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Two animators cross paths. They fall in love. And then they open an animation studio. Meet Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter, the founders of Tiny Inventions. Between the two of them, Ru and Max have to perform all the work of a much larger company, but they wouldn't have it any other way. Their process combines both handmade and digital elements and involves painstakingly recreating characters, sets, and lighting in programs like CINEMA 4D and After Effects. In this Creative Spark, Ru and Max explain how they established Tiny Inventions and take us through the creative process of Between Times, their latest film.
Max Porter : I love that animation has the power to take something that's very complex ,and simplify it and tell a story that would otherwise be convoluted and, and just really get to sort of the poetic essence of it. Ru Kuwahata : I love animation because of the characters. It's just magical when they come alive. I always wished as a little girl that stuffed animals would come alive and now i actually get to make that happen.
Max Porter : And at the end of the day, we're not trying to re-create reality, we're trying to create something that's beyond what our real world has to offer. Ru Kuwahata: My name is Ru Kuwahata. Max Porter : I'm Max Porter. Ru Kuwahata : And we're known as Tiny Inventions. We specialize in hybrid animation, both analog and digital. The analog part is a lot of handcrafted puppets and objects and we tend to either photograph or film and bring it into digital ,and most of the characters are animated either in CG or After Effects puppets.
We believe that there's benefits to both technique and when you combine them you create something that's new. Something that doesn't necessarily conform to oh, this was created in the computer or oh, this was created entirely by hand. Sort of like rock and roll in a way. It drew from so many different sources and it made something excellent. Tiny inventions, there's no real light bulb of inspiration for it. It just felt right. We tend to work with things that are really small.
Ru Kuwahata : It's just two of us. Max Porter : It's just two of us and a lot of our process is just sort of inventing along the way. The first couple of jobs that we had for Tiny Inventions, we ended up getting in touch with an illustrator who was working with They Might Be Giants. He contacted us. We had worked with him in the past and he asked if we wanted to produce a, a music video with them. Ru Kuwahata : It was animation on chalkboard. Maybe halfway through it goes into a preschool classroom. So it goes into like a puppet theater, it goes into a drawing.
And it sort of switched around medium a lot. Originally, the idea was to do Flash animation and then apply that on to a, a chalkboard photograph and like fake the chalk look but we thought, oh no, that's phony. We should actually do chalk. So we projected to chalk board and then traced it over and so we left a lot of dust and hand prints. And it made it a lot more a material driven film at the end.
So I think that was like a great foundation. Like what we always want to use real materials. We don't want to fake anything. Even if it takes a long time we just want to do what it looks right. Max Porter : After we completed Davey Crockett in Outer Space, They Might Be Giants came back to us and asked if we would be interested in working on a new video, Electric Car. Ru Kuwahata : And especially after the release of Electric Car, we didn't have to freelance anymore and we were getting jobs as Tiny Invention. Max Porter : Around the time we completed Something left, Something taken, we were accepted to an artist in residency program called the Netherlands Institute for Animated Film ,and this was just an amazing opportunity that we changed their life ,and we gave up our apartment in Brooklyn and we sold a lot of our equipment and we flew to the Netherlands to start working on a new project.
Between Times, it's the new film that we're creating and it's an 18 hour period of time as understood by a clock on the wall. On this transformative day, a street clock appears out her bakery window and it changes her life and it changes the life of thee people who come into her bakery Ru Kuwahata : The look of the film and the characters, they all come from observation A lot of the characters ,are the people who are working around us and a lot of the houses are something we saw.
Lots of inspirations are from that town or town nearby. Texture, we wanted to approach something timeless. That there are lots of generations of people who lived before and possibly so many more after. So we wanted to use wood and fabric and age them with coffee to give that vintage look ,and that people have lived there. Max Porter : Once the clay figures are created, then we photograph them 360 degrees and we bring that reference into the computer ,and we use it to create a polygon model of the character.
We also extract the textures. So like using Photoshop, we cut the photographs up into different textures and we're able to wrap those textures around the polygon model. Ru Kuwahata : So the initial part of the animation is all done in Cinema 4D. So characters are created in C4D ,and then also this bakery set is recreated in Cinema 4D with the exact same proportions, same size positioning, everything and we can follow that exact movement in stop motion.
Max Porter : When you look at the background plate, it's almost like a ghost walking through an environment but the ghost isn't there until we, we can composite him in Ru Kuwahata : It's quite a lot of recreating. We make the set and then create in C4D, create the puppet analog, recreate in C4D and then ,create the lighting analog, recreate as you put it, double everything. Max Porter : For me, it was worth the extra effort because ,the film wasn't about technique. The film was about the story and we're doing it because we love it.
You know, we are doing everything on the project. Ru Kuwahata : Except sound, voice over and composing music. Max Porter : So we are the animators, we're the cinematographers, we're the CG modelers and we sort of cherish the fact that we're forced to do everything in the project. Ru Kuwahata : But the same time we secretly love the challenge ,and and love the learning every step of the way. Max Porter : The act of creating does energize us. It is sort of, something that is essential to us. As essential as food or water.
Mm. I wouldn't have it any other way. Ru Kuwahata : Yeah.
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