The idea for this film all started with my great grandfather. A few years ago, he lost a long-fought battle with Alzheimer’s disease. When he was still with us, I remember wondering, “What does he see when he looks at us? Who are we to him?” When it came time to make a film, I had the idea to artistically interpret what it would be like to have Alzheimer’s. My solution? Making faces disappear. Using 3D animation as a medium, this was something that my crew and I could aesthetically pull off without looking too weird. I also wanted this film to be as emotional as possible for the viewer, so I wanted to make sure there were no details that went untouched.
My great grandparents spent most of their lives in the Big Easy. Since the film revolves around their relationship, I thought it would only be appropriate to have the beginning of the film take place there. So, before any of the storyboarding had even begun, a photographer friend of mine and myself drove from Savannah to New Orleans for a weekend to do some research and development. Although the film was very early in production, the pictures we took proved to be extremely influential. By clicking through the photos below, you’ll notice similarities between the locations in New Orleans and the film’s final renders. On a final note – I really wanted this film to be special for my family, so we set the whole living room scene inside an exact replica of my grandfather’s actual house. If you look closely, you should be able to see the resemblance!
In the making of this project, I had the pleasure of working with some outstanding Vis Dev artists. Check out their work below!
Compare the storyboards below to the final film, and you’ll notice some scenes that didn’t take place in the finished product. Initially, Carl and Carlene were eating lunch during the montage after the streetcar. In order to get the film finished on time, shots like this were cut from production.
Designing the characters was a major factor in telling this story properly. Their faces needed to be expressive and appealing in order to connect with the audience, but not too detailed. The film also begins in the 1940’s, so costume design also played a big role.
Modeling the characters was also extremely critical. We had to create a face/head that would still look relatively normal after removing the facial features. Our solution? Turning the eyes, brows, and mouth into nurbs planes that floated above the head’s mesh. By doing this, we avoided any geometry issues.
When the film was being boarded, Carlene wore two different dresses as the story progressed. This meant that we had to work with nCloth. To spread out the workload, two different SCAD nCloth classes worked on shots for the film during production. This helped immensely, as the film's deadline was rapidly approaching at that point. And finally… rendering! The majority of the last four months of production were spent lighting and rendering shots in Arnold. My lighting artists worked day and night trying to closely match the scenes to the concept art created for them. The clips below offer a general idea of how the nCloth and lighting were incorporated after animation finished up.