Durin’s Song by J.R.R Tolkien

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Our fourth animation is Cut Out style. We had to animate a poem for this piece & include a lip sync for part of the poem.

The poem we chose is Durin’s Song by J.R.R Tolkien. For this animation we created our own sets & characters. The set design was a vertical cut out set rather than the traditional horizontal cut out type shot on a multi plane camera. We chose this because we wanted to do something a bit different to the traditional cut out style & to also give ourselves a challenge.

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The finished sets resembled a puppet theatre & when the lighting was set up it gave the animation depth with the shadow. This gave the finished animation a 3D look. The sets were painted using acrylic paint as it’s easier to layer up & blend to create a more realistic look. The use of acrylic gave a matte finish to the sets which prevented reflection or glare from the lighting. For the moon we cut out a hole out of the back layer of the outdoor set & placed white tissue paper over it to give it texture & to soften the light. We placed a spotlight behind the set to give the moon its glow. This also created a lovely reflection of the moon in the river. The stars in the sky are LED battery lights which we poked through the cardboard & taped to hold them in place.

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Altogether we created 3 completely different sets consisting of outdoors, indoors & a mining scene.  We recycled parts of these sets to create additional sets & replaced some of the layers or painted them a different colour.

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The story of Durin’s song is based in world of Middle Earth. As a group we had to research the history of Middle Earth to gain a better understanding of the poem & its themes. As well as having the challenge of animating in a vertical cut out set, the poem itself presented an additional challenge. It is a very complex poem, not to mention a long one. The voice recording of the poem (read out by myself) was 2 minutes 10 seconds long! On top of animating the poem & having a voice recording we were required to do a lip sync for a section of the poem. The requirement was to do a lip sync for one or two lines, we pushed ourselves even further by doing four. For this we had to do a dope sheet to see how many frames each sentence lasted, then create the phonemes for the lips.

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Durin’s Song has no speech in it, it is purely narrative. So to get around this & still be able to do the lip sync, we decided to have use a talking tree to introduce & open up the poem to the audience. We felt, rather than adding in additional characters that wouldn’t fit in with the poem & have them do the talking, a tree was best as it wouldn’t detract from the story. In the world of Middle Earth, there are talking trees called Ents so this fits in nicely.

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The fusion of 2D & 3D in this animation was inspired by Flat World by Daniel Greaves.

As a massive Lord of the Rings fan, I really enjoyed making this animation.

Yahni 🙂