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Vicky explains pixilation

Pixilation involves animating live actors. Watch animation director Vicky Mather explain the process.
So when we went into pre-production, we were planning the film for, I would say, about two months or more. This involved a lot of storyboarding. The production designer would create visuals for each set. And then he would have to draw up plans. He would have to respond to the storyboard. We had lots and lots of meetings about the story with all members of crew. The cinematographer made his suggestions to make our storyboard better. The editor then became part of the process when we made an animatic, which is a timed storyboard. So we can look at the film in illustrated form before we actually go and make it.
Also in pre-production, we worked with the visual effects team, who had to plan out all of the visual effects before going into production. So we surrounded two of the sets with green screen so we could shoot exterior scenes when we were on location and composite those at a later date. We also hired another model maker to come in and build a miniature house, which was to be Stanley’s house. And the intention with that is that it would be digitally composited into the field location where we were shooting. So the production process for Stanley Pickle was about three weeks long.
We spent almost two weeks on the main stage at the National Film and Television School, which was a huge stage, film stage. And we had two sets on that stage. One was Stanley’s bedroom. And we had a kitchen and a stairway and a living room area that was also built full scale on the same stage. So we shot everything in the kitchen, and then we shot everything in the bedroom. And I then shot the title sequences with the cinematographer. And we shot all our extra visual effects things. Like, we had to shoot the miniature house and animate the light so. We had to animate a sun setting over it against a green screen.
And we had to shoot it from various different angles so it was ready to be composited into that field location where we were shooting. The differences between live action and pixilation are that a shot that might take you 30 seconds in live action could take you about 45 minutes in pixilation. So for example, one of the scenes near the end of my film where the actor is sitting, he’s got a very upset look on his face, and he has to hold this expression for the entire shot. That entire shot took 45 minutes. And we were animating the camera. We were animating the two actors playing Mum and Dad.
And the main character had to hold his expression for the entire 45 minutes. And by the end, his face, he was in quite a lot of pain. His face was in quite a lot of pain. And also, the other actors who’d been lying on the table, when they got up, they were incredibly stiff from having to hold that position for such a long time. So physically for the actors, it’s a huge difference to just doing a straightforward live action film.

Vicky Mather’s graduation film, Stanley Pickle, is this week’s featured animation.

Vicky talks us through the process of making the film and the technique itself. Again the process highlights the importance of planning and the wide range of jobs involved in making an animation.

Stanley Pickle involved both life size sets and exterior locations, as well as miniatures. The technique also involves actors working in a very different style.

Pixilation is effectively a stop motion technique where live actors become the frame-by-frame subject in an animation, by repeatedly posing while a shot is taken and changing pose slightly before the shot. The actor becomes a kind of live stop motion puppet. It is a technique which produces strange, distorted human movement.

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