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The Festival Run is Done

March 14, 2015

76 Festival screenings


40 Other screenings


24 Countries


13 Awards


1 Published “Making of” Article




The Rose of Turaida has now officially finished it’s festival circuit, and what a run it had, more than twice the amount of screenings than my first film, Sneeze Me Away. While I am very happy with how the film has been received so far, I had hoped it would have done a little more for me, maybe opened one or two more doors. Is that thinking too greedily? Who knows, I guess I am never satisfied with what I have, which is why I constantly want to create more.


I put together an interesting graphic below, it is an interactive heat map (or more accurately known as a choropleth map) that displays how many times a festival in the country it is in screened Rose:




Although the official festival run has finished, and the film about to be publicly released very shortly, if whoever is reading this wishes for Rose to screen in any film festivals, please contact me!

The Making of The Rose of Turaida

June 27, 2014

I’ve been published on a book! The uniqueness of technique I developed for The Rose of Turaida caught the attention of animation book editor and Director of the Animation Academy at Loughborough University, Professor Paul Wells, who asked me to write a “making of” for an edition of “Animation Practice, Process & Production“, published by Intellect. I put together 45 pages of text and images describing in detail about the production of the film.


The Making of The Rose of Turaida published in book form.

The Making of The Rose of Turaida published in book form.

The Making of The Rose of Turaida published in book form.

The Making of The Rose of Turaida published in book form.

The Making of The Rose of Turaida published in book form.

The Making of The Rose of Turaida published in book form.


August 28, 2013

I guess one of the biggest questions any film maker needs to ask themselves once they finish a film is if the film turned out like they wanted it to be. Though I must always remember that a film maker never finishes a film, they simply run out of time, and as I rewatch my film for the first time in nearly two months, I have to say that I am very satisfied with the outcome. I had set myself a huge task when I started this, and that was to create a unique style of animation that has never been done before. A couple of months ago I finally received a sign that I had accomplished my goal, in that Siggraph has included my film in this years Electronic Theater as one of only nine films in the Shorts & Features category, one of the other films being Pixar’s latest short.


But that’s not to say that I am completely satisfied with how the film has been doing on the festival circuit so far, in fact some days I wonder if any one actually likes my film at all. You see the festival circuit is very much like a roller-coaster, except that instead of chance that you will just lose your lunch, it has the potential to derail your entire motivation altogether and send you into a mini depression. One day I am flying high with the announcement of some festival accepting my film, then the next I receive two rejections emails and I throw up my hands in frustration.


One particular thorn in my side has been the apparent lack of support from Australian film festivals. With Sneeze Me Away and The Rose of Turaida combined, my films have so far played in nearly 70 festivals world wide, but only one of those have been an Australian based film festival (thank you Revelation Perth International Film Festival). This fact was recently exasperated by an email I received a couple of days ago, which told me that my film didn’t get into the biggest film festival in my home town, the Adelaide Film Festival. I will miss out on the chance to have my film shown on a big screen where all of my family and friends can see it side by side with the public. Not more than 40 minutes later, I was informed that The Rose of Turaida had made it into the Philadelphia Film & Animation Festival in the USA. The irony was not lost on me.


It is important to not dwell on all of the rejections from festivals, though it can be hard sometimes. I have to be content with the fact that some people may not like my films. But every now and then I get an email from some unknown person that takes the time to personally tell me how much they enjoyed my film, Strangely, these one off emails often have greater weight than whole hosts of festival rejection notices, and that makes it all worth it.

The End is Only the Beginning

June 29, 2013

Time flies! I realised that not only have I not written a post in a while, but I have not yet written a post talking about the finishing and release of the film. So the official release date of The Rose of Turaida is the 1st of January, 2013. When I look back over the course of the production, I somehow thought that this film had taken around two years to make, but when I began checking timestamps on the earliest files I created, I realised that I had actually started in October 2009, which was over three years ago, even before I had finished my first short, Sneeze Me Away. I can’t believe it has been that long.


