The final film!

By July the 6th I hope to have a fully textured and rendered version of my film for the National Gallery website. I’d love it to have the look of painting in terms of colour and texture, but this all takes added time. I know I will continue to work on it and polish it so that I can enter it into festivals later on.

Please check back soon!!


I am still unsure what Enrica will come up with for my film, but can’t wait to hear it. When we talked we liked the piano being the main instrument used because it can be fast paced like the film and build up tension. When I come to add the sound effects I want to blend them into the background so that you don’t consciously hear them, but they just make it feel natural.


I started to block out my film, keying my extreme positions. I wanted to be quite thorough, as I knew I had a hard task ahead of me to animate it in time. It was really hard to concentrate on the animating when I knew so much other stuff like the set, textures and the overall look of the film needed a lot of work, but knowing that my tutors and prospective employers would only be interested in how the character moved, made me push on with getting all my keys finished. I also came up with the title 'The Delivery' and was playing with it being written in French... not sure it works!

First pass from Emma Ewing on Vimeo.

Once all of my keys were finished I went back to run a second pass on some scenes. Once everything was timed properly I added some titles to it and sent it off to Enrica, the Royal College of Music composer that agreed to score my film.

Reference footage

With my animatic and story now finished I wanted to start filming some reference footage. I obviously couldn’t do a lot of the action I wanted to convey in my film (like being dragged along the ground in a runaway cart) but I filmed what I could and looked at Indiana Jones for the rest!

Reference footage from Emma Ewing on Vimeo.

I made quick thumbnail sketches from my reference so that I had my basic positions for my movement planned out. Here are a few examples:

National Gallery Review

We had to show our animatic to the gallery and it got the thumbs up. They liked the timing and pacing and overall story. It wasn’t until I showed it to my mentor and Natasha at a gallery workshop that a few story ideas were suggested. They felt more needed to be made of the importance of the cage to Sid and also the second time he falls through the air (right at the end) looses its impact because it happened earlier in the film too. I agreed and came up with a new beginning and ending, which made my film longer but hopefully improved the story.

Set building

I then started building my set and props!


I wanted to make the film look quite rustic so came up with the following designs for my set and props:


With Lee approving my idea I was ready to start. My rig was being built by Brad Silby and wasn’t finished but I wanted to start blocking out my animatic. I decided to do it in Maya. I did this so that I could foresee any problems I might come up against when it came to building my set. I used a rig from the net, Moom and got cracking. This was my initial animatic:

Initial response

After showing my treatment to Lee at the gallery she came up with some concerns, not seeing how the painting linked in to my idea. Although in my mind the painting inspired my film, I could see how the link wasn’t immediately apparent. Although I wanted to keep the runaway chase feel of the film I decided to tie it in more to the film and sent Lee the following changes:

The beginning now starts with Sid making a delivery to the castle in the painting. He rings the bell and notices his wooden delivery cart starting to roll down the hill. He jumps on to stop it, but the cart keeps going. He bashes into the market seller and continues on to the busy road below. The cars are made from wood, and he still gets flung over the side of the cliff. He lands again on the frozen lake, spins off and is perched precariously hanging on to the birdcage which in turn is looped over a tree branch. The cage door opens and the bird flies out leaving poor Sid just hanging there.

The idea now links into the painting in the following way:

1. The castle is now the first focus and starting point of the action.
2. The design of the buildings will be heavily influenced by the artist's style, which is why I shall take reference from Prague and Paris.
3. It will be set in a winter scene, which is what the artist was renowned for painting.
4. The main character in my film is going about his everyday life and interacts with others doing the same [for example the street vendor and those driving on the road] reflecting the characters in the painting.
5. The character depicted in the middle of the painting is falling over and his wife screams in shock, which I will echo in the market and road scenes of my film.
6. The huge tree framing the side of the painting will be transported to the end scene of my animation, where it has a pivotal role to play in the action.
7. The frozen canal from the painting will be the setting for the climax to my film.
8. I will use the same colour scheme.

