Tuesday, April 27, 2010

First Official Trailer (And To Do's!)

Caravan Official Trailer from Mel Miller on Vimeo.

Caravan's first official trailer, compiled both for the CCS 2010 Senior Show, and for use by the Stratton Foundation, who was recently kind enough to award the film and myself a generous scholarship. Music by Larry Larson.

So, I'm in my last week of classes at CCS. While Caravan's production will span well into the next couple of months I'm wrapping up my classes as efficiently as I can manage. Helping to do so, I've chalked up a hefty to-do list to follow where Caravan is concerned. I'll continue to update it here as I get things completed.

  • Finish clean-up on S070
  • Finish Rough on everyone walking out of the house
  • Reserve sound recording equipment for Friday
  • Get feedback on Demo Reel, Resume, and what to work on next for final review reel.


  • Make edits to Resume as suggested by Steve
  • Work on final leica reel for presentation at home
  • Make a trailer, both for presentation and for Stratton youtube posting
  • Tie down and clean up girls dancing loop from home and at work.


  • Rough animate girls walking up path.
  • Tie down Ethan rearing to strike Mia (so Mia actually exists)
  • Work on girls dancing loop clean-up.
  • Update Leica Reel again

  • Update Leica Reel again
  • Work on girls dancing loop clean-up.

  • Rent Sound recording equipment.
  • Shoot whatever clean-up is available.
  • Nab one of the editing suites or sound recording studio to record additional sound FX

  • Save JPEGs of all 64 backgrounds for final presentation.
  • Batch and Color shot animation
  • Niles composites whatever new color shots are available

  • Compile final Leica Reel for presentation
  • Last-Minute Updates for Demo Reel
  • Last-Minute Updates of Trailer
  • Type up Reel Break-Down List
  • Render out final Leica, Demo Reel, Trailer


Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Traveler's Camp (Soundtrack)

This past Tuesday, despite us both being quite exhausted from crazy schedules, Larry was gracious (as always) enough to to sit down and record Caravan's music soundtrack with me. I absolutely love the results - they're every bit as much of the "bluegrass jam session beside the campfire" I had hoped for for the film, and I wanted to share some of the results with you here.

Tremendous thanks to Larry Larson for lending his talent to this film. You sir, are a continual inspiration.

Caravan "The Traveler's Camp"
by Larry Larson


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thank You, Stratton Foundation!

I am absolutely thrilled and honored to announce that the The Stratton Foundation has awarded their 1st place scholarship for the 2010 school year to myself in support of Caravan. To the Stratton family - I cannot thank you enough. This scholarship will ensure my ability to continue to work on and ultimately finish the film in the months to come. Thank you for supporting my work, and believing in my humble little film's message. I am tremendously grateful!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Cornucopia of Happenings

As you could imagine, the title of this entry exists purely for the ability to use the work Cornucopia. because everybody should, every once in a while. It's that awesome.

Despite being exhausted to the point of delirium, I'm chipping away at caravan as the semester ever-so-rapidly nears a close. As of yesterday, I re-edited the film's leica reel purely on timing and how it felt visually, finally scrapping my old scratch soundtrack in preparation for editing final sound. I managed to shave 6 seconds off of the film as a result, and I feel like the whole thing flows much more smoothly. Today, I'm meeting with Larry, hopefully producing the film's score as a result - step one (and I feel, as someone who is very creatively prone towards musical influences, the most important aspect) of getting the final sound down for Caravan.

This week's immediate to-do list:
  • Edit Leica Reel for tightest timing possible. (DONE)
  • Tie-down shots where Mia is getting yanked around so that they read as clearly as possible. (DONE)
  • 1st Angry Ethan shot: tie down last few frames to force pose. (DONE)
  • 2nd Angry Ethan shot: tie down last few frames to force pose. (DONE)
  • Rough animate the girls dancing about the campfire (shoot reference on Wednesday!) (DONE)
I also entered Caravan's progress reel to compete for this year's Stratton Foundation scholarship, as they routinely, generously and quite enthusiastically, support CCS and its students. Here's hoping! :) Entry for the application required students to write two statement paragraphs, one for the artist, and one for the film itself. I thought I'd share those here.


