Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Making the Grade

After almost exactly 15 years of on-and-off work on The Last Belle we have now completed the final piece of the film making puzzle: grading the image to get correct and consistent colours and light levels. As many of the sequences in the film have been shot years apart in time, and in different locations using different cameras, the grading process irons out these inconsistencies. It also allows you to control the colour and mood of a scene.

The grading has been done at Deluxe Soho by Paul Dean with the whole digital post production process overseen by the wonderfully helpful Martin Bullard and Toby Glover.

As I've been wandering in and out of this modern, cutting-edge facility I've been looking at the row of beautiful 18th century townhouses right opposite. It's an appropriate location to wrap up production on The Last Belle: a project begun with paper, pencil, paint and film, but finished in an entirely digital environment. Old and new, side by side.

Thursday, 22 September 2011


You know when you go to leave your house in the morning and just as you're about to close the door you run back in to check the gas on the oven is switched off... then you go to leave again and think did I really check properly? so you run back in again... and so on? This is what producing end credits is like. You've checked and checked and checked but still there's that niggling feeling someone - someone really important - has been left off by mistake. Even though you know they haven't. Probably.

Kirk Hendry producing The Last Belle roller credits.
The final - we hope - titles and credits have been put together by Kirk Hendry, who's also been supervising a lot of other digital work in support of the film. Kirk's brilliant short film Junk is currently touring the festivals to much acclaim. You can check out the web site for Junk here.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Final Mix

The final sound mix has been completed by Ben Carr at sound production company art4noise.

Animation presents an interesting challenge for a sound designer as they are starting with a completely blank canvas - utter silence. Apart from the pre-recorded actor's voices there are no production sounds at all: no footsteps, no wind, no rustle of shirt sleeves or thud of flesh as it hits the deck. Everything has to be created from scratch and that leaves a lot of leeway in how you approach the tone of your film. Cartoony? Naturalistic? Minimalist? Hyper-Realistic?

For The Last Belle art4noise sound designer Nick Baldock and supervising sound editor Peter Baldock designed our sound with a kind of heightened reality, using 95% natural sounds, but sometimes emphasized in subtle ways or used in unusual contexts. Once they had built up the soundscape every noise had to be placed spatially and then mixed together with the score and the dialogue so that we hear what we need to hear, when we need to hear it.

Sound mixer Ben Carr
With the mix now complete there's one thing I'm certain about: if you're drawing a character falling over, no matter how hard you work on getting the illusion of weight into your animation, it's the correct choice of THUD on the soundtrack that'll make you actually feel the pain...

Saturday, 17 September 2011

More Scoring Pictures

Here are a few more pictures from the recording of The Last Belle score. Photos by Kirk Hendry.

Ah! I was expecting you Mr Bond: The Slovak Radio Building

Recording in session

Conductor David Hernando Rico

Director Neil Boyle

Thursday, 15 September 2011

World Premiere

Appropriately enough for a film set in London, The Last Belle will receive its World Premiere at The London Film Festival. It is part of the International Animation Panorama Programme, which will be screened twice: on the 18th and the 23rd of October 2011

For more information click here

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The Score Is Complete!

A few days back, on the 31st August, we recorded the full orchestral score for The Last Belle. The music has been composed by the amazingly talented Stuart Hancock, who I am willing to bet will be a huge name in the film music world in the very near future.

We recorded with the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra in the Slovak Radio Building, a strangely James Bond-like structure, shaped like a pyramid balanced upside down on its pointy end. A wonderfully surreal setting for a wonderfully surreal experience: that of hearing the actions and thoughts of your film characters translated into musical moments by another group of artists.

Caught up as I was with all the preparations for this moment, the flights out, the discussions, the logistics, I took Stuart's advice and had a quiet wander around the concert hall just prior to the recording, as the string section were beginning to assemble. And in those few quiet minutes I was hit suddenly with the size of the place, the amount of talent wandering into the hall and getting seated, and the beauty of the instruments dotted around. All these people coming together for a few hours to create this huge score for an idea that started life as a scribbled note in a sketch book...

The strings begin to assemble

 The musical score is such an important part of the film making process (as it has been right from the days of so-called 'silent cinema'), but with animation it's doubly important. Even more so when there's a lot of non-verbal slapstick going on, which is certainly the case with The Last Belle. (Just imagine all those 'Tom and Jerry's without Scott Bradley's swinging, intricate music...)

Stuart Hancock, who composed the music for The Last Belle
Hearing the score come together has been one of the biggest kicks I've had during the making this project. I have no technical understanding of music and I can't play an instrument - at least not while anyone else is within earshot - so watching Stuart at work, and watching the orchestra perform is, to me, like some form of alchemy: the ability to move the air around our ears and transform it into emotions.

For more information on Stuart Hancock please click here
And for information on music production company Mcasso please click here