by Joel Schulz – Publisher
To commemorate the upcoming DVD release of Skeleton Girl, I am reposting an article I wrote that originally appeared on Alberta Buzz back in July of 2012.
SKELETON GIRL CAPTIVATES CALGARY AUDIENCE
Local Debut of Award Winning 3D Animation
by Joel Schulz – Managing Editor
On Sunday July 15, a private screening of Bleeding Art Industry’s Skeleton Girl was given to members of Calgary’s film community. The venue was the Eau Claire Cineplex, a well known supporter film festivals and the local film industry.
Writing a review for a short is an arduous task if the avoidance of spoilers is to be overcome; so instead of falling into this trap let it suffice that this film was about was about the fears of a little girl, whether real or imagined, centered on a theme that it is not nice to steal from the dead. Continuity and audience involvement were excellent.
What I can share with our readers, without revealing the story, is that at times the 3D images approached a level of clarity and depth of perception that I had not seen since Disney released the View Master disk of Peter Pan, back in the days when I was knee high to a toad stool. If you are willing to admit that you are that old, we’re talking more than half a century ago, and you had a View Master just like every other kid on the block, then you know exactly what I am talking about. I was left with the feeling that I could reach into the film and grab objects from near and far. Ghosting was almost unnoticeable. Sadly though, I was so immersed in the superb camera work that I almost completely forgot to notice the incredible sound track.
Skeleton Girl has enthralled viewers across North America. At the world premiere last April, in New York at the prestigious Be Film, The Underground Film Festival, this production took Best First 3D Film. In the words of festival programming director Dmitris Athos:
“Making a film in Stereoscopic 3D presents additional production challenges across the board. Leo Wieser, Becky Scott and their entire team embraced the added challenge – in 3D stop motion animation no less! Skeleton Girl 3D is a technical and creative accomplishment on multiple levels, even more so being their first 3D film. I look forward to seeing more 3D Stereoscopic work from them and their company Bleeding Art Industries”
Of major significance, this short film also happens to be the world’s first 3D stop motion animation using constructed rather than computer generated models.
Earlier in the year I sat down with Calgary based Executive Producer Becky Scott, co-owner of Bleeding Art Industries, for an exciting informal discussion about Skeleton Girl, which they had just finished filming and was, at the time, in the hands of the editors. It was Bleeding Art founder Leo Wieser’s vision to make real the darkness of the graveyard behind his grandparents’ house he knew as a child. It unfolds in Millicent’s world, the title character. Becky described the film as “a native/stereoscopic 3D digital animated short film about an orphan girl named Millicent who discovers why it’s not a good idea to steal from the dead”. It is “a journey through a land of make-believe and one small girl’s imagination leads her to take a valuable gem that doesn’t belong to her, only to discover it isn’t a good idea to steal from the dead”. Calgary and by extension Canada, thanks to Becky’s and Leo’s team, have taken their rightful place on the world stage of cinematic innovation. However, Canada is no stranger to success in stop motion animation. Norman McLaren’s short, Neighbours, was the first stop motion short animation to win an Academy Award. He did so in 1953.
For the uninitiated, Alberta Buzz would like share some background information on just how intensive and undertaking 3D stop motion with constructed models actually is.
Stop motion is arguably the most time consuming animation method used by filmmakers. The process involves creating objects, such as clay models and puppets, and creating their movements incrementally and taking still shots of their developing motions. One second of the production would require the model to be moved approximately 24 times with an equal number of still shots taken. A 15 minute 2D production would require 21,600 incremental movements and still shots and that is assuming that each take is successful. Now imagine a production with multiple models in 3D. Forty to fifty thousand frames would have to be shot. Millicent’s world took almost as long as it took to create life itself. The use of stereoscopic photography transforms the animations into 3D. Such productions are not for the faint of art.
In conversation with Leo Wieser, I learned that over 600,000 still images were taken during filming. Steven Haniluk literally wore out the D90 Nikon camera body he used in the process. The camera is designed to take between 100,000 to 200,000 images. To give our readers an indication of how time consumed a task it is to shoot over half a million images, if one still shot was taken every two seconds over 24 hours a day non-stop, it would take almost 14 days to capture 600,000 images. On the set, the time between each image take is a heck of a lot longer than two seconds.
The production team, in addition to Leo and Becky, benefited from the hard work and dedication of co-director and animator Steven Hanulik, director of photography Aaron Bernakevitch, narrator Elinor Holt, and renowned composer Tomasz Opalka. The puppets were designed and built by sculptors Colin and Lisa.
Alberta Buzz is proud to be associated with such innovative and dedicated filmmakers. Leo and Becky, they must be congratulated for their efforts and success in taking Calgary talent to the forefront in world film and for reinforcing Calgary’s image as a hub for serious filmmaking. In fact, more award winning films have been produced in the vicinity of Calgary than anywhere else in Canada.
For further information you can visit the Skeleton Girl website at http://www.skeleton-girl.com/home.html. Becky has informed me that Skeleton Girl will be available for download purchase in the not too distant future.