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Cinematic Style And Camerawork
The process of lensing the film began with the work of head of layout/director of photography Brad Blackbourn in the layout process, when each shot of the movie— including camera angle, selection of light source and basic blocking—was realized from the storyboards. Once again, the talents of live-action filmmakers came into play. Shares Blackbourn: "In Despereaux, the layout process is more akin to a live-action paradigm where we set up actual cameras, choose lenses and think about depth of field. This also includes decisions as to where the dominant lighting is coming from, staging and blocking. We did all of this for Despereaux in a 3-D space in a virtual camera.”

Due to this live-action perspective, the film had a very cinematic and dynamic cutting pattern. In fact, because of these cutting patterns (and crosscutting), there were 30 to 40 percent more shots in the movie than initially intended. Blackbourn offers, "The choreography and movement between these shots, as well as the camera motion and cuts to different characters in different places, meant we had to be on our toes to keep track of all the settings.

"Rather than be able to just review a few shots at a time,” the DP continues, "we had to think in terms of two or three sequences at a time—with maybe 90 to 150 shots each. The more ambitious we got about the detail and meaning we wanted to put into the film, the more pressure it put on. But it's not additional work for no apparent gain; it made a huge difference.”

The filmmakers want the audience to feel as if it is very much a part of each locale. As Blackbourn puts it, "When we are shooting with the mice, it's as if a little mouse-sized camera guy is shooting with a little, tiny mouse-sized camera. We hope the audience seamlessly gets pulled between the human world, Mouseworld and Ratworld and feels like they're amongst them—rather than observing from the outside as a human.”

Not surprisingly, shooting from the point of view of a mouse did pose some challenges, particularly for the set dressers. Continues Blackbourn, "We spent a lot of time close to the floor, amongst very crowded little rooms. And in this Mouseworld, there are thousands and thousands of repurposed little objects that they've picked up along the way to create their world. And we, as part of our set dressing layout process, hand-placed each of those.”

In other parts of the castle, Princess Pea's elegant bedroom consists of ornate furniture, large windows and delicate bottles that were shot and animated. Blackbourn's team had to keep in mind the natural light and how it played off Pea's hair as well as the glass bottles in the room.

One particularly difficult sequence is the scene in which Princess Pea and Roscuro are having a conversation, while Roscuro is hiding among the perfume bottles. Says Michero, "While Roscuro is hiding within the reflective and refractive glass bottles on Pea's dressing table, the camera's actually peering around these glass bottles and through the cloudy textures of the glass. Bending the light added to the emotional aspects of the sequence. This really hasn't been done in animation before.”

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