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Spray – A Hairy Interview with Håvard Forland Isaksen

// Interviews

Spray is a fun and rather surreal short film about a boy and his magical can of spray and grow hair. Some of you may be interested in such a product, sadly however I fear it may be fictional. Take a look…

This hairy tale was thought up by Norwegian animation student Håvard Forland Isaksen for his graduation film in Animation & Interactive Media at RMIT Melbourne, Australia.

The film is visually entertaining and appears simple in design however looks can be deceiving. Although the film appears to mimic claymation the entire short was in fact composed in After Effect using individual elements shot and pieced together to give an organic appearance.

A dedicated animator & motion designer, Håvard is currently freelancing in Oslo, Norway which is where Skwigly caught up with him and spurted some questions in his general direction.


Hi Håvard and thanks for talking to Skwigly. Can you tell us where the idea for Spray originally came from?

Hello Skwigly! It’s my pleasure. The idea came from some good old brainstorming exercises. I got two random words from the teacher. With those words I had to make a mind map. Then I made three movie titles by combining two words from the mind map. These titles should trigger some kind of story.

For every deadline our class had feedback sessions, where the other students came with suggestions and ideas of their own. These days could be golden if you are stuck and didn’t know what to do. So if you were a little late on your deadlines you could really fall behind. Which I did in the start… It took a lot of time before I found an idea I was pleased with.

The story I went for in the beginning was called Graffiti Boom. It was about an old guy that lives in this parallel universe where graffiti is illegal to paint over. And the old guy goes outside every night, painting the city cleaner, mission impossible style.

Then I started researching topics that could add something to the story or put me in an other direction. At one point the story was about an outcast artsy octopus/squid that got up from the water and painted the streets with graffiti. Yeah, no one was feeling that one…

I liked the idea about creating something with the spray can. So i kept trying to make it work. At the end it was about a gay hairdresser that goes out with the hair growing spray and makes shiny 80 style haircuts on random people. Pretty close the final story…

But when I didn’t figure out how to end it properly, I redeveloped the main character by thinking about the motives, his backstory; favourite food, first love, weaknesses… All kinds of things that could mould him into the most awesome character for the story!

How long did it take you to complete this film? Did you have a deadline to meet?

It took about 6-7 months to finish. Started early March. The final deadline was 23rd October. In the first semester (13 weeks) I was suppose to do all the concept development. Brainstorming, research, script, visual treatment, storyboard and animatic. But I couldn’t do it all in that amount of time, as we had three other subjects at the same time as this. The design and animatic were just partly finished by then.

In the last semester we started production. We only had one subject, the major project. I had to make up for lost time, because I didn’t get as much time for the design development as I wanted to have. Maybe that was a good thing? The short got a more minimalism design then I first got in mind. I had to get rid of some body-parts and unimportant silly scenes to save some time. Luckily I got help with the sound and the music. Two skilled guys. Composer Julian Langdon and sound designer Dan Macdonald. The duo is called 11ears. That helped a lot! Had been worrying about having to do it myself. It all worked out smoothly in the end. 🙂

You used a very interesting technique filming each 3D element separately in 360. Can you explain to us how this worked?

All the elements were made by hand. Cardboard scenes, plasticine body and spray-can, steel-wool hair and jellybean eyes. Mmmm, tasty jellybean eyes…

Then I took all the parts that needed multiply angles or rotation on a Lazy Susan/rotating pizza plate that I bought at Ikea. Made 5mm marks around the whole plate. Then shot a lot of pictures, rotating the plate 5mm at a time. Shot it with a DSLR. Why not film it, you may think… I didn’t have a good enough video camera to shoot on green-screen. With the DSLR i could get a 5k footage. I used the plug-in Twixtor to get a smoother rotation on some objects.

Then I keyed out the green-screen and did a hell of a job removing wires and cleaning some badly lit green-screen footage. You can find some wires on some parts, I think got a bit tired after a while… Then I could put them together to “fake” some 3d. Add a controller linked to the time re-mapping. Full control of the rotation in one easy scrub. 🙂

Was this the first time you have used this technique and how difficult was it to rig?

I tried out this technique in a VFX class earlier when I was in the middle of concept developing. The assignment was to put an object/miniature into video footage, making it look like it belongs in its environment. I wanted to try out something new. I put a toy truck on the Lazy Susan outside. Then I got the right lighting and shadow casting as I turned the truck. And I had the control to move and rotate it as I wanted to.

It was fun to just go a bit overboard on the rigging. It was a process of trying, failing and sometimes figuring out the problem. I used the Duik script to make bones and controls for the puppet tool. But no IK on it. Which made the characters pretty flexible. The most difficult part was to figure out how to make a functional mouth controller. The mouth is pre-comped together with the body layer video. After a 360 a new mouth appears on the body and so on. With a bit of maths and syncing the mouths with the body, it was ready. When I tapped the down arrow key with the mouth controller selected, it would jump forward in time exactly 360 degrees.

What made you use this style over other 3D software available?

I have always loved the aesthetics of stop-motion animation. I guess this was my attempt of re-creating that feeling digitally. And having control over it. After Effects has been my main tool for as long as I remember. Maybe I was playing it safe.

Are you happy with the final film and is there anything you would do differently next time?

I’m really happy of the outcome of the short. But it never turns out the way I was imagining in my head. The only thing I really would do, is to use more time on the design. It went a bit hasty. But the response I have gotten is unbelievable. Didn’t see that coming. I’m stoked and ready to create some more stuff!

Will we be seeing the lead character again in another outing? Is there likely to be a Spray sequel?

Haven’t thought about it… I rather create some new stuff. But maybe a mini short. The rigs and props are ready for use… We will see.

What animation projects are you working on next?

Working on some different projects right now. I’m working as an animator on this story for kids, by Norwegian singer and songwriter Bjørn Eidsvåg. The story is called Helten Sivert (Sivert The Hero). Sivert is a boy who gets teased for his enormous big head. It is huge!

I got a lot of small solo projects that are moving along pretty slowly. I have this character Reinert that I want to develop into a story. Reinert is an emotional guy with little social skills. He is kind of a mesh up of Ren & Stimpy and Karl Pilkington. I think I can get him into some trouble.

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