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reckart / head over heels

Clever, sweet and well-executed- M.C. Escher would be proud. ‘Head Over Heels‘ recently added the Audience Prize at the acclaimed Hiroshima International Animation Festival to it’s accolades. Read on for a deeply detailed insight into the production from Director Timothy Reckart.

    “The film was 15 months in the making. We did development and early pre production for about four months, then started constructing the sets and puppets in April 2011. That process continued until about September, overlapping with animation which we started in July. Animation went from July to December. Then we spent the first three months of 2012 finishing the VFX work, which included greenscreen, rig removal, and compositing different scales.

    We used Dragon Stop Motion for this project, we began pre-Dragonframe. Chloë and I really appreciated Dragon’s cinematography controls, especially the flexibility we had with shutter speed and aperture. If we felt that a shot needed a shallower depth of field, for example, we could open up the aperture on the lens and then compensate for this by shortening the shutter speed, without ever needing to adjust the actual lighting setup. Live action film, constrained as it is to a fixed frame rate, doesn’t offer this option.

    The time lapse videos are also made with Dragon, using the time lapse settings.

    When I first developed this idea into a story, I felt strongly that stop motion was the right medium. This story about a married couple separated by gravity needed to have a believable physical reality. I wanted depth and dimension to the house, so that we could take advantage of the film’s unusual geography in planning our shots. A low angle looking up at one character would also be a high angle looking down on another. That would be quite difficult in 2D animation and unnecessarily complicated if we tried to do it as a composited collage with live action elements. So it was either stop motion or CGI, and here the choice was clear, too. Photographing stop motion on a puppet scale is like macro photography, so it exaggerates the textures of reaI materials, and that hyper-textural feel supports this sense of reality I was looking for. Real wooden floorboards could creak with the weight of the characters. That tangible universe costs a lot of time and effort in CG, but it’s basically free in stop motion.”

Timothy provided Dragonframe with some great time lapse videos from the production:

    “The first one shows myself and the cinematographer, Chloë Thomson, animating a shot together. We did used a hand-cranked track to move the camera frame by frame. The video shows how we did the upside down characters as well—just a classic threaded tie down system, but attaching the characters upside down to the ceiling. The upside down parts of the set were supported by scaffolding, which you can see just to the right of the center of the frame”.

    “The second video shows Chloë and I taking down a set and setting up a new one. Our production designer Eléonore Cremonese constructed the entire set so that it could be disassembled and reassembled upside down. Most shots had heavier animation demands on one character than on the other, so depending on which character was the “star” of the shot, we would orient the set so that he or she would be right-side-up, even if we ultimately flipped the image digitally to make it appear upside-down. The flexibility of the sets also meant that we could take a wall off to make room for a light, or remove a table to allow the animator to access the puppets”.

– Timothy Reckart

The characters may not know which way is up, but the film is certainly headed straight for the top.

BEST FIRST ANIMATION, Galway Film Fleadh, 2012
BEST FILM (Jury Prize), BEST FILM (Audience Prize), BEST STUDENT FILM (Audience Prize), Anima Mundi, 2012
Cannes Film Festival, Cinefondation 2012 
Edinburgh Film Festival, 2012 (Nominated for Best British Short Film)
 Seoul International Animation Festival (SICAF), 2012
Hiroshima International Animation Festival, 2012

Written & Directed by TIMOTHY RECKART


Cinematographer CHLOË THOMSON

Production Designer ELEONORE CREMONESE



Music Composed & Performed by JERED SORKIN


VFX Supervisor & Colourist HELEN BROWNELL

Production Manager LIZZIE BULL
Script Editor TOM HILL


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