Director’s Report – Last Days: Ante Diem


we worked on this project for such a long time, it’s not easy to take stock of the entire work period. however if we plan to do better on Parts 2 & 3 (what we have posted is only Part 1) then that’s something we really need to do.

the most obvious and vital lesson we learned from LD:AD is that animation is no joke. even a simple motion comic in which we never planned to do any lip-syncing is hard as hell, but we won that Celtx Seeds grant and totally assumed – at least i did – that we’d be able to finish it in just a few months. then a few months passed and we were nowhere near done. just check out the smug confidence i exhibit in this making-of piece from August for instance.

the truth is we could have finished it all in just a few months if we had done it right, but at the time we had no idea what that meant. over the months of banging our heads against the wall, we eventually worked out a pretty workable system, and as we implemented this new system our lives got easier and the piece improved. so here is how we’ll produce Parts 2 and 3 if we can raise the money – along with brief side notes describing what we actually did during Part 1 and exactly what wheel we reinvented that time:

  • as soon as the scripts are finished (sometime in early April) i’ll do the storyboards. luckily this time around, i’ll have images from all of Part 1 to pull from.
    since i didn’t have them last time, i had to pull stock images off or google images and then sketch over the top of them in Photoshop or use some of the concept sketches from Travis to help.
  • concurrent to the two audio steps below, i’ll have the illustrators work out some bible sketches for the characters and spaces. sketches of the characters in a variety of positions and clothes – the various space themes and textures – illustrations that will act as guides for the illustrators to use throughout so that we’ll be able to maintain a consistent look and feel – a world and characters that will remain recognizable and universal throughout.
    we did a certain amount of this during Part 1, but didn’t stick to it over time.
  • then, we’ll cast the extra role or two and record all the audio.
    last time Big Joe’s Sound in Santa Monica helped us with this. they were awesome and this was the smoothest part of our process. hopefully we’ll be able to book them again.
  • i’ll then take the audio and edit together the dialogue just like we did last time. i’ll send Denny the file, so he’ll have something to place the animations over.
    this was no different last time – but we realized that we should treat each scene as a separate piece. Denny will have the freedom to play with the transitions between scenes as much as he needs to
  • then Denny, the illustrators and i will begin a weeks-long process of holing up in some office somewhere, plugging away for at least eight hours a day to generate ALL the illustrations we’ll need for the the whole piece – and by whole piece i mean both Parts 2 and 3. we figure that if we’re looking to raise money for this, we might as well raise everything we need for all that’s left. this will be the most labor-intensive part of the process and the most expensive too, because we’ll need to rent actual office space somewhere. we’ll also need a scanner, since we currently sketch on actual paper instead of directly into computers (which would clearly be the best way to go, but that’s unfortunately for another time). i will scan and Denny and i will prep the files in Photoshop and AfterEffects for later illustration just to make sure we have what we need for each scene before moving on. the goal of this intense boiler room period will be to make sure that both illustrators are coordinated, making sure their elements are matching one another angle-wise and so that i can make sure the illustrations are matching the standards set up before we began.
    this was by far the biggest problem with the first batch. because the illustrators were both working in a vacuum at home and away from one another, they weren’t able to interface with one another and work together to make sure their art would be compatible. i had to do a fair amount of unnecessary Photoshop work to make it all work out. if not for this, we would have finished Part 1 in a fraction of the time we ended up spending on it. we’re not doing that again.
  • then after we have absolutely all the art we know we’ll need, Denny and i will go away. he’ll clip the illustrations in Photoshop and i’ll shade them and then set up the After Effects files which Denny will use to animate. each scene will have it’s own After Effects file in which i will create the various scene pieces and characters in 3D space divided up into different compositions for each different shot.
    this was a process that we finally perfected in only the last scene or two of Part 1. if i had known how to do this before we even began, the over-all quality of Part 1 would be much better. we’re hoping we can put in some actual lip-syncing in Parts 2 and 3 and if we figure out how to do this part well, that might actually be a possibility.
  • after the illustrations are done, Kendall will start to find sound effects as i choose and lay out the incredible amount of musical parts that Kyle Puccia did for us already. we still have a whole library of material to draw from and might only need to record some live drums to accompany the rest.
    the files provided for Part 1 are clearly more than enough for all three Parts and the way the files were delivered – where each separate instrument was provided as an individual file – gives us endless opportunities for creating different moods and senses.
  • finally, Kendall will design the sound effects and mix the dialogue, sound effects and music together while Denny fine-tunes the animation and uses filters to create nice moods.
    this didn’t really start to happen in Part 1 until the very end and helped bring the piece to life.

so that’s a lot of work. if we’d known it was going to be this much work before we started Part 1, i’m not entirely sure we would have even started, but it’s over now and i’m quite proud of Part 1 – warts and all. we learned a lot about the process and are all kinda proud of the what we did and how hard worked to do it, but i for one am glad that we’ve discovered so many shortcuts and so many ways to make it better next time around.

so here we go!

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  • Robert Lee

    Saw this at the screening last month and it totally kicked ass!  Keep it up guys… Your work is not in vain:)

    • thank you, sir! glad you liked it. we really hope we can keep them coming. cross your fingers! 

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