July 6, 2009
In addition to the opening film and animation highlights revealed by the 2009 Fantasia festival, the rest of the films do not merely round out the animation portion of programming. These selections reflect some of the more interesting selections of on the cinematic edge.

The features, in addition to Genius Party Beyond, Hells, and Les Lascars:
  • Edison and Leo, the first Canadian stop-motion feature, is described as a "surprising chunk of steampunk fun, a revisionist, retro science-fiction thriller with a zesty dash of decidedly adult gags." OK, I'm in.
  • anime features Eureka Seven and Evangelion 1.0
The shorts, in addition to those in Tokyo OnlyPic 2008, Celluloid Experiments 2009, DJ XL5's Razzle Dazzle Zappin' Party:
Also of note:
Bon festival!

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May 26, 2009

Chris Landreth's latest film, The Spine will premiere at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival this coming June.

What makes a Landreth film really stand out from most other photorealistic 3D computer animated films out there is how he explores and exposes his character's inner realities to the outside world for all to see. According to the official website, The Spine is the exploration of the relationship between a man and a woman trapped in a spiral of mutual destruction. From this description and the stills I've managed to see, I think we can look forward to seeing some more explorations of the human condition and to be again touched and amazed by this very talented filmmaker.

But for those of us who can't wait until the Annecy festival, the NFB offers several shorts discussing the "making of" to whet our appetites:





And if that's not enough to hold you until Annecy, you could always watch Ryan again.

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April 24, 2009

Cordell Barker's latest film, Runaway will premiere at Cannes during the International Critics' Week (May 14-22). Runaway was produced at the NFB and features a soundtrack by Benoît Charest, who is best known for his work on Triplets of Belleville.

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October 22, 2008
FlutterChez Madame Poule

The National Film Board is getting an early start on World Animation Day festivities and is turning the party out well after. From October 24 to November 12, Canadians in 13 cities will be able to enjoy free screenings of the Get Animated! series to celebrate World Animation Day (October 28).

Get Animated! features one program of ten new works (including Theodor Ushev's Drux Flux and George Schwizgebel's Retouches) and a second of ten children's animation shorts (including Claude Cloutier's Sleeping Betty, and shorts from Hothouse 4 participants Carla Coma and Jody Kramer). Many of the cities will include complementary screenings and workshops in addition to these programs.

Two short are available at the event site. Just click a graphic above to view Howie Shia's Flutter (top) or Tali's At Home With Mrs. Hen.

Thanks, Matt and Jody!

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October 14, 2008

The Cinematheque Quebecoise will be screening a retrospective of George Schwizgebel's shorts on Wednesday, October 15th at 6:30 p.m with the animator present. You can also catch an exhibition of his paintings there, which runs until November 9th.

I've included a clip of Jeu, one of the films those in attendance will get to see in addition to Schwizgebel's latest film Retouches, which is among one of my favourite shorts viewed at this year's Ottawa International Animation Festival.

Previously on fps
Jeu: George Schwizgebel's Games Without Frontiers

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October 7, 2008
Ryan Larkin, who animated Walking, and who was also the subject of the Oscar-winning Ryan, has a posthumous co-directing credit on Spare Change (with Laurie Gordon). The film will be showing at the Festival du nouveau cinema. It will also be showing before the feature, All Together Now, a documentary about the Beatles and Cirque du Soleil, which is also premiering at the FNC. Spare Change will precede the feature as it screens across Canada in the next week:

October 10

Vancouver: Ridge Theatre
Toronto: Royal
Québec City: Cinéma Quartier
Sherbrooke: La maison du Cinéma

October 12

Montreal: Cinema Du Parc

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July 7, 2008

In this space I've mentioned National Film Board shorts like Black Soul (above), Street Musique and Blackfly. But have you ever seen any of these shorts? Probably not if you don't live near an NFB viewing centre like Toronto's Mediatheque or Montreal's Cinérobothèque or don't catch short film festivals. Well, now you can, thanks to a new NFB initiative. Beta.nfb.ca is where they're making digitized films from their archive available online, for free.

There are over 300 films up so far, with over half of them from the animation collection. The earliest animated film there at the moment is Norman McLaren's Boogie-Doodle (1941, the year the animation studio was founded), and the most recent are both from this year: Michael Wray and David Seitz's The Mixy Tapes and Sandde, in which Munro Ferguson explains how the NFB's very cool stereoscopic animation system works.

