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the making of

airtime


the making of

airtime

a documentation of my Diploma Project.

Concept, Story, Direction, Camera, Editing, Animation, BackGround Score of film and everything else including this Documentation is done by Aniruddh Dube


airtime ~Airtime is the time spent communicating using a mobile phone. ~ Airtime is the feeling of weightlessness or negative gravity force experienced on a roller coaster or other amusement rides.


contents

The Project Proposal 10 A little about Rotoscoping 12 My Inspiration 13 The Story 15 The Script and The Storyboard 18 Finding and Fixing a Style 20 The Animatic 22 The Shoot 24 The Edits 27 Drawing for Animation 29 After-Effecting 34 The Final Edit 36 Conclusion 38 Acknowledgements


pre production


My story mainly revolves around three main ideas. Firstly, the idea of one feeling burdened by guilt and depression, second being how much one’s decision-making ability is altered by the first, and third being the possibility of irony in the whole situation, and to what extent it changes things.

The Project Proposal

My film is a study of a small part of the human mind, which controls emotions like fear, guilt, depression, sorrow, etc. Through this film I would like to explore the conditions in the mind, which drive people to extremes. A part of my film is based on true events from my life that I have experienced in the recent past, and other instances are pure fiction. The idea behind using such a topic is to find out what leads to one’s depression, and what other possible emotions or instances can alter the degree of this depression and therefore lead to a certain decision, one that might even be totally ironic to the depression itself. Log Line: A guilt-struck guy, who is on the verge of ending his life, confronts his worst nightmare in a day-dream.

Motivation: The story of my film, like I mentioned earlier, is based partly on true events. These incidents have had a significant effect on my life, and the way I deal with things. Of course, these incidents did not lead me to do things that are often referred to as extreme, or radical. Many people suffer from things that I have suffered. Difference is that to them, clarity is just something else. When they are in that moment, they love nothing. And they hate nothing, either. They feel most alienated from everything around them. This leads to extreme steps. I have wanted to find out, what differentiates us. Why am I clear in my head and more controlled, and why can those others not feel the same way. My study began as reading about the human mind and how it controls our actions. I read the science side of it, trying to figure out what alters the brain activity so radically that rash decisions are taken. I have always been motivated by sadness. Depression, guilt, have become tools to let out thoughts and ideas. I decided to take the events that have happened with me, and put them in a character that is unlike me, and then study the character and create a scenario that leads him beyond sanity. I decided to give him situations that were not given to me, to see what would still lead him to extremes, and how the irony of it all would come into play. I decided I was going to make a film about a ‘me’, who is more insane, more morbid, and has more options.


Research Questions: What makes me love the idea of something morbid or depressing? Why am I, as an otherwise happy person, attracted to such emotions? Why do we feel guilty and what is it in our mind that triggers off the very emotion of guilt or any related emotion? What role does the brain play in triggering off these emotions? What are those circuits that are activated by situations leading to such emotions, and how do they get activated? I looked at the scientific side of it, wondering if there could be something that can change in our brain to make a person happier instead of any kind of sad. Why am I doing this story, when I have heard a lot about how my stories are always like this?Wouldn’t it be labeled as a comfort zone? But then I realized, that this story, is more of me trying to go deeper, than sticking to a comfort zone, because, I still feel this is a vast subject, and I hardly have studied it. Therefore through this film, I try to explore the area of guilt and depression as emotions, and why and how one’s decision-making abilities are altered by them.

