Computer Graphics World

September / October 2017

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s e p t e m b e r . o c t o b e r 2 0 1 7 c g w 7 he title of the film Loving Vincent comes from the words "Your loving Vincent," which painter Vincent van Gogh typically used as a sign-off on letters to his brother. But it could as easily describe the feelings of filmmakers who created this homage to the artistic genius and, one imagines, of audi- ences who view the extraordinary animated feature film. It is arguably the world's first feature film created with oil paintings. You could, in fact, call Loving Vincent a stop-motion animated film. For this 90-minute exploration into the last year of Van Gogh's life, painters produced 65,000 oil paintings on canvas; 12 paintings 2.5 feet high by 1.5 feet wide for each second of film. One hundred twenty-five professional artists worked on the film in Poland and Greece. Their paintings include careful rep- resentations of 130 landscapes and portraits that Van Gogh created during his last years in Arles and Auvers-sur-Oise, France. To put the paintings in motion, the artists repositioned the brushstrokes in one painting when creating the next. Each oil painting was then photographed with a digital camera and retouched as necessary using computer graphics soware to create the final film. That's the simple explanation. The pro- cess of making this film extended over seven years; the first four years spent developing the meticulous technique the crew would use, and the latter years filming live-action actors who would play people in Van Gogh's portraits, and painting the 65,000 frames. BreakThru Films in Poland and the UK pro- duced the film; Trademark Films in the UK was co-producer. The result immerses the viewer fully into Van Gogh's world, a world in which the people Van Gogh painted are now breath- ing, speaking characters, but always still living in the world that Van Gogh saw and painted. For anyone who has gazed at a Van Gogh painting and imagined that starry sky moving, the train belching steam, sunflowers dancing in the wind, or the postman saying hello, seeing Loving Vincent will be a stunning experience. The opening sequence of the film, which takes viewers into Van Gogh's "The Starry Night," required more than 600 paintings. Three painters spent a combined total of 14 months creating the shot. The Idea During his lifetime, Van Gogh wrote more than 800 letters, and those letters, even more than his paintings, inspired writer/ director Dorota Kobiela to make this film. Originally, Kobiela, a graduate from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw who had received several awards for her stereoscopic, painted animated short, "Little Postman," had planned to have Loving Vincent be her seventh short film, and intended to paint it herself. Instead, she directed the artists who painted the feature. Hugh Welchman, Kobiela's spouse, persuaded her to do the feature film aer waiting in long lines to attend a Van Gogh exhibition. Welchman had founded Break- Thru Films in 2002 and received an Oscar in 2008 for the short film "Peter & the Wolf," created with stop-motion puppet anima- tion. He became co-writer, co-director, and producer of Loving Vincent. Aer exploring other stages of Van Gogh's life, Kobiela decided to plot the story over his last days, during which he had painted many portraits. Van Gogh became an artist at age 28 and died 10 years later. During that decade, the Dutch artist generated 2,100 artworks, of which approximately 860 were oil paintings, most made in France during the last two years of his life. Approximately 80 percent of the film is based on Van Gogh's paintings; the other 20 percent features black-and-white flash- backs into Van Gogh's early life, for which there are no paintings. Kobiela decided to use black and white because many of her reference materials were black-and-white photographs and to give the audiences' eyes a rest from Van Gogh's intense color. The story that writers Kobiela, Welchman, and Jacek Dehnel imagined for Loving Vin- cent stars Armand Roulin, the son of Post- man Joseph Roulin. The elder Roulin has just heard that his friend Vincent van Gogh has killed himself. So, he gives Armand a letter to deliver to Vincent's brother Theo in Paris. But by the time Armand arrives, Theo is dead, too. Armand finds Pere Tanguy, a paint supplier, though, and Pere relays Vincent's story of struggle and determination. But, Armand wants to know why Vincent would take his life. So, he travels to Auvers-sur-Oise to find out. In Auvers, Armand meets many of the villagers Vincent painted. They tell him conflicting stories, and it isn't until Armand meets the influential Doctor Gachet that he begins to understand. All these characters are played by well- known actors chosen for their resem- blance to the people Van Gogh painted. Douglas Booth (Armand Roulin), Robert Gulaczyk (Vincent van Gogh), Eleanor Tomlinson (Adeline Ravoux), Jerome Flynn (Dr. Gachet), Saoirse Ronan (Marguerite Gachet), Chris O'Dowd (Postman Roulin), Aidan Turner (Boatman), John Sessions (Pere Tanguy), and Helen McCrory (Louise Chevalier) performed at London's Three Mills Studios, with 80 percent of the shots on greenscreen stages and the rest in sets constructed to look like Van Gogh paintings. Following that two-week shoot, the crew shot body doubles in Poland for another two weeks. By shooting live-action actors, the direc- tors could create reference materials for the entire film in a short time, and later, the foot- age would help the painters convey human emotion in their animated paintings. T ARTISTS USING THE STUDIO'S PAWS SYSTEM PAINTED FRAMES OF THE ANIMATED FILM USING OILS ON CANVAS.

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