It has been difficult and fun working on this film, and I whole heartedly thank everyone who had any involvement, especially Nicole Brady, the musical genius without whom, this film would be a boring mess. I also need to thank my wife for putting up with my crazy ideas and being ok with me spending our life savings on following this crazy dream I have.


With the film done, the task of entering it into festivals began a few months ago, and this can be pretty time consuming. It seems every festival wants almost the same information about the film formatted in so many different ways. One festival wants a synopsis no more than 300 characters, another wants no more than 250 words. This festival wants five seconds of black in front of the film, another festival requires the file size to be no more than 60mb. One festival wants dialogue in a text form, another wants it in a .srt file format, etc. But regardless, I have a pretty aggressive festival release plan for Rose, tripling the amount of festivals that it will be entered into than my plan for Sneeze Me Away. I have no idea ultimately how this highly stylised film will be received, but so far the reaction has been positive, and I can only hope that it will stay like that.

Recording the music

October 22, 2012

The 20th of October was the date for recording the music of The Rose of Turaida at Studio 301 in Sydney.

All ready to begin recording for the day.


I flew to Sydney the evening beforehand to be present for the wonderful music that Nicole Brady, the composer, had been working intently on. Though, Nicole was responsible for more than just writing the music alone, she did an amazing job of organising the entire day, which included such things as booking the studio and gathering all of the musicians. Nicole really is super talented!

Nicole is listening closely to the musicians while they are being recorded.


Working side by side with Nicole, I was able to give my input in where necessary, but for the most part, Nicole ran the show with extremely capable hands.

Nicole is hard at work, while I watch.


The first musicians to be recorded were the string section, led by Tristan Coelho as conductor, and what a wonderful sound he was able to skilfully extract.

With Tristan Coelho conducting, and Phillip Hartl as concertmaster, the string section was in capable hands.


Next was Laura Bishop, lending her talents as a fantastic vocalist and percussionist. Laura’s voice has such a beautiful and unique quality, it was an honour to have her perform on the film.

It was a joy to her Laura's voice.


The final musician to record for the day was Daina Kains on the traditional Latvian instrument, the kokle (pronounced “ko-ahk-ley”). Daina provides a true sense of authenticity to the music, and it was a pleasure to hear in person, the instrument that represents the country of my grandparents. It is moments like these that inspire me to make my films.

Such a soothing sound.


All in all, a successful day that went off without a hitch, thanks very much Nicole!


Visuals done, sound to go…

August 15, 2012

A week or two ago, I did the final tech fix for the film, so apart from the credits, all of the visuals for this short are done. What’s left to go is all of the sound related tasks: music, voice and effects. At this moment, the music is being written, and I am in negotiations to secure a narrator. Due to the style of the film, there isn’t too many sound effects, so I am still deciding if I should do that myself, or get someone else to do it.


On I push for the final round!

Still on track

June 29, 2012

Nothing much yet to report except that everything is still more or less on track. I did have to redo the sand bokeh treatment though, but now it looks better and is far more simple to generate.


I also just made various updates and additions to almost every page on the website, as it had been a while since the last round of updates.


Watch this space for more updates!

Beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel…

May 3, 2012

About a month ago I reached a major milestone where I had completed the entire film up to around 50% quality level. I had also recorded some temp dialogue and laid over some very temp music to go with it. It was great to see, and gave me a big push of motivation to complete the film. I kind of saw it as the peak of the hill, because even though I still had a lot of work in front of me, most of the creative decisions had been settled, and in my opinion, the creative decisions take the most time to sort out.


Then last night I had figured out that I have now completed about about one third of the film up to 90% quality. I feel like the film is speeding ahead now, and almost like it could finish itself with all the momentum it has at the moment! My motivation is at an all time high as every evening I submit renders to my mini render farm, and every morning I am seeing something cool and new which then inspires me to keep going even more.


I hope to be able to lock in a narrator soon, and in about a month from now I hope to start thinking about the music, which is when the super talented Nicole Brady will begin to take part.


So all in all, everything is going according to plan. I hope to finish the film in about three months from now, which is good timing as that’s when my first child is due!


