Bent Image Labs Animates ‘Portlandia’
Once the rats and set were ready to go, the actual animation could begin. Bringing the rats to life with Carrie and Fred’s nuances fell to Lead Animator Jen Prokopowicz. Studying footage of both of them, including recordings from their voice record session, Prokopowicz worked with Shaw and the Director of Photography for Portlandia Bryce Fortner (who also DP’d the “Zero Rats” segment), to draw from their observations of the Portlandia actors. “Bryce noticed that when they were filming Portlandia Carrie would put her hands out in front and make these paddle-like gestures when she spoke,” says Prokopowicz. “We tried to use that as often as possible. With Fred, he’s being such a character as the rat [during the voice record] that we looked for characters that he played like that in Portlandia; where he is kind of a nervous guy.”
Shaw also worked with Prokopowicz to rehearse the scenes before going into animation. Shaw and Prokopowicz recorded themselves acting out the dialogue several times. “I really believe in acting out reference for animation because there’s all sorts of subtle nuances that you pick up,” says Shaw. “You do it a bunch of times and try to find what little weird things that you do naturally and apply those to the different parts of the shot. We wouldn’t have gotten that if we just listened to the audio and winged it.”
Once the animation was complete the footage was delivered to the Portlandians for their review. Bent Producer Nate Baston feels they were very happy with the final results “They loved it,” he says. Shaw was also told by Carrie herself that they were happy with the “Zero Rats” footage. “I said good, because we loved doing it,” says Shaw.
With a committed crew, a creative spark and a love for a show about their fellow Portlandians, the Bent crew hopes that the rats will be a big hit and that Portlandia will want to bring them back for more. “I just hope that they find an excuse to re-use the rats and we get to see more of them in the future,” says Shaw.
“Zero Rats” aired on Portlandia, February 3rd on IFC 10pm/9pm Central.