Another Step Forward

Last semester, one of my classmates had recommended That Dragon, Cancer, a video game that tells the story of Joel Green’s fight against terminal cancer. This game created by his parents Ryan and Amy Green is a poetic, dream-like, nightmarish experience that shifts between both an insider and outsider perspective of the situation. I was extremely moved by the game, particularly the scene of an empty hospital that acts as a remembrance to people who passed away or fought cancer, interweaving many narratives onto one. Another scene that was really interesting was towards the end of the game when the father was making comments on the hospital room, talking about the colors and what they might mean and the discomfort with the furniture. However, a few minutes later, the space of the hospital sits between reality and fantasy. I was captivated by not only the story but the ideas of perspective, setting, and empathy instilled in the journey. While this did not have a direct impact on my work this past week, it has given me many things to consider moving forward about moving between a colorful space contrasted to a dark one as well as the incorporation of a real life perspective against a dream-like, fantasy world. This game has really generated a lot of thoughts surrounding what it means to create perspective in a story through shifts of symbolism in the environment or even subtle shifts in objects and how to imbue not only a message about a specific situation but incorporate and leave room for the audience to find connections through engagement with the space.

In terms of work this past week, I found myself spending a surprising amount of time thinking about houses. In my storyboard, I knew I wanted uniformity with the street scene before the shift in the tone, but I wasn’t sure how I would achieve that through houses. I began thinking about ways in which houses are used in films. There is a paper by Charlene Regester, who stated in gothic horror, the home is seen as a place of trauma and dysfunction, which is often encompassed in an old Victorian house run down and haunted. However, this did not feel like the correct visual. This is when I started to recall a scene in the opening of Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands. Through mis-en-scene, the future conflict and contrast between the character Edward versus the neighborhood is established and predicted right away through the contrasting shots of the suburbia and Edward’s castle. This idea of drastically contrasting imagery really intrigued me, and my two takeaways being: color and form.

As a result, I started to Google search “houses that look the same” or “houses in a row.” This search led me down some interesting paths, and I did find a uniformity I liked, as seen in the first three photos. However, it didn’t have the playfulness or child-like qualities that I wanted to utilize in contrast to the darker world that would follow. I then began to search for bright colored houses. To much of my surprise, Europe had an amazing array of these vibrant colored houses and shops. I decided to then model my houses after some houses in Northern Ireland.

With this particular house design, I like the idea of its simplicity and malleability, and how I can easily remove it from a line of copies to isolate it for the ending scene. I intend for the house to show up in two particular scenes, which is why the form is so important. The first is a scene with a street of houses. The houses are vibrant and lively, and on top of the scene is a child’s happy drawing that turns dark. With the shift in drawing, one of the houses in the vibrant line makes a shift in appearance contrasting to its surrounds. I plan to make some adjustments so that the house doesn’t just change in color compared to the other houses, but it has some physical shifts that indicate the lack of care and trauma inflicted on a child. The second time the house appears will be for the final scene in which the house is totally isolated and the shadows are moving and enveloping it. At this point, the house is isolated to fully focus on the message of the environment. In a way, the house is a replacement to a child character.

Besides the house, I did dedicate time to creating the layers that will eventually overlay on top of full environments in the editing process. I think the biggest challenge is still figuring out what lighting will work best for all the scenes in the second portion of the animation. I want to make sure each part that is overlaid does not clash but conveys a unified message. So, unfortunately at this time, lighting is still very fluid and temporary. Looking at the stills here, I need to center the hands on the clock, and I still need to “break” two of the seats on the swings. While I still have a lot of work to begin for color and lighting, I was at least able to get a substantial amount of the modeling done and think about how the framing will be.

In terms of needs, I still have a lot of concerns and inexperience with lighting. I sometimes feel as though I am dancing around it for the time being. This week I definitely slowed down a bit, so I will need to pick up the pace because I want to have room before the end of this project period for an errors that may occur or things that might need to be changed. My biggest question being am I still moving in the right direction? And if not, how can I realign myself? I feel as though I keep finding things that change the direction of the piece or even my thought process, and in the sea of uncertainty, I wonder how the final message will come across.

As for the next steps, it will definitely be nice to start rendering some of these scenes. I think the crayon and clock scene and pill scene will be ready to go. For the crayons falling, I want to go back and add more variety to the colors and brighten up the clock as well as fix its positioning. Because the pills will be overlaid in the bottom of the screen in the left side, I am deciding whether to just render the pill bottle animation with the ground plane or exclude the plane. Adding color to the houses and beginning to make a house that contrast that is also on the list, and I look forward to this challenge. I also plan to finally read some of Painting Light by John Alton, which I currently have some chapters saved on my computer. Hopefully, by the end of this week, I can be more confident and not dance around the direction of lighting and color with the models.

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