Treatment: Visual Style: The film has two aspects to it. One is as close to real as can be, and the other, is a dream. The technique I will be using for the character and for the reality scenes is called Rotoscoping. The reason for me to use this technique is to keep reality as real as possible, yet, have my own style and exploration for the character define the idea of his own reality according to his mind’s condition. I will be giving a dark, hazy feeling to the reality bits, to ensure that the character’s sadness is portrayed. It will either be monochromatic, or grayscale. The dream bit of the film will have the character rendered as he is in the reality section, but his surroundings here will be different. I plan to use colors, extreme perspective, and strong lighting to enhance the essence of the dream, and to make it look surreal and magnified in a way. Sound: Sound in my film will itself have a narrative because it will be all about conversations on the phone. I plan to record all the dialogues as phone conversations. So basically everything will be recorded from a phone. The soundscape will also consist of pre-recorded messages that we get, such as the ‘number busy’ message, the ‘phone switched off’ message, etc. which will altogether drive the story forward in terms of dialogue and voice-overs at some instances. There will be hardly any music in the film, and whatever there is will be provided by strings or piano or a guitar.

Learning Outcomes: 1. To study, explore and portray human emotions in terms of a visual form, by using the platform of dreams and surreal situations in combination with reality. This will include understanding and therefore portraying the feeling of the character’s guilt and depression, why he would want to kill himself, and what makes his day-dream a deciding factor to do so, therefore drawing out a comparison between his dreams and reality. 2. To explore a visual style which will be able to achieve appropriate visual quality that is required in the story to portray a person’s day-dream, and even portray reality as we know it and the reality at that moment that the character sees. This will include choosing appropriate camera angles, perspective(in dream sequence), handling character vs. his surroundings (both in dream sequence and reality), and choosing a color scheme(palette) that would make differentiate between the two scenarios perfectly, and still hold the viewer’s attention till the end. 3. To be able to work with sound and create a sound-scape that within itself, is a narrative, independent of its visual format, and therefore adds even more to the concept of dreams and perception of reality.


Rotoscoping is an animation technique in which live action video is traced to create animation that mimics the live action.

A little about Rotoscoping

The action is traced just to get the lines needed to capture the image, attempting to keep consistent linework from frame to frame while following the live action video’s motion. The lines are then transferred to cells and painted as in normal traditional animation.


My story stems from things that have stuck on with me. Certain films, sometimes scenes from films, lines or chapters from books, sometimes lyrics of songs and sometimes real life-incidents. and they all have been a great inspiration in the development of this project. I get attracted to unusual things, the more morbid things. Some of the movies that attracted me in this aspect were-

My Inspiration

Pi Darren Aronofsky

A Scanner Darkly Richard Linklater

Stranger Than Fiction Marc Forster

The Machinist Brad Anderson


Vincent Tim Burton

Destiny (Music Video) Zero 7

Fears of the Dark (multiple directors)

Take On Me (Music Video) A-Ha

Breaking The Habit (Music Video) Linkin Park

Bounce That (Music Video) GirlTalk


The Story

It was a beautiful morning. The smell of wet mud was in the early morning air, after the previous night’s rain. The streets were wet, and almost empty. The peaceful stillness of the morning gave way to a loud ‘thud’. The body was on the ground, lying there, still, calm, lifeless. By the time one realized what had happened, a little pool of blood gathered around A’s head. His jaw was crushed and deformed, and the body looked like a broken stick figure. His eyes were shut, as if he was having the most peaceful dream. The dream, it was nothing like what he had wanted. Something was wrong. There was a twitch in his eye all of a sudden, and the pool of blood got sucked back into his head, and before you could finish blinking, A’s body flew back. It all reversed. He was up on his terrace, 26 storeys above the ground, and when his eyes opened, he was on his bed, and had just woken up from a dream. The morning was still beautiful, or whatever of the morning A could see outside his window. The inside was miles away from the outside world. The room was small, the bed stuck to one wall, which was full of posters of everything under the sun. On the bedside table were a phone, a table clock, and a nailclipper which was resting on a notebook. The other contents of the room were a study table, a chair, and a book shelf. The table was under the window, which was on the wall adjacent to the wall with the posters. The ruffled sheets on the bed showed how uncomfortably A slept. He was still recovering from the shock of his insanely realistic dream, breathing deep, and then he turned to his right, to the bedside table, and picked up his phone as he let out a deep sigh. He was sitting on his bed now, wearing a dirty old t-shirt and boxers, hair all over the place, and an almost skinny built. His posture was not the most cheerful and upright posture one would expect to see, and something made it clear that it was not just fatigue that led to his state. He sat there, staring at his phone, expressionless. His brain was registering the fact that he had missed 7 calls and not checked 1 message. He also noticed that today he woke up earlier than usual. It was only 11.22am. he wanted to go back to sleep and that would be just the most simple solution to everything, if only somehow it would undo all that had been done, but that not how it worked in real life. And so concluding that, he called B back. She had called him 7 times. The message that she had left was not pretty, for obvious reasons. The reasons were obvious to both of them. “Why did I have to be so fucking stupid!?” he thought, and finding no real answer, he waited. He waited for her to answer. She didn’t. Another deep sigh and he got up and walked towards the bathroom door.