As the name implies, the site is still in beta, so there are rough edges. But the NFB is asking for feedback, so you should get out there, watch, and let them know what you think.

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March 2, 2008

Honestly, I don't know why anyone in Toronto would bother vegging in front of the tube during the March break when the National Film Board, by all appearances, has them covered. Animation fans with 17 minutes to kill can head over to the NFB Mediatheque and watch Madame Tutli-Putli for free at one of their digital viewing stations until March 31, but that's just for starters. The Mediatheque is continuing its tradition of unleashing hidden animation talent by providing inexpensive workshops and week-long day camps where kids create their own animated shorts. The daily workshops are for kids aged 6 to 13 and run from March 8 to 16; the day camp is for kids aged 8 to 13 and runs from March 10 to 14.

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February 29, 2008
Les Trois Brigands, the French version of German feature Die Drei Rauber, opened today in cinemas across Quebec and in Ottawa, Ontario. While Montreal stopped being a market for limited theatrical releases about ten years ago, it still has the advantage of getting French-language or translated animated features that have not yet been released widely in English.

(Ironically, Quebec is often overlooked for anticipated anime features, despite the diehard interest ingrained in a two generations of Quebecois through French programming, which made it a stronghold for anime fandom long ago, showing you just how clueless major distributors are.)

The timing is perfect, as the Spring Break begins for elementary schools tomorrow, which means it's time for FIFEM. The film is the only animated feature at this year's edition of the children's film fest, and also its opening film.

FIFEM is also screening shorts before each film. Many are animated, and almost half are Hothouse 4 shorts. Hothouser Carla Coma will be present when her stop-motion short, The Squirrel Next Door, is screened on March 4 and March 9.

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February 6, 2008
Richard Condie has donated thousands of animation items to his alma mater, the University of Manitoba.

The CBC reports:

Condie's work is hugely popular around the world, [archivist Shelley] Sweeney said.

"There's, like, cult followings for The Big Snit and Getting Started," she said. "I just ran across a blog that's in the Czech Republic where people were talking about it. People are very interested in his work."

Condie's work is the largest donation her department has received in 25 years, Sweeney said. The artist donated his work in part because he wanted it properly preserved, she said.

The work goes on display Thursday, in an exhibit aptly named, "Arrgg!"

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January 22, 2008
Today, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the 2008 Oscar nominees. For all the concern of Beowulf getting a spot, the worry was for naught. The shorts are diverse, in technique, storytelling and geography.


Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, France)
Ratatouille (Brad Bird, US)
Surf's Up (Ash Brannon and Chris Buck, US)


Even Pigeons Go To Heaven (Samuel Tourneux and Simon Vanesse, France) entire short
I Met The Walrus (Josh Raskin, Canada) clip
Madame Tutli-Putli (Chris Lavis & Maciek Szczerbowski, Canada) clip
My Love (Alexander Petrov, Russia) clip
Peter and The Wolf (Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman, UK) clip

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December 4, 2007
Norman's Montreal run begins this week. It's been getting excellent reviews in Canada, and the Montreal run will be at one of the city's best live venues, Place des Arts.

Click the graphic to enlarge for location and ticket information.

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October 12, 2007
Le Festival du Nouveau Cinéma is known for its wolf that adorns its publicity materials. The fest has a track called Les P'tits Loups or, in English, Little Wolves, with programming geared towards children, and only two shorts in that entire track are live-action. The selections will definitely be of interest to parents and guardians, and honestly, I think if you left the kids at home you might not notice.

The track begins on the morning of Saturday, October 13 with U, a feature from France that appears to be a fairy tale on the outside and is a coming of age story underneath it all, despite the unicorn and the castle. It deals with concepts of love and adolescence in a very disarming fashion.

Sunday, October 14 features an hour's worth of Komaneko: The Curious Cat shorts. I can't recommend this highly enough. Our heroine is the ultimate do-it-yourselfer and amateur auteur. This little stop-mo cat creates her own stop-motion shorts, makes her own props, sets and puppets, and can be found outside filming her surroundings. One of her partners in crime is a little cat who builds robots and fixes mechanical objects.
Kids take away a great lesson, and the shorts, although suitable for children as young as 3, can entertain someone in their 50s just as easily. The shorts are well-crafted, include engaging characters and they have a simple, but coherent story. In Japan, it is distributed by Geneon Entertainment. It's too bad that they'll no longer be distributing DVDs in North America. I hope that someone else distributes them here. For now, you can get them at Yesasia.