Caravan tells the tale of eight year old Mia Talbert's discovery of a band of eclectic Gypsy Travelers in the woods near her home. The Travelers' warm companionship and colorful lifestyle draw her back to their campsite from one season to the next, while, each night, she tepidly returns home to her rural, derelict farmhouse. When Mia's young Gypsy friend, Kelsey Kavenaugh, follows her home one day, the truth about her home life is revealed to a frightening degree of clarity, and Kelsey flees back to the campground for help. Mia, the victim of an abusive father, he addled with alcoholism that has consumed their family for generations, is spirited away by the Gypsies, and with them, she finds peace. This film, at is core, strives to show that one in no way has to be of means to make a tremendous impact on the life of a child in need. They simply have to take the step needed to do the right thing. Caravan is the senior thesis film project of Entertainment Arts major Mel Miller, currently in production, and scheduled for completion as of September 2010. The film strives to artfully combine hand-drawn and digital film making techniques, as a fully traditionally animated film, digitally colored in Adobe Photoshop, its special effects and final composite compiled in Adobe After Effects.

Mel Miller on the Creation of Caravan

Caravan is a short film rich in personal symbolism and experience for myself, as well as a reflection back on aspects of my family’s history, both positive and negative alike. Its creation has greatly become a form of art therapy for me. It has allowed me to reflect back on my own family’s generations-long struggle with alcoholism as a disease, giving me the opportunity to approach my and my mother’s childhood memories both objectively and on a very personal level, excising many long-buried understandings and misconceptions about that history, and coming to better understand my own roll in such a complex family disease. The film also, very ironically and unexpectedly, has allowed me to better and more positively face the homelessness both I and my parents have faced during months of its production, grasping all too clearly, much like the Gypsy Traveler characters within Caravan, the tremendous importance of the warmth, closeness and network of support provided by family; in times of prosperity of course, but all the more so when the material things in life fail us completely. This film has been a guide, a mentor, and a constant companion for the past year, and I look forward to continuing to grow through its creation in the coming months.

Thank you, Stratton Foundation, for your consideration.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Score Recording Scheduled!

This is the part where I flail about in giddy excitement. I just got off of the phone with Larry Larson, and he's been kind enough to schedule a recording session with me this Tuesday to begin work on Caravan's official music track.

For anyone interested, I though I'd post my notes and thoughts on a section-by-section breakdown of what I've been considering for the film's music so far, including tracks to reference in terms of tempo and feel. Here's all that:

Here are links to the songs I have mentioned in the list below, so you can check them out:
Note: The sections of the list below with "***" in front of them are parts I'd like to record music for.
  • *** The first 40 seconds of the film, where Mia stomps out of the house angrily, heads off on her walk to school, and is startled by the Gypsy in the woods, before going into the woods after her. I love the simple, building opening to "Dueling Guitars" by Kaki King, and think that that simple, slowly elevating sound would be a nice sort of vibe to have for this section.
  • I'll probably use the very opening of Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald - the harmonica bit - for the title card, unless Larry'd like to re-record it for the film.
  • 0:50-1:20 I plan on using the same sort of creepy echoed humming you hear in the leica reel. That little tune (and the humming) are both created by myself... a tune that's been stuck in my head since I started working on the film. I've just dubbed it "Mia's Song." So, that part is taken care of.
  • *** 1:28-2:50 takes us through the entire campground montage where Mia meets the Travelers. I've used Nickel Creek's "Smoothie Song" for this section, because I absolutely love the sound, and its vibe is excitably happy, yet fun in its slightly bluesy feel. I'd love to do something similar for the "official" caravan music.
  • 2:50-3:05 will be silent, focusing on environmental sound effects.
  • *** 3:05-3:26 I've been using the slow, weighty guitar parts from Robert Plant and Allison Krauss' "Polly Come Home" for the scenes in the film where Mia has to run home and stand in front of the farm house. This is the first of those two sections, and it may be nice to have a similar bluesy, slow paced sound for those sections.
  • *** 3:27-3:49 more of the same from "The Smoothie Song" by Nickel Creek, as Mia runs back to the campground. This part is a little more aggressive then the part of the song used to introduce the Travelers.
  • *** 3:49-4:09 More of the slow, heavy guitar strumming from "Polly Come Home" as Mia finally pushes her way back into the farmhouse.
  • 4:09-4:20 Another silent section that would focus on environmental sound effects as opposed to music.
  • *** 4:21-5:10 In this section, Mia is hauled into the house by her father, and Kelsey runs off to get help, before returning withe her father and his friends to put Ethan in his place. Of all sections, I am least sure st to what I would like for this part of the film in terms of music. It should be something, like the rest of the soundtrack, with a sort of bluegrass-country feel, and should start out being quite foreboding in seeing Ethan on the porch, accelerating in fright as things become violent, and become energetic as Kelsey runs for help.
  • The rest of the film, I've basically gotten taken care of already. The flashback scene as well as the following scene where Charlie decides not to give into Ethan's violence will be more of that eerily hummed "Mia's Song," and the closing scene utilizes Larry's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."
So, in total, I'll need about 4 minutes of music (3 minutes and 52 seconds, give or take.)