Now back to work …

Making a light box

February 20, 2012

As I was working through look development, I realised that I needed to paint up quite a few starting position masks for a number of the particle setups. Rather than spend lots of time in Photoshop producing masks that may not end up looking exactly what I wanted, I decided to photograph some naturally created sand splashes of my own. So I needed a light box specifically used for sand animation. Rather than buy one, let alone actually trying to find one, I decided to build one instead. Not only would it end up cheaper, but I get to build something real, which is something that digital based animators never get to do!


I bought a custom cut piece of translucent Perspex from a local plastics shop, and some treated pine cut to four specific lengths. All I then needed was a hammer and some nails.

Ready to build something.


The frame is put together.


After putting the frame together, I thought the best way to hold up the Perspex was to put a nail inside each corner.

Holding up the Perspex.


But when I placed the Perspex on the nails, I found the sides were sagging. So I added a few more nails along the edge, and it seemed to work great.

Sagging edges.


A few more nails.


I then sealed the Perspex with some extra wide masking tape, taking care to make sure that there were no tiny gaps in the corners where sand might find a way through.

Sealing it up.


All sealed up.


I searched a few different lighting shops and hardware stores for the right type of lighting solution. I was fully prepared to have a whole bunch of cords all hooked up a multi plug adapter until I came across these:

Illuminating the light box.


What makes these perfect is how they can be daisy-chained together, and I only need a single plug. I bought four, but after a quick test at home, realised that the dark spots between the lights were too noticeable, so I decided to buy a few more. Plus having the extra light means that I can shoot with a lower ISO and a smaller f-stop, both resulting in a sharper image.

The dark areas are too noticeable with only four tubes.


Finally, I needed sand. The best quality sand I knew of was from the dunes of Henley Beach, so off I went!

A hard day at the office.


That's some good looking sand.


I now had everything I needed, so I put it all together. I found that the Perspex was too close to the lights which caused obvious bright lines when seen from above. Raising the whole frame a little diffused the light perfectly.

My own light box.


I am glad I made this instead of trying to buy one, it was much easier that I thought.


After I tried it out, I found out that the Perspex was causing a static electricity effect, so that when I was manipulating the sand, a small portion of the sand would jump around after being moved. I then figured that I needed some glass on top. So I called a local glass shop to order a pane glass with a low amount of iron so that it was as clear as possible without any of the greenish tinge. I removed the original masking tape sealing, laid the glass on top of the Perspex and resealed it all up.

Ready to go - again.


With the glass on top, the sand reacted very much as expected.

Now begins the fun part!


First proper test shot.


All in all a successful endeavour costing me around $150 all up. Now to put it all to some good use!

The Amazing Race

February 14, 2012

Now I will outline the final type of motivation.


Type 4: Motivation by Competition

There are times when competitiveness can lead to motivation, and in my opinion, it is the least most common form of motivation. I’ll admit that this may be a little controversial, but nonetheless at least to me, it has been a tool of usefulness.


There are certain people in the industry that I measure myself against on rare occasion, a good number of these people I have worked with in the industry, and the rest whom I admire but have never met in person. It is a secret competition though, for none of them know. When I hear of one of these people succeeding, for example gaining some sort of promotion, or completes a great short that has won awards, or has worked on a successful feature film, I try to use this news to spur me on to also do great things also. Competition is a fascinating force in humans, it can turn the most meek of us to do great things in our lives. Why not try and harness it’s power to produce great art and film?


Now while the creation of art and film can exist entirely without competitiveness, when used at the right time, they can greatly benefit from it. So do yourself a favour, and when internal and external inspiration have run out, and there isn’t enough guilt to get you through, try placing yourself in a secret race with a talented person, or even a few people. You may be surprised by how much competitive spirit you may have in you when you realise that you are now losing your own race in which you have set up the rules yourself. Now go and win, and if you must, try and beat me to greatness, we’ll see who gets there first!

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© Copyright 2012 | NEZUI and RYAN GROBINS