For a more diverse selection, Sunday, October 21 features the various shorts, mostly animated, including the hilarious Isabelle au Bois Dormant/Sleeping Betty from Claude Cloutier at the NFB. If the festival's selection doesn't get local kids interested in film and animation, I'm not sure what will.

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October 10, 2007
Since Persepolis and Madame Tutli-Putli each screened at Cannes and won awards this year in May, they have appeared at animation and mainstream film festivals to acclaim. Montrealers can now finally see both films by attending the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, which begins today.

Animation seems to have taken on a more important role in the festival with more shorts than ever. However, a few might slip through the cracks if you aren't careful. The visceral Face lies in wait in Competition 1, on Thursday, October 11 and Wednesday, October 17th. Madame Tutli-Putli is showing during Competition 2 this Friday, October 12 and Tuesday, October 16. Selina Cobley's Crow Moon screens in Competition 3 next week on the 17th and 18th.

The National Film Board of Canada Stereo Lab is screening four stereoscopic shorts, which 2004 OIAF attendees might have seen, but this screening includes the premiere of a stereoscopic version of Theodor Ushev's phenomenal Tower Bawher.

Previously on fps
Festival du Nouveau Cinéma coverage
Persepolis coverage
Two Podcasts for Madame Tutli-Putli

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October 5, 2007
If you're in Montreal, before you go to the Poetry in Motion screening tomorrow, you may want to drop in at the National Film Board's Cinérobotheque, less than a 5 minute walk away. As part of a weekend of screenings of short programmes from this year's Fantasia festival, the Outer Limits of Animation Program will be screening at 3:00 p.m. The program repeats on Sunday at 5:00 p.m.

For nearly two hours, you will be able to see shorts selected by North America's premiere cult film festival for just $7 (less if you're a student).

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September 26, 2007
Award-winning French animator Florence Miailhe will be giving a master class this Thursday, September 27th, at the Cinémathèque Québécoise at 3 p.m. Miailhe works in-camera with oil paint, pastel and sand to create rich imagery in films such as Conte de quartier, which is a Films de l'Arlequin and National Film Board of Canada production.

Thanks to the generosity of the NFB and Antitube, she will be in Montreal and on Friday in Quebec City at the Museum of Civilisation to meet with the public. Both events are free!

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September 24, 2007
Wrapping up Norman McLaren's retrospective world tour, the NFB pairs up with the Montreal Symphony to present a special hybrid performance of music and cinema.

Next week in Montreal, the symphony will play musical accompaniment to four of the animator's greatest works; Blinkity Blank, Love on the Wing, Neighbours/Voisins and Hell Unlimited.

The richness of full symphonic sound will no doubt offer a fitting complement to the large screen presentation of McLaren's animation genius. The evening performance comes first (October 2), followed by the matinee (October 3), which sounds like a great idea for a class field trip to me. For school group reservations, call the MSO at 514-842-3402.

What: The Air Canada Words and Music Concerts series
When: Tuesday, October 2, 2007 at 8:00 p.m.
Where: Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier at Place des Arts, Montreal
Kent Nagano, conductor
Gabriel Thibaudeau, pianist

What: The Symphonic Matinees series
When: Wednesday, October 3, 2007 at 10:30 a.m.
Where: Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier at Place des Arts, Montreal
Kent Nagano, conductor
John Zirbel, OSM principal horn
Gabriel Thibaudeau, pianist

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September 22, 2007
The Animator's Picnic in Strathcona Park was plenty of fun. Lots of people were glad to see familiar faces and make new connections. This was my chance to see Martine Chartrand and Pilar Newton again. Pilar was one of the winners in the annual pumpkin carving contest again this year.Her pumpkin toaster was a hit with the crowd, along with many others. Another prizewinner was a pumpkin inspired by Luis Cook's Aardman Animation short, The Pearce Sisters.

It was also a chance for the animation community to come together to help the family of the late Helen Hill. During the picnic, donations were contributed to an education fund for her son, the Francis Pop Education Fund.

