BRIEF // Production Shed Tv had an audacious task. To tell the stories of six unknown New Zealand soldiers in WWI with nothing but abandoned, one-hundred year old photos to go on. With the meagre research gathered by the production team and NZ’s national museum, we were tasked with filling in the war experiences of our six men. Fearing the influx of war documentaries to make the centenary of the first ‘great war’, reusing the limited amount of black and white footage was out of the question. We needed the emotion gained from scripted re-enactments, but with the scope of sets and visual effects normally reserved for film work.
Pouring over the published letters of other Kiwi soldiers, and discussing the men's historys with researchers and family members, Flying Whities wrote, storyboarded and animated miniature stories that condensed the men’s varied experiences in dramatic and emotive illustrations.
Flying Whities pitched a range of aesthetics to the Production Shed team, before we settled on a modern/retro hybrid that combined the modern approach of the documentary, and the sparse, textured work of NZ War Artist, Nugent Welch.
Tim used the character design principles he developed on Moth City. You can see a free, short video tutorial here.
Costume treatment and animation turn-around. The Anzac soldiers were designed to have lots of slanted angles and large flat areas, the opposing Germans to be very square and boxy.
Basic storyboards. These were loosely animated and cut into an animatic for pitching to Production Shed. Various story changes and edits were able to made easily without effecting the tight schedule for the illustration and animation.
Grabbing some friends and some costumes, we spent a day shooting all six storyboards, using props where necessary. These photos proved invaluable later in the close confines of deadlines.
Illustrations were produced in Photoshop, making good use of layers to plan their future animation.
A finished After Effects animation. The puppet tool, light blooms, noise and dirt, camera shake, parallax, reflections and motion blur were used in this shot.
An example of a Photoshop file ready for After Effects animation.
Using the framework of letters home, the soldiers were able to speak to the audience via embedded text (above) and voice over.
The six stories took place in very different locations all over Europe and the Middle East, and dealt with very different aspects of a Kiwi Soldier's life. Simple colour scripts were created each character and help differentiate them from each other.
The varied locations of NZ soldiers in WWI provided a great variety of environmental and light effects, from the dust clouds of Palestine, to the snow and mud of the Western Front.
Flying Whities also provided animated graphics for the documentary, keeping them in-tone with the animations and WWI period and evoking the silent film era through typography and subtle animation.
Thanks for checking it out. If you're in New Zealand you can view the entire Berry Boys documentary on TVNZ onDemand.
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