Michael Please has released a trailer for his new short film, The Eagleman Stag. Michael is a recent animation graduate from the Royal College of Art, where they use Dragon Stop Motion animation software. The trailer for The Eagleman Stag is beautiful and will leave you anticipating the full film.
We were excited to interview Michael about making the film.
How long did you work on it?
“It’s been a long time in the making! At 9 minutes it’s nearly twice the length of anything I’ve done before. The film has 115 separate shots, of which the vast majority have separate sets custom build specifically for each camera angle. So I had my work cut out. I spent 6 months on the actual build, shoot and post, but the film itself has been gestating as an idea for quite some time. The two months prior to shooting were spent adapting the short story I had written previously into a screenplay then fleshing out the film as much as possible in 2D. The 2D animatic is extremely close, almost shot for shot compared to the final film, so there was no room for chuff! When I showed this 2D animatic to a senior tutor at the RCA they described it as the most horrifically ambitious project they had seen in all their years of teaching. That made me very happy at the time. Later on, when I realized how right they were about the ‘horrific’ nature of it, I wasn’t quite so smug.”
What camera(s) did you use?
“The entire film was pretty much shot in camera, on my trusty Canon EOS 1000D. There are a lot fancier newfangled cameras out there, but for stopmotion, and the image size, it was all I needed. I did however go through about a week of faffing about with various setups, trying to work with manual lenses, and different cameras to rid myself of a mind-bendingly frustrating flicker issue that I couldn’t shake off. After some investigating I found that my automatic lens was the cause, as when the aperture opens up for live view it doesn’t close back to within 100% accuracy each time, which makes no difference for single photographs, but obviously with stopmotion it was a problem I had to resolve later on.”
How was Dragon Stop Motion helpful to you?
“Dragon was a wonderful tool and really helped the whole animation process. It’s such a fiddly, fisting the sky in frustration, pencil snapping process anyway, that anything to help tiny inanimate objects move bit by bit by bit a little more smoothly is warmly welcomed. It’s a complex program, but intuitively designed so that whenever I needed to do something new, I didn’t have to root through the help book, I could just naturally find my way. There are so many great details, being able to move reference footage around the screen, and shift the audio clip in the time line, and of course the whole cinematography window, I don’t know how I ever functioned without it! You can really tell its been designed by animators, because its those little things, the saving of annoyances, that are so helpful in alleviating the sometimes stressful process of animating.”
“Actually, one of my favorite things about the program is the Dragon Pad! This became indispensable on loads of shots as I physically needed to use both hands to hold things in view as I animated them. In the past I’ve either had to have someone else there or headbut/ spit objects at the Enter key in order to take the shot, but with the pad, it was just off with the socks and shoes and time to get toe capture happy.”
“So yes, thanks Dragon, you are a wonderful asset to the fine art of stopmotion!”
The final film is traveling the festival circuit at the moment. You can follow Michael on twitter.com/MisterPlease if you’d like to know where its screening next.
FILM TITLE: The Eagleman Stag
DIRECTOR: Michael Please
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: Michael Please
ANIMATOR/S: Michael Please
CAPTURE SOFTWARE: Dragon Stop Motion
CAMERA SYSTEM: Canon EOS 1000D
COMPOSITING SOFTWARE: After Effects
SPECIAL TECHNIQUES: Lots of reverse stop-motion.
LESSONS LEARNED: Working with grass is worse than working with children and animals combined.