Manhattan International Film Festival: Behind the Scenes with Young Spanish Director

Joseph AntoniEnric Mellier was born in Paris in 1955.  He grew up to become the best and most famous piano player in Paris.  As he is about to give a piano concert, strange events start to happen inside the theater, events that make him to understand that he has a serious problem… (Plot synopsis for The Unforgettable Pianist, a finalist short film for the Manhattan International Film Festival).

The 3d animated short film The Unforgettable Pianist has been selected as a finalist in festivals around the world: London, Italy, Chile, India, Tahití, Argentina, and New York. As the director of this short film, I can vouch that it has been the most amazing experience of my life. It is my first 3d animated film and it will not be my last.

This journey into the world of film animation and directing started when I was young.  I grew up watching Pixar films and I told myself that one day I would work in 3d animation.  My short film is the culminating project of my postgraduate study in 3d animation and visual effects. It took me 8 months and a lot of hard work to complete.

The process of making a short film is very hard for just one person. It begins with a story, one of the most important elements of short film. A story that incites emotion is powerful.  The next step is creating a script with descriptions of scenes and characters.  Next, I have to imagine the short film through images. This part is called the “story board.” It is important to define the camera shot, camera movement, and  animation.  Next, I create the storyboard animation to sense the timing of the short film.  In film, “timing” refers to the length of the camera shots.  After this step, I create the concept art of the short film. This includes color scheme, drawing scenes, character sketches, and character body study.  All of these elements need to have references attached, to visualize color, light, and texture.

After visually designing the characters, the next step is modelling the characters, props, and scenes in the film. The Unforgettable Pianist has five scenes: Paris, a theater, a library, a backstage and a hospital.  Next, I add texture and lighting to the scenes. II mix two techniques of texturing: cartoon textures for the characters and realistic textures for the scenery. This is one of the hardest parts of production.  The set up of the characters is also challenging. In creating a character, I have to create almost all the bones in their body, and move the fingers, hands, legs, eyes, facial expressions (happy, open-mouth, closed eyes, angry, bored, sad), the texture and lighting.

After moving the characters and props and setting up the different elements, I am ready to start the animation process. Now ends the production process, and starts the postproduction process.  I have to render all of the color, shadow, diffuse lighting, layers and ambient occlusion  Here also starts the waiting and maybe the boring part.  Just one frame of the film“Avatar”  took 80 hours.  A lot of software is used. CG integration, roto-masking, rig removal, chroma keys, 2D to 3D stereoscopic conversion, mate painting…all these techniques are possible with composition softwares.

The final step is editing and sound, a very hard part as well, because everything I’ve created has to sync together. I think the sound is 50% of the film’s effect on the audience, so it’s crucial.  If this description seems long to you, it is actually a very short description of what I’ve done in my short film. The next step is promoting the film.

I never thought that one day I could win a festival with my first short film. Now that it’s happening, I want to thank all of the festivals, Premios Oriana 2013, Portobello, Shortini, Baixada, and of course, the Manhattan International Film Festival. I really appreciate the work of the World Youth Alliance.

Animation truly is the power to create an imaginary world.

By Josep Antoni Ribas, a Manhattan International Film Festival Finalist from Spain

Unforgettable Pianist