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Behind the Scenes: The Making of LIAF 2020 Trailers

Each year the talented students from the animation course at the National Film & Television School make the LIAF festival trailers, and this year we have been lucky to have had two made – directors Sophie Bird and Leto Meade have both captured the spirit of the festival with their delightful clips.

They will be seen on the big screen at the Barbican (pending lockdown, of course) and before our online screenings, but here is your chance to see them before anyone else.

A huge thank you to Robert Bradbrook and Rebecca Havers for helping to co-ordinate this project and a massive thank you to all the students involved.

Sophie and Leto were kind enough to tell us about the process of making the trailers. Here’s what they had to say…

Sophie Bird, NFTS

I wanted the trailer to be an explosion of colour, movement and sound featuring animals from around the world to represent the international aspect of the festival.

I studied the movements of a few animals, decided on which would feature (this mostly depended on which I thought would be fun to animate and didn’t have too many legs) and then began animating without too much of a plan, I wanted to see where the movement seemed to flow and then animated as I went along.

The trailer is drawn and coloured by hand using a mixture of pen, pencil and ink on white paper. The ink, which is used mostly for the sea lion, caused the paper to wrinkle and make almost wave-like forms around it which were pleasantly appropriate for the water-bound animal.

I wanted a black background rather than white paper though, and animating straight onto black paper would make the lines invisible on a lightbox and subsequently very inconvenient to animate,  so I used the opposite colours of what I actually wanted for each animal and then inverted the whole film once it was scanned in to result in a black background.

Once I had the rough animation and structure figured out I started working with Sam Rapley who composed the music for the piece, we wanted to implement different textures and introduce a variety of sounds as the different animals had their ‘moment’ on screen. Then we took it to Guldem Masa who added in sound and foley which I think really added some depth to the piece and brought the animals more to life.

The piece was super fun to make as I much more enjoy animating animals over people so it was great to to get stuck in to some heavily animal-centric, expressive movement.

Leto Meade, NFTS

With the trailer I wanted to capture what I love about animation; the diversity and beauty of the different styles, techniques and worlds. In my personal work I tend to use multi-media styles of animation so it was something I wanted to celebrate even further by getting animators with very different styles to work together.

The 3D backgrounds are made using Maya, with them I wanted to express my own voice and that of the new generation of 3D experimental animators who are using the medium in new and interesting ways. I roughly animated the movement of the characters in the animatic and then handed them over to my friend and 2D powerhouse Miriam Fox who really brought them to life. I wanted a traditional, ‘squashy-stretchy’ style of 2D animation to bring some exaggeration and fun to the film.

Mai Vu (a stop motion animator) and Grace Shepherd (production designer) came into the process early and together created the big fish who swallows the boys underwater. The body and detail of the fish were made entirely from paper woven together and then painted with UV paint, then animated under a blacklight to bring out the neon colours. We were inspired by the bioluminescence of deep sea fish and tried to recreate this with the UV paint.

Creating the big fish

Creating the bioluminescent big fish

When it came to the music, made by the wonderful Hannah Barnett, I wanted to use a lot of vocals to build the atmosphere of the film and Carlos Eligio San Juan came in after to create the soundscapes and mix the final piece.

Finally I wanted to make sure there was a sense of wonder at the end. As the boys are lifted up by a pillar they are surrounded by a swirl of 2D animated shapes and creatures. I wanted to animate these in a way that made them feel like the doodles I would do at school had come to life.

I was so happy to make the trailer and hope that the theme of “togetherness” was able to be expressed in the film as it was certainly expressed in the filming process, a big thank you to everyone who helped!