Here’s part 2 of our exclusive interview with Oscar-nominated filmmakers Clyde Henry, makers of last week’s Film of the Week, Madame Tutli-Putli.
Part 2 : Making the film
KL: Could you explain briefly the process of combining the live-action eyes with the animated puppets?
CH: There is no way to explain this briefly. The credit for the technique goes to our collaborator Jason Walker, who had the talent and bull-dogged tenacity to see it through to the end. The process was excruciatingly difficult for us, for the actors, and for Jason. But the early tests were so amazing and novel that we knew we could no longer even discuss plastic or glass eyeballs as an alternative. The amount of work required still boggles the mind.
KL: Are the backdrops (sky, landscapes) hand-painted?
CH: The backdrops are all hand painted, oil paintings to be precise. We attempted high rez digital photos in the backgrounds and even 8mm footage taken out a train window, but nothing looked right till we dropped in those paintings.
KL: The camerawork is very fluid. Were you using motion control [computers] for all your camera moves or more feeling your way with hand-cranked rigs?
CH: There is no motion control, it’s all hand cranked. In one shot, where the camera follows Tutli running down a hallway, the camera was animated up and down with a spatula. The philosophy of the camera moves came out of the process of shooting a live-action animatic for use as an animation reference. Often the footage was shot quickly, with a loose, hand held feel to it, and so our fluid camera is the result of trying to translate the animatic into stop motion.
KL: Are there any other bits of live-action aside from the eyes?
CH: Small bits and pieces, but not much. Mostly compositing elements like the fire effects, or shadows of the thieves on the wall, but even these are so manipulated that they virtually became animation again. Even the eyes, in a sense, are not really live action. Some of Jason’s subtlest work on the film was in time-remapping the eye footage to fit into the completed stop motion shots. When shooting the eyes, Laurie Maher, the actor, would have to emulate the puppet, moving very slowly so that she hit her position marks accurately. Our live action was essentially her acting and emoting in slow motion. This resulted in Jason ending up with a great deal more footage then the shot required. To make it work he had to cut away thousands of frames, sometimes choosing the one frame out of hundreds that fit onto the puppet’s face; and all without compromising Laurie’s performance.
KL: Were there much computer generated elements or is it largely all done ‘in camera’?
CH: We try to do as much in camera as we can, but there’s no philosophy behind it. It’s just more comforting to have the shot and move on to the next one. Still, there’s probably not a single scene without some 2D effect or element, whether it be eyes, fire, sparks, hanging smoke, or a fluttering moth.
KL: How did you do the sparks and fire?
CH: Sparks and fire were all shot live action, on a beach in Southern Ontario. We warned the neighbors that we were lighting the beach on fire and blowing up fireworks, reassuring them it was for “movie special effects”.
KL: Did you shoot digital or film? And which camera/s?
CH: All digital. The animation was done with a Canon SLR, and the eyes and elements with a Canon GL1 and a Sony HD camera.
Part 1 is here. You can view the film below.