I have still got the first bit of film I ever did and it is terrible. It is too rushed because I was under the impression that every¬thing had to be moving. As far as I was concerned a freeze might have been six or eight frames but that is only a quarter of a second, you blink and you have missed it. It is surprising, you can leave a character standing there for as much as fifty frames, two seconds, if you bring him to a halt gently, shoot the fifty frames and start him off again very gently into his action. The only thing I might have done in that fifty frames is one blink and that is enough. Most people are scared of pauses, you should let the character relax because you can always cut it out if you don’t want it but you can’t stick it in.
We don’t edit in the middle of a shot in this type of series. The editor only has to clip the front and end. On commercials where they are paying up to £20,000 for a thirty second film, which is proportionally a lot more money, then for this they do expect a different type of animation. You do go in for editing the odd frame here and there. You do sit down and scrutinize it very, very carefully because the advertisers want to make sure they are showing their products to the best advantage. I like working on commercials actually, it’s good fun.
With a lot of agencies the process of animation bewilders them. They are also amused by the way it is done. They sit around to watch the shooting but after about half an hour they are bored out of their minds because it takes so long and there is nothing exciting to see. It is still new to a lot of agencies and sometimes they find it hard to cope with and then all of a sudden they see what you can do. The script usually gets thrown out of the window and they say, “Could you do this? Could you do that? If we change the words here could we do this?”, and you find that instead of a thirty second commercial people are thinking of a one minute commercial. But they can’t do it because they have already booked their times.
It takes an average of eight to ten days to shoot a four and a half minute Paddington film where as for a commercial I will do four or five seconds or less a day.
For example, the Chewits commercial that we did, has a sort of King Kong that chews up New York and eats sweets at the end. That took about ten days to shoot the animation sequences. It also had live action, everybody running away panicking and this guy in the background tears the top off a building and starts eating it, doing a classic 1950’s monster movie.
The live action took four days to shoot, it was a big set with a lot of crowd artists, policemen, cars of the right period. The animation was added by traveling matte. The lower part of the buildings were on the live action set and the part where the animation was to be matted in was painted C.S.L. blue. You’ve got all the people in the lower part of the frame running away, none of their heads coming above the scenery. Afterwards you take a frame of the film and put it in the gate of your animation camera so that when you look through the viewer you can use the live action frame to line up the model buildings for the animation set. They had to be lined up to follow the same perspective as the live action. In the laboratories they matte the two scenes together.
The scale of the scenery is determined by the size of the monster. The nice thing you can do with the camera is build one skyscraper five feet high, another one four feet high and by placing them very carefully to the lens, looking through the camera you can start building up a false perspective. And you can condense something that might normally be yards deep into a quarter of the distance. It needs a bit of careful lighting.