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September 18, 2007
Another nice byproduct of the Ottawa International Animation Festival is the host of ancillary events that occur in nearby cities. Animators want to make the most of their trip, especially if they are from abroad, and end up dropping into other cities for smaller events. Last year, after the festival I had the chance to see Kihachiro Kawamoto's Book of the Dead a second time, because of a special trip he made to Montreal. It's a nice consolation for people who can't experience the sheer awesomeness of the actual festival, and a great teaser or way to come down from the fest.

The Toronto Animated Image Society will be hosting Joanna Quinn (barely or not safe for work web link, depending on the sense of humour of the people where you work!), in conversation with the NFB's Michael Fukushima on Tuesday, September 18 (tonight!). You'll recognize her commercial work in her demo reel and get an idea of the antics of her endearing but oh-so-wrong recurring character, Beryl. Click the flyer for details.

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June 28, 2007
The first event of the Platform International Animation Festival took place on Monday night with Competition 1. Irene Kotlarz, Director of Programming (pictured) got things rolling and welcomed and eager crowd that had already been well-taken care of by registration and other volunteer staff. If there were any fires being put out in the background, attendees sure didn't know about it. The festival has been a well-oiled machine so far.

The first short to screen was Torill Kove's The Danish Poet, this year's Oscar winner. Luis Cook's The Pearce Sisters was a standout Aardman short and one of the newer shorts in the selection. Recently acclaimed shorts such as Run Wrake's Rabbit and Theodore Ushev's Tower Bawher were shown and I became newly acquainted with Herzog and the Monsters.

The opening night party offered a chance for people to reconnect and make some new contacts in a great setting and others snuck off later in the evening for Comedy vs. Art, featuring an animation face-off between Bill Plympton and Joanna Priestley.

Tuesday was the first full day of the festival and I started off the day at the Meet the Animators panel moderated by Ramin Zahed of Animation Magazine. The thread that ran through all of the discussions dealt with passion for animating. Marc Bertrand of the National Film Board said he would rather people make films for themselves with themes they care about rather than impressing a producer. Motomichi Nakamura suggested that animators put work in their portfolio that they really enjoyed and not put in the rest.

The highlight of the day was the feature Tekkon Kinkreet, with its lush visuals and bold style. Director Michael Arias (pictured) was in the house and answered an extended Q&A about the making of the film.

After Competition 3, I could barely survive Animation From Hell, which screened Shut Eye Hotel, Bill Plympton's new short. So many activities can get a bit taxing, and I had to get ready for another day replete with great activities.

(Photos by official festival photographer CJ Beaman.)

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June 5, 2007
I was at the National Film Board last Monday for the screening and wrap party for this year's Hothouse (more on that later) and after more than a year of effort the stars aligned and I was able to stop by Martine Chartrand's office for a peek at her latest film, MacPherson.

Martine's been working on MacPherson since 2003, and doesn't expect to be finished for at least another two years. Part of the reason is technique—as with her previous film (the astonishing Black Soul) she works by painting on glass—but mainly it's because of the research involved. Inspired by a Félix Leclerc song about a black log driver, Martine has unearthed a history of Frank Randolph MacPherson that bears only a passing resemblance to Leclerc's song. It turns out that MacPherson, a Jamaican immigrant to Quebec, was in fact a good friend of Leclerc's and, as they used to say, a man of letters.

Martine showed me a test of MacPherson, and it looks as if she'll be sort of combining both stories—using the fictional MacPherson to tell the story of the friendship shared by the real MacPherson and Leclerc. As ever, the visuals are gorgeous, and I can't wait to see them fully realized and in motion. While I can't show any of that test footage, I did take a few photos of the MacPherson storyboard, and you can see some of Martine's reference images and concept drawings in the picture of her office above. You can click on all of the images in this post to see larger images with more detail.

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I have a soft spot for mythology and folk tales, especially when they're produced by individuals or small teams. Favourites include the Dust Echoes series and the films of Nick Kozis; now I can add Croatian Tales of Long Ago, produced by Helena Bulaja. Helena brought together animators from around the world to create eight Flash-animated shorts based on stories from Ivana Brlić Mažuranić's 1916 book of the same name, allowing each one to put his or her spin on it and add interactive elements. For me, the perfect matchup between story, style and interactivity was How Quest Sought the Truth by Nathan Jurevicius: the laid-back delivery, quirky style and fun but challenging (and completely optional) Flash games just clicked for me. But honestly, the whole project is a delight. You can check out segments for free on the project's website, or buy the CD-ROMs—which are chock full of extras, including the original stories—from the Web shop.

