Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
Oh how often have I read or heard these lines before...
Hey that line rhymes... and I wasn't even trying :) Anyhow, time for another little "behind the scenes" look at the latest of my videos: "the raven".
The basic mode of production was the same as with all my puppet videos: get the idea, write the script, record audio, build props, shoot video and finally edit the video together.
The idea and script were very easy this time. Although I did have to verify that "the raven" was free literature not only in the US but also in Austria and that was a bit hard until I finally found the right agency to talk to.
Prop and set building was a tough one on this though: I knew from the beginning that a piece like "the raven" wouldn't look right if done on the regular puppet stage... and green-screen wouldn't work this time either because I needed a little more intense lighting with shadows and greenscreen raises more problems when it comes to correct lighting and fitting a character into the scene. I also knew that my set required some aspects that should be important for the poem: a fireplace ("...each seperate dying ember..."), a door ("...I opened wide the door..."), a window ("...in there stepped..."). Also the props were quite set from the beginning: a bust of pallas ("...perched upon a bust of pallas..."), a few books with a table to lay them down on ("...many a quaint and curious volume..."), a chair with violet lining ("...straight I wheeled a cushioned seat...") and of course - to remind the audience - a picture of the late Lenore.
The set is a construction that I can re-use for future productions. It is made out of several wooden beams (about 2cm by 2cm) and forms four walls with each wall having its own set of legs so any one wall can be removed at a time to allow the camera to see "inside" the room. The set is two by one meter and stands two meters tall with only the upper meter covered to allow access from beneath. The inside of the walls is covered with regular wallpaper (damn, why do they sell it in five square meter rolls and not six?)
The fireplace is just cardboard with a marble-textured stick on foil... so you see: I couldn't just put real fire in there, could I? ;) What looks like flickering fire is actually a rotating plastic cylinder with stuck on wrinkled tinfoil in front of a yellow spotlight. I've seen that trick described in one of those "making of" special DVD features but I can't remember which movie it was. Works for puppets too!
The chair is made of some thin plywood with some silk like fabric wrapped and glued around strips of foam. The golden nails that are visible sometimes are painted on ;)
The books are cut out from an old phone book and wrapped again in decorative stick on foil (hooray for foil!) The titles "LORE - Vol. I" to "LORE - Vol. III" might not be visible in the video, but they are done with golden marker pen.
The single prop that took the most time to do was the bust of pallas. Since I couldn't use a real one - too human for a pawpet version of pallas - I had to make one myself. Did I mention that this was my first try at clay modelling? It might show, but I'm still proud that the fox and helmet came out recognizable at least.
It took quite an amount of money, quite some time and lots of efford on my part to finish "the raven", but of course it wouldn't be half as good without the dark underlying music, done again by Brian Marshall. Thank you so much!