Sunday, June 1, 2008

The secret Xerox conspiracy!

Well, a blog entry has to have a flashy title to grab you by the throat and pull you right in. In reality there was nothing secret, no conspiracy and only Xerox.

During the time, when Dick funded the film privately, many of the greatest war machine scenes had been animated. And they had all been traced on cels. As Holger has written earlier, these cels were gigantic. The Layout for the scene “Kettle” for example was 66 x 30 cm.

It was quite clear early on that there would be no war machine cel tracing any more. Time and monetary constraints forbid that. So it was decided that the animation would have to be photocopied (or xeroxed) on cels. But of course, with a film shot in glorious 35-mill cinemascope and to be presented on big screens, there was no way, we would animate these awesome battle scenes on A3 or even A 4 paper. That would be like watching Picasso’s “Guernica” on a stamp. And it would wobble and shake all over the place.

Luckily a shop that did A3 laser Xeroxes with brown toner on cells was found after extensive research. In the meantime Roy cooked up a clever scheme. We would use irregularly cut Overlays that would also add depth to the picture and hide the cell edges. Then the animation would be xeroxed on separate A3 cels and the cels cut to fit under Roy’s Overlays. Instead of one big cel, we now had up to 4 cels placed next to each other, but cut up like mosaic pieces. To avoid colour jumps, blank cels would be placed where no animation took place and nobody in the audience was the wiser.

But there was after all a little problem to the whole idea: The Xerox machine would distort every copy ever so slightly. And it would distort it always in a different place. So it was not just a matter of placing the xeroxed cel over the original drawing and pegging it. We literally had to make 3 Xeroxes of each drawing and then peg the keys first and afterwards re-peg all the in-between Xeroxes according to the Xerox keys. Staring on 3-5 transparent levels of cels, each loaded with many little one-eyes does mess with your eyes and brains after a while, I can tell you that. So if you fail to grasp the concept behind the “secret Xerox conspiracy”, it is not your fault, but clearly an after effect of me working too many hours on these scenes.

To add insult to injury, let me quote Neil Boyle “Give Dietmar a Xerox machine and he gives you three feet of animation a week”


Matt J said...

The techniques behind this film just get more & more complex. Thanks for revealing the secret!

Holger said...

Another example of unorthodox solutions on this film. Fascinating. I had forgotten that you worked on your own cels, but I remember the plastic re-pegging strips now. 3 xeroxes - was that so hopefully one would fit? Did you do all that yourself or did you have people helping? Who came up with the re-inbetweening idea?

Dietmar said...

Yes, I did that all by myself, because the original idea of having it pegged in Paint and Trace didn't work. Obviously it was diligently pegged on top of the drawings as best as possible, but the first test came bacl all it became clear that you actually need an animator or assistant to follow the whole scene through again.

I think it was not until my "big scene" (Blog on that incomming in a few weeks)that I actually had assistants, so short of painting the cels, the scenes were 100% mine :)

Michael Sporn said...

Another great post. Thanks for the info. That Roy was certainly a demon in that studio - amazing work. Every ounce of it shows up on the screen.

Dietmar said...

Hmmm...Roy certainly is one of the nicest persons I ever met. A creative demon maybe, but not a demon in the way that he made peoples life hard. Actually I cannot bring myself to see any kind of demon in way. He is just an overall great man!

Michael Sporn said...

Sorry. By "demon" I meant "wizard," "magician," "genius." Roy is obviously a one-of-a-kind brilliant man. I'd like some day to meet him.