Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Radiohead Competition

On the site Aniboom, a competition is currently being hosted with the prize of $20,000 (about 40p in real money) for whoever is picked by the community and finally, Radiohead themselves to make a video for one of the songs on the album 'In Rainbows'.

Initially the competition asks that you submit a storyboard of your concept, timed to the song but as was evident as soon as submissions were being shown, alot of people seemed to have pretty much glazed over this stage and gone straight into making the actual video. Which is a bit annoying to be honest because this then removes alot of good ideas who's 'storyboards' aren't finalised executions of the concept. Also, this means that the quality bar for the judging community (a concept that I've never really been fond of) is greatly raised, with many a comment of 'umm the idea is good but i don't like how it looks like a drawn storyboard' arising all over decent entries, much to the frustration of my work partner Matt and myself.

So, instead of going it alone, we decided to team up. I would do the storyboard of the concept he'd already come up with and then he'd make it into an animatic.

The concept he came up with was for the song '15 steps' which has an upbeat rythm, almost mechanical in some parts. Matt told me that this is why the video concept involved a printer as its mechanics chug back and forth rhythmically. From this printer comes a small ink man who ends up in the paper tray after being printed. Not satisfied with this situation, he spends the rest of the video trying to clamber back up into the printer, fighting against the unrelenting torrent of paper that comes out at him. At different stages he falls down the page, gets knocked back by a sheet, tears through one layer of printed paper to the one below and dangles feriociously to the edge of the printed stack, all in an effort to find some peace from the never ending marathon. Eventually he finds solace in defeat, lays back on the stack and waits for the unending pile up to smother him until he is only a pool of ink that drains out and pools in front of the picture.

The main concept of this neverending struggle is one that I like alot but, the resolution in which the protagonist just ends up giving up is a little too defeated for me. Matt feels that this is in line with the kind of message that Radiohead would want to have typically in their music but the overall feel of the song is about fighting this relentless climb and then for the end result to actually not be what you wanted it like the 'sheer drop' lyrics suggest.

How come I end up where I started
How come I end up where I went wrong
Won't take my eyes off the ball again
You reel me out then you cut the string

How come I end up where I started How come I end up where I went wrong Won't take my eyes off the ball again You reel me out then you cut the string You used to be alright What happened? Did the cat get your tongue Did your string come undone One by one One by one It comes to us all It's as soft as your pillow You used to be alright What happened? Etcetera etcetera Facts for whatever Fifteen steps Then a shear drop

I think a triumph or at least 'just desserts' would be a more fitting ending and this seems to ring true in the narratives to other Radiohead videos such as 'Karma Police' in which a man who is relentlessly harassed and tortured by a slow chasing car gets revenge by setting it on fire but Matt was pretty 'un-sway-able' from his position. So, I conceeded that he was my client and that I would give him what he wanted to the best of my abilities.

By the time Matt had asked me to assist him, he had already written out what he wanted to appear in each frame of the animatic and drawn a few frames loosely of the storyboard. We met up to discuss exactly what he would like to see and I went through each and every description he gave with him to make sure to the best o my knowledge that I wasn't going to miss anything.

This is a good example of what we did over that couple of hours of discussion:

(If you want to read it: Just click for bigger)

So the page of text above is a transcript of Matt's original concept with my pencils over the top as evidence of my questions and clarifications on vague areas or instances where I've said 'is that going to work?' or 'is that the message that you want to get a across?' and then we've amended in some way. This was the manual for which I made the pieces.

These are Matt's sketches of what he'd want in the frames. I used them largely as influences for the video's style so that I could retain as much of Matt's 'Feel' as possible.

Because the time constraints Matt had set upon me for this brief were tight, I knew that the work I was going to do was to be done fast and not as polished as I would have liked it to have been. The time I was given was literally, he asked me on the night of day 1, we discussed the boards on day 2 and by the end of day 3 he wanted everything ready for working on. This deadline was made even tighter by the fact that I would be travelling to Newcastle on day 3 at midday to procure some work experience so I needed to crack on.

After listening to '15 steps' a couple of times to get the mood of the song into my head fully, I began sketching out the printer and figuring out what parts needed to move.
I understood that Matt would be using Aftereffects to make all the componments move around so I was aware of how things needed to be drawn and layered.
I figured that I would only actually need 4 frames total because all the angles and movements that Matt wanted could be brought about by moving the cameras and set pieces around in the editing program. This took a bit of pressure off me.
The four frames I needed to make were the outside of the printer from a front facing angle (as it the printer was at your eye line) with moving 'paper' layers and flashing lights, an internal printer scene using moving 'cogs' and 'roller' layers to show the paper being pushed through, an internal 'ink catridge' scene with moving ink cartidge layer and finally another outside printer scene but this time from a low view point, looking up towards the printer to give the impression of a much larger scale to the printer and so that we can better relate to the ink chap who's plight we will be witnessing. The last frame was to be the most involving I knew because in this, I must accomodate for all the action that most of the video will make use of including fully articulate marrionettes of the ink figure and several distinctive events like holes being punched in the paper.
Thankfully, Matt was wanting a fairly sketchy style to the whole piece so my working style naturally suited his needs.

As it turns out, I was able to turn the sketches into finished storyboard marionettes by colouring them and after showing the first frame to Matt, he liked it so I carried on throughout the rest of the frames.

This is what I came out with. Each one is very much like the planned out descriptions I gave for them. I guess this shows that if you're stuck for time, even a little planning beforehand will give you a much smoother experience when it comes to actually grafting.

Basically everything in each image can be moved about seperately but each moveable part is grouped to what I feel are intuitive members of its 'family' (like each part of the printers case being grouped) so that I give Matt an instantly easier time moving stuff around to his needs. In the case of the last frame in paticular this is important because there is even more stuff to move around than I've shown in the above image so it was vital that I helped Matt to meet his deadline by making it easy.

When it came down to it, Matt told me that he ended up not actually having the time to spend making the animatic because he had left it a bit late to enter the competition using this piece. Instead, he submitted a video that we have both worked on in the past which also happens to be set to a piece of Radiohead from the 'In Rainbows' album and so far, the video seems to be quite popular. Bit annoyed my more recent efforts didn't really come to any fruition but I held up my end of the bargain so I can't really do much more than actually make the animatic myself.

Heres to a rehashed contest entry win attempt!



blame ginger, photography people

Su Su said...

I am an avid reader who likes engaging content. That's why I am here. Your original views on this topic are refreshing and interesting. You've done a great job of expressing your views. Thank you.
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