Animating Your Deepest Fears with Samuel Blaine

10 14 2015

One of the most memorable shots in our recent brand spot for MTV is of a man sitting in his bed, his face replaced with a head full of eyeballs, animated and blinking.

That unforgettable shot belongs to the skilled artistry of Samuel Blaine, a filmmaker and animator based out of the UK. In Dreams, his lauded short that provided the aforementioned clip, is an examination of our deepest fears, visualized through Samuel’s adept animation. It was also the start of a celebrated career working with incredible global brands and personal creative endeavors.

How did you get your start in filmmaking/animation/design?
It all came about after releasing my university grad film at a student expo D&AD New Blood, where it was awarded ‘Best in Show.’ After gaining some confidence from this, I submitted the film to festivals, and before I knew it, it was selected for loads of them, I think over 50. Thanks to this attention I’m now an animator and designer in London.

What was the inspiration behind In Dreams? How did you choose your subjects?
It pains me to say that it is was a case of the technique leading the creative. With an open brief and endless possibilities, I had been playing with facial tracking and knew there was something interesting that could be done with it, so I used that as a much needed limitation. In replacing the heads, the initial idea was to the swap the heads with a caricature of the subject but I wanted to find something deeper and perhaps more revealing, so looked at dreams as a visual for the subconscious of the people interviewed.

I had very few resources when making the film. So I started by recording audio interviews of as many friends and family members talking about their wildest, most vivid dreams as I could. I then whittled down the audio recordings to a small selection that were fun and imaginative whilst being simple enough to condense and summarise into the animation of a single object. I loved that the subjects faces are covered by the central element of fear in their dreams.

Technically, what did you employ to create the animation on the film?
Everything was shot on 7D with only the available lighting on each set, the subjects bedrooms. Each person filmed had their face covered in tracking markers for the tracking. After various sketches and designs were created for the replacement head, they were then modeled in a 3D sculpting program before being animated and composited onto the footage.

Was there anything surprising you learned in the process of making the film?
My attitude to the live action side changed dramatically whilst making In Dreams. I started out being quite strict with what was needed in regards to the post production; restricting actors movement and bombarding them with tracking markers even making them wear a swimming cap covered in them at one point. However after the first couple of shoots, I realised this made them uncomfortable and what’s worse, wooden in their actions. I was already awkwardly filming them in their own bedrooms without the addition of props. While some things on the shoot make for less work in the later stages, you can’t fix an unnatural actor in post.

Can you talk about your branding work since the short – perhaps highlighting some of the work for brands like BAFTA or other favorite projects of yours?
Sure, there’s been a lot of full CG 3D promo work I’ve created for the likes of BAFTA and BBC, they usually come with a nice loose brief which you can naturally progress throughout the animation process. little ideas some times come up half way through a project, so its nice when you, as an animator, have the flexibility to add something mid-way through the process. We made the BAFTA Young Games Designer logo from Tetris and Nokia Snake blocks just before delivering. Other work included the Wastelands video for Satellites which like In Dreams gained a Vimeo Staff Pick, it’s always great to get recognition on the Vimeo community, I have a lot of love for that place. I really enjoy the live action and VFX mix in In Dreams, I did something similar for a the launch of the WyoLotto, creating a CG ‘Jack-pot-alope’ within a lotto player’s home. It’s rare that kind of opportunity comes up for a one-man-band as it’s usually reserved for companies with a proper VFX pipeline, but I would like to revisit it in future personal work.