Category Archives: Pre-Production

This just in…

…and now we have some  complications.

  1. 1. After shooting the drumming scenes Maena (bless him) needed his lights and green screen back so I have to find some way to substitute these. Fortunately I am starting a new scene, so I’m not too worried about switching lights as opposed to doing the same in the middle of a scene. The drumming scenes were fundamental to the whole film and having the Lowel lights and the screen made shooting it a lot more painless. The new green screen consists 2 pieces of joined cloth with a huge seam in between. It suck, but will have to do for now.
  2. Olokut just broke his shoulder, and the Omulosi puppet lost some fingers after the drumming sequences. I need to ensure that both puppets are structurally sound before shooting.
  3. I begin production on an animated series in September so this gives me five weeks left to shoot. No pressure.


The drumming scenes are looking great!

I am now gearing up for the first (sequential) scenes in the film right now. I want to start shooting on monday. I found out that Olokut’s shoulder was broken yesterday and this made me strip down both arms for re-building. I will also make an extra set of hands just in case they need replacement during shooting.

I am also designing a chicken for use in the first scenes. I had to build two actually, one for close-ups and one that Olokut will carry and throw on his bicycle.

The bicycle is a very important part of the story. I got it from a wire-maker in Kisumu who specialises in making them. Initially I hadn’t planned to have it in the film, but I looked at the storyboard and felt that having it in would be potentially interesting for the film. Then I looked at the bicycle and saw that it fit Olokut perfectly. I made slight modifications so that It could be animated, but that little bicycle model was a godsend.



If you ever need software to plan a short project and don’t want to fork out 900 dollars for the brilliant but very expensive ToonBoom Storyboard Pro you could either opt to get their lighter version Storyboard for 199 dollars or pick up 6sys’s Springboard for the grand price of… 35 dollars.

When looking at software for making a storyboard you want to be able to:

  • Draw your frames using a graphics tablet (for me this isn’t too important since it would deny me time to play with Art Rage which is my favourite drawing application right now.)
  • Put frames together in a sequence
  • Attach descriptions to each of the shots for dialogue action and additional instructions such as VFX requirements
  • Preview that sequence in realtime to get a sense of timing for scenes
  • Export your sequence as a movie in different formats and resolutions
  • Export your storyboard as a document that can be printed with all your frame or shot information intact
  • Export your storyboard scene information intact into your favourite video editing software to assist in editing.

Now save for the last point, everything else can be done in Springboard. The only caveat is that sound support is limited to mono and 22100 khz but the developer says that this will be resolved in the next few months. Only other issue is that multiple tracks for sound aren’t supported. In Storyboard pro you have this plus you can visually slide your sound clips around to position them on the timeline.

The brilliant thing about springboard is that it allows you to create a heirachy for your story using scenes (see the image above) and then automatically saves these files as separate editable files in a folder. This way working with huge scenes becomes more manageable. To preview the entire storyboard just open the master file and you will find the other files updated.

My only gripe is a lack of a PDF export option. I hope this will be resolved sometime. Other than that, I see a very bright future for this application.


I recently discovered that Springboard exports to the XPS format, which is a sharing format created by Microsoft. Windows Vista users get an XPS viewer by default while XP viewers need to download it from the Microsoft site.

For those who can’t live without PDF, here’s a workaround. You could always print tour file as an EPS and then use a program such as Adobe Acrobat Distiller to make the PDF.


The new version of Springboard now accepts stereo files so there are no more issues with sound files needing to be converted to mono.


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And the cast is….


Kirumburu Nganga as Omulosi.

An omulosi is a traditional healer usually but in this case I am making him a rain maker. I hope my people will forgive me. And if they don’t I can always say he needed to diversify for economic gain. Kirumburu is an actor and works in the advertising agency. I had seen him in a film called Dangerous Affair and thought that his voice in that film was really cold and gruff. Just the thing I needed for an Omulosi who’s turned his back on the world.

Amina Darani as Amina.

For Olokut’s wife I needed someone who could nag like crazy. Amina in real life is nothing like that, but I felt her voice has that quality. We were both in university together and she works in The UN now as a graphic designer.


Terry Wangari as Lemayan.

I was looking for a print-shop in town an hour before a meeting a year ago so I get into Caxton house and find one. The lady I transacted with had a natural kid voice. I couldn’t get it out of my head for days so I went back and talked to her about the project. She signed on.


Pastor Gowi Odera as Olokut.

The lead voice was difficult for me. I had tried many times unsuccessfully to get other people to take the part. I think they just weren’t feeling the whole idea. I even tried using a studio voice data bank, but that fell through. I tried for the part myself (to save money and at my girlfriend’s suggestion) but my voice came out emotionally flat (sucks!).

