Saturday, 8 December 2012

The Storm Has Subsided

My goodness, that was slow and awkward.  Script written in February, voices recorded in June, and it still took until December to complete the fourth episode of Papercuts.  I usually count the production time from the voice recording session, which gives Pedroelectric a total of nearly six months, shattering the four-month record set by Episode 2 Germination Without Authorisation back in the summer.

I think the killer factor was the technical complexity - or rather, not so much the technical complexity in itself, but more the fact that the complexity made the task seem more daunting, and put me off from knuckling down and getting on with it.  As I wrote in the episode's YouTube description: don't write animation scripts with thunderstorms in them.  The rain, thunder and lightning did nothing to ease the convoluted process of bringing this story to the screen.  This might have been a good opportunity to point out that unlike the previous three instalments, which I wrote myself, this one was co-scripted by Tim... but then again I don't think I can shift the blame for the thunderstorm, as that was my idea anyway.  Tim was the one who suggested that they should be watching TV, and that Pedro should be sent up the aerial to fix it, and that the Captain should try to make some commercial use of Pedro's electrified condition, but I have to hold up my hand and admit that the basic concept of Pedro getting electrified in a thunderstorm was entirely my fault.

The previous three episodes were achieved almost entirely through an honest-to-goodness single-pass cutout process (the passage-of-time ideograms and the space scene in Episode 3 Jalapeno to the Skies were exceptions), with any given frame usually being a single unaltered photo.  But this time round, something like half of the film comprises multi-layered material, with the stuff on the TV screen, the rain, the various lightning flashes and electric sparks, and the non-speaking extra in the penultimate scene all being either composited or outright computer-generated after the fact.  That probably went a long way towards slowing me down, because it not only requires twice the amount of material to be shot, but requires both plates to be designed with a view to synchronising them in post.  It's finnicky enough designing a set to function at the right scale and so on even when it's only for a single-layer shot.

But as I also mentioned in the YouTube description, I think it was worth the effort.  Not only am I pleased with the storyline, I also think Pedroelectric has turned out as the most visually interesting episode to date, and perhaps the most aurally interesting as well.

The soundscape includes all sorts of weird and wonderful things this time round: a rainstick, a sheet of cartridge paper (the lounge set, as a matter of fact), white noise artificially generated by Audacity 2, a stapler, a cushion borrowed from our leather sofa being smacked really hard with a metre stick, my grandparents' un-lubricated driveway gate several years ago, the plug of the family vacuum cleaner (you wouldn't believe how hard it was to record the sound of a cable being picked up or put down), me eating Doritos a lot louder than I usually do, and me doing a move which I can only describe as trying to spit as sharply as possible from somewhere underneath my tongue.  Also watch out for Millimetre's dialogue - somewhere in this episode is the first occasion where I actually thought about what he's trying to say, and based his screeches off an actual sentence or two.  I'd be very interested to hear whether you can figure out where or what any of these items are...

Musically, Pedroelectric retains the main theme as usual, and revisits Pedro's heroic sting from Episode 1 Lemon Juice for the Captain, but also introduces the longest new piece of incidental music to date, titled Windmill and Flower.  I don't know if the show the trio are watching on their TV is a documentary about green energy (which is what the script says) or if it's metamorphosed into a really bizarre meta-cartoon within the cartoon, per Itchy & Scratchy.  I'll leave it to you to decide which interpretation of Windmill and Flower you prefer.

It seems I never got round to embedding Episodes 2 or 3 on the blog, so I'll do that first, and then wrap up the proceedings for today with the debut of Episode 4:

- The Colclough