The walk to the bathroom almost seemed to have taken an hour, and when he finally reached, he took out his toothbrush, put a huge chunk of toothpaste on it, and brushed his teeth. He bent down to spit and wash his face, and after washing up properly, he got up again to look into the mirror that was in front of him. Things changed then. He almost got thrown off-balance when he saw that the room had changed colors in the reflection. There was no reflection of his own. He was gone. His reflection had just exit the bathroom. As he saw himself leave, and before he could register the bright colors of the bathroom, which were now everywhere around him, his phone rang. As he entered his room, he saw those colors in the walls of his room too. By now he didn’t know what to think or do because he saw himself, sitting on the bed, and that guy picked up his phone. It was B. “Hi.” “Did you just wake up?” “No I woke...” “..No now I want you to listen and not interrupt me coz it’s fucking irritating.” “.....” “Look A, I cannot forget what you did, and what an asshole you’ve been to me. All this while I was blaming myself, thinking that I had left something out in the way I loved you. But I was wrong. It’s not my fucking fault. It’s yours. YOU are the only one responsible for all this shit. Don’t expect me to forgive you. You are a fucking coward. EIGHT fuckin months and then I find out from SOMEONE ELSE that all that I had built for us was based on one giant lie. You should kill yourself for what you’ve done to us.” “.....” “..Look, I have to tell you Th...hello? B? Are you there? Hello? FUCK! FUCK FUCK!” And she had hung up. He realized his reflection was gone again, and he was in its place, sitting on the bed, feeling exactly what the reflection felt. He hated it. He hated it when she hung up on him. And she did. Yet again. He called her back, and it kept ringing, or there was a busy beep. In his anger he threw his phone at the wall in front of him. It weirdly dissolved into the wall and then he saw it all. Again. These flashes had become frequent. Like a film-strip, only this one had repeated images of him with her, and with B, too. He saw himself with her, both of them drunk, not knowing what was happening, but he saw it, he saw it in pictures right there. There were flashes of him with B, of all the times he kept her waiting, of all the times he lied to cover up another lie, of all the bad times. He saw nothing nice. There was no good feeling. It was strange to him because he was awake, and this was real, yet, it was SO surreal. the room seemed weirdly skewed, the images seemed to have taken over, the sounds, the conversations, all his conversations with B on the phone, all the times he had lied to her on the phone, or even other conversations, arguments about the friend, all of it just kept overlapping and growing and growing and growing.