So I asked around and got Gowi’s contact. Seeing my desperation and having seen my last short film he agreed to read the script and then he got on board. It took months to actually do the recording thanks to both our busy schedules but we finally got it done last Tuesday. The man powered through the script in 25 minutes doing one takes on several scenes. Not surprising seeing as he has years of acting experience behind him.

Having just completed the animatic I can say the voices match up against the characters and work well together. I was concerned somewhat seeing as the actors and actresses recorded separately but all that was laid to rest when I saw the whole film for the first time.

So there it is folks. The full voice cast. As promised. I will need voices to do cows and chickens in future. Give me a shout if you want in on the action.

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Posted by on June 4, 2008 in Introduction, Pre-Production



The Damage Report 1

Welcome to the first principal photography damage report. I have done over a minute of animation in one month which brings the total tally of minutes photographed to two out of ten (or a possible fifteen). I am almost done with 2 scenes. These for me are the hardest since they involve drumming.

I worry for this month since I will be switching scenes so I will need to break to develop additional peripheral characters like a chicken and a cow for example.

I feel good about last month since I finally completed all my voice recordings last week and I’m feeling pretty good about it. I think the actors did a really great job and went out of the way to lend some credibility to my dialog which I felt was a bit dodgy in places. You do sympathize with the characters just hearing them speak. This simplifies things for me as an animator but then again I feel like I have to work that much harder on the poses just to capture all the nuances in the acting. News on the cast will be forthcoming soon.


So, What is Olokut About?

On a grand scale, this is what it’s about:

On a smaller scale (pun intended) it’s about a man who goes to great lengths to ensure that his son can inherit a better world than the one he lives in. I developed the idea for the contest on global warming.

I could have done a skit or something more like an animated illustration, but I really wanted to do a more cinematic piece. Something that would seem to be an extension of my previous short film, except this time in stop-motion.

So a week was spent thumbnailing, and from these thumbnails a story emerged. It was great, because this is how they initially developed cartoons in the thirties. No script. Just storyboards that were worked and re-worked until the gags were perfect. then they wrote the script. In retrospect I’m glad i did this because I may have gotten stuck somewhere in the middle if I tried to write out the script first. It was much easier for me to flesh out the idea in sketches, and then write the script. It also worked well because I could immediately trash ideas that weren’t working out well visually and and come up with better ideas. This may very well be the method I use to develop future short animations.

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Posted by on July 19, 2007 in Introduction, Pre-Production


I still think about Ding Dong-Part 2



Or work flow consisted of shooting a sequence, downloading and checking out the animation in after effects and then shooting again if necessary. This was the downside of that first Africa Animated! None of the trainers were specialists in motion (the upside, however, was that we had a TONS of creative autonomy.) In terms of available technology things advanced light years ahead in AA2 and of 3. They had very good DV cams and Stop Motion Pro animation software. Unfortunately for the second group the major catch was they had to do all their stop motion in a few days because the space was only available for a limited period. Sad.


We had to improvise rigs to animate the characters because we had not really devised a rigging solution in pre-production so we had to use loose bits of wire and pins while shooting. We ended up with rigs in about 85 percent of the shots that needed cleaning. This was done lovingly and laboriously over three weeks after the production using Photoshop. The film had about 1300 frames in total and 45 shots.


Some of the shots had a blue screens that we needed to replace. It was cool because in AA you have these 7 productions going on simultaneously with artists with a variety of skills to you’ll always find someone to help you out and that’s how I learned to key out a blue screen. I walked over to pete and got a ten minute tutorial.


A lot of color correction was done in post production by kwame to reduce flicker and add a color filter to unify the look of the film. As I recall it took about half a day to fix these color issues in post production. The sound was being handled by the MO AMIN film school. I did have a chance to watch a rough cut and give feedback and that was good.


The only thing I regret was not giving any attention to the title design until the end. Ultimately the post production guys quickly slapped together a title using Times New Roman because we were out of time.





So that’s how things went down during the Ding Dong production. In retrospect we really didn’t plan out the technical aspects of shooting it in detail. However I still think we did an O.K job considering it was our first time animating.

Africa Animated? Well they completed the third one in November last year. Launch date for the DVDs is sometime soon. I don’t know if there will be a fourth one because the management at UNESCO is sort of going through a transition so I can’t conclusively state that there will be one this year. I can’t attend another Africa Animated! workshop but I can hope that there will be one so that more artists and cartoonists can be introduced to this addictive craft of ours called animation. I can say that I met the guys from the third one and got a preview of their films and was blown away.


In conclusion that first Africa Animated was hard but it was also a lot of fun making that movie. I didn’t know enough about the craft of film making at the time, but since then I’ve been consciously making the effort to assemble a body of knowledge from sites like darkstrider, animated clay, pixelcorps and CGsociety with a view to making a new piece of animation that will be more engaging than anything I’ve done up to this point.

So that’s it. Next we get into Olokut and what it is all about. Stay tuned.







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Posted by on July 5, 2007 in Pre-Production