Amazing Paint On Glass

From Carine Khalifé, the filmmaker:

I met Steve and Catherine from Young Galaxy when I first arrived in Montreal.
They were about to release their new album, and I was more than excited when they asked me if I was interested in making a video for them.
They sent me their songs, and I immediately had a crush on “Blown Minded”.
We met a couple of times, discussed ideas, and then I started this project!

First, it was all about finding the right technique. Animation offers so many possibilities.
When I first heard the song, I was hit by the wonderful texture of it, and my first task was to chose the imagery that would be rich enough to suggest the depth of the song.

It was obvious to me that paint would be the key. So I experimented a lot before jumping into to the darkroom.

Basically, my technique was to paint on a piece of glass fixed to a light box. I would paint on the glass with oil so that it wouldn’t dry, and I could play with it for hours.

A camera, fixed overhead above the animation table and plugged in my computer, would capture my paintings frame by frame and create the animation using the software Stop Motion Pro. This process took place inside a dark room so that there wouldn’t be interference or changing lights on the paint.

The single light source came from beneath the glass, revealing the textures and details of brushes movements. I worked a lot with transparency. The more paint, the darker the image, and therefore the animation becomes about gesture, and the texture of brushstrokes; it’s a very physical, organic process.

I based the number of frames per second (sometimes 8 sometimes 12) on the rhythm of the music.

Everything is based on the rhythm. It was important for me, especially for the abstract parts, that I was responding to the song conversationally; like a running dialogue.
I think I’ve listened to the song more than a thousand times. And because i would often listen to it and focus solely on drums, voice, lyrics, or melody – I was still able to hear new things each time.

There were two parts to my process; the animation and the editing.

I animated between 3 and 8 seconds per day, depending on the complexity of the sequences. I wanted the whole image to move, to live – even when there wasn’t camera movement. So I repainted the whole frame each time.
I started by using a rotoscoping technique. I filmed live things and rooms, and then I would re-paint. But after few attempts, I decided that the result wasn’t strong or true enough and I put those rushes away, so I could animate freely and make something more intimate and unique.

I wrote the general idea of the course of the film on post-its and I stuck them on the wall behind my desk, so I always knew where I was, and where I was going. And I drew quick sketches for the complicated scenes. The rest was I discovered by doing and by painting, so there was a lot of room for surprises and experimentation.

The finished film is as much inspired by the song, as the place I was in while making it. When I began this project I had just moved to Montreal. I think these two inspirations connected pretty well to create this atmosphere. I’m a night worker, and spent several hours at the window, looking at Montreal skies and lights. The chimney is obviously the one of the house next door, and the room at the beginning is my studio. When i arrived in Montreal I liked, and was struck by, the contrasting warm indoors, and deep blue outside.

The idea of the white/blank silhouette for the main character came very early when I first heard the song. I discussed the idea with Steve and Catherine who fully supported me and gave me as much freedom and time I needed to create this film.

When I was in my studio, I would just shut the curtains, switch on the light box, synchronize the music to the sequence I was working on,and paint frame by frame – all the scenes that compose the film.

The first frame of each scene was the most difficult. It sometimes took me half a day just to find the right texture, the right movement, the right light and colours. And then, I would repaint it again and again, so it could move.

It was a bit like deconstructing the whole song, seconds by seconds.

The next challenge was to put everything back together, like a puzzle, so the film can exist as a whole and be consistent. The editing brought new surprises and ideas, and I happened to repaint few sequences to fit with the new ideas, and make the right transitions between each of the scenes.

Spending the last months in the dark room, with the light box, projecting blue, red or yellow lights on the white walls of my studio was an intense experience. And now that it’s done, it’s a bit like waking up from a dream, and as the film is now getting out of my studio, I rediscover it with new eyes, almost as if I didn’t do it myself.