Making Phantom Limb

Inside a Ghost Story

Alex Grigg
May 14, 2014 · 15 min read
https://vimeo.com/69829328

The Idea,

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Writing

I went into the film with loads of nervous energy. I had accumulated a lot of opinions and ideas about film making and it wasnt until I had to sit down a make something with them that I realised how disjointed they all were. Writing the film was definitely the hardest part of the process for me.

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Sound

I was extremely lucky to have the help of some great sound gurus on the Phantom Limb. Sound designer (also- musician, hand model, graphic artist amongst other things), Oswald Skillbard had contacted me a couple of months before LNWC had started and we’d talked about the prospect of making something together. I doubt he expected something of the scope the film I came back to him with but he was on board from day one. This was a huge help when putting everything together. He recorded the actors as well as creating loads of bespoke sounds for the film and all of the technical work that goes with it.

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Finding the look

After beating my head against my storyboards for a month or so and figuring out the sound I had a pretty good grasp on the core parts of the story but no locked off animatic. I had been really adamant that I wouldnt move on from the storyboards until I had an animatic that I really liked but time was slipping away really quickly and I new I had to start designing and animating if I was going to get the film done on time.

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The Characters

By the time I’d written the story and developed the backgrounds with Colin and Jase the characters came together quite quickly. I wanted to keep their broad shapes simple and easy to reproduce. I toyed with the idea of having their proportions more cartoon like

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I liked the idea of having a contrast between the design and the subject matter but in the end I couldnt make it work.
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The Animation

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This is an example of notes I might send an animator (in this case- James Hatley)
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This was Alexis’ shot crit. Alone at the Doctors Office

The Backgrounds

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Some storyboards from me and layout sketches from jason
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One of Jason’s bus BGs,
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This was German’s thumb nailing process his establishing shot.

Pulling it all together.

Compositing is something I’ve never been very good at. As a result I planned to do minimal comp in Phantom Limb. Miraculously though, my friend and long time collaborator Ryan Kirby had a couple of weeks free between jobs and offered to help with pulling everything together. He did an incredible job. Comp was largely used on the vehicle shots. The car shot below was probably the most complicated scene, with 3d generated in After Effects. I also used a keyframed distortion on some shots to achieve a pretty ok line boil effect and Scott Benson figured out some sweet snow effects for the opening shot.

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And then it was done.

So then it was all done. All the very late nights and months of animation/soul searching were over. We had a huge Late Night Work Club party (well actually loads around the world!) and let our films live out their lives online. I also entered PL into a handful of festivals which gave me a chance to meet a lot of new people and drink a few too many beers.

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The people who couldnt fit in the LNWC London screening.

Glossary

Story Board, Boards — Sequences of drawings used to tell a story. They are usually formatted to match the final output (in this case 16:9, widescreen) and focus on shot choices, acting and clarity.