Animal Instincts completed (20/11/2007):

After half a year of hard work and many late nights, we finally finished our short claymation film Animal Instincts.

The film was made as Cameron Edser's graduation project from the film course he was doing at Bond University. Michael Richards came up from Adelaide, the home of GooRoo Animation, to join Cameron in his second year on the Gold Coast and work on the project. This proved to be most ambitious project we've ever attempted.

We have always made it a priority to make our films as cheaply and efficiently as possible and Animal Instincts was no different. We ended up producing the film on a minimal budget that came out of our own pocket.

We set up a temporary studio in our garage, where we practically lived and worked for six months straight.

Equipment, especially for such a specialised area like stop-motion animation, is very expensive. Due to our limited resources we often improvised and came up with creative, economical new ways to get professional results.

As our production period was so lengthy, there was no way we could borrow equipment for the entire project. We used whatever we could get our hands on to get the job done. We bought and borrowed a range of new and used lenses that covered everything we needed. We used halogen work lights from Bunnings instead of professional studio lights and even made our own barn doors to put on them.

We adopted the approach to try and make everything in the film by hand rather than buying ready-made set and prop materials. We found this approach creates a more organic style, and compliments the charm of stop-motion animation. We built a miniature scale farmyard set, primarily from tools and construction materials that we brought from our home in Adelaide .

We bought a simplistic consumer-range HD camera for the few live action shots in the film but shot primarily on a Digital SLR camera. Shooting with a DSLR is an inexpensive and practical alternative to shooting with film. We were able to capture images comparable to 35mm productions whilst giving us the ability to review and change our footage as we shot it.

Knowing full well that an electronic motion controlled camera rig, that allows for incremental camera movements, costs around half a million dollars, we were happy to accept we wouldn't be able to afford one. However we still wanted the same tracking shots seen in professional animations like Wallace and Gromit. With some engineering help from a friend we were able to design our own simplistic dolly, specific to stop motion animation. The design cleverly incorporates the use of a standard car jack. Every motion controlled effect in Animal Instincts was created using this device.

Over half the shots in the film contain some kind of special effect. Usually special effects are quite expensive, hence not widely seen in short films. However, figuring out how to do these ourselves using creative ideas meant that we could achieve some things rarely seen in stop-motion animation. For example, we wired our own explosions, composited with blue screens, removed wire from airborne shots, and made use of slow motion.

We edited the entire film and soundtrack all in the garage on our own PC so we could cut it together as we shot it. There was probably almost as much time spent doing post work as we spent actually animating.

All of this work was squeezed into the short space of 6 months whilst balancing study and part time work. In late stages of production due to the looming deadline, we incorporated a split-shift working day with one of us working early morning through to evening and the other starting midday and working all night. This resulted in the film progressing around the clock at 24 hours a day.

While it may have been hard work, it was certainly all worthwhile now we have a film that we're proud to show to everyone. It was an incredible experience and we learnt a huge amount just because we pushed ourselves to do something extremely ambitious.

The film premiered December 6 2007 in front of a packed out theatre of over 500 people at Bond University, and was an instant crowd favourite, keeping the audience laughing and cheering the whole way through. This was a huge moment for GooRoo Animation, as we realised just why we make films. Having an appreciate audience is what inspires us as film makers.

Animal Instincts has since gone on to screen in over 40 film festivals and recieve 20 awards in the year since that first screening. For a list of screenings and awards, click here.

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