A fascinating ‘Desk’

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I tend to be criticized for being quite the cynic. Today, I’ve come to realize cynicism pays off. It fuels my otherwise mediocre spirit, when challenged with local video work that restores my faith in the international potential of the local AV industry. I am referring to a four-part stop motion short named ‘DESK’ produced by MCAST Creative Media Production Students, and submitted for this year’s Malta Short Film Festival. Christ Scicluna, Christian Bajada, Jake Spiteri, Maria Vella and Sean Aquilina teamed up to work around the short from concept to production.

The main theme of the project is the stop motion technique, featuring clay mation, cut-out animation and light painting techniques and made up from a total of 3,827 photographs. The short also includes some live action filming. The story revolves around a male clay character, created by actress Naomi Mamo at her desk, who tries to animate his infatuation for a female clay character. The other protagonist is a cut-out dog which unknowingly affects the turn of events in the whole setting.

Creative Vlogging as a medium

I try my best to imagine the mind as a potentially expandable fish bowl with humans as goldfish swimming in that bowl. A space where we can grow in larger territories. In the ever growing media landscape we have the same potential, through effort, to expand our own containers. This is exactly what the team behind ‘DESK’ did. They picked creative vlogging as a medium, where creativity took the limelight to become the most important aspect of the whole experience.

Whilst ‘vlogging’ might not be a familiar term (popular word processors will highlight it as a spelling mistake) it is still very habitual to present video blogs in the form of a person speaking to a web cam. The students here chose vlogging as their medium, created a theme, and aimed to show this visually, thus blurring the gap between the creative use of video medium and entertainment.

Creativity through limitation

Many believe that good budgets are equivalent to good productions, yet, even though I can’t deny that a good budget does help, creativity ultimately lies in limitations and these students did well to come up with creative solutions to deal with various constraints, including the 3-month deadline. With one of those months dedicated to researching the story, the character development, the techniques and location scouting – it did become a tough task.

Considering the technical and picture quality achieved, one would find it hard to believe that the project was set to a minimal budget. Low budget armatures that keep the clay puppets from falling had to be created, rather than bought, and a personal Canon 550D SLR did the trick for the refined quality of the picture. The students went through the process of familiarising and coming to terms with the three animation techniques used. Claymation, cut-out animation and light painting, were far from mastered, yet they were handled and rendered to an exceptional quality.

The students were relatively new to the technical roles they required to fill. With a positive attitude that characterised their production experience, they created the right environment that guaranteed excellent teamwork, and therefore, success. This came evident not only through their final project, but also the research documentation. Excellent pre-production work, gave the students, the basis for a good outcome – a stylistic approach which, unfortunately, is many times ignored when it comes to local commercial TV productions.

‘DESK’ can be described as a portrayal of techniques through a captivating and sweet storyline. Time invested in research and pre production provided a fertile land where students went through a learning curve to seek a successful outcome. Whilst the most spontaneous feedback would be highlighting the characters’ sweet personified characters, the most critical would be applauding the overall achievement at delivering this quality product. The technical animation skills mixed to a pinch of reality, a colourful environment and an amusing, captivating storyline will put ‘DESK’ amongst the forefront of contemporary Maltese success stories in digital animation.

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