“Brachetti che Sorpresa” – Animation


“The characters of a comic book are the many souls of the author come to life”
Arturo Brachetti

“A spitful of Dollars” is a scene from the theatrical show Brachetti Che Sorpresa. A four minutes quick change performance, in which the protagonist appears and disappears from the stage, playing 7 different characters, with more than 20 costume changes. The performance had already been made by Brachetti in 1993, using as set a wall with three doors, a bar and a piano, in order to re-create the interiors of a Western film saloon. As the performance had already been broadcasted on TV, it was necessary to modify it to give it a more modern design and a surprising effect on the public.

The main goal was intact to renew the scene, to make it more “alive”, and to add some elements to distract the audience during the quick changes and make them appear even quicker. Animating the scene digitally was a good solution to achieve those goals. Using the projection mapping techniques, allowed us to precisely map a saloon on white set elements, while by using After Effects it was possible to add the animated elements, that should be synched and related to the artist’s movements and actions. We started by filming the whole performance during the rehearsals, as soon as the music composing was complete, from a frontal point of view, as similar as it could be to the one that had to be used for the projection. This video was the starting base for the synching the action with the pre-produced animation.


The saloon was composed in Photoshop, with particular attention to the surreal vanishing point on the ceiling, thus enhancing the 3d illusion. The active elements (comic baloon, characters, a random raccoon…) where animated and synched to the soundtrack in AE, basing on Arturo Brachetti’s movement from the rehearsals. Trapcode Particular was used as a particle generator for the cartoon-looking musical notes and the hearts on top of the “lady” and the pupet tool to animate the raccoon. All the elements where intended to be as cartoon-like as possible, using as reference style that of the old west-based comics, such as Tex, Lucky Luke and The Lone Ranger: animated balloons, visualized sound fx, comic-styled fonts, full and saturated colors.

This performance was a huge success in all the representations all around italy, nonetheless from a merely technical point of view, there still are some issues that need to be solved with specific improvements. Because of the nature of the performance, the artist and the projections are never perfectly synched, as the pre-production footage was used as a base for the timing of the animation. One solution should be making the interaction in real time by using the kinect technology for the motion capture, thus exponentially growing the possibilities of making spectacular the performance. For example the visual and sound “bangs” could be automatically generated by a specific movement of the artist. If moreover the direction of the gunshot intersects the buffalo head or other elements, those could be reacting accordingly, making the interaction real and appealing.


“Brachetti che sorpresa” – Video Mapping


All the luggage lost all around the world and never found is gathered in a huge hangar. An imaginary, oniric place, where the dreams and the memories of people is stored and brought back to life by a wild bunch of comedian and illusionists. A crazy team with the international quick change artist Arturo Brachetti as a captain. This is the outline of the show “Brachetti Che Sorpresa”, last theatrical season’s success.
Garybald was made in charge of creating this imaginary world, using projection mapping techniques any giving them something barely seen in Italy: a narrative added value.
The scenography consisted basically in five different depth layers: two couples of stage wings, a tulle curtain, a removable background and the main background. The wings were not merely intended to frame the scene, but as a set element representing a pile of stacked luggage, with sculpted volumes and softly painted over white polystyrene. All the layers were coloured with a white base to act as a projection screen.



During the rehearsals at the Odeon Theatre in Biella it was possible to define the projection mapping project. The software chosen for controlling the projection layers was Millumin on a 2,4 ghz retina MacBook Pro. This choice was made considering two main issues: in smaller theaters it could be very difficult to place more than one projector at the same time without interfering with the audience or blocking the emergency exits, so a single projector from a central point of view is easily controllable with a small and prosumer machine; there was the necessity of making the projection flexible, easily adjustable and re-usable in lower budgeted shows like private conventions.
This choice of course gave some limits to the development of the mapping, opposed to the use of a media server with dedicated software (e.g. for real-time effects and overlapping projections), but appeared to be the most cost-effective ad flexible.
As Millumin is a software that works with a layer-cue-timeline—based approach, each element was assigned to a different layer and a timetable was created working with the lights and sound departments.

