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andersen / as you watch my heart

A visual feast in sets and lighting, this music video for the Danish band “Penny Police” is directed by Jacob Lundgaard Andersen and his thesis team at American Film Institute. Being trained in live action, it was the entire crew’s first foray into stop motion, heavily armed with Dragonframe and the DDMX-2. Read on for production notes and gorgeous set photos that make it clear how much fun was had in the process.



From Director Jacob Lundgaard Andersen:

As a team of first time stop motion filmmakers, we needed all the help we could find. It didn’t take us long to see that all reviews point to Dragonframe. Being a very low budget film, we were stuck with the decision of whether to acquire Dragonframe or not. We did and it was the biggest help we could have gotten from anywhere. After digging more into the system we also bought a DDMX-S2, because it worked perfectly for the visual ideas we wanted to play around with.

The workflow was surprisingly intuitive and really allowed everybody on my set (Production Designer, DP, Visual & Special Effects and Animators) to remain open to ideas as they came along, without ever getting bogged down by technical issues.

Being a group of first timers our biggest disadvantage was lack of knowledge surrounding the entire production phase from pre to post and the many extra technical considerations that factor into a stop motion shoot. Our product wouldn’t have turned out as well as it did, had we not been so heavily assisted by Dragonframe software. It enabled us to focus on what we were putting on the screen with minimal obstacles.

Personally I find the Dragonframe software very interesting, because it is aware of the technological context that it is in. It does not only allow you to superbly monitor and perfect classical stop motion, but Dragonframe also seems forthcoming toward the postproduction phase of any movie now a days, in terms of special effects, keying, wire removal, etc. I am extremely excited to venture upon my next stop motion film.

Notes from the Editor/VFX, Dan Meyers:

My feelings about Dragonframe are that it is really intuitive and user friendly. Extra kudos for this as it is also doing some rather advanced media management and export prep while not needing advanced user technical skill.  We were up and running in a very short time. 

Notes from the Cinematographer, Sara Ross Samko:

Though our team comes from a film school of live action, we all had a passionate curiosity for the stop motion universe and so, when our intrepid leader Jacob said “Hey, what about a stop motion project” we all said “Yaaay!”. Without a clue of what we were really in for, we jumped deep into the ocean without any flippers. From a lot of mistakes and bizarre discoveries, we grew our first stop motion gills and Dragonframe was an invaluable tool for me in navigating these new waters. Our approach was to do as much in-camera as possible and, despite stop motion generally necessitating a great deal of preplanning, most of the shots grew organically out of a continual experimentation. Dragonframe allowed the director, designer, editor, and I to test and preview a theoretical technique and quickly figure out an efficient workflow. The Cinematography Window in particular was wonderful to have, as it gave me the control I needed for us to have the freedom to play, sometimes even within the course of a shot.
To give our world life, we played with movement throughout out the entire piece, particularly with light. Our lighting changes range from dramatic time or mood shifts to lens flare to sending light through rotating colored glass to gentle almost imperceptible cloud shadows made with masking tape moving across the grass. These elements, as well as the use of continually shifting lens distortions and manually operated camera moves, made my crew and I think about our craft like animators, which was a fascinating education. And because of this, the addition of the DDMX-S2 became absolutely crucial to our workflow. As an example, our very first shot was seven seconds and involved seventy-three manual lighting moves. It took us two days to complete and I am amazed my crew didn’t murder me. But, with the addition of the DDMX-S2, the director and I could delicately adjust and program the lighting cues in direct sync with the animation as one might compose a piece of music. Using this system, the collaboration of light and camera and animation could become a beautiful quiet dance.
In the end, I find I am unable to watch this project objectively. I don’t see the movie anymore. I see my friends. I see a concentration of fingerprints, tiny threads of life weaving together, looping and crossing over. In four minutes I see six months of life. Dear stop motion, you are a monstrous beast! Incredible, mysterious, and moving.

Check the progress of Andersen’s ambitious next project which will include a stop motion segment.

All photos courtesy of Alex Lombardy Photography.

Credits:

Director/Producer: Jacob Lundgaard Andersen

Cinematographer: Sara Ross Samko

Production Design: Aashrita Kamath

Editor/ After effects: Daniel Meyers
Animators: Ellen Coons & Natalie James

Line Producer: Cyndi Trissel
Art Director – Matthew Andrews

Asst Art Director – Sally Park

Key Prop Construction – Frank Madrigal

Set Decorator– Lea DeFrance

Set Decorator – Sofie Ronje

Set Dresser – Melanie Poehner

Set Dresser – Kristin Gibler

Set Dresser – Rahma Farahat

Set Dresser – Marcy Silver

Set Dresser – Mary Nguyen

Set Dresser – Diana Schram

Animation Asst – Brenden Walters

Greens – Zhenya Che

Scenic Painter – Anna Grijalva

Asst Scenic Painter – Michelle Thieme

Asst. Puppet Build – Ruthie Williams

Camera and Lighting: Guy Pooles, Benjamin Hardwick, Jih-e Peng, Tim Kang, Johanna Coelh, Edward Salerno Jr., Leonard Agrizzi Netto, Farhad Ahmed Dehlvi, Andrew Shankweiler , Mike Solidum
, Daniel Myers
Alex Lombardi, and Boyd Hobbs
Wire removal: Diego Stehle

Colorist: Jerimiah Morey

Stills: Alex Lombardi & Donavan Freberg

Additional Thanks: Varti Torossian, Alex Tonub, Ava Berkofsky, Per Krogh, Erica Lang, Onn Nir, Duane & Betsy Pollock

Special thanks to: Mark Woods & Denise Brassard

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