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A project to break your heart

& Creation, Ranty.

Heck, it’s been a while.

I’ve been all-in on a great animation gig over the last few months which is why the blog posts have been happening with such irregularity. Awesome project though; I was bought on to provide illustration and animation skills and ended up with my head buried in research and writing voice over narration and animation scripts as well.

I probably can’t talk about the project for some months, but it’s a documentary that explores the lives of young Kiwi soldiers during WWI. It was such a crazy experience for those boys. And so many of them were boys, not just young, but literally teenagers who were so hopped up to enlist that they literally ran away from home and lied about their age to go.

It was a hard thing to research. The production company and I had to read a lot of harrowing letters home, and interviews with people who made it back. Some of it was heart-breaking.

For people of my generation it’s easy to dismiss the experiences of long-ago soldiers. We haven’t had to fight for anything. Sure, battles are fought everyday, murder is done and friends are lost, but me and mine are completely untouched. I think I would have gone on quite happily ignorant of the personal experiences of those young soldiers if I hadn’t *had* to do this research. I really had to bury myself in it, and some of the stuff they went through just destroyed you.

Hopefully we’ve captured some of that and presented it in a concise way that’ll get to people.

Storytelling is hard like that. All this stuff, all these emotions, all that research, and it needs to be funnelled though the creators (adding their personality, whether planned or not) to the audience. There’s so much to get across; the situation, the emotions and the characters. I’ve developed a few tricks for shorthand from producing Moth City, and especially the latest addition to the series – ‘The Reservoir’. Some parts of stories need to be sketched in to emphasise the parts that require more attention – not just from the creator but for the viewer.

In design terms it’s called a visual hierarchy. To emphasise one thing you often need to pull back on everything else. What is most important. One of the big frustrations that designers have with clients comes down to a fundamental misunderstanding of this concept. “Just make it bigger” is a common client-solution. It works, but it’s often followed up a day or so later with, “Now the logo looks too small, can you bump that up 200%” and shortly thereafter with “Marketing would like you to make more of the social media accounts, can you scaled them up to match the logo?”

The animation I’ve just finished (just-just) didn’t have any of those frustrations. I wanted to keep the focus on our young boys, not elaborate tactics, camera movements or vast vistas of stuff. The result is remarkably touching and effective (in my opinion, obviously). Thank god for good clients.

It’ll be a while till the show is released, but I’ll be sure to post up interesting tid-bits here when I can.

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