Animation

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My Love Affair With Marriage is 95 minutes long

or 5,700 seconds

or 136,800 frames of footage

or approximately 40,000 animation drawings

With the exception of the Biology sections, Signe is animating the entire film herself.

 

She works in the traditional animation style, pencil on paper.

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"I like animating on paper because the pencil becomes an extension of my hand, and the impulse goes from my gut into my heart, through my shoulder into my fingertips and when I draw the line, I become one with the line, I become one with the pencil and that is an expression of what I feel and who I am. And so, pencil and paper inspire me the way that no software, no computer program can inspire me." - Signe Baumane

Once a set is photographed Signe imports the shots into Premiere Pro to see how the images line up and fit with the soundtrack.

She prints out her selections.

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The Bus on Premiere Pro

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Animation paper with punched holes to fit a peg bar

At her animation table, Signe puts the printout through the peg bar and onto the light box. She takes a blank piece of animation paper and places it over the printout, the peg-bar precisely aligning the two. She turns on the light box illuminating the background set underneath the blank paper and roughly sketches in each character.

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Signe draws her characters to match the perspective of the background set

She refines the characters and draws each on a separate piece of paper.

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When the key drawings are done, Signe puts them together and creates an Animatic, sketches of the characters placed on the actual background photos and edited to the audio track. With animatics we test the visual ideas and see how they work with the dialogue. It's the first phase of editing.

After Signe fully animates a series of shots, we scan the drawings and make a Line Test, setting the drawings against black and white photocopies of the background so they stand out better. 

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Sofiya scans the Line Test

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We use the line test to lip-synch the animation to the actors' voices and check the characters' movements. Signe can see from the line test if she needs to create more drawings or adjust the animation.

After the line test, Signe pencil-shadows each drawing.  Or she used to. Halfway through production it was clear that she was spending too much time on shadowing and we hired John Koerner to take over. John has been shading her animation full time for a year and a half now allowing Signe to concentrate on animating and directing the film.

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John's shading has to match the lighting of the background set

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John pencil-shades 8 hours a day

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Zelma pencil-shaded

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The characters pencil-shaded

Sofiya scans each completed drawing in high resolution and organizes the thousands of  files.

After finishing scanning a scene, we put it on QNAP, a mysterious device that shares all our files with our Team in Latvia for coloring and compositing.

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Sofiya scanning. Note the peg bar on the scanner.

The drawings have to be identically placed. 

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QNAP - Quality Network Appliance Provider

Coloring

At Studio Locomotive in Riga Latvia the Coloring Team receives the files and gets to work.

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Anete Matvejeva, Supervisor of the Coloring Department

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Roberts, Producer and Founder of Studio Locomotive

The Team colors the files in Photoshop using Cintiq pens that allow them to draw in directly on their computer screens.

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Coloring Sergei

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Terēze Talita Rozenblate

The Coloring Team are artists. Not only do they color the characters, they bring them out dimensionality. This takes talent, understanding and certain feel for it, especially since the characters keep moving.

What works for one image may not work for the next.

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Darya Vetrova and Anete

Vidaga Grīnberga and Inta Silanža

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RE!, a popular Latvian TV program, filmed an episode on "My Love Affair With Marriage" in December 2019. The link to the program is on the Video Page.

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Andreta Strade and Anete

The Team uses three different shading techniques to bring dimensionality to the characters.

Technique #1:

Painted Shadows for Zelma's Real-Life World. The Team blends these shadows in with the pencil-shading.

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Technique 2:

Flat Shadows for Zelma's Fantasy World

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Technique 3:

Night Filters for Zelma's Night Life

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Compositing

Once the Colorists have completed a shot, they pass it onto the Compositing Department. The compositors combine the many files together with the photos of the background sets and following the timing of the Exposure Sheets, they create Quicktime movies. When done, they put them on QNAP for us to edit into the final timeline.

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It's imperative that the Brooklyn Team gets the exposure sheets exactly right. The smallest mistake can create total confusion for the Latvian Compositing Team

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Georgs Harijs Āva heads the Compositing Department and supervises the team of four

The compositors mostly work in After Effects. They do everything they can to place the drawings of the characters within the photographs and make everything move - believably - as one. It's a complicated job full of artistic challenges and decision making.

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Compositing in After Effects

And the Final Image. Notice how Zelma is focused in the center with Sergei and the woman on the right sightly out of focus matching the photograph. 

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Biology

As an animation artist Yajun Shi does everything herself. She designs, animates, colors, composites and delivers finished, fully rendered movies. We hired Yajun for her style. Signe wanted the Biology sections to have a different look from the rest of the film and yet still compliment it. 

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The design of Biology, the character, is based on a neuron

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We found Yajun in the early months of the pandemic when all of New York was shutdown. Signe remembered an award-winning student film, Parasite, that she had greatly admired a few years before. We contacted Yajun, who at the time lived in Brooklyn, and she agreed to animate the twelve minutes of Biology.

From Yajun Shi's short film "Parasite"

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Early work was all through Skype

Yajun draws on a tablet directly in Photoshop. She moves back and forth between Photoshop and After Effects, using many of their tools, to create her unique style.

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Later, Yajun started coming to the Brooklyn Studio once every week or two

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Signe and Yajun collaborating

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A battle between Zelma's prefrontal cortex and her nucleus accumbens