Other songs that has a similar feel to the style of music I'd like for Caravan:

And for the fun of it, what I've been considering Caravan's "theme song" lately, "Not Fade Away" by the Rolling Stones

I'm quite excited for this ^_^

Shot 80 Completed

Caravan Shot 80 Complete from Mel Miller on Vimeo.

I do love how this shot turned out - it was nice to animate Mia truly happy and at peace (albeit wearily so) for once! Animation, background and color by myself, Mel Miller. Composite and camera FX by my wonderful beau, Niles Bontrager.


Random Roughs

Some First-Pass Caravan Roughs from Mel Miller on Vimeo.

Here are a couple of shots worth of early-stage first-pass rough animation for Caravan that I'm fond of; just added the lot to the latest version of the film's leica reel, after getting them shot on a decent down-shooter on campus. I'll be diving back into these shots soon, fully in-betweening them and tying them down for clean-up.

I have no idea why the pan out has any pixelation to it, by the way, my apologies - the source file is just fine, and Vimeo usually has great quality. Odd indeed.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Re-Organization and Numbers

My roommate Pat, and a little love for the white board.

Yes, ladies and germs, it's that time of the semester. As is part of the game, I'm burnt out, exhausted, having moments of epic flailing and fatigue, and finding it time for re-evaluating the scope of Caravan's production.

Things are going well. I've gotten a ridiculous amount done. What was going to be a film chocked full of limited animation has turned into a film that is flooded instead with full animation. All 82 scenes of my rough animation are complete save for, I believe, two, which will be done before the semester's done. Over half of the film's 6 and a half minutes will be fully completed to final color and composite, and all of its 64 fully colored backgrounds are complete. For what, for the most part, has been a one-woman show, I'm pretty pleased with what I've managed to accomplish in a school year, on top classes, 1-2 jobs, and the ridiculous hamster wheel that is life in general.

Sufficient to say, however, there is no way Caravan will be completed by graduation in about 2 weeks. I still have a tremendous mound of clean-up, shooting and color to do. ;)

That said, for my own well-being, and the quality assurance of this project, I've, as of the past week, pushed the projected completion date of the film to early September 2010, giving myself the summer months to come to wrap it up and give it the time it deserves, and myself the time needed to account for proper health, hygiene, and re-acquainting myself with rarities on the CCS campus like the presence of loved ones, a decent diet, and more then 2 and a half hours of sleep a night. This will be done, of course, amidst the beginnings of unleashing a massive wave of resume and demo reels to the working world, and planning for relocation that will inevitably land my other half and I in Southern California.

Caravan's entire of load of animation so far. The beginning of my "re-organization day" on Wednesday, sorted (L-R): "Re-Shoot," "Inbetween," "For Clean-Up," and "DONE M#$%@rF#?@#r!"

The same organization piles by the end of the day, with a substantial portion of the "Inbetween" work done and moved into the "Re-Shoot" or "For Clean-Up" piles. Also added a pile for background assets at the end there for posterity... actually, they just looked lonely sitting in my locker all by themselves.

This past week, I began re-organizing my work into various piles, as seen above. My main goals between now and Final Presentations on May 3rd are to color and fully composite one last 5-second shot (shot 70, to be exact) finish up addressing whatever I can and should with the existing rough animation, reshoot at least half of said rough animation in better-quality resolution then the webcam down-shooter I have at home, and compiling all of these things into a finalized leica reel, with more "official" sound. If, on top of everything else, I manage to get back to clean up again, I'll take it from there.

Cold, hard facts... and a pretty genuine reaction to them, care of Mr. McFace.

So, today, I did the math. By the time Caravan is finished, I'll have done 13,024+ drawings. This was an oddly mixed moment for me. On one hand, it established that I am, in fact, completely nuts for having a go at this film. This is in no way a bad thing - it's nice to have the validation, really. It also, however, made me, finally, see just HOW much work I've placed on my plate, making me, on one hand, a bit irritated that I've been so hard on myself for not getting "FARTHER, FASTER, STRONGER!" (I do this all of the time. What artist can resist being their worst critic?) On the other, it, in all honesty, makes me pretty damn pleased with how far I've gotten so far. This was a nice point to hit, finally, even if it took me nearly 30 weeks and a terrific amount of artistic angst to get there.

Last but not least, I thought I'd note one thing I will certainly miss about CCS... The collaborative spirit of classmates, even to the most awesomely silly degrees. By this morning, the sketch I initially did of ANGRY MIA (see the first image up there) was met with a slew of fun additional doodles... it made my day awesome. Thanks guys!

Doodles by (Clockwise from above Mia's head): Josiah Sarr, Christina Harper, Kerry Newill, Kate Burk, and Patrick Stannard.