How to animate an entire short film all alone

He comes from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and makes animated short films all by himself. His animations show dark themes and reveal a dark cyberpunk future. Michael Coutto has released his first short film "NEUROSi5" in 2018. Two years later his second short film "Momento" was released: A short film about the concept of reality and existence within a virtual mind.

Making Of scene from “Neurosi5: Momento”

You’re that crazy guy who makes an entire animated shortmovie alone. How did it all begin, when did you first start with animated films? Did you first create static graphics and then went over to moving images?
I’ve been drawing since I first held a pencil, I’ve done watercolor paintings, oil paintings, I used to do fantasy arts, however, I always had this desire to make animations and tell stories, I remember that when I was around15 ~ 16yo and watched animes like Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell, and many others on the only anime channel that aired on my country (Brazil) and I was very impressed trying to understand how it was done, and wishing I could also do something like that, however, this was in the late ’90s and at that time i had no single idea about how to make animations, or where to start (even if i knew back then, it would be impossible since animation was not digital). So i moved on, and tryed other medias like books and comics, with not much success. In the past you should have a team of people to deal with animation, hand-drawn and painted acetate cels, heavy equipment to record/photograph frame by frame, today thanks to technology, it has become much easier, and i believe that was at this point, i realized that i could be crazy enough of deal with an animation production all by my own.

Body and clothes of the character “Anne” in Neurosi5: Momento

Hair and facial expressions of the character “Anne”

Did anyone teach you the know-how or did you learn it to yourself?
No, here in my country (Brazil) there was no college dedicated to art and animation like Gobelins in France or the Vancouver Film School in Canada, so basically i learned everything on my own, in fact, i like to say that i’m graduated at YouTube University. I often get messages from people who want to create their own animations, and how they can get started, my answer is always: “With a google search”, because it was basically how I started. Its amazing how much knowledge you can find on the internet without spending a single cent for it.
How did you come up with the idea of the film Momento? What inspired you?
Many of my inspirations and influences come mostly from old animations, from those from the mid-80s to the end of the 90s. Films like Blade Runner, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Satoshi Kon’s genius productions, like Perfect Blue and Tokyo Godfathers, as well as Yoshitaki Kawajiri’s dark films like Wicked City and Demon City Shinjuku, everything basically serves as inspiration for me, I think that’s why my animation has a bit of a dark and visceral feel to it, and I really like it. I also like to have a “word” that defines the story, like an idea, with Momento, the world was “Reality”, showing the differences between the real and the perceived reality of a synthetic mind.


How does the working process look like? Do you first create a storyboard of the whole film or rough animations of all sequences?

Well, creating an animation of this type is something that involves a lot of work, i mean A LOT. So, I know for a project of this type I will probably dedicate at least one year or more of my life to it, also, i will be handling the entire pipeline of the project, so I have plan a lot before starting anything.

«All this planning may seem like a huge waste of time, but for the long run, I'm actually able to save a lot of production time.»

First, I make a simple brainstorm in my notepad, just writing everything i would like to do in the film, then i organize everything in a script, and at this point, i tend to be very detailed, describing scenes, background, camera angles, movements, everything, just to give me the idea about the amount of work ahead. I also try to balance the story with complex and simple cuts so the flow of the story is smooth, and can be done in a reasonable amount of time without taking me 10 years doing it. After I finish the script I create the storyboard of the animation, the storyboard will give me the notion if the film is being told in the way that i really planned and the number of scenes/cuts and total running time of the film. With this i can create the animatic which is nothing more than the storyboard images simple animated, this is the first version of the film with a month of work/planning.
All this planning may seem like a huge waste of time, but thanks to this, i’m actually able to save a lot of production time, and believe me, for the long run, its a lot, i would probably still making the movie today if i haven’t planned a lot of these stuff in the beginning. Producing a short of this type is already a monumental work, and would be terrible if in the middle of production I simply decide to drop from the project, would be such a waste of time and work… Time is a very precious asset to be wasted this way.

Making Of Neurosi5: Momento

Which programs did you use to create the film Momento?

For animation and colors, I use Clip Studio Paint Ex, for background paints Adobe Photoshop, to create the composition of all the cuts and bring the animation to life, Adobe After Effects, and finally for editing, Premiere. Music and Sound was handled using FL Studio.

Making Of scene from “Neurosi5: Momento”

How do you create the movement sequences? How do you proceed?

Usually, after the storyboard is already established, I create a rough animation, very simple, and without many details, just to have a quick visualization of the cut and movement. When I’m satisfied, I move on to the cleaning part where I apply the details, and other minor things just to get the animation ready for the inbetweening work, which is basically making the complementary drawings that make the animation smooth. The last step is the application of colors. All frames are exported individually to be used in the final composition.

Making Of scenes from “Neurosi5: Momento”

«The production of the film took about one and a half years.»

How long did the production of the film actually take?

One year and a half. I started this film as soon I finished my first short, called Neurosi5, I started the next day, this was in October 2018, until the end of November when I finished all the planning. December I started the animation and so I worked on it until the end of April this year. The month of May was entirely to polish things that I didn’t like in the animation, and also to compose all the cuts and edit the film, as well do part of the Audio Work (many of which I recorded myself) and another part was handled by Phil Michalski who did an excellent job. I think was in the last week before the release, that I created the music for the film.

Making Of scene from “Neurosi5: Momento”

What was the biggest challenge?

I think the biggest challenge for me, was to make the animation, or better saying, to keep doing it. It seems curious to say that, but for a project of this size, where i have to deal with all of his pipelines, it is an overwhelming job. However, when the project is finished, it is one of the best sensations, because being able to finish something of this size is really a very good thing, and believe me, even for 5 minutes of animation, it is still a lot of work.

Making Of scene from “Neurosi5: Momento”

What is your next project?

The continuation of the film, that I’m already writing, but before diving into a long production again, I’m playing with other quick projects, mini animations just to have some fun, most of them are on my Instagram.

Making Of scene from “Neurosi5: Momento”

Michael Coutto's short film Neurosi5: Momento is an Official Selection of Retrospective of Jupiter.
Watch Neurosi5: Momento

One Response to How to animate an entire short film all alone

  1. Pingback: Interview - Michael Coutto

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