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The Whispers

1.Concept & Cultural Background


1.1 Artistic Statement
The Whispers is a cut out animation that inspired by a story in classic ancient Chinese
literature - Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio The unique
Chinese Shadow Play elements such as regional ornamental engraving
is largely used in the character design. While the modern way of representation and
style are also well combined in the presentation of the story such as the exaggerated
facial expressions, transition between shots. By translating and adapting the original
story the animation puts an emphasis on discussing the unique interpretations of
personality traits and morality referring to Chinese Culture and how Buddhism plays an
important role in individual practice. The work aims at visualizing the classic literature
that is full of folk wisdom and creativity, reminding people to reconsider the charm of
traditional ways of making animation and gaining a practical understating of stop
motion animation.
Animatic Preview : http://helingwan.tumblr.com
1.2 Key Words & Cultural Background
Prurience - The trigger of the story is based on main character Dong s prurience
which is the feature that has been criticized and spurned by the feudal society in
ancient China. It is also be classied as one of the manifestation of greedy, which
indeed is regarded as the root of the evil in Buddhism. The unrestrained desire
eventually leads to self-destruction.
Deity - The mysterious beauty in the story is the antagonist who feels irritated by
Dong s prurience and makes him blind. The subtle dierences on her and her servants
appearances reveal their true identities, gods. There are several opinions on divinities
among ancient academic schools, some extremely warship them some remain neutral.
The Confucianism think people should hold a respectful distance to the spirits. Since
gods have human natures and they are also emotional so they can fall in love with
human,and they also can be angry with human and punish them.

Buddhism - The turning point of the story happened when Dong got blind and
greatly changed his temperament, devoting himself praying in front of the Buddha.
Buddhism is a study about self-cultivation. It is believed that any evil and fault can be
forgiven and redeemed by admitting its mistake to the Buddha and praying for a new
start. During the practice one needs to be completely calm and abandon all the
distractions from the mundane. It could be dull pain but it is through years practice
that makes Dong cut the desire and recovered from losing eyesights.
In all, the story is actually full of Chinese characteristics and cultural background. The
simplied plot and visualized representation intuitively help the audience to reach the
meaning behind.

2.Production Process & Problem Solving


2.1 Character Design
The design of the characters take a large reference of Chinese Shadow Play which
has a long history and can be traced to Han Dynasty. Dierent animal leather is used
to make the puppet on which folk craftsmen carve out various patterns that full of
regional feature. Each components are linked by cotton thread and controlled by sticks.
Since all the material is two dimensional, the sense of depth is achieved by hollowing
out. Due to a limitation of materials the characters in the story are all made by color
paper.
2.2 Adaption
The original story is written in ancient Chinese which requires a repeated deliberation
on its translation. The adaption changed a core plot in the original story. The
mysterious lady on sedan chair is actually the bride of a santo who has no further
description. To enhance the conicts and explain the magical power of the beauty, the
adaption turns her into a goddess. Another character that appear in the original story
is Dong s wife who witnesses the demon ying out from Dong s nostrils. This character
is deleted in the adaption for the animation use a point-of-view angle to tell this part
which means the audience become the witness.

2.3 Problem Solving


Background - The background of the animation used to be design as ink paintings
on rice paper. A large amounts of left blanks are designed to soften the tense of plot
keynote, creating a feeling of ancient story telling. However the out come of the testing
shot is not satised for the Chinese color ink fade after it becomes dry which makes an
embarrassed comparison with the foreground. In addition the transparent rice paper
get wrinkled after coloring. To avoid the above problem and universalize the style the
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background is replaced by combined color paper in same color but with dierent level
of depth. And the main tone of color can reveal the mood of the presented scene.

Shooting Method - The original plan is to shot the foreground and background
together on one board. Yet there s always inevitable interference on the foreground
when adjusting character s position. The alternative is to shot in layers by adding a
transparent board on top of the foundation board. Unfortunately it is dicult to
achieved in the school lab. Eventually, taking the advice from my advisor I decide to
take advantages of computer graphic meaning that shot each layers on top of a green
background and combine them in After Eects buy chroma keying. This method not
only avoid the problems but also save lots of time.

3.Reflection
Through the process of making this animation I deeply feel the charm of cut out
animation especially the traditional way of producing animation. Though I always
believe that making animation by hands is much more impressive and enjoyable than
doing it on computer the but I have to admit that CG animation can achieve extremely
fantastic and vivid eects and more importantly it is the trend. But there does have
many animations that on one side composed by computer one the other side preserve
the rich characteristics of traditional animation. The two methods are not opposite but
are complementary to each other. I think this is the place I want to get and achieve in
this animation.
Another feeling is that culture is always the big back bone of our creative work, but the
way of introducing our own culture need to be understandable to everyone, namely
decoding the culture from an universal perspective.