Last year, many of us in the northeast faced an enormous quandary: go to the 30th anniversary Ottawa International Animation Festival, or to the inaugural ADAPT Conference in Montreal, held the same weekend? Independent animation or the gorgeous art to be found in big-budget features? Konstantin Bronzit or Syd Mead? It was a dilemma of soul-crushing, garment-rending proportions. Fortunately, this year our spirits and outerwear are safe: the 2007 edition of ADAPT is being held immediately after Ottawa, so you could conceivably rush from one to the other. None of the master class topics have been announced as yet, but Syd Mead, Iain McCaig and Mark Goerner are already confirmed as guests.

Forgot to mention earlier that Laurie Maher and Jason Walker will be hosting the North American premiere of Madame Tutli-Putli at the Worldwide Short Film Festival in Toronto on June 13.

Coolest mug ever.

Do you create animation in SWF format? If so, you'll want to contact Adobe's Customer Research team; they're looking to collect SWF content to get an idea of what people are using the format for, so they can better support them. If you want to make sure animation is well represented, send the following to flashresearch [at] adobe.com by July 6:
  • Your SWF or a link to your project or a screenshot of the project
  • A brief description (3 to 4 sentences) describing the audience and purpose of the project
  • Descriptive tags to categorize the project's content and purpose – Use as many or as few tags as you like, and feel free to make up your own. Some examples tags are included below.
  • Percent of all your projects that are SWFs
  • Percentage of time you spend writing ActionScript
  • Percentage of time you spend using the timeline
  • Your name
  • Your job title and company
  • Your phone number (so a member of the Adobe's customer research team can contact you for a quick 15 minute phone call if they need more information)
Adobe's sweetening the deal with $50 Amazon gift certificates given out at random for 1 in every 50 submissions.

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June 4, 2007
Madame Tutli-Putli is a remarkable work for many reasons, but the one that many (including me) have seized on is the one that continues the tradition of combining live-action and animation: the "gimmick" of compositing live actors' eyes onto the movies' stop-motion puppets. (The image to the left is Laurie Maher—Madame Tutli-Putli's co-creator, as it were—providing a reaction shot.) It is, perhaps, a form of motion capture that Robert Zemeckis and company never dreamed of.

That bit of trickery was achieved by Montreal-based painter/animator/compositor Jason Walker, who dropped me a line earlier today and pointed me to his website, which provides a glimpse into the process of capturing actors' ocular performances and then matching them up seamlessly. Still, after poking around I found I needed more, so I went straight to the source.

Emru Townsend: You're primarily a painter. What aspect of your painting skills do you bring to your compositing work?

Jason Walker: When I'm painting a portrait, one of the priorities, to me, is creating an exact likeness of the subject. Painting a human face requires a great deal of accuaracy. If any feature is even slightly off, you have a different person. The placement of eyes, especially, are key to making a person look human.

For Madame Tutli-Putli I placed, rotated, and scaled each eye individually, by the pixel, to make sure that Tutli's character was consistent through the four years of compositing. I used the same approach as painting a likeness. Tutli's eyes were also slightly stretched vertically to give her more of a sympathetic look.

ET: You're a little vague in your description of your process for matching human eyes to stop-motion actors. You used "every trick in the book and more," as you put it. Can you give us a detailed breakdown of one of those tricks?

JW: Vague, you say! Okay, you asked for it!

First of all, this technique of adding human eyes to stop-motion puppets is extremely complicated and starts long before the compositing stage. I will be adding more information on the technique to my website once Tutli has had time be in a festival or two before showing her "un-masked."

We decided that seeing Tutli with no eyes, and just the silicone puppet, is quite shocking and should be held back. The technique itself is a system I came up with back in 2003 when Tutli was still in talks with the NFB. I had worked on post-production effects for Clyde Henry Productions for several years before Tutli-Putli, and this was simply our latest collaboration and a chance to try a new challenge.

I would start by applying makeup to an actor. For Tutli's character this makeup would evolve throughout the film. With the "Pervert" character, and the small boy, I would add texture to the actor's skin to resemble the puppet they were to inhabit. I would then choreograph the actor's moves based on a chart that I would create. A "Wunderbar," as they became known. This was my way of breaking down the moves that the stop-motion puppet was making.

