Before we viewed Other Brother studios’ Catcher, we already knew it was all back lit layered vellum with a balsa wood characters shot on a multiplane shooter. Nonetheless, we were pleasantly surprised by the evocative effect these fundamentals created.
Here, a world made up of layers of color are only revealed by degrees of light that comes through them. Light is also the subject of the piece, as a simple little figure runs through the colorful frames trying to catch beating glow dots of light that can only be fireflies. The figure is opaque, in direct contrast to the filmy layers of its multi-hued environs. When it finally nets one, this catcher becomes less buoyant, more melancholic, as it jars the little beauty only to watch its gorgeous colors fade to greys. The viewer is left with a sense of real, human-like, emotion, even though the figure in the piece is made up of only six basic shapes with no face at all. Bravo!
“With Catcher, we wanted to demonstrate how much emotion and feeling could be packed into a very short time frame with an extremely minimal character,” director Isaiah Powers of Other Brother told us, affirming what we had already appreciated about the piece. “It was early spring when we began concept work, so we decided to draw from related troupes for initial design elements such as soft, saturated palettes, and full, pregnant curves. Then we sort of fell into the setting of meadows, forests and foothills and the abundance of new life that exists there.”
When we asked how he came up with the storyline, Powers answered, “We thought it would be interesting to play with the idea of allowing things we admire to follow their natural course, instead of trying to possess them for ourselves; for example, when one leaves a flower be instead of plucking it, or observes a butterfly instead of capturing one. It was also a good chance to animate expressive actions such as running, jumping and dancing to create something heartfelt that emotionally connects with its audience.”
In terms of the process of development for Catcher, Powers said, “It was all about exploration and pushing our visual medium. When we get a chance to work on short films we’re always wanting to learn; stretching into new ideas to see what we can pull off. We also sought to test out our new home built multi-plane shooter. It has built-in lighting and a back exposure all controlled with Dragonframe so we can easily shoot black and white luma mattes for compositing as a secondary exposure.
“In terms of the visual look and materials, our initial idea with the character was to keep him as simple as possible, and the body design we arrived at reminded us of wooden toy blocks. Balsa wood seemed like a good fit, as it is easy to shape and has great texture. At first we were just going to do digital matte paintings, but we ended up getting a lot more in the weeds. As a studio, we do a lot of animated paper-craft which led us to wonder what working with vellum would be like.
“In all honesty, it’s a bit unwieldy, but we fell in love with the twilight feeling and texture we could get out of airbrushing and back lighting it. An additionally new studio feature, a 3D resin printer, made for some easy prototyping and freedom of design for the net, the body of the butterfly, and the jars and lids. After we spent much time deliberating over how exactly to build and paint the wings for the butterfly one of the directors happened to take a shot of a freshly emerged cicada in his backyard and the wing colors were almost identical to what we had created. Nature wins, every time.”