1. What is your name, what do you do, and which film did you make?
My name is Miranda Jacoby, I’m a freelance artist, and I made “In Search Of Birds”.
2. Give a brief history of your experience creating art and animation.
Absorbed a lot of animation through my eyeballs, so of course my brain wanted to learn how to do it with my hands. Drew a lot as a kid, took an interest in digital art as a teen, and got my graspers on animation tools around college. Been making animated shorts since. Was forced to take a break from 2020 to 2021, but I’m excited to be back in 2022 with a new short. I’m drawn to shape language, wordplay, a sense of humor, biological subjects, and birds in particular.
3. What inspired you to pick the story you chose? Was it original or an adaptation?
It’s an original story, fueled by grief and anger over the state our planet is being left in while we’re inundated with superfluous stories of rich men going to space.
The dead trees and risen water level in the backgrounds are intended to evoke the growing “ghost forests” on North Carolina’s coastal Outer Banks region, a die-off attributed to climate change over the past ~35 years. The Carolina Public Press has a good article on ghost forests if you would like to learn more.
4. What was your process for making your film?
Some of the key visual concepts, like the skeleton with a yellow bird surrounded by a trash-strewn sea, date back to a March 2020 doodle titled “Death Plastic.” The first project-specific key art, of an astronaut looking through binoculars at a flock of plastic bags, dates back to July 2021.
In pre-production, it took a few months to get the animatic to where I wanted it. Around the same time I did tests to make sure Blender could run and render on my ageing computer. I knew early on I would be going with a non-photorealistic renderer for 3D elements, due to aesthetic preference and relatively quick render times. During production the animatic got cut down to better fit the production time available, resulting in a more concise narrative.
5. How long did it take to make?
(glances at spreadsheet) Production took place between May and September of 2022, so 4 months.
The general idea for the short had been knocking around since 2020. Pre-production happened in spurts during the first chunk of 2022.
6. How experienced were you with narrative and story-based projects before
making your short?
Been making shorts for a few years, many with this very anthology series! So I’d say reasonably experienced. Every project is going to be different though.
7. What was the easiest part?
The birdwatching joke. Every birder has had the experience of sighting something exciting, only to realize upon closer inspection that is in fact not a bird.
8. What was the hardest part?
The 3D execution. I had to scale back on assets and pare down the shot count because it took most of the production time to get the commercial astronaut character looking alright and its rig functioning well enough to use (thank you to the free Rigify add-on for Blender). Weight painting is tough! I am proud that I was able to figure out a rig for the binoculars using Bezier curves and object modifiers. (Thanks to thebasemesh.com for the free binocular model.)
9. What was your favorite part?
The Prothonotary Warbler that shows up at the end. Early on it was going to be a Yellow Warbler, but the species changed when I saw a particularly wild eBird observation made by Leiv Poncet, which you can view here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S104895492
Fun fact: All of the birds shown in the “Guide To Birds” book are in range for the Outer Banks region of North Carolina in spring. Including the Prothonotary Warbler on the cover, they are: Carolina Wren, Northern Cardinal, Laughing Gull, Brown Pelican, Mallard Duck, Double-Crested Cormorant, Tree Swallow, Song Sparrow, Eastern Bluebird, Great Blue Heron, and Tundra Sawn.
10. Do you have words of wisdom for anyone who might want to create an animated short of their own?
Things will take longer than you think. Especially when learning something new! Test early and build in extra time in your production schedule. Some things will be unforeseen until you run head-first into them. Sometimes you lose power, sometimes a task takes 4 times as long as you thought it would.
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