This timeline for each eye shot in the film would also indicate every time there would be a light flash or shadow pass on the puppet. With this puppet's actions indicated in colours, I could teach the actor to replicate the head moves. Once the moves were rehearsed, Chris and Maciek could then direct the actors for the context of the scene while I would call out the moves, and light flashes, shadows, etc.

The actors were incredible at learning their choreographed moves, and giving great acting performances. We had Laurie Maher (Tutli-Putli) cry for two long days of eye takes for the dining car scenes.

Depending on the complexity of the shot, we would film between 15-20 takes of eyes for each scene supplying a range of acting, and a varying degree of head angles. Chris and Maciek would then review the takes and make a final decision based only on acting, and then I would import the take, and try a quick test on the puppet footage to see if I could make the timing and moves work. Very few takes had to be discarded, so I got the angles I needed, and Chris and Maciek got the acting take they wanted.

Matching the eyes to the puppet footage presented many unique problems. When you film a person going through their moves, it never matches up... ever! The timing is way off, no matter how hard you try. So I decided not to even try matching the timing, just the head angles and lights. One trick was to re-time the footage in an extreme way. This is what gives Tutli her stop-motion style of realism. The eyes are in fact "re-animated" frames. If I had a puppet take that lasted 200 frames, and the chosen eye take lasted 3,000 frames, I would selectively take only the frames that I could use to re-build the acting performances whilst staying within the restrictions of the moves and light changes. Tutli might need to blink over 10 frames, so I could re-create a blink which retains the acting from the video blink that lasts 20+ frames. For example, you can make a blink sleepy or sudden with the same take if it's re-timed differently.

I tried at the beginning to rely on the computer for tracking but it wasn't nearly subtle enough. I decided that placing the eyes by hand for each frame was the only way to do it, and was actually faster. I would use alpha masks to remove all of the actor apart from their eyes, eyebrows, and partial under-eye, using varying feathered edges to match the facial structure of the puppet. This required a lot of painting experience. Many pieces were painted still patches, touched up in Photoshop, and positioned over problem joins or missing skin, fading in and out over time.

This was one hurdle, another was matching colour. Almost every frame of Tutli-Putli flickers because she is on a moving train. The only way to match eyes into this was to film as many of the big flashes at the time of the eye take, the rest have to be created with brightness and contrast tools, and colour balancing the darks, mediums and highlights to match every frame. Film grain was matched. Motion blurs [were matched], and making the eyes look like they were behind dirty glass in some shots.

Making Tutli's puppet hair fall back over her composited eyes was a handy little trick I used.

Filming the eyes would take about 3 hours per shot, compositing them seamlessly into a shot would take about 2 to 10 days.

ET: What software applications were in your compositing toolbox?

JW: I used Adobe After Effects for the compositing, and Photoshop to paint the facial patches. After Effects had its quirks, but it was quite solid over four years. From the start of the film in 2003 I went through 3 versions of After Effects.

ET: In the four years that Madame Tutli-Putli was in production, computer and video hardware got faster and more flexible while software became more powerful. As time went on, did this allow you to do more in less time, or did it open up more options?

JW: No, I got faster with practice, but the computer was always a bit slow. This project has been a 2D effect from the start so compositing shouldn't be too hard on the computer. However, as your readers will know, being able to flip through your last few frames in stop-motion is crucial to developing the flow of the move. Sometimes I would have to manipulate the eyes so much that the computer was never fast enough at frame advancing all the separate layers, masks, and colour effects attached to each eye. This was always a problem. This effect has to be in full resolution mode all the time to see if it matches. Very slow.

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May 27, 2007
Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud received the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for the adaptation of Satrapi's graphic novel, Persepolis. I can't wait to see this film. If you would like to see why I find this encouraging, pick up a copy of the original comic, or copies of Persepolis 2 or The Emboideries. If you can read French, Poulet aux Prunes is also a great read, which, like her other work, finds unexpected ways to make you laugh and break your heart. UPDATE: Poulet aux Prunes is now available in English under the title Chicken With Plums.

While the official Persepolis website hasn't been updated in a while, Satrapi's Myspace for the film has trailers up. Even if you don't know French, you'll figure most of it out. (Maybe not this one: At the end of the second teaser, the policemen are telling her to slow down and admonishing her for running in a manner the shows off her bottom. She yells back at them because they shouldn't be looking at her butt in the first place!)

Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski have received two awards at Cannes for the stop-motion short film, Madame Tutli-Putli. Both awards were in Best Short Film categories. The short received the Petit Rail d'Or and another award from Canal +, which means that their film will be broadcast on Canal + and the creators will receive the gift that keeps on giving: 6000 Euros' (over 8000 US dollars) worth of film equipment, courtesy of Panavision Alga Techno.

In addition to the Canal + broadcast, the short will be screened at Annecy, Toronto's Worldwide Shorts Festival and the Rome, Paris, Beirut and Mexico screenings for Cannes' International Critics Week tour.

Previously on fps:
Two Podcasts for Madame Tutli-Putli

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May 16, 2007
Last Friday I sat down to talk with Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, who make up Clyde Henry Productions. They were getting ready to leave for France, where their ambitious stop-motion film Madame Tutli-Putli was selected for the International Critics' Week at the Cannes film festival. We spoke at length about cinematic influences, our previous encounter at the beginning of production, and why comparing them to the Brothers Quay is a bad idea; you can find the podcast here, if you don't already subscribe to the feed. (And why not? The link's in the sidebar to the right.) Also, check out our video podcast, where I present some excerpts from the 2001 animatic of the film. (See, if you subscribed you'd already know about that.)

If you're not currently in France, you won't have much of a chance to see Madame Tutli-Putli in full just as yet. I'd recommend that you head over to the official website and take a look.

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In the summer of 2001, I was part of a National Film Board peer review, where six of us spent a day looking at film proposals to provide recommendations. One of those films was Madame Tutli-Putli, and Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski presented us with an animatic—a rough animated presentation of what they intended for the film—as part of their proposal. A few elements have remained almost exactly the same over the course of six years, but many are strikingly different.

Photo credit: National Film Board of Canada

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May 15, 2007

Clyde Henry Productions is Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, a team of multimedia artists who have been working together in animation and effects since 1997. But for about half that time, the pair locked themselves in a dark room to produce Madame Tutli-Putli, a seventeen-minute stop-motion short for the National Film Board of Canada. The title character, a demure and hesitating young woman, boards a train for an overnight journey in what appears to be 1920s Europe. But her journey is filled with strange passengers and even stranger events.

Madame Tutli-Putli is exquisitely produced, with meticulously crafted puppets and carefully worn sets and props. It's a wordless fever-dream of a story that nails you to your chair—even in its quietest moments, you get the feeling that something isn't quite right. Part of that unsettling feeling comes from what Chris Lavis calls the "gimmick" of digitally compositing human eyes onto the puppets, which produces a haunting effect that's difficult to ignore.

I spoke with the Clydes last Friday, just a few days before they were off to France. Madame Tutli-Putli was selected for the International Critics' Week at the Cannes film festival, and it's also slated to screen at the Annecy animation festival a few weeks after that. When we met at a local pub, they'd just finished several whirlwind days of publicity, and were recharging their batteries with a few pints before getting ready for their trip.

Clyde Henry Productions' next project is The White Circus, a feature in development at the National Film Board.

Clyde Henry Productions
Madame Tutli-Putli
Marcy Page spotlight (from the July 2005 issue of fps)

Photo credit: National Film Board of Canada

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May 11, 2007
Last night, Montreal's animation community descended on the Cinémathèque Québecoise to honour the National Film Board's Hélène Tanguay. Thirty-seven years after starting at the Board—her first and only place of employment—she'll be retiring from her position as marketing manager for the NFB's English Animation Studio, and about a hundred of her friends and colleagues showed up to wish her well. (The picture at left was taken seconds before the evening was officially underway. Hélène is in the orange shirt, at right.)

"Marketing manager" sounds like a dull title, perilously close to the "suits" that are reviled by many animation artists and fans. Hélène, however, is no self-important suit. More than once, the words "passionate" and "devoted" were used to describe her love of animation, and she counts many of its most prodigious practitioners as friends. It's not her fault that other marketing managers don't live up to her gold standard.

My view of Hélène is that she's one of those people for whom the phrase joie de vivre was invented. She's always smiling or laughing whenever I see her, as are the people around her. In 2004, the train we were riding to the Ottawa International Animation Festival broke down in the middle of nowhere. It was a warm and humid day, and without air conditioning it didn't take long for us to start roasting. We waited for hours before another train showed up to push us to a station and we could be transferred to buses—and Hélène was cracking jokes throughout, despite her obvious discomfort. At the two Ottawa festivals since then she's found new ways to mine the event for laughs.

