Process of Making Little Freak by Edwin Schaap
Edwin Schaap shared his process of creating beautiful short film “Little Freak” – A young deformed boy lives as a side-show freak. When his father asks him to make a birthday-wish he starts to imagine.
Before anything was created I thought about several things. What do I want to make? What would be achievable? What is not made yet? What is my Goal? And, does it match with my thesis? I had about 20 ideas, but they all didn’t work out because it didnt match my goals. My Thesis called “How to Move to Move Us” was all about emotional performances, and how it affect the audience.
So I was thinking about how I could make a film, as short as possible, but just enough to get the audience moved and I could animate the performance. So my goal was to create an emotional performance, and to make it achievable. I had to keep it very short and to the point. Everyting is made already, but I wanted to create a memorable character, like I also tried in my past shorts, like trees in Rooted and a worm in my first shortfilm ‘Robby’ My films were very bright and colorful, so this time I wanted to go more dark.
While storyboarding I tried to get rid of shots as much as possible. Because every shot asks for a lot of thinking and compositing. In the end I had 12 shots left. I didn’t want to use too many cut’s also because I wanted to let the audience get into his performance as much as I can with long close ups.
I’m not a great art-artist, but I wanted to do it all myself, so I made a few drawings and had a hard time figuring out what the perfect ‘freak’ would be like, as he had to be sympathetic-looking but also with nasty deformations. It went from pretty cartoony to a more realistic look, as I wanted to go for more realistic animation.
In the very beginning, before I went black&white I made a few atmosphere drawings.
After I was done with the storyboard I created the Previz, but with in mind, that I wanted to continue with those files, so I could win time. Time was a very important thing to keep an eye on. I also had a big planning on the wall to keep on track. In the very final files I was still animating all shots in one file. So no shot-per-file thingy, which I normally did.
For Little Freak’s face I filmed myself for 10 minutes doing all possible face expressions, so I could see how far the skin would stretch at every pose.(So this is no motion capture,as some people think)
Before going into blocking stage I filmed myself to get the right poses and main movements. But after doing the first blocking I wasn’t very happy with the acting and I did a second recording.
During the blocking I looked at the main timing of the characters and if the camera’s worked out well. It was very very rough yet. That’s how I animate. I animate from very rough, to smooth, to detailed. All animators animate differently and everybody have their preferences. I like to go very rough, so when I suddenly change my mind I don’t have to get rid of the high detailed blocking. I changed some acting choices and I’m happy that I didn’t do the blocking over again , because it was rough enough, so less painful to change. Again, a thing to safe time.
During the animation of Little Freak I’ve learned more about ‘more realistic animation’ .I Don’t want to say realistic, as it’s not. I still see several mistakes etc, but it was more realistic than my previous cartoony animations. The references I shot earlier was very useful because I could ‘copy’ a lot of the details going on in my face. After I was done with every shot, I added little shaking effects on his face etc, to give him a less smooth/slick movement. So, instead of ‘cleaning the curve’ I messed it a little bit up. Just a little so the kid also looked more in shock at some points, Like in the end when he’s coming out of his dream. I’m not very happy with some arcs, but I hope people will forgive me that, I tried to add micro details like when he says ‘a wish?’ you can see his mouth/lips have tiny movements, to give him a higher detail level in animation. I got that idea also from the reference. At every shot I looked at ‘how important’ it was to tell the story, or to get the audience evolved. The first half minute was less hard to animate and saved me time again. Those shots were important to begin the story, but how he cuts his wood is not the most important thing in his performance. I’ve animated everything all at the same time, but when the deadline came closer I had to finish up 1 shot a week. I did it in the same order as the film is, so I had most time for the last few shots, which I also really needed.
After each shot was done with animating, I moved his cloths by hand! because the cloth simulation didn’t work out very well, due to my lack of experience. After that I rendered it out. To make the character more believable I added controls so I could animate the displacement aswell, for example his chin and wrinkles on his forehead. I rendered out the freak in green, so together with his red-ish sweater I created more info to tweak the black and white effect.
Another thing to make the whole atmosphere more real was to create little dust in the air, and the flame which I recorded in reallife. I timed out on what times I had to blew to the candle and after that I added that to the scene. So when the kid would sigh the candle would react, to make the whole film more believable, just a tiny detail though. The tears were animated in After Effects, and added to the other animated displacmentmaps. I also used that animated texture for the specular of the tears. In my research I found out a lot of people have veins popping out when they are shouting, so I added that too. (it’s all about reference!)
Little Freak Short Film
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