Making-of Fears

Fears is a VFS graduation film made in 3.5 months. It's an attempt to understand whether fears hinder people from doing stuff or they also can be useful.

First there was a topic research, brainstorming and sketching down ideas about fears – what they can do to people and how they can interact with them.


Then a story about a fearless guy coming to a big city began to take its shape (in the first version the guy even has died because of his carelessness). Thumbnails and a general story structure:


At the same time I started making animation tests and exploring a possible look of the film.


Then there was a time for a proper storyboard with full-sized panels. I made everything in flash from the very beginning to have correct sizes, timing, and to be able to add camera movements right away. This way you can get a storyboard and layout at the same time.


Character design. On the first pass I quickly roughed out general shapes and colors with a standard square brush.


Then I went to the details, still trying to keep a certain level of roughness.


Exploring facial expressions.


My favorite part - color exploration. To me colors are very important for visual appeal, so I spent a lot of time on color-blocking and color-correction.


Until it became look good on all monitors, projectors and other devices, which is always a challenge.


The most elaborate part - animation! Though I was studying in a classical animation program, I didn't want to animate my film on paper. So I built my own digital production pipeline (based on a common sense). All animation was done in flash. Animatic was a first step:


Second step was rough animation (with added camera move):


Then was clean animation, which in my case is also a colored one. The jittering was fixed by putting action on 1's.


The final step was to add painted elements and textures. Here a background is painted in photoshop, as well as a fear creature and a tattoo on a macho man. To do that, I exported a png sequence from flash into photoshop (1 frame = 1 layer), painted them there, and re-exported a new png sequence back into flash. It’s quite a meticulous process, as all files have to be named properly and stored in certain folders, otherwise it wouldn't work. In the film there are 1,163 separate elements painted in photoshop.


All the backgrounds were painted between rough and clean animation stages, I tried to keep them abstract-ish. In the shots with animated camera all bg’s were painted frame-by-frame.


In complicated shots I used a lot of references. For a swinging bus shot, first I found a paper model of a real NY bus, printed and glued it, and shot it with a phone as a reference.


Rough animation:


Cleaned, colored, textured animation with special effects:


Then it only remained to listen to about 5,000 songs and pick the right one for the main soundtrack, and to fix couple of things:


A poster for the premiere at VFS:


And then I was pretty happy with a result and ready for the new films!