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Meet Vincent – Behind the Stop Motion of Fish Friend

Fish Friend was a labor of love from
beginning to end. Set in a stylized off-kilter 50s
Americana, and featuring a budding friendship
between a young girl at her stop-motion piranha, there were many challenges to overcome. Let’s take a look at how we achieved some of the effects in the piece using a combination of both traditional
and digital effects, as well as cover some the other details
on the road to realizing Fish Friend. From the start, writer / producer John
Swartz decided we can make the short quickly by simply using a real fish rather than a piranha we chose a close
relative, a pacu, to play the role of Vincent. Here’s our pacu with a menacing set of chompers, added digitally. Unfortunately for us the pacu’s size
became an issue, as he needed to spend most of the short in a small fish bowl. This is when we decided to use stop motion rather than CGI, as it would be more keeping the old
school aesthetic we established. As you can see… Vincent went through many iterations. Here’s John’s final painted silicon Vincent performed by Melissa Goodwin
Shepherd. Not too bad right? Soon John’s second
bedroom became a makeshift stop motion studio this is where we shot the performance of
the ants and the baby crocodile, both modeled out of latex and plasticine.
Now let’s get into some shot breakdowns. if you haven’t actually seen the short
yet now’s a good time to pause and click the link in the video description below. Let’s start with the burp. This is the
first time we realize Vincent isn’t who Sally thinks he is. Let’s start by taking it apart. We
removed color correction… compositing, and finally Vincent himself.
Here’s what the shot looked like while we were editing, complete with the reference performance by our friend Eric. Here’s the original plate Devin shot on the day Now we bring in Vincent with Melissa’s
performance. Next we use this shot of a glass of
water to get a bubble for Vincent’s burp. Next we integrate the elements into the
plate, making them appear to be in the aquarium rather than in front of it. Finally we color the shot. and its complete In sequence it was important to see the
Vincent was becoming more and more invested in Sally’s father cutting
himself while making lemonade. After we already shot the stop-motion element, it was decided we needed a bigger performance from Vincent’s eyes to
accomplish this. Here’s how we did it. Let’s take it apart. First we remove color, a digital zoom, the glass highlights, one round of glass blur, another of glass refraction, and
finally the raw footage of Vincent himself. Here you can see just how detailed our reference was. Here’s the clean plate that we shot on the day. Now with Vincent’s performance roughly laid in. And here’s a detailed look at that eye
performance I mentioned. Our VFX guru, Chase used Nuke’s spline warp tools to add even more life to Vincent. He’s basically digital puppeteering a real puppet. And here’s what it looks like in the shot. In order for Vincent to integrate into the
shot, we begin to add back the distortion from the glass bowl. Next we place glass highlight’s in front of Vincent. And finally we apply color, and the shot is
complete. Here are a couple interesting tidbits about Fish Friend. While it’s only an eight minute short, it’s been one thousand three hundred and seventy days since principal photography
began. Out of a total of 169 shots, a whopping
98 of them required visual effects. From production to post, 30 people helped
realize the short, as well as seven actors including our star Nikki Hahn. Over the
three and a half years since we shot the film 4 crew members have gotten engaged, 3 have been married and 2 have had babies. All of this during
production of one 8 minute short film. Finally we just want to
say thanks to our hard-working cast and crew as well as to our wonderful Kickstarter
backers. Without your support none of this would have been possible! Thanks for watching! If you haven’t seen
Fish Friend yet, check out the final product by clicking here!

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