? :P

 

Doug

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The past few weeks have been tough for various reasons... but the ballet sequence (part 5 of 12) is finished. Because of how this scene *must* tie to music, I had to animate it while doing the sound at the same time, so it meant sloooow going, but finally I've got it all worked out and timed.

 

Now I'm working on Part 6- a quiet little scene, around the little black girl's bed in her room.

 

Anyway, here's two stills for you all to enjoy (at least I hope you enjoy them). Loads of pink. Thanks to "Pixar" for giving me a heads up (even though he took it back) about the girl's dress... my wife looked at it and said the color was all wrong too, so I rethought my color approach...

post-7-1118022610.jpg

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Second still- this frame, to me, is iconic of the whole film. It really captures everything about this scene that is important: the dance, the laconic/dreamy cat, the lighting. This is, in a way, the entire point of the whole film right here.

post-7-1118022737.jpg

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Looks beautiful!

 

Is there any way to get rid of the reflections in the window of the overhead light housings? The seem to draw an undue amount of attention to themselves.

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Is there any way to get rid of the reflections in the window of the overhead light housings? The seem to draw an undue amount of attention to themselves.

 

If ever there was a need for Marcel's "Vampire" plug-in...

 

http://www.kci-group.com/z/vampire.htm

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Looks beautiful!

 

Is there any way to get rid of the reflections in the window of the overhead light housings? The seem to draw an undue amount of attention to themselves.

Actually, there might be... That balance between reflection and transperency is always tricky. I'll play with it. They're color might be part of it too...

 

I did notice that glows and lens flares don't work in reflections, so filming this section was t r i c k y.

 

 

Luckbat:

Wow... that's an interesting plug-in. Can't activate it in 8.5, though... heh. Well, I'll save it for that bright, wonderful day, when I finish this film and can move on to the rockin' current versions of A:M... -sigh- Can't believe 8.5 was hot off the press when I started this thing. :unsure:

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Both stills are lovely. I really enjoy these updates. I hope things go better for you and you can make more progress.

 

 

Scott

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Take pleasure in the fact that this difficult bit will make all the other bits left feel so much easier to animate. Maybe this is the year of the end! Looking forward to it.

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Why have I been such a loiterer in these forums lateley? 'Cause I been working hard at animating... wierd but true direct (not inverse) relationship.

 

Here's a little clip and still from the latest shot after about a day's worth of work on it, it's pretty much "done." With the completion of this shot, I'm HALFWAY done animating! 6 of 12 sections completed.

 

In the clip, since it's quick rendered, it's tough to see, but the object that comes flying in is the little girl's shooter marble- it's a clear marble with a gold ballet dancer statuette inside it. God, but AM made it easy to have the marble roll and spin just right in flight *and* when it hit the ground...

 

And yeah, it's a BIG marble... and she throws hard...

 

I'm a LONG way from feeling good about my character animation skills, but I think things are starting to improve. This scene, like the ones just before it, are tough due to all the "acting" that takes place- facial expressions, characters regarding each other, looking like they're "thinking great thoughts..." (yeah right) etc... Tough stuff for me, but I think Ravel looks reasonably expressive without being cartoony.

 

Here's the clip (.9 MB, DiVX):

0604g_divx.avi

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The still. And yes, it's only now I notice that the railing supports need to be repositioned... -sigh-. Well, easy fix to one model that'll track through every shot.

post-7-1118382156.jpg

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I am so dying to see the Ravel Epic!

 

You've got nice rounded edges almost everywhere; is there anything you can do to about where the pavement meets the steps. The intersection looks unnaturally sharp.

 

This shot has alot of head turns in it. You can make them less robotic by dipping the head slightly in the middle. Especially the last one. You could also loosen him up by slightly turning his torso with his head on some of the back and forth. Just a degree or two would really help. Lag the torso behind the head a few frames.

 

What section has the lightsabre dual with Stravinsky?

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That edge juuuust started bothering me tonight... -sigh- and with your comment, that's it, I'm fixing it. Also where the streetlamps meet the sidewalk too- those were bothering me as well.

 

I'll push his torso turns a bit more, they're too subtle. Head drops, yeah, yeah I *know* that, I know that... didn't do it at critical points... LOL.. Too busy staggering the inbetweens to make him decelerate nicely to a stop... agh, details, details.

 

I settled for a wrestling match between the Strav. and the Rav.- such a funny scene it is too with one 5'3" composer taking out another 5'3" composer! The overhead spinning move Stravinsky pulls is truly unsettling when translated to CG. :lol:

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I need a shortcut key to just paste in a reply that says beautiful and I can't wait to see it. Took me a second to see the marble come in.

 

I do have one comment. When Ravel reacts to the marble he looks at his briefcase and then at the marble, then he looks straight ahead rather than where the marble comes from. This doesn't make sense. Based on the bounce of the marble, it would have been obvious that it came from his left. That is why I couldn't figure out why he looked straight ahead and then left. I would suggest that he look at his case, then at the marble and then up to see the girl. This might also make the head turn more natural.