The sounds now became noise. The voices became louder, as if B was yelling at him. He saw her yelling, asking him why he lied to cover up other lies, why he couldn’t just say it, why it took someone else for her to find out, and by now everything seemed out of control and really loud, and real. He tried to explain but he couldn’t speak, and found himself tied up, with weights attached to his hands and legs, heavy enough to not let him stand up. He shut his eyes tight and let out a cry of pain, and when he opened his eyes, he found himself sitting on the bed, with the phone attached to his ear, and all he could hear was the busy beeping tone, not knowing how he got there and why he was sitting there facing the window. So he hung up, put the phone on the bedside table in front of him, and turned to get up, when he saw her sitting right next to him, tears in her eyes, and she was looking down. she just didn’t stop crying, and her crying was silent, and calm, as if she was thinking, registering everything, waiting for it to sink in. He tried talking to her, tried explaining himself, but the more he talked, the farther from him she appeared. He didn’t know what was happening to him, because as he kept moving towards her, the bed kept getting elongated, and she kept moving further away from him, still sitting there, not listening to a thing, but just crying. His thoughts were scattered, he was scared, shocked, and he hoped it was just a bad dream, but it kept getting worse. He could hear her voice now, and it seemed like she was talking to herself about him, and everything around him was becoming more and more real. He saw images of what could be the future. He could now just see one wall, the one in front of him, and he saw a door in it. This door opened out to the terrace on which he was, and he a really blurred image of it, though it was very real to him. As he moved closer to the edge, he saw someone, on the edge. He could see the person as if he was on the outer side of the terrace, in the air, seeing the person from the front. He tried to concentrate, and the image slowly started getting clearer. As he moved closer, he saw B. He saw her standing there, looking down. She was numb, and pale, with tears in her eyes. She looked up at him, her eyes widened, her expression changed from extreme grief to extreme shock with a gasp, and there he was, in place of her.

He looked down, felt his hands, looked beyond and saw the street down below, beyond the edge of the terrace, and he was back to reality. THIS was where he was, right now, breathing heavily. He was tired. The phone voices were still ringing in his head. He took out his phone one last time from his pocket. It was ringing. It was B calling. He thought to himself, “one last time...”, and he answered. “Hi.” “Remember how I said all that about me not forgiving you?” “Yeah?” “I realized something. I want this to go away. I want to move on. I want you to be with me like we used to be. Let’s start over.” “....” “A? Are you there?” “Give me 15 minutes. I’ll pick you up and we’ll go for ice-cream.” There was a happy ‘OK’ on the other side of the line, and then he hung up and put his phone back into his pocket. --The only other thing that he had besides the watch on his wrist was the phone in his pocket. It was in his pocket throughout, and strangely it remained unharmed from the fall. That was how they found out why he chose to jump. The last message he had sent was to B, and it said, “I have never felt this light-headed. I think I’m finally free of all the guilt. I love you always.” The last received message was from B, and it said “tough, maybe, but I can’t wait to start over.” --x--


The Script and The Storyboard

Once the story was done, it was time to convert it into a script. This took me quite a few days, considering i had to plan but shots and know exactly where to cut things out.The thing is, when you shift from story to script, you change a lot of things. Sometimes entire sequences get turned around. Something like that happened with me, too. I took time to finish my script because i was stuck in multiple places. For the longest time i did not know how to plan my establishing shots. There was also a lot of loss of interest due to these issues. And so i was doing multiple things together, in a desperate attempt to not lose interest. My script moved haywire, and quite a bit, before getting finalised.For instance, the first draft showed the full end in the beginning itself. My review panel was not too happy with that, and so then i worked out the entire thing, this time keeping the end for the end itself. Many such plans were either thrown away or completely changed over the course of time. With the script, sideby-side, i was working out bits of sound, roughly so as to know what kind of sound to use where, and in what magnitude. The basic idea was to have a rough knowledge of what kinda sounds to record.


After the script, i started doing the storyboard drawings as thumbnails. Then eventually those took shape and i had a rough storyboard ready to refer to. My review panel was not happy about certain camera angles and wanted me to change and to explore more in terms of angles. I agreed and i decided to keep it loose so i could improvise during the shoot. My panel seemed ok with that decision, and they were happy with the fact that there was so much work that i had, to show, and that work was happening at a good pace.


The drawings i was doing even a month or two before the project started, were done keeping in mind the fact that i had to find a style to apply into my animation. So finding my style and the kind of treatment i would give to my film was a result of a mixture of my references and the need to be able to draw fast, and yet have a good appeal to it.

