Directed, Animated, Written and edited byNathan Wells
Made forBrickfilm Rapidly All Week Long 2014 Contest
- Camera: Canon T3i
- Lenses: Nikon Nikor Prime 35mm, 50mm, 24mm
- Capture software: Dragonframe 3.5
- Editing software: Adobe Premiere Creative Cloud 2014
- Microphone: None
- Frames per second: 15
- Production duration: July 20, 2014 - July 27, 2014
- Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Behind the Scenes
Blinders was an entry into the 2014 Brickfilm Rapidly All Week Long contest, and ultimately won first place. BRAWL entrants have one week to make a film from scratch. I decided to enter BRAWL on a whim. Because of my full-time job, I only had a few hours each night to work on my entry, so I had to utilize my time very efficiently.
I knew my time would be limited, so when I decided to enter BRAWL, I came up with some personal rules to help guide my production. First, unless absolutely necessarily, my film would have no dialog. Recording and animating dialog would only slow me down. Second, I could only have one or two sets, and I couldn’t spend more than a day building them. Third, I shouldn’t wait until the last minute for post-production. I should be done animating by day five so I would have enough time to give the editing and sound design the attention it deserved.
BRAWL2014 started on a Sunday, which gave me plenty of time to brainstorm and rough out the story idea while I built the essential sets and props. On Monday, day 2, I finalized the script, drew some rough storyboards, and set up my first shot. On Tuesday, day 3, I was only able to get a single shot animated. It turned out I was a bit rusty with animating, and it took several attempts to get back into the groove.
On Wednesday, day 4, I had to design the various billboards seen throughout the film. I shot most of the figures and props seen on the billboards on a white background and cut out in Photoshop. The final billboard designs were made in Illustrator and printed on an Epson Stylus Photo R2000 printer on luster paper.
Thursday through Friday, I animated multiple shots a night. The only reason I finished Blinders in time was thanks to careful planning, going all the way back to the script-writing. I knew I wouldn’t be able to animate long, complex shots in only a week and still have a comprehensive film, and wrote my film to complement that limitation. Thus, all of the animation in Blinders is very simple: a car driving by, a scissor lift rising, a man looking back and forth. I even got away with shots that had no stop-motion animation, but still felt alive, like the opening shot with the blinking road construction sign. There are also several shots where there is no movement whatsoever, but the sound design keeps the film from stalling.
One particular element that brought life to otherwise static shots were the moving vehicles. Several vehicle models were used, including a police car borrowed from Appetite Lost, and the camper van from LEGO set 60057. To get the angle just right, the camper van actually had to be raised up on a second set of wheels. Motion blur on the vehicles was done in-camera (not in post production), and was achieved by quickly pushing or pulling the vehicles while I captured a second-long exposure.
I edited as I filmed, but I really didn’t double down and truly start post-production until Saturday, the day before the end of the BRAWL2014. Like my film Infinity Squared (which was made in 10 days), I wanted Blinders to have strong sound design. Because there was no dialog (besides what is heard over the radio), I knew sound design would really have to help drive the story with the visuals. Some of the particular choices in sound design came by accidentally. I knew I wanted the film to end on a creepy note, and when I was searching for sound effects, I came across a recording of a Russian number station. It was the perfect level of mysterious, so I added the sound in over the credits.
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Ultimately I am very happy with how Blinders turned out. It feels like a spiritual successor to my earlier film Unsound, both in tone and construction. I think I managed to achieve a good balance between hinting at what really happened without giving too much away. Plus, it’s been fun seeing everyone’s interpretations of the film. If you came to the behind the scenes hoping to learn about “what really happens” in Blinders, you’re out of luck. I don’t even know what happens to the billboard technician, or what disaster effects the city. Sometimes it’s more interesting not knowing.