Dramatic scene pre-production development (Group project) AfA

The module Acting for Animation started and there are three main assignments to be done: A dramatic scene, which will prove to be very difficult, since animation with cartoon characters barely look serious enough to accomplish a drama piece and it also will be a group project, meaning that the team has to coordinate in order to achieve a full matching sequence. A two person dialogue sequence, using the audio clip provided by the 11 second club March competition (11secondclub.com) and another presentation in relation to the module thematic of acting for animation.

Considering that, when the module started, the March competition had not yet began, the team (Thomas, Hakon and I) started doing some preproduction for the Drama Scene. An audio had to be chosen first and everyone brought some examples to class to pick the best suiting track for the task in hand. The one picked was from a TV series called “Black Mirror”, but it was too long and some of the lines would not fit reality, so I cut it as follows:

The scenes then got divided into parts by Hakon to give each of us approximately the same amount of seconds to animate by draw I go the third part, the most action based and challenging part:

Dramatic scene, script/shot list:

Part One: (Hakon) and Part Two: (Thomas) 
Part Three: (Maria)
(00:54)
Husband:
Show it to me!!
Wife:
No!
Husband:
 Show it to me!! (Wife screaming).
I want to see!!! I want to see what he looks like!
 (00:59)
This isn’t me, look what you’re doing to me, I need to see it!!
Please.
(01:09)
(Long pause).
(01:18)
(Calm), need to see it Phee.
(01:20) – (01:28)

 After discussing the scene with the group, it became obvious that our characters would need some changes. The scene would take place in a bedroom and the female character would have just been caught in the same bed with another man the day after cheating on her husband, meaning that the jeans and shoes Bonnie character is wearing needed to be replaced by legs and underwear.  I got assigned that task, since I have got the most knowledge in rigging and in Zbrush, while Hakon started working on the remaining missing assets from the scene (the bed was recycled from a previous task of mine) and Thomas worked on putting the character profiles and the scene background we previously discussed about into paper.

Even the type of clothing Bonnie would be wearing was a dilemma that had to be thought through. She had not planned what happened, so she had to be wearing underwear that any regular 25-30 year-old would wear in a normal basis: Comfortable and pretty. She would only have the chance to put one or two things on, as soon as she heard her husband coming in, therefore it was good to keep her original shirt. It was also considered to be her husband’s shirt, which would send a message of her repentance. Also the colours had to fit the scene, so I picked blue. The hat had to be eliminated as well and replaced by hair.

Modelling new legs was not a big issue, though putting fingers on them without messing the mesh too much (the rigging would have a morph to follow the original one and avoid damaging the original rig) was impossible. For this reason, I decided that the fingers should be painted.

Crying Bonnie

Modification of the textures in Bonnie character to make her fit the characterization on the dramatic scene

And here is the analysis on the character and the scene:

Character profile We have two characters in this scene, a man and a woman. the scene in question is a highly personal dramatic piece revolving around intimate details concerning their personal lives and marital difficulties. to understand and appreciate the depth of this scene and to faithfully recreate the pathos through our animation, it is important that we explore the characters origins and actions that came before this. our story so far: this is a long standing married couple, who started out very much in love. to get by, the male lead works a job away from home which often separates our couple for several days at a time, leaving our female lead to rely on the company of her work mates to vent her frustrations and feel less lonesome. This is obviously a longstanding point of contention for our couple causing their marriage to slowly fall apart and their love for each other seem more of a burden. to combat this realisation, in an act of miss guided denial, the two decided to try and have a baby. hoping perhaps that the joint invested devotion may be enough to rekindle their marriage or at least be enough of a distraction that they may never have time to consider the worst and inevitable outcome. Unfortunately, our couple seems unable to conceive, causing further frustration, driving them further apart. There is still love between them, but it’s a love now horribly stained by all the frustrations and failings built on top of it and neither can think of a way out nor willing to admit they are on a sinking ship. the actions directly leading up to this scene are as followed: while away on yet another business trip after several tried and failed attempts at conceiving, our male lead leaves his partner for another stretch of solitude. during this time her work mate and close friend, a second male party, convinces our female lead to come out on a staff night out with the rest of their colleagues. while fond of all her work mates, this second male party is by far more of a friend to her than they are. it wouldnt be a stretch to say they were best friends, and often times he would be the one she would vent her frustrations over her absent husband to. what pushed her over the edge and led her to agree to this night out despite how downtrodden she may feel is that he travels in to their work place much like her husband does his, he lives far too far away and isnt in the office that often but on this occasion he has made it up for the weekend to visit people and wants to go out, he would especially love our female lead to be there as well. on agreeing they go out and have a wonderful night out with the rest of their work mates. and stay out until the early hours. now our second male party had intended to stay out another colleagues house and leave with them as was previously arranged, however due to unforeseen circumstance he was left without a place to stay, possibly the person whos house he was staying at went off with someone else or got too drunk and already left forgetting about our second male party, but thats inconsequential given that our female lead and second male party already hold a very close bond, she gave little thought to offering her house as a place to stay for the night, its what you would do for a friend in that situation. so at about 4 in the morning when the clubs closed for the night they got a taxi back to her house. on arrival he inquired as to where her husband was, to which she bitterly and in full detail explained his latest business trip. this turned into a full blown rant from our female lead to our second male party over further drinks while he was happy to listen, this wasnt anything new, neither were wanting to call it a night and he was grateful for a place to stay, this eventually lead them to the master bedroom where she was showing him photos and things on her laptop and all other completely innocent things as this conversation veered away from her husband and just became general catching up. both soon became exhausted and were both laying on the bed. but at the point where our second male party were to resign himself to the couch downstairs it was determined mutually that the bed was fine. they could keep each other company. still drunk and still in bed this comfort through company soon became more intimate as the two slowly began to give in to carnal sensations and in a moment of liberating recklessness they were entwined in passion which continued until both had collapsed and finally drifted off to sleep the following day at approximately twelve o’clock our female lead woke to find her friend laying next to him as memories of the night before washed over her. her startled rise was enough to wake him as well and soon the same dawning realisation swept over him, both laid there unsure as to what to do. there was a feeling of regret, understanding and relief. not much had changed, at least not to her. they were still incredibly close friends and last night was a mistake, but not one she whole heartedly regretted. it was nice to have someone who understood there again, someone who was simple, but more importantly, someone who was there. it felt almost like an accidental holiday from the norm. as they lay there they continued to piece together the events of the night before and slowly bring the jigsaw together to work out what led to this. how this could have happened and try to rationalise this. the chemistry between them had dissipated for the most part and they were back to being the closest of friends. in a sudden bout of shock, however, our second male party had a moment of clarity and recalled that her husband was due back from his business trip today. It was fine, he wasn’t due back until five at the earliest, she reminded him. there was no rush or panic to deal with. at this point they decided that the best thing to do would be to just carry on as normal, and forget that it had happened. this wasn’t an option, however, so wrapped up in their bubble neither had noticed that her husband had returned home early from his business trip. his afternoon conference had been cancelled. he was free to leave quite early, early enough to get home to his wife and relax for the weekend. and as his heavy footsteps could be heard trundling up the hall to the bedroom, horror gripped