Finding and Fixing a Style


I had started drawing over earlier recorded videos that i had, to keep track of my speed and to experiment with the drawing styles. After spending some time on it, i realised that i wasnt really looking for details. I needed something that looked not very clean, but something that had a rough edge to it. I needed to keep it scratchy, rugged and fast. And i had already had in mind that i would be playing a lot in terms of contrast so that things stood out more when they were needed to.


The Animatic

For my animatic i did a test shoot keeping my room as the location and drew over images and edited backgrounds so as to get one step closer to the actual look of the animation. During this shoot i realised what all i had to keep in mind for my final shoot, because i felt the shift from the storyboard, since that was still almost in theory. The animatic opened my eyes to the realisation that a lot of shots that i had planned and timed in theory were actually getting really boring when i timed them in reality on Flash. It made me feel the need of cutting down the duration of each shot, and also the need to bring in more smaller shots, which could also add tension and do justice to the story.My sound still wasnt ready so i presented the animatic without the sound.


production


The Shoot Between finding my actor and starting my shoot, i was suggested quite a few changes in my animatic. I was told to work out the sequences in a way that they would create the tension i wanted. At this point, i reached a point where i had to re-work sequences, re-arrange shots, introduce more shots, besides finding the right location and the right camera and other technical things.


Once i was done with all of that, i called my actor and began shooting. During the shoot ofcourse there were many barriers like memory-card failures, camera battery issues, rain, power-cuts, and other such unnecessary yet significant things. But beyond all that, the shoot went well. It took me two days to finish shooting the whole thing, and there were a LOT of videos with HUGE file-size.


Editing the Footage

When i got down to editing, i began with the basic process of joining the clips together and get a very basic clip ready. And so when that was done, my video duration came upto 9 minutes, and there was no way i was aiming at a 9 minute animation in 3 months. My aim was to get the duration down from 9 to 4 minutes 30 seconds, to the max.


So the next step i took was to cut out unnecessary parts which were making the video seem longer. Also, another crucial bit was the terrace clips, where i was actually using a different location when i was shooting. When i would put it together as an animation, my location for the terrace was going to be different. That was one reason why i did not keep many scenes where my backgrounds moved. Almost all scenes had still backgrounds, because the plan was to use images, and the way the script was written, it did not require a lot of camera movement as such. I showed two edits to my review panel, and they were glad that i could bring it down to 5 and a half minutes, but that still was not enough, and they told me that the intensity of the film needs to be brought out in the edit.


I watched Pi (by Darren Aronofsky) and it opened my mind immensely to the idea of how to edit so that emotion can be brought about, with the correct amount of anticipation. So i worked on two more edits after that, and i had in mind that my sound would enhance the intensity of my video, except, that i hadnt started on sound just yet. It was getting late, but my mind was too occupied by the edit itself. So when i worked on the next two edits, the idea was to keep all lengthy shots lengthy, but not boring, and also to keep fast cuts to bring in the emotional intensity in the film. So after i took that approach, the edit seemed much crisper. I used black and white treatment in my fourth and final video edit, because i felt it would make it easier to draw over it, since it would cut out color details. The panel seemed happy with the final edit and told me to start off with the drawing. And i was happy with it too, since my mind had opened up, and i knew exactly what i was doing.


Drawing for Animation

I did all the drawing and coloring in Flash CS4 and all my backgrounds were edited in Photoshop CS4. Now the thing is, when you draw in Flash, it can give you a really hard time during compositing in After Effects, if you dont work out your layers properly.

Working in separate Layers.


I faced that. But i realised in time, because the approach i took while drawing was to work in sequences of thousand frames each. I had six sequences, and i was trying out compositing after each sequence got over. So by the time i moved to my second sequence, i knew how exactly to go about the layers while drawing. Now, drawing can get really monotonous, especially when you have about 5900 frames in front of you. My drawing initially began with a lot of enthusiasm, which took a back seat by the time i got to my second sequence. The thing is, that when i was drawing, each shot was a target, and by the time i got to the end side of the number of frames, i regained my enthusiasm. So i think that and only that is what got me through the drawing bits.


