Brilliant Animated Music Video for 'Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn'

By Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

Mickey Mouse meets Edward Gorey in this gorgeous, eerie music video for Evelyn Evelyn's track "Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn." The Evelyns are fictional conjoined twins, created by musicians Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley who perform as the duo.

Here their drawings on fogged glass come to life thanks to a masterful blend of classic hand-drawn animation and live action. The effect is so realistic you might do a double take -- it looks like magic. Director Hoku Uchiyama describes how they did it in an interview below. 

The Atlantic: How did you come to collaborate with the band? What was the genesis of the idea?

Hoku Uchiyama: I used to go to Jason Webley shows when I was in film school in Los Angeles. That guy’s music had a big, big impact on me. There’s a few things artistically that just hit you over the head in life and his music is one of those for me.  It's strong and emotional. I gave Jason Rose, a short film I directed, and he liked it. We talked about doing a music video on and off for a few years but nothing ever hooked. I remember checking in with him about it and he said that he and Amanda Palmer (of the Dresden Dolls) were doing an album together and asked if I’d like to make something for that. To which, of course, I said yes! Amanda's another one of those inspirations -- an artist who's had an impact on my friends and me in a big way. So to be able to work with artists you look up to is pretty cool.
 
The idea was one of those things that just hit me -- not every idea is like that. But with this one I remember listening to the song and seeing the twins (Evelyn Evelyn) drawing on frosty glass with the drawings coming to life. I probably draw on foggy glass once a day! I think lots of people do which is part of the appeal. The song determined the style of animation we used: that old “rubber hose” style that you see in cartoons like Steamboat Willie or the old Bosko Looney Tunes. Those things burned into my head as a kid and stayed with me. I sent the idea to Jason. He and Amanda liked it, so off we went.

How did you create such a photorealistic look for the animation? What tools did you use?

The condensation was actually filmed on glass without the twins there. Then in post-production it was placed onto the set with the twins and enhanced. There's a funny story there. We had tested how to film condensation for weeks before the shoot. Then on that day, for reasons I still don't know, the camera could not pick it up. So, after I had a light heart attack, our crew improvised a solution with water and dulling spray that worked like a charm. In post-production, through trial and error, we zeroed in on what makes foggy windows look like foggy windows and thus we nailed what we needed to reproduce it digitally:

  • The water on the glass needs to refract light, bending and warping what’s behind it.
  • Whatever is closest to a foggy window will be more in focus then what’s further from the window, so we had to mask off the twin's hands to make sure they were more in focus then their bodies.
  • When lines and holes are cut out of condensation it leaves moving water, and finger oils. We had to add those.

There’s more and it’s all subtle stuff, but without them the illusion does not work. Adam Bolt, a producer and lead animator on the film, came up with the basic idea of how the effect would work. The composite artists (Michael Scott and Travis Gorman) used Nuke for compositing and Mocha for the motion track. Adam and his team did the animation in classic hand-drawn style, one frame at a time.  It wasn't easy for us to find animators who still do this. Lots of artists work with key frames these days. Jason Webley would check in now and again from wherever in the world he was touring to see how things were developing. He was super supportive.

Were there any surprises along the way?

One big surprise was how specific everything had to be to get this to work, from the effects to the animation. There was a “house of cards” quality to this video that made it nice and challenging. Our producers, Matt Miller and Erich Lochner, were the production’s guardian angels and made sure we got the specifics we needed, even in the crunch times.
 
This was my first time directing animation and it was fun to work with the animators on injecting lots of old styles into this. We would watch those old Disney Silly Symphonies with the skeletons dancing in the graveyard, or Looney Tunes to try and nail a Wiley Coyote fall, or a Tom and Jerry scare gag. It really makes you admire the geniuses behind those old pictures. They invented a lot of that stuff.
 
What’s next for you?

The next project I’m doing couldn’t be more different! It’s a documentary we shot in India about an unlikely friendship between a young, black tap dancer and an Indian Kathak dancer. It's called Upaj. After that, there’s a fantasy/horror film that’s burning in my belly that I want to get to. Busy, busy.

"Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn" was directed by Hoku Uchiyama and produced by Vanishing Angle.

Via Neil Gaiman's Tumblr.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/video/archive/2011/10/brilliant-animated-music-video-for-have-you-seen-my-sister-evelyn/246551/