It is peaceful at the North East Zone Cultural Centre, three and a half miles out of Dimapur. The road that brings one here is a small, pot-holed lane that passes the airport. Though I hear a few large trucks rattling past the Centre, I have no idea where they are going, because this place feels right off the beaten track. The monsoon rains make it even more tranquil, as the sound of rainfall has the effect of peacefully watering the land - and keeping oneself and disturbances (self inflicted or otherwise) inside.
Inside the Centre I am playing out a drama with my characters, Man Tiger and Spirit. I switch on the computer as soon as I hear the power back up supply come on, and then I am lost for the rest of the day in the virtual world I am creating. It is incredibly absorbing: To be the creator of the world, there is so much to consider!
The first step was to “block” out the shots by putting my 3D models in position and roughly moving them about. These sequences were rendered and placed on a timeline using After Effects software, as I am familiar with it. I look for ways to explain to the uninitiated why so many months – even a year or more- is required to make such a short animation film: There are well over a hundred shots for the five minute film, and this is something that I suspect people do not realize unless they are animation film makers themselves. Each scene will take more than a day to “block” and “render”. (Rendering can be seen as processing all the inputs fed into the computer to create images).
The rendered sequences are inserted into the animatic (a filmed storyboard) to replace the sequence of still images that provide the “blueprint” for the film: All of this pre-production is crucial for animation which is such a time consuming process that one cannot afford to create scenes that will not be useful for the film. But the very first rough cut of the short film is not something one would like to show off. That first stage was mostly completed in Delhi over the past years, and now I must make transform the rough cut into something that I can show others, so that I can get inputs from musicians for the all important audio track.
I am going through my scenes and reworking them. I realize that animation film-making is about getting the right shots which communicate the story to the audience, and my first rough cut did not always do that, so now I must focus on what is important in each shot and try to show it in the most interesting way: If the most important thing in the scene is missed, it has failed. I am learning this through experience, and it cannot be underestimated. This is such a delightful phase in the production and I compare it to adding details to an oil painting once the composition has been sketched and the base layers of colour have been applied. The look of the film is inspired by art from Nagaland, which makes it special and different from other 3D animation films. The Naga animation scenes are becoming noticeably more beautiful with adjustment of textures, cameras and lights.
According to the story line, the three main characters have emerged from the cave and I have now reached the point where the characters are getting established. The three personalities are different – “Tiger hunted, Man grew rice and Spirit did whatever he wanted…”, explains the narration; the last part is depicted by Spirit popping out of the basket of rice that Man carries home on his back, somersaulting in the air and becoming a shooting star. As I go on with this blog, I want to discuss adaptation, because it is something that has to be well considered when looking at tribal folktales as content for animation films.
Meanwhile, the Chowkidhar (caretaker) of the Centre who sits and watches me at work, (I know he would rather go home, but his responsibility is to lock up), remarks that the basket is like a Naga basket, and I feel happy that he has recognized this detail.