'Thinking Out of the Box' is our latest Film of the Month winner

11 Feb 2019

8 mins
'Thinking Out of the Box' is our latest Film of the Month winner

We are very excited to announce that the December 2018 winner of our Film of the Month competition is Thinking Out of the Box, a fantastic animated short made by Ben from Bedfordshire.

Thinking Out of the Box (Engaging for 5+) is an imaginative stop motion animation that sees a little light-bulb eager to leave his box and explore the world, but before he can do that he must come up with a bright idea.

'Thinking Out of the Box' is a neat and entertaining animation that does big things with a simple idea.

Film of the Month Judge on 'Thinking Out of the Box'

Ben previously won Film of the Month back in July 2018 with Animate, and with Thinking Out of the Box has become the first filmmaker to win the coveted award twice! We got in touch with Ben again to find out more about his new film and how he made it.

Congratulations on winning Film of the Month for the second time! Where did you get the idea for Thinking Out of the Box?

To be really honest, I did not think I would win as I couldn't tell if the film was any good. It was really hard to animate and was so different from my last one. Only when I added the sound did it start to look better. I entered the competition as it was a way to make myself finish the film properly and get some feedback.

It is hard to remember how I got the idea. My brother has a collection of glass bottles shaped like light bulbs and I think someone turned one upside down and said it would make a good head. I was struggling for an idea for an animation and I was told to "think out of the box" and so I thought of an idea shaped like a bulb struggling to escape from a box.

What's the difference between animating the lightbulb character in this film versus the Plasticine figures in Animate?

I found animating the Plasticine much easier as it was so flexible. It stays where you put it, moulds easily and so it was quicker to animate. The bulb model was made from a cheap set of garden LED lights bought in a bargain shop, two types of wire and FIMO [modelling clay] feet and hands. 

It wouldn't stay still when posed, (for example the arms always fell down which is why they are stuck up with Blu Tack at one point) which was really frustrating. Also, the legs snapped off the first model when I was trying to bend them to film a walking shot. That is why the bulb is very stiff and barely moves. I had to try and create its character through other ways such as changing the facial expressions, sound effects and little gestures, like his arms swinging.

How did you achieve the effect of the lightbulb character lighting up? That was seriously impressive!

I had put another light over the scene to turn on whenever the lightbulb lit up. The idea was to make the scene brighter to show he was having an idea. Actually the opposite happened on film, because the white balance on the camera adjusted as there was more light, making the scene seem darker. Luckily this showed up the LED, which was quite dim, so I kept it in. It only looked good after I added the crackling electrical sound which was made by scrunching foil decorations.

What was the most difficult part of animating Thinking Out of the Box?

I drew the different eyes and mouths and stuck them on with Blu Tack but every time I changed them, it moved the model. As I don't have a live-feed camera, I had to keep trying to line it up again, by taking a photo then lining that up with onion skinning. This wasted a lot of time but I really liked the effect in the end.

Can you tell us a little about the work you did on the sound for Thinking Out of the Box?

For the soundtrack, I composed the music by playing around on a keyboard. Originally the music was lower and slower which felt clumsy and wrong when I added it to the film. As it is meant to be a light character I sped the music up and changed some of the instruments whenever it sounded boring, which worked better. This time I kept the tune going quietly underneath the action.

For the sound effects, I recorded the box sound by tapping it on a table whilst watching the film to get the timing right. The squeaking was made by a rotating the top of a metal stool. I recorded a lot of different squeaks then added each one separately. By adding it every time the character's arms or legs moved it made the character come to life. The flapping sound were drum brushes waved really fast next to the microphone. My sister and I recorded the balloons deflating on a stereo Dictaphone. We had a lot of fun trying to get as many different sounds as possible. 

Are you working on another animation at the moment? If so, is there anything you can tell us about it?

I like trying new types of animation so I am working on a 2D animation using a drawing tablet. It takes longer as I have to draw each frame but at least I don't have to fight with gravity and nothing falls over. It looks a bit basic at the moment.

You gave us some fantastic tips for young animators in your last interview do you have any more top tips for budding filmmakers?

  1. Before you start your film, test out your model and see how well it moves. It might not be able to move in certain ways and it is better to know that before you build up a big scene.
  2. Sound is really important when it comes to making things feel more real. Try watching the film whilst recording the sound, then you don't have to edit the recordings as much as they will already be in sync.
  3. Sometimes the things that happen by accident are the best bits. Don't worry if things don't go to plan, just try to work around it. You always see all the mistakes when you have worked on something so show it to other people to get their opinion.

Ben's film will now be showcased to over 300,000 film club members online and all of our Film of the Month films are now on the Into Film YouTube channel, and he has also secured a £100 Amazon voucher  to help further develop his future films. If you've been inspired by December''s winner, find out more about how you can enter our ongoing Film of the Month competition.

If you've been inspired by Thinking Out of the Box then make sure you check out these related films:

  • British Council Shorts 2018: Secondary (2018, Unclassified, 72mins) Engaging for 11+
    This selection of new shorts by emerging British animators is filled with inspiration for young filmmakers, showcasing various styles and techniques.
  • Alice (1988, PG, 82mins) Engaging for 11+
    This dark twist on Lewis Carroll's fantasy is a great introduction to the celebrated Czech animator Jan Švankmajer, who often used ordinary objects to create his surreal tales.
  • A Town Called Panic (2009, PG, 75mins) Engaging for 7+
    Proof that stop-motion animation can be as epic as a live-action film, this comedy follows three plastic toys sharing a house in a rural town till they order 50 million bricks that is.
  • Chicken Run (2000, U, 84mins) Engaging for 5+
    A group of chickens must hatch an escape plan when they learn they will turn into pies in this classic film by Aardman.

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