“In its drawn out and rather grandiloquent way it holds together well.  A perverse and wilfully sluggish film it actually amounts to something rather affecting – not only a testament to the design and the unworldly setting but the patience Mark shows and the clever composition of shots. It’s well paced even if it builds slowly, and well cut together and gripping even as we urge it towards a resolution. Most importantly it’s coherent and holds its nerve, and once set on its peculiar path doesn’t deviate from it…no small achievement, even if it doesn’t quite reach the heights it aspires to. If I had a hat I’d tip it.” – Alan Mason, animation lecturer at Edinburgh college of arts

Tide is a story about 2 characters and in a way, it is a lot about myself. I was finding that I was complicating a great deal of my animations and decided to strip everything back to its rawest form.

I had just finished a 10 films in 10 days project and had so much fun playing with something new and simple everyday. I wanted to bring that energy and simplicity back into this project and strip back my idea into its rawest form. To tell a story and create a strong narrative from the most basic and simplest forms I could think of.

The story

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This was the very first drawing I created for the project. It was rough, raw and simple. Everything I was looking for.

I wanted to create as much of an emotional attachment to the stone as I possibly could. If I could make the audience care about a stone enough to make this animation work then I would consider it a success. However I didn’t want to do this by giving it a face or using any of the usual anthropomorphism tricks. I just gave him a voice, My own.

The entire film would be based upon the anticipation of movement, the longing and yearning for a change of state. Partly because I had spent most of the time allocated to this project working on illustration commissions, time was beginning to escape me and I had to make the most of the time I had. Which explains my choice of character rather well, stones don’t move… but maybe a stone could move the audience.

The Camera movement would be the most animated and important feature of the story and it became my tool to deliver the narrative of a stationary character. I quickly set out some storyboards to convey the idea.

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As you can see, I tend to work quite rough and quickly at this stage.


It tends to be more of a race for  my hand to keep up with my mind as I throw out idea after idea. I promise my handwriting is actually very neat usually, except when storyboarding.

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This last page was my continuing thoughts from the storyboard that I later decided not to pursue. Although I liked the concept and would have enjoyed to explore it further, I felt as though I was moving away from the core principals of my film.

The setting


I had chosen to set my film at a beach at sunset. I wanted to use the atmosphere of the setting to reflect the inner thoughts of the main character, the back and forth of an uncertain mind. Looking out to sea and longing is something humanity has done for thousands of years. Dropping the character gazing out to the invisible line between water and sky immediately gave the stone a relatability, a human quality and the setting sun increased the emotion in the scene.

Using the nature of waves to reflect the inner turmoil of the character was something I enjoyed, so much so that I wanted to replicate this feeling with the stylisation of the setting.

I played around a lot with different forms of clouds. at first I intended the clouds to appear a lot more realistic.

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I experimented with different forms and methods until I found the Bifrost simulation options within Maya

Image converted using ifftoany
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Since this was not having the desired effect I returned to my sketchbook to play with some more organic forms. I’m comfortable with scratching a concept and starting over with a fresh outlook if I don’t feel it’s working as intended.

These sketches show more the thought of reflecting the waves and beach aesthetic. I like to doodle and capture expression through drawings and use them as a starting point. I wanted to create a wave-like structure that had a light and air-like quality and so finally I ended on this.


I furthered this concept to the beach dunes also.I must admit, at this point I was really just enjoying designing 3-dimensional space with paper and pencil. 

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The chunky cliffs that break the horizon of the film served as a great reference point of location within the scene. It was big and far away enough for me to move the shots in space to where the incoming tide worked best without it becoming apparent to the audience. I had originally intended to further detail and model them but their appearance eventually won me over through their charm. The chunkier sections served to catch the fading sun more beautifully and the jagged form created a pleasing silhouette to work with.


The Music

I was lucky enough to find Emily Ippolito for the music for this film. She had nothing to go on other than an incredibly rough animatic and a very vague description from me but she somehow managed to completely define the film with her music.

I knew that the music was going to be an integral part of this project and I am so happy with all the work Emily did to make this happen (and for putting up with me during it!). She has an incredible enthusiasm and passion for her work and this project that made it a pleasure to work together. She was always there to give me advice