For our documentary, one thing we wanted to do was use Drew’s animation and art skills (yay art school!) to make a really cool introduction for the film.  It fell to the back burner in the intense final weeks, at that point we just wanted to get the film done, but now that we’ve passed the first string of festival deadlines, we can make some changes before the next round of applications.

How do you make an animation studio?

First, we had to get an apartment.  As much as living in a beach bungalow is, well, unbelievably awesome, it’s completely impractical.  So now we’re in Chiang Mai where we rented a two room apartment.

Then we had to decide what kind of style we wanted to do. Drew has a massive man-crush on Casey Neistat and has been looking for an excuse to do something in that style.  It’s sort of a cross between stop-motion animation where you draw something (or move it) take a picture, draw/move again, take a picture and then you’re stringing together thousands of individual pictures together.  It’s how Tim Burton made Frankenweenie. The second part is some live video while interacting with a set.  Neistat makes home movies look good.  He’s internet-famous for taking a job with Nike to make a commercial and using the entire budget to travel around the world in 10 days (instead of making the commercial they had approved).  But this little video about Instagram is a better sample of the style he’s known for:

Drew’s art is different, he can paint and draw so it focuses more on that.  But you get the idea.

So the setup!  I got really lucky finding this metal frame for over our kitchen table.  It was for sale in a retail shop that furnishes shelves for stores.  It fit perfectly.  We taped white paper around the edges to keep nosey toddlers out and to help reflect the light back a little and reduce some shadows.

You can see there’s a lot going on up there!  We also taped the frame to the table, then we mounted the camera (my Canon 7D with a 24-70 mm lens) to the top using bungee cords.  That dangling cord in the middle is the remote for the camera, which lets Drew take pictures without having to climb up there and hit the shutter.

Here’s the camera mounted.  We used string to secure it in place too, as it was drifting a little.

This is from above the frame.  You can see that the camera is mounted right over Drew’s head as he’s working, so he can either do live video or take pictures as he works, depending on what kind of effect he’s going for.  There’s also an extension cord for the four light bulbs.

In the corners,can you see those bright lights?  Well interestingly we couldn’t use the lighting in the room because fluorescent bulbs flicker.  Constantly.  Your eye doesn’t notice it, but when you record video it’s highly noticeable and very distracting. So we turn off all the lights in that side of the apartment and rigged our own lighting set (we bought four clamp light bulb sets and used an extension cord to power them from the top of the frame).

For this scene, Drew’s working on a stop-motion style animation of him painting the world.  He paints a little, gets out of the frame, the takes a picture.  He’s been working on these kinds of scenes for days, and all I hear from the other room is, “click… …click… …click.”

Drew’s been killing it!  He gets up everyday at 3 AM so he can work before Cole and I wake up (yeah, for some reason, toddlers + animation don’t mix — also best husband ever!).  I love it when Drew makes art, it’s so great.  I’m going to be so sad to take this down in a few weeks. What do you think, should we travel with a make-shift animation studio everywhere we go?  It’s just one more bag, right?