Sat. Sep 24th, 2022

Shot by Justin Wolfson, edited by Jeremy Smolik. Click here for transcription.

Let’s be the 47th outlet to say it: nothing else on TV or streaming looks like Undone. Amazon Prime’s animated time-bending sci-fi series revolves around a woman named Alma (played by Rosa Salazar, from alita fame) who has an accident that changes her relationship with the world. And while Alma handles that running 180, she tries to find out about the mysterious death of her father (played by Bob Odenkirk, You better call Saul† The story… well, it’s better to say less and avoid spoilers for future viewers.

undone style, however, deserves all the words one can devote. If you’ve heard of the show before, it’s probably because it’s the first major streaming series to be done entirely in rotoscope, an animation technique where performers paint over live actors using different methods and styles. (You may have seen the campus recording documentary Tower or that of Richard Linklater awakening To live; that’s rotoscoping in action.) Rotoscoped work can be dreamy, museum-like, nightmarish, incoherent, or otherworldly—sometimes all at once. In other words, it could be the perfect creative visual choice for a show like Undone.

The credit for executing this vision goes to a trio of behind-the-scenes production companies: Tornante in Southern California, Submarine Productions in Amsterdam and Minnow Mountain in Austin, Texas. If that kind of global collaboration doesn’t say it already, we will: the process was complicated. But you don’t have to take it from us because Undone Director and production designer Hisko Hulsing was kind enough to sit down for our latest entertainment episode of “War Stories” and outlined the arduous process that makes the show seem so effortlessly beautiful for all of us to watch at home.

Worth a thousand words

Rotoscopes on this scale prove to be a double challenge. First, it has to make sense from a storytelling perspective, meaning the final images fit the story and things don’t get too close to the eerie valley and remove viewers from the story. hulsing said: Undone initially flew a little too close to the eerie valley (that gray area where things look almost realistic, but just different enough to be shocking), but the team heightened its impressionistic instincts and heightened the artificial nature of the show’s world . So those tweaks ultimately responded to undone story, reinforcing the decision to go for this highly stylized approach.

“We used rotoscoping primarily because it’s a more realistic approach to animation,” Hulsing told Ars. “Second, it remains ambiguous in the story whether Alma is schizophrenic or is experiencing some sort of nightmare or flashback. To me it seemed like if we used rotoscoping we would create a very unreal atmosphere while it seemed realistic. So to the audience, it It’s not always clear when she’s experiencing something totally unreal… I think the rotoscoping helps with that. Even the realistic scenes can look a little suspicious.”

Eating the elephant one bite at a time

The second big challenge in rotoscoping is all the technique needed to run eight episodes. To make Undone included everything from directing actors on a sound stage to projection mapping to old-fashioned oil paintings. And each step of the process probably reached a more granular level on Undone than on any other project. Take the sound recordings for example.

“A lot of people think we just shot and tracked live action, but we didn’t work that way,” said Hulsing. “We filmed actors on a soundstage in LA, but there is no real set. There are just a few grids to help us determine the perspective for our virtual sets afterwards. So before filming an episode, we design each environment that will appear – every room, every house, exterior, we design it. We create floor plans with dimensions. So on the set, my assistant Nora uses tape on the floor to show actors where the walls are, so they don’t cross the walls during the Act.’

In the end, it took an entire year to produce the show (with over 50,000 hours of character animation and 130,000+ hand-drawn frames, according to Deadline). But whenever the production team ran into problems executing an ambitious idea or scene, they found solutions by going small. “If you want to make things look big, all the little details have to be small,” as Hulsing put it. You can hear the old animator give all the details in the full episode above, but the results speak for themselves. Amazon renewed the series for a second season two months off its debut, with some critics even saying the show deserves an Emmy nomination for Best Drama 2020.

“Ten years ago, no distributor would have thought this could be a success. The whole story is done in a very risky way. There are many genres: it’s comedy, tragedy, drama, science fiction and there are some psychological thriller elements in it. There is so much, it could have gone so wrong,” Hulsing said. “I always thought Hollywood produced so many formula films because too many people get involved and then it gets dulled. And what I notice about Undone, it’s the opposite. When you’re on this set, you have a lot of good brains and everyone contributes to the whole thing. You have much more brainpower to actually do the right thing.”

By akfire1

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