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Basing on the projector-screen distance and the projection angle, a 3D model of the scene was rendered, placing the virtual camera at a distance of 36 meters (the average projector position in different theaters) with isolated items. By adding a strong ambient occlusion to the base render, it was possible to softly darken the seams and the limits of the projection, this limiting the work to the front face of the luggage. The base layer was afterwards painted in Photoshop.
Using this kind of approach to the set decoration offers a huge advantage. The environment doesn’t have to be painted anymore and can change as fast as a click from night to day, from realistic to comic style, from being a pile of luggage to being a pile of wooden case to an old column with posters attached. Projections have of course some equally huge limits: they need a very strong and high definition projector(s) to be clear and sharp, there is a focus issue as the scene is based on different depth layers, and most of all the stage light have to be carefully placed so they do not interfere with the projection creating faded grey areas. And this happens anyway.


“Meet My Madness” – Animated Short Movie


After Effects offers the possibility to show own works and contents through an innovative animated way, we can observe an example in the figurative arts. This case is about the Andrea Aste’s total opera, he’s painter, illustrator, an eclectic artist. The strong explosive charge of creativeness, mixed to madness and elegance, characterizing his illustration, is the core of this project: it was necessary transpose all these elements into a composition of few minutes.
The protagonist suggested by Andrea is nothing less than a copy of himself, a misterious character who escapes from the gray claws of his city. During his run away, he’s carried on by various events in the fantastic worlds of his mind.
A romantic hero animated by a rebel soul, who fights with brush shoots and color palette. The project is really exciting, but it hides a complexity: we must come into the imaginary world created by the artist to bring to the life his fantasy, exclusively using his personal files archive to create screenplay, storyboard and animation movie.


In this picture we can see two character, the hero and the bad man: every parts of them is unlinked by the body to have an autonomos set on a single layer. A design like this allows to create a body structure useful to manage the animation effectively. Importing the Photoshop file on AE we get the same subdivision already created. It’s the most important issue to create a realistic animation on a simulated tridimensionality.

Now we can assign an anchor point to every layers; around this point we can set the basic transformations: position, rotation, scale. Here we can see the corrispondences for each element and the relative anchor point:
– Head → Neck
– Body → Belly button
– Arm → Shoulder
– Forearm → Elbow
– Hand → Wrist
– Leg → Hip
– Calf → Knee
– Foot → Ankle

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Before to start with the animation model, we have to set the hierarchy states of character body: in this way the transformations on a “father” layer affects the layer below.


The character run in this animated short movie is been made through the use of LoopOut expression: the best way to define a repeated cycle in few keyframes. If we want a simple movement in a loop, it’s enough to set 3 keyframes, but to increase realism fluidity we need more point of movement.

“La Lunga Scia di Sangue” – Photo Animation


“La lunga scia di sangue” is a historic documentary about the the Second World War resistence in the cities of Collegno and Grugliasco near Turin. In the video produced by PrimissimoPiano, explicatives scenes are been added using the Photo Animation technique to replace a much expensive historic rappresentation. The Photo Animation can render more vivid and more alived the collected testimonies in the documentary; this is the end of the abused Slide-Show and the new way to show photographic element.

Starting from archive photos or digital pictures from web, the composition process is been subdivided in 4 phases:

1 – We created the layers through the Photoshop tools in which we have to realise the animation steps. After the cut of useful shape contour, it’s necessary to create the picture restore for the definition of a complete background.


2 – Importing the Photoshop file in After Effects, we can proceed to the spatialization of the created layers previously: every plane is turned into 3D and they are spaced on the Z axis. Now we introduce a Camera Layer to start the animation of the scene: like a director we have to visualise the change of postion and the pan/tilt movement of new point of view.


3 – To increase the realism of the scene, it’s been added element to the composition like smokes, explosions and shoots. The characters are been animated through the puppet tool (this is possible if it was allowed by the resolution and the definition shape), on the flags we used the wave alteration effect. To underline the foreground to the background it’s been connected a Blur Control.

4 – With the last step, the composition is been altered by the colorization of foreground shapes to increase the emphasis; to simulate the old film camera we added a textured filter.
The camera layer has a wiggle expression on his position and rotation parameters to generate a camera shake effect. This result is amplified by the export to 12fps.

The Photo Animation technique has a substantial flexibility: we realised a project about historic photos, but the illusion of 3D scenes is achievable for artwork, painted, and compositing picture. We can suppose a double perspective for this digital technique: the possibility to use the Photo Animation like an educational medium about the history, sciences, arts, but it will be a perfect way to project museum installations too; or we can consider him the birth of a new expressions world with an own poetics.

A perfect exemplary choice in the pictorial area is rappresented by this project created by Rino Stefano Tagliafierro. Here we can see like the digital artist reworked the art pictures adding depth to the image: the scene seems to be alive, the figures have a new energy, but the original artwork sense is intact.