Initial idea

I didn’t want to just pluck a character from the painting and animate them ice-skating. I wanted to develop the idea of creating a totally fictional fairytale place, like Avercamp had done. I liked the feeling of being unbalanced and uncontrolled and wanted to depict this in my film but not necessarily by someone wearing skates. I wasn’t sure at this point whether it would be set in modern day, but images of a runaway trolley sprung to mind. It conveyed the speed, and uncontrolled nature of ice, without just setting the story in the painting’s town. I liked the fast paced action that this could give me so developed it further. This was the first treatment I sent to Lee:

We begin by meeting our main character Sid, as he tries to get his shopping bag out of a supermarket trolley. He’s aged mid-forties, quite short and clumsy. He reaches for his bag but can’t quite get it and has to lift himself up on to the front of the trolley. At first he doesn’t notice but soon he realises the trolley is moving, picking up speed as it rushes down the cobbled street leading to the town centre. He hangs on for dear life, managing to pull himself into the trolley. Visibly scared, he has no control over the runaway vehicle. He approaches the busy market street- a vendor jumps out of the way, throwing his barrel of apples up in the air, some landing in the trolley. Sid tries to apologize and shout sorry, but before he knows it, he’s heading for the busy motorway.

Closing his eyes, he prays for his life, and we see him narrowly escape collision with two cars- but a third ploughs into the side of him. The driver is shocked, as is Sid and they both stare at each other whilst still speeding down the motorway-Sid is still in his trolley, which in turn is pinned to the front of the car-paralysed with fear. The driver brakes and the trolley and Sid are sent hurtling off the motorway. They fly through the air, Sid frantically clinging on to the trolley as they land on a frozen lake. Sid can’t believe his luck as he survives the terrifying trip he’s just taken with all his limbs intact. The trolley glides slowly over the ice until it finally stops, much to Sid's visible great relief!

Unfortunately, he is not out of harms way. Sid slowly realises he’s skidded off of the edge of the frozen lake and is teetering on a wily old tree branch jutting out over the frozen waterfall with a hundred-foot fall beneath him. Sid gulps, tries to reach for his shopping bag and climb out of the trolley but they both start to slip, so he pulls back quickly to stabilize himself. He’ll have to give this situation some more thought! The credits then start to roll and we briefly come back to our character as he’s carefully munching on an apple contemplating what to do. The End!

I plan to set my film in a fairytale location, with architecture inspired by Prague and Paris, so that the structures are quite familiar and recognisable, but are not based on any one town. I think it will also help to use his simple colour palette and I like the thought of sticking to the three or four main colours he uses. The idea of the hazy sky is also fantastic, as it enables the landscape to just drift out of view, without the definite edge usually found in 3-D films. I also love the winter scene he creates and feel this will add to the fast paced, action packed journey.

Developing ideas

With this knowledge about the painter I know felt more comfortable coming up with an idea inspired by his picture. I wanted to take the main themes from the painting and use them as the basis for developing my ideas further. For me, his main themes and the best aspects of his painting were:

1. It is a fictional town.

2. It is winter.

3. The snow and ice make the characters unbalanced and unsteady on their feet.

4. The characters are going about their everyday lives, interacting with each other, whether on purpose or by chance.

Researching the painting

Before I started to come up with ideas for my film I wanted to know a little more about Hendrick Avercamp the painter. He was Dutch, grew up in the town of Kampen in the 16th century and was deaf and dumb. He was locally known as ‘ The mute of Kampen’.

When I first saw ‘A winter scene with skaters near a castle’ I imagined Avercamp painting it whilst sitting on a hill overlooking the town. I discovered however that it was painted entirely from his imagination. Everything from the people to the castle sprung from his mind and did not exist. It made me look at the painting very differently and made me think that he was possibly trying to paint what he wished his town could be like. The people in the painting look like they happily interact with each other mixing from all classes of society. Some are going about their everyday business such as work and others are just playing on the ice. The sensory deprivation Avercamp had made these interactions more poignant and therefore made it a central theme to the painting for me.

Pick a picture

After being given the brief by the Gallery and visiting the collection I narrowed down my choice of paintings to the following three:

Starting from the left the paintings are: Hendrick Avercamp ‘A Winter scene with skaters near a Castle’; Louis-LĂ©opold Boilly ‘A Girl at a Window’; and Thomas Jones ‘A Wall in Naples’. Each of them inspired me in different ways. They gave me the opportunity to make 3 very different films. ‘A girl at a window’ made me think of a slow paced thoughtful film whilst the simple painting of ‘A wall in Naples’ made me think of European cities and cultures, of family life happening behind the door. For my final film however I really wanted to challenge myself and felt the action depicted in Avercamps painting would transcribe well into a short film and make me really push my animation skills.

The Brief

Produce a one-minute film inspired by a painting in the National Gallery’s collection; you may respond to any aspect of the painting.