I mention this to set the context for last night's vibe. Cinémathèque animation curator Marco de Blois was wearing what I'll call Hélène-style earrings, as were Chris Hinton, NFB executive producer David Verrall, and animator Jacques Drouin. Introductions and tributes were accompanied by chuckles and outright howls of laughter. But there was a lot of affection, and I suspect Hélène made good use of the box of tissues Marco supplied her with at the outset.

This was all part of the first part of the evening, which Marco referred to as "The H.T. Project," hatched by a secret cabal of animators and NFB personnel. Nine tributes were paid by ten animators, who each gave an introduction (in person, by written note, or by video) and explained the personal connection behind the particular film they'd selected to be screened for Hélène and everyone in attendance. Here's a list of the presenters and the lineup:

Michèle Cournoyer - The Big Snit
Cordell Barker - An Old Box
Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis - The Hedgehog in the Mist (in the original Russian, with a live voiceover by Martine Chartrand)
Jacques Drouin - The Little Forest
Chris Hinton - Rabbit
Marv Newland - Dinner for Two
Martin Rose - My Financial Career
Paul Driessen - Broken Down Film
Stephen McCallum - Sledgehammer

After the films, we went to the lobby to pose for pictures with Hélène, then to the café to talk about the evening, stun Hélène with her third standing ovation, and generally mingle. A few hours later on the train ride home I reflected on the fact that the audience represented, for me at least, twenty years of relationships: friends, classmates, professors, and a few inspirations as well. I've been to more than a few gatherings like these, but it's rare that they have as much energy as this—and never before has the linchpin been someone who isn't an animator. It reminded me of something Kino Kid said two years ago: Animation is people . Hélène's love for the form and those that are equally passionate about it was felt and shared by everyone there.Though she's worked behind the scenes for all this time, her influence has been profound.

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May 9, 2007
A special tribute to animation stalwart Helene Tanguay will be held on Thursday, May 10 at La Cinematheque Quebecoise.

After several months of preparation by the National Film Board of Canada and La Cinematheque Quebecoise, a selection of films by ten Canadian filmmakers have been hand-picked just for her in the utmost secrecy.

Attend the screening to find out the 10 films that have been dedicated to her (and who did the dedicating) on the brink of her retirement from the NFB.

Helene has also been named Honorary President of the Ottawa International Animation Festival for 2007.

May at La Cinematheque Quebecoise

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May 2, 2007
Last week was only a warm-up: May is a busy animation month at the Cinematheque Quebecoise. Things get underway Thursday, May 3, with a selection of Animation Classics of the 1980s. Each of the six films would make it worth seeing an entire program of animation shorts.

Tale of Tales
, Yuri Norstein
Tyll the Giant, Rein Raamat
The Cat Came Back, Cordell Barker
Rectangles & Rectangles & Rectangle, René Jodoin
Do Pivnice (Down in the Cellar), Jan Svankmajer
Jumping, Osamu Tezuka

May 10

On the eve of her retirement, a secret program of 10 films has been prepared for Hélène Tanguay (Marketing Manager for the NFB's English Animation Studio) by a team of employees at the CQ and the National Film Board. Details to come.

May 17, May 18, May 20, May 24, May 25, May 31, June 1, June 7

New York independent animator Bill Plympton graces the city once again with his presence. Yes, his films will be showing right until June!

May 17 is a special workshop with Bill Plympton. He will discuss his career as an animator, do an drawing demonstration and explain how directors can make a living working on short films. On May 18, there will be a screening of his shorts from 1977-1994 (in the presence of the director), and May 19, watch the balance of shorts from 1994 to the present. The next four screenings will be devoted to his features, The Tune, I Married a Strange Person!, Mutant Aliens, and Hair High.

If I died from an overdose, this is the way I'd want to go out.

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April 26, 2007
I'm a big fan of sampling, mash-ups and multidisciplinary work, and of animation and dance. So I'm intrigued by tomorrow's premiere of Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon's Norman. The creators aim to use projections of Norman McLaren's work combined with live classic and contemporary dance.

If you're in Ottawa, you can see it on April 26-30 at the National Arts Centre (NAC) during the Québec Scene festival. A personal viewing station will be set up at NAC with McLaren's work during the course of the festival. After that, 4DArt will stage Norman in Toronto, throughout Asia, Montreal, and throughout France.

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