 

It also seems like he has the hint of a smile cross his face when he sees her. I don't know their relationship, but it seems that even if he is just pleasantly surprise to see a little girl his smile should have been a little more noticeable.

 

Love these updates!

 

Scott

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Forgive me master if I should be so bold as to add another comment.

 

At Ravels right foot the crack/indentation in the side walk seems too large, it seems to be half or more the width of his foot. It looks like an intentionally poured groove almost too pristine. If it was narrower, I think it would cast more of a shadow and look a little better.

 

Scott

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Darn good catch on where he should look given the context of this clip!

 

I didn't post the previous shot though, where there's a long shot (from futher away) and it's clear no one is around, so there's no girl for him to see. And he was looking in that direction for a long time, scrutinizing something on the sidewalk, just before he drops his head in his "sulking" position- looks like he's sleeping almost, but the previous shot has him drop his head down to that position and you know he's awake.

 

Still, a quick glance in that direction might work better. Also, a *quick* fade in to existence for the girl on her over-the-shoulder shot might clarify it even more...

 

You've given me good stuff to think about, though! I'll look it over carefully in sequence with the shots surrounding it and make sure it's clear. Thanks! Excellent crit!

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I'm gonna have to agree with Fishman on this one. The head sequence is confusing.

 

1. Ravel wakes up the instant the marble hits. There should definitely be a delay there.

 

2. He follows the bouncing marble with his eyes, which is fine,

 

3. But then he looks at his briefcase, which only makes sense if he didn't see the marble.

 

4. He then looks straight ahead, which is an odd choice, but not impossible. However, the way his face snaps to attention, it appears that he's looking directly at the person who threw the marble, and thus we would expect the camera to cut to what he's looking at.

 

5. Except that when we cut, we see that Ravel was fixated on empty space...

 

6. ...and that he apparently has no peripheral vision, since there's virtually no way you can stare straight ahead and not notice the girl immediately.

 

I'd propose the following sequence, based on the "expanding sphere of awareness" that sleeping people have when they're woken up abruptly.

 

1. Ravel is startled awake by the impact on his briefcase.

 

2. He looks to his briefcase for clues.

 

3. He notices the marble.

 

4. He looks for, and spots, the person who threw the marble.

 

Blocking-wise, I'd consider sitting Ravel a little further away from the right railing. In my opinion, the railing is cramping Ravel's visual space throughout the sequence, and in the close-up, he looks almost caged-in...

 

Edit: Dammit, that's what I get for taking so long to write this. Okay, so he's not sleeping. That's fine, it actually looked like he was staring at the ground. But I still stand by my "sphere of awareness" notion.

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Peter -

I really like the look on Ravel's face at the end of the clip.

 

Aside from the aforementioned stuff here's what caught my eye. The foliage. I don't know why but my eye was drawn there and it confused me. Perhaps when the marble is more visible this will automatically be corrected.

 

Doug

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Luck:

Even given the context, he needs to give a quick glance tohis left, to clarify there's nothing there. He does this in the previous shot, but it could be strengthened by a quick glance here- he's expecting nothing there.

 

What do you think if he:

 

follows the marble.

 

quick glance to where it SHOULD have come from (this would be new)

 

then disbelief- so he looks at the case

 

then I'll try to make clearer he's looking straight ahead but his eyes lose focus as he's just "thinking" about what the hell could have thrown the marble since no one's there...

 

then in the cut to over the should for thegirl, I'll have her do a *quick* fade in to existence, she's simply not there until he turns to look, knowing she is there now.

 

Modern:

You mean the little wheat-like plant growin at the edge of the cement? I could tone down its action a bit to make it more still... If you meant the greenery behind Ravel toward the end,, I might reframe the shot a little to get Ravel in a better position.

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then I'll try to make clearer he's looking straight ahead but his eyes lose focus as he's just "thinking" about what the hell could have thrown the marble since no one's there...

In my experience, the best way to convey "not actually looking at something" is to have the eyes pointing somewhere other than where the head is pointing--usually up and to the right.

 

then in the cut to over the should for the girl, I'll have her do a *quick* fade in to existence, she's simply not there until he turns to look, knowing she is there now.

Ah, now it's starting to make sense.

 

You don't have to do the fade if it's not the style you're going for--only you know the answer to that. Many films convey this sort of thing with straight cuts, but the trick is that the cuts have to go in the right place and the right order. (In a nutshell: 1. they need to visually establish that a character is *not* there before they can establish that the character has appeared out of nowhere, and 2. the appearance of the character via the editing must coincide with the moment they are first perceived by another character in the narrative.)

 

Not that there's anything wrong with the fade, mind you--it's the least ambiguous method of all. You just have to be consistent throughout your own movie with it...

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