the pair still in bed. there was a hurried dash to gather what clothes they could, acting to fast to think she grabbed one of her husband’s shirts while he rushed to put his trousers on. it was too late. he stood in the doorway exhausted and shocked, looking into his bedroom where his wife lay half naked in their bed as another man he barely knew struggled to cover himself. there was a moment of pause as all parties processed the situation. the two guilty parties trapped like deer in the headlights while our male lead fails to process this horrifying new reality in front of him. he knew things weren’t great. but they were trying to make it work. he was trying to make it work. and who was this? was this her work mate she always talked about? the one who she would constantly text and phone, who bore the brunt of every complaint and every fault she felt compelled to tell him of her husband? he was never fond of him but never thought this could happen. there was trust. had this been happening the entire time? he wondered. has she been playing him for a fool every time he was away with this friend he heard so much about? suddenly there was an explosion of anger, confusion and pain. our lead barking questions he either knew the answers to or didn’t want answering, postulating empty threats just so he had something to shout. his wife diving between the two trying desperately to calm her husband down while our second male party feverishly hurried to gather his things and leave. he would call a taxi from the road, he just needed to get out of there. this left our couple together to settle this. he continued to bark and scream, bashing and kicking the walls with blind rage as he cursed the skies for what he saw as his miserable life. this seemed like the last straw, it couldn’t get any worse in his eyes. his attention turned to her as he let lose a storm of accusations and curses of how betrayed he felt and how little she must have thought of him while all she could do was try to get him to see her side, try to calm him down and explain. this proved too much for her as she soon erupted with her own screams of justification and blame. floods of tears streamed down her face as she gave in to the weight of the situation, feeling nothing but guilt and shame over what she had done. she could try to defend herself but even she found it had to ratify her actions. eventually after all the screams and tears were exhausted, both sat there on their bed in silence. her wondering what to do. should she say something? should she leave? while he just stayed still trying to think of where to start. what questions to ask and what to do next. eventually and with a calm head they spoke, as he gave her a chance to explain what happened, fully prepared to listen so they could see if there was anything left of this marriage worth saving. basic characteristics to keep in mind while animating male lead: hes coming into this furious yet calm. hes holding back all the years worth of frustration thats now finally has the perfect place to be let lose, but hes holding it back just a little longer to give her a chance, her last chance. hes trying to see if theres ANY strand of hope left for this marriage or if his entire life (as it may seem to him) is ruined. hes entirely exhausted. he was back from the job that drove them apart early. it was meant to be a good thing. but instead that moments reprieve from his daily drudgery had been replaced with a nightmare. there has been no relief from that exhaustion and so every step of this is a struggle to maintain composure. there is still love there. but by no means the positive end of love. the possessive and devoted and dependent side of love. the side that is obligated to give her a chance. to hear her out and to hope that the spark that brought them together hasnt been snuffed out. and finally the side of love that leads to heart break. the point where should he find this love is dead would tear him apart. the part that will bring him to tears as he kicks and screams his way to the final breaking point. theyve given too much of themselves to each other at this point that to tear them apart would be to rip one half of yourself away which is what theyve been afraid of doing all along. body language would be very dismissive and closed off, while very heavy handed and exhausted. bitter and robotic responses to convey that sense of reluctant control female lead: her main focus here is to fix her mistake. she knows she is in the wrong and she has to think of something she can say to make it all better like it was before, it wasn’t perfect but it was better than this. shes afraid. afraid that shes finally broken them and its all her fault. so she places herself in a very vulnerable position, promising complete honesty and detailed explanation. she is throwing herself on his mercy at this point hoping for understanding and forgiveness with very little to offer in recompense. still in a daze, having just woken up and in all likelihood being hung over, this would be a very confusing situation, almost unreal as if it were a bad dream that she can just wake up from. a dazed feeling she would be trying to fight for clarity’s sake despite every desire she may have to dive into that denial of the two she would be the saddest or the most broken up about it as everything is now entirely out of her control. all she can do is hope to say the right thing in the vane hope it may fix things but the damage is done and the built up wall of unspoken frustrations and deluded aspirations they had has come crumbling down around them and she cannot do much of anything but hope. body language would be almost fettle, comforting herself as she would feel incredibly exposed and vulnerable. as well as very submissive like an outstretched paw of a plaintive dog risking punishment for the chance of forgiveness.

Hakon and I were also testing some early lighting to fit the feeling on the scene. Here are my attempts, though the time of the day was changed afterwards, so the lighting is not set for that (It would be 12 midday).

render-1 renderB

And this is the animatic Hakon did with Thomas’s storyboad sketches, after the changed made from what we all discussed as a team:

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