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Spotlight #8
Mr Utzon by Jenni Vigaud and Paul Lalo

In DitoGear™ Spotlight #8 we are sharing an interesting video by Soymilk Studio. ‘Mr Utzon’ is a perfect example of an organic project, where 99% of used materials were made out of paper.


And what’s your latest project? Share your interesting stories in the next spotlight.

Patryk Kizny: Paul, could you tell us the reason for creating such an interesting production?


Paul Lalo: The film was especially made for a competition happening at the Sydney Opera House, we thought why not make something about the amazing landmark ? The story features the Opera’s Danish architect, Jorn Utzon and how he came up with his unique design for the building, it talks about the elusive concept of inspiration and how one can find it sometime from the most unlikely sources.


With our narratives we try to go for simplicity using a mix of poetic and engaging storytelling.


Mr Utzon was a labour of love, a short film we wanted to make for ourselves and for the fun of it. It’s also our first real attempt with stop motion animation, coming from a digital animation background, this was a chance to get out of the screens and do something with our hands and we had lots of fun doing it. The interesting thing for us was to try to be as organic as possible with using only paper for almost 99% of the film. Any effect like the fog and some of the snow were also handmade.

PK: Is there something special about your project? Please explain us the uniqueness.


PL: I think the fact that we tried to stick to only one medium, paper. Which we figured would be used a lot by an architect like Utzon and so would help immerse the audience in the character’s world and mental space.


PK: As usual we are very curious about the challenges you had to face. Could you please give us the examples?


PL: One of our main challenges was very early on when figuring out how to create the joints for the paper puppets, luckily after doing a lot of research I stumbled upon a Melbourne animator working from New York on a music video using a similar technique, Jim was kind enough to share his knowledge and experience. This is something I love about the animation Industry in Australia, we all help each other with problems or even share work when big projects come along.


Also, trying to convey the message as clearly as possible was quite challenging. The puppets were so fragile and hard to animate with, we had to be very patient and make sure the animation wasn’t too jerky.


PK: What are your impressions after working on stop motion animation for the first time?


PL: Animation is all about problem solving. In this short this was especially true, being quite novice with stop motion we had to figure out a lot of stuff on our own, like how the lighting should be and how to we make something stay in mid-air or how to create snow using paper (check out our making of video for the answer on that one).


It’s worth to mention that our post-production work was very limited. It something that stop motion gives you for ‘free’, warmth, nice lighting and real world textures. These are things you spend a lot of time trying to achieve with other techniques like 3D and 2D animation. We only had some green screen and colour correction for a couple of shots.


PK: Could you give us any example of sorting out a specific problem?


PL: We had some issues with animating a particular shot with the cat surrounded by lots of paper balls, the balls kept on moving around when we tried to animate the cat so we had to stick/glue everything to the ground. The lesson was, unless it’s moving make sure your props are well attached to the ground.


PK: What role played the DitoGear™ equipment in your production?


PL: A massive role! We purchased the OmniSlider Animator’s Edition (Pro) especially for the film and after connecting it with Dragonframe using the DragonBridge, the workflow was a breeze, we just love how great it works with the software and how smooth the moving shots ended up.


PK: What our new customers should take into a consideration before purchasing the DitoGear™ OmniSlider?


PL: Due to limited space in our studio we had to store away the OmniSlider when a shot had no moving camera, so having the carry case and being able to set up the OmniSlider quickly was important. Unless you work with large scale stop motion the 1m length is a perfect size for most stop motion shots as you tend to work with miniatures sets and characters.


PK: What was your idea for making the project reaching wider audiences?


PL: The amount of work for distribution and promotion of a film is always underestimated. In the case of Mr Utzon this was especially true because part of the competition was an audience award based on the number of public votes so we had to call upon all of our social and family circles to gather as many votes as possible. Unfortunately we finished 2nd for that category and for the Best Animation category as well. Finishing so close is a bit disappointing of course but it is also a great encouragement. The film had a lot of support from the Sydney Opera House staff so we are currently in contact with them to see how we can promote it further.


PK: Do you have any thoughts that you would like to share regarding to your last project?


PL: Definitely, making films is a journey. I think the process is very interesting and the end result can always be improved. But applying what you have learned on to your next project is the best way to move on.


PK: Do you have any specific plans for the nearest future?


PL: We are looking forward to see what can be done with
Mr Utzon together with the Opera House. We also just got back from an Aboriginal Community in North Australia as part of a program with the State Library, to animate 4 stories drawn by kids in different communities.


PK: Paul, Thank you very much for finding time to share your work with us. I look forward to seeing more creative stuff from you in the future!


Interested in shooting stop motion?


Check DitoGear™ OmniSlider Animators Edition


Follow Soymilk Studio and the video:


Mr Utzon
Making of ‘Mr Utzon’

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