The backgrounds were also put as a separate layer in Flash itself, so that i had a clear idea of where my character was, therefore avoiding the chance of him floating in the air in the final animation edit. I also realised that all my planning about doing certain number of frames a day, and working on sound side by side, etc, all of it went haywire when i actually started my drawing. Sometimes you can never judge how things will turn out.


Once all six sequences were done, i exported them as PNG images and brought them into After Effects as separate layers.


post production


My AE(After-Effects) compositions were also six, just like the number of drawn sequences, only these had three layers in each composition(character, background and frame).

After-Effecting

I had not tried my hand at compositing much with After-Effects, but i must say here, that its only about how much you practice, because when i started, i was just lost, trying different video effects, then after a while mind gates opened up and i started working with the layers properly and that really got me down to making the film look just the way i wanted to.


After Effects can be a very friendly software, but one needs to treat their laptop/computer right for it. I got minor panic(read heart) attacks when After Effects crashed 3-4 times while i was working on some crucial scene trying to make it look cool! At this point i must say- SAVE your work as often as you can!! There is really not a worse feeling than realising that a software has crashed on you when you forgot to save your work. But at the end, everything worked out, and i was lucky to finish all my AE work four days before submission. What i forgot to mention was that i started working on sound with AE. All sound was recorded by me and i used SoundBooth CS4 to compile a background score for my film.


The Final Edit


After finishing everything, i imported the video and sound clips into Premiere Pro CS4, and compiled my final edit in there. I realised that after compositing and rendering the animated clips, the sound was not properly in-sync with the video. So a bit of re-editing was done in that aspect, but besides that, i added a few stills and i added credits, and the final edit was compiled and my final animated film came upto 4 minutes and 44 seconds. And then I called my film Airtime.


My project started out as a question and a realisation. I was questioning the idea of guilt, and what makes it unbearable, and how it leads to extreme actions. I realised that the deeper you go into it, the more open-ended and loose it seems.

conclusion

I realised that i cannot provide a solution, i can only connect to my audience by showing a state of mind that they might have felt. My film tells the story of people who take certain steps that everyone regrets. Everyone, but they themselves. My film tries to portray the human mind when its burdened with guilt, the chaos it deals with, and the numbness it goes through. My film gives me learning on every step. The techniques i use, the things i leave out, the things i choose, even the amount of improvisation stems out of the basic root of actions and/or mistakes that happen during the making of the film. My film is partially based on personal experiences too, and the learning that i get out of it, is more than just technical learning. I realise we never can have control over our emotions, its always our actions we can control.


This Project would not have been possible without Maanvi Kapur, this is for you. The biggest Thank You to you also seems like an understatement!

acknowledgements

Also a BIG thanks to, Digbejoy Ghosh Jijo John Hari Shankar Nilisha Khanna Payal Keswani Mukta Sinha Chitra Sreenivasan Avani Tanya Diya Sharma Abhishek Kumar Ampat Varghese Varghese Matt Lee Ramana Venkat Vijay Sarathi Lloyd Robert and my parents.


bibliography

Films: Stranger Than Fiction – Marc Forster The Machinist – Brad Anderson Requiem for a Dream – Darren Aronofsky Wristcutters – A Love Story – Goran Dukic Karthik Calling Karthik – Vijay Lalwani Fears of the Dark – Blutch, Charles Burns, Marie Caillou, Pierre Di Sciullo, Lorenzo Mattoti, Richard McGuire Shutter Island – Martin Scorsese Edward Scissorhands – Tim Burton Vincent – Tim Burton Control – a film about Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division. Dead Man – Jim Jarmusch Books: Music:

The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde No One Here Gets Out Alive – Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman Into The Wild – Jon Krakauer Blankets – Craig Thompson Moonward – Appupen The Doors Joy Division Linkin Park Massive Attack Morcheeba Radiohead


a copyright product of, Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, 2010.



Airtime-Making Of.