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Marc Beurteaux Blog
July 7/2007

Marc Beurteaux and the Animation process of making a film

I've been holding my breath for over a minute. If I breathe, all could be lost. I've squeezed myself into a tight spot on my animation set so that I can do one last, tiny move of a puppet. If I let my breath out, the sides of my body might knock over a swathe of trees on the set which will ruin my shot. Once this move is done, the scene will be finished.

I've been working on this scene for three hours. I'm so close to finishing the damn thing that I can feel myself getting careless, so I take extra care to get this one.... last.... move.... done.

I slowly take my fingers off of the puppet and reach, ever so slowly, to the computer mouse. I'm out of shot so that's okay, but I still hold my breath. I tap the mouse, the digital camera takes a picture. I have the laptop positioned so that I can see when the picture from the camera pops up onto the screen. However, this time - it doesn't. Instead, the coloured Pie of Doom, that annoying little icon on Macs that tells you that your computer is working on something, appears. CURSES!!!! I stare at the pie. It's taking longer to process the picture from the camera than usual. Not good.

The position I'm holding my body in is awkward - I'm kind of crouching and leaning way back to keep out of frame. Soon my thighs start to burn. I'm still holding my breath and I'm starting to see stars. I can feel my face redden as I watch the pie spin and spin. I stare at the laptop screen and mumble, "Come on, come on!!!!" Sweat spills into my eyes and my spine feels like it's going to telescope.

Why won't the picture load?!!!! What's the matter with it? Has it crashed? I look over to the clay puppet; under the hot lights it is starting to wilt. The puppet's little arm that should be raised far above his head is slowly moving down. This means that if the camera or computer has crashed I'm going to have to re-position the puppet and re-shoot the frame. If I do this I know I will knock something over and the scene will be screwed. I just know it.

My lungs ache to rid the CO2 from inside of them. I'm starting to lose my will to hold this position. I re-focus my mind on controlling the pain - a handy thing I learnt in yoga (all stop-motion animators should do yoga). But it's too late!!! My ankles give way! I start to fall backwards onto the set but instead throw myself forward. Like dancing across a minefield, I choose my steps carefully. My right foot barely misses a light, my left leg skims a C-stand but just misses it. I've almost made it without knocking anything over when I feel my t-shirt tug at the camera and my face contorts in agony. I've moved the camera - every animator's nightmare. Rule 101 of stop-motion: never touch the camera once it's set-up. Doing so will cause the framing to jolt erratically during the scene. The horror.... the horror.....

Looking at the camera, now askew, my breath leaves my lungs as I yell a foul curse. Sure, I can re-set the camera, or even - you got it - FIX IT IN POST! (see last week's blog). But these options are difficult. I turn my gaze to the laptop and stare transfixed at the screen - THE PIE OF DOOM IS STILL SPINNING!!!!!! THE COMPUTER HAS PROBABLY CRASHED!!!!! I can't believe it!!! I let loose a torrent of obscenities that makes paint peel from the walls. With a quivering finger I reach for the escape button when suddenly the pie disappears and the picture from the camera pops onto my screen.

Instantly, all the anger in me is gone. I take deep breaths and smile. Things are never as bad as they seem. I load the picture in to my timeline and check the animation. It's perfect. I feel very religious and thank as many deities as I can think of, you know, just to be safe. I save my work and turn the laptop and camera off. When equipment starts acting up I usual shut everything down and go have a cup of tea. I figure that computers and cameras, like people, just need a break from time to time.

Anyway, this is just another day on set making a film and this is what filmmaking is in the end, shooting footage. No matter what happens on set, what gets broken or who goes crazy (ie: me) you gotta get that footage.

So when will I be finished shooting you may ask? Well, you know, don't hold your breath.

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