Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How we made Toilet Run

Toilet Run is Belgian Boomsticks' second production.

The idea

Queueing for a public toilet is something which happens to all of us now and then but is never pleasant when you need to go urgently. It gets worse when it is out of order and you need to find another one. What happens when it becomes a race to get there first but the path to it is full of obstacles?

Since all obstacles are in different locations we wanted to have something which tied it all together. Using the map with the animated heads was the ideal solution to avoid discontinuity in environments. All obstacles are merely accidents. We didn't want them to be induced by direct rivalry between the two characters.


We used almost the same camera and sound equipment as with Agent Orange (check this link) but we did have some extra ropes en rigs to get over the ditch. The rope was a regular  climbing rope and we had an issue getting reasonable tension on it. Without tension Jef-Aram would get wet feet rather quickly. Luckily we had a Grigri with us, which helped us tighten the rope. We know that this is not the proper way of using a Grigri but it worked and that is all what matters when you need to shoot stuff in a couple of hours time.

Again we tried to use the GoPro to get some nice shots on the cables but  the shots didn't work that well. It is better to cut them out as bad shots would bring the quality down a lot. I guess we still need to train more on how to position the GoPro camera. The lack of a viewfinder just doesn't make it easy.

Music and Sound FX

We tapped again into our royalty free library of music and sound FX but this time we also added more of our own foley recordings. All cloth movement and some impacts were done by us. We noticed that when two objects collide you do not need one sound but two. Both objects have their own distinguished sound. The truck hitting Jef-Aram is a combination of a metal sound from the body of the truck and a human impact sound. This makes it much more dramatic.

Post Production

The first small bits to fix were the toilets. As a matter of fact those are not toilets at all but electricity booths. The first one was solved practically with the"out of order" messages. On the second one we painted out the voltage signs and added a toilet sign in After Effects.

A bit of more work was the map. We designed one big map in illustrator and colored it in Photoshop. The colored map was then taken into After Effects for the animation. In the end we showed only a fraction of the map in the clip. It was useful to draw the whole map as it gave us more continuity while editing.

The full map. Click to enlarge.

The biggest challenge in compositing was the truck hitting Jef-Aram. We first wanted to hit him with me driving a car but since all the obstacles were more things that just happened as accidents instead of direct rivalry, that seemed too violent. We decided to go for a truck instead of a car as the impact would be more dramatic. The problem was that we didn't know anybody at all who could drive us a truck. At first we were thinking of using an image of a truck but that idea was quickly ditched as we realized there is no perspective change on a translating image. So we jumped in the car and drove around an industry area where lots of trucks pass by. Most people are not too happy getting caught on camera so instead of filming a truck passing by we drove by a parked truck ourselves. This gives exactly the same result in perspective change. After some rotowork and color grading the truck fitted right in.

A still of the truck while driving past it. Just using a photo of a truck would never have the right perspective change while driving by.

The truck moves so fast that it was not even necessary to animate the wheels properly to make the effect convincing enough. Luckily for us the weather was the same as on the day of shooting the electricity booths. The cloudy sky provides soft shadows in both images.

What's next?

Jef-Aram and I are already working on our next short. Make sure to stay tuned. You can do this by following us on twitter or by subscribing to our YouTube channel.


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