Matatoro, directed by Mauro Carraro, Raphaël Calamote, and Jérémy Pasquet, is a lovely meditation on bullfighting that mixes a lush color palette with well-crafted non-photorealistic 3D rendering. It seems like the short films coming out of France’s animation schools (this one being from Supinfocom Arles) are constantly achieving new ways to tastefully combine traditional illustration styles with 3D. What sets this film apart for me is the unique storytelling point-of-view. Rather than a traditional narrative, the story is more of a stream of consciousness emotional arc (with clever shape-shifting arena crowds to boot!).
Where did the idea of a bullfight come from?
Mauro: Personally, I was charmed and frightened after seeing my first bullfight four years ago in Arles (South France), the reach of the colors, rhythm, symbols, and volumes. The rapport between the matador, the bull and the public permeating continuously – it was all that I searched for in an animation film.
The balance between the watercolor textures and dimensionality is really stunning. There are many times where every frame looks like a key pose, but other times where the camera seamless revolves around a character. Was there any frame animation or was it all 3D? a mix?
Mauro: The approach of the textures on this project was totally different from what we had ever tried before. The goal here was to get as close to a “traditional” result as possible.
Raphael: After various tests with Photoshop, the result was too close to what we were used to seeing in 3D animation, so we decided to print the UV boards out and draw on it traditionally in pencil and paper. We then had to scan the textures obtained for use on 3D objects.
The difficulty of this work was to find the “flow” of pencil lines, a logic in the paths to give an idea of the volume of the characters. So that the textures wouldn’t seem “frozen”, as we are used to seeing, but would seem to “vibrate” as redrawn frame by frame. We made an animation loop of five textured images, at three different sizes (A5, A4, and A3), in order to change the texture depending on the value of the planes. The rest is compositing.
Jeremy: We used 12fps to reinforce the traditional side of animation. In the animation, the keyframes were the most important. They were based on drawings or illustrations taken from pre-production. The movements are as simple as possible, to go to most of the action by focusing on picture composition.
How tightly did you work with the sound designer/composer?
We ask the composer to work on our film more than one year before the final cut! That’s very unusual, but very comfortable for the team. In fact, we met together really late, because of the distance between Paris and Arles.
I sent Pierre Manchot more than ten versions of the storyboard. He made five themes with the piano solo. I chose one and he orchestrated it with a real corrida brass band (fifteen musicians) called Chicuelo II from Arles.
A lot of times, we didn’t understand each other, because the vocabulary of animation and music is really specific… Conditions were really perfect financially, because we had the SIRAR grant for music (delivered by the Aubagne Music Festival and SACEM) that permitted us to have an entire orchestra, a studio, an engineer, and a composer!
During the recording and the mix the whole the team was present, allowing for real discussion between the directors, conductor, and sound engineer.
A lot of the shot framings are very dramatic. How much of the composition was decided upon at the storyboard phase?
The start was three or four handmade drawings, without any connection.
We had just one rule, follow the chronological order of events/choreography in the bullfight. We symbolized the moody public with clapping hands, laughing mouths, judging eyes and angry forks, matching each type with a peculiar universes: an arena, a carousel, a circus, a temple.
We produced more and more drawings and eventually made a musical slideshow to find the structure. The film became an animated picture with cryptic symbols and floating environments.
There was a huge amount of work on the storyboard and image composition, everybody was involved in thinking and giving his ideas. Then we selected the most interesting and most dynamic and dramatic storyboard sequences. Keeping in mind the images made in pre-production for some shots are closer to a painting than a traditional film.
How long did production take?
Production for the film took a year and a half. Three months of pre-production (creation, research, design, writing, story board…) and a full year devoted to the production and post-production.
What are you up to next?
Mauro: I’m preparing a new short film that should be a Switzerland production, about my experience on the Way of St. James.
Raphael: I currently work at Cube Creative, where I’m working on textures, layout, and rendering/compositing. I am waiting to find a little time to make a one-minute short film.
Produced by Supinfocom Arles – 2010