The buffet

Animation Studios: Open House News and Photos

News

*This text was translated from French

On Monday afternoon, the NFB invited the public to its Animation Open House. If you couldn’t make it, now is your chance to read up about it and have a look at the photos!

We visited six animation studios in all: three in the French Program and three in the English Program.

Our group’s first stop was the studio of Michèle Lemieux, a filmmaker who works with Alexeieff’s pinscreen. Following in the footsteps of her mentor Jacques Drouin, she creates images by using patterns made by the shadows of tiny pins inserted all over the screen’s surface that is lit from the side.

Michèle Lemieux, NFB

This enlarged model clearly shows how the pinscreen works.

Model illustrating how the Alexeieff pinscreen works.

It goes without saying that this technique is very demanding; it requires great attention to detail… and muscle power! “All day long, I work with my arms up in the air, inserting pins into the screen,” she explains. “It’s very demanding. I also have to wear black all the time to avoid any reflections from my clothing on the image.”  It took the filmmaker almost two years to make her two-minute film titled Le grand ailleurs et le petit ici*, an ode to the tiny particles that are the foundations of life, much like the tiny pins that make up the pinscreen itself.

At our second stop, we were blown away by the size of the project and the set built by Patrick Bouchard and his ‘accomplice’ Pierre M. Trudeau, who is helping him with the animation and production aspects of the film.

Pierre M. Trudeau and Patrick Bouchard, NFB

In the blink of an eye, the filmmaker transported us into his special world, an animation of Bydlo, one of the scenes from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

Patrick Bouchard, NFB

The 1500 shots that are needed for the short are separated and filmed in three sections of 500 shots each. They are then filmed at 24 images/second (some at 12 images/second) using a digital motion control camera.

Motion control camera

Our third stop took us to the StereoLab where Fred Casia, one of the winners of the English Program’s sixth special 3D animation Hothouse competition, was waiting to show us the films from this year`s competition.  He also explained that to produce a 3D effect, two identical images are produced─one for each eye─and set up six inches apart. To accomplish this, two films are shot in parallel at exactly the same time.

Fred Casia, Hothouse 6, NFB

Did you bring your glasses??? We’re here to see some 3D, after all…

Yours truly, wearing 3D glasses

What? What’s wrong with my style???

Paul Driessen was expecting us in his studio, along with computer graphics designer and filmmaker Randall Finnerty, all set to show us excerpts from his next film The Backward Life of Oedipus. Based on the legend of Oedipus, the story contains cameos of other characters from various NFB films (including Tête à tête à tête, Blackfly and The Big Snit ) all attending the same therapy session.   During this particular session, the main character decides to look back on his life and, at that moment, the film suddenly goes backwards.

Paul Driessen and Randall Finnerty, NFB

Paul Driessen began his film in the traditional way, by putting his drawings to paper. Then he digitized the drawings and used computer graphics for the colouring process.

Our fifth stop took us to the studio of Torill Kove, who is using a Cintiq graphics tablet for her latest film. Here we see her using a stylus to draw on the interactive screen that is linked to a computer.

Torill Kove, NFB

Her film, titled Me and My Moulton, tells a very personal story. She travels through the thoughts of an eight-year old girl who comes to realize that her family is not quite “normal.”

Storyboard - Me and My Moulton by Torill Kove, NFB

Fun fact: Torill Kove told us that she used Skype to teleconference with her assistant.

At last we arrived at the studio of Martine Chartrand, a filmmaker who hand paints directly on cellulose acetates which she then mounts on glass. In this way, she can overlap the acetates to create a variety of effects.

Martine Chartrand, NFB

We were able to have a second look at an excerpt of her film titled MacPherson, which tells the story of the friendship between Felix Leclerc and Jamaican Frank Randolph MacPherson during the 1930s. Their stories, which they shared with each other, become a metaphor for the world of the log drivers in which life, love, and death interweave, as do the strains of jazz in the background.

Guests watching Martine Chartrand’s film MacPherson.

The visitors to the NFB Animation Studios Open House then continued to the Pierre Perrault theatre where they could catch new releases on the big screen. Photo: Pierre Perrault Studio

Since I had already seen most of the films, I headed straight for the buffet.

The buffet

After visiting the studios and meeting these six filmmakers, I came to realize that the variety of techniques promoted by Norman McLaren is still highly respected in the NFB’s animation studios. It’s a beautiful thing to see!

I hope that this short description of my visit let you experience the Open House in a new way.

*All the titles of the films in production mentioned in this text are provisional until they are released.