Jānis Skulme is a Latvian filmmaker based in London. He recently sat down with Cinema Without Borders to talk about his latest project, a video for Olga Korsak, the Latvian pop singer based in Toronto.
Cinema Without Borders: How did the project come about?
Jānis Skulme: As a filmmaker from RIJA films (http://www.rijafilms.lv) and a visual effects artist from Latvia, I did a short test video (https://vimeo.com/31230362) for the Toronto-based Latvian singer Olga Korsak and she liked it, so she invited me to make a music video for her song “Behind Closed Doors” for her new music album (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/olga-korsak-debut-album). I jumped in to the project with an idea to make something creative and to do something new that I haven’t done before.
CWB: What were the biggest challenges you faced?
JS: The biggest challenge I faced was when I realized that I would have to composite 50 visual effects shots that will have to make look photo-real. I was very interested to test if I can create a human story, an interaction that would affect the viewer more than the technical side of the video.
CWB: How did you encounter CrazyTalk?
JS: I first learned about iClone software from Reallusion at the FMX in Stuttgart few years ago and I hoped to use it for a new project. I loved the speed and results it gave within seconds.
CWB: What made you decide to use it for the project?
JS: It was definitely a temptation to composite the animation into real shots and to create reality that would interact with observers from the art museum. But after learning from a lead animator of “Game of Thrones” that 20 seconds of proper CGI costs $20,000, I took a serious look at CrazyTalk. Thankfully, it turned out to be a perfect fit for the project. It was so easy to use. I was amazed I could import the vocal track into the program and with so few tweaks it would create the 3D mesh from the photo and would animate the mouth moves as the singer was singing. I could control the entire animation by setting up the mood, emotions and facial features of the character that I was able to control and create from a photo with CrazyTalk. I couldn’t believe that instead of spending several hours rendering animation, I could just make sculptures sing and then composite the animation in the final shots, then do match-grading.
CWB: How did the production come together?
JS: I was invited for a film shoot that actually happened in my own house in Latvia, because we couldn’t find a location to shoot and budget was $2,000. All of the budget was gone after the first filming day. We sat the singer in front of my old C Bechstein piano and I filmed it with three cameras simultaneously. She changed her dresses for every take. The concept was to create something interesting with these shots and the idea of animating sculptures came about when I went to London to meet with my good friend Oscar nominated editor Kant Pan. After he made the first edit of the video I saw the potential of the shots to be used for telling a little story in a museum, so I grabbed my 5D and my Merlin stedicam and took a train to the museum, then filmed it for few days, then came up with the edit that would fit the story.
CWB: Where is the video being show worldwide?
JS: At the moment the music video is Olga’ YouTube channel of the singer (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DW8rlhDsk8). The plan is to submit the video to MTV Canada. I hope this story and music video will be an inspiration to filmmakers and animators of how the technology and software like CrazyTalk can be used to tell stories. I encourage everyone to spend more time on the story itself than on visual effects side of the projects, it will definitely make a difference.
Official artist site: http://www.olgakorsak.com/
Jānis Skulme: www.skulme.com
CrazyTalk 7, from Reallusion: http://www.reallusion.com/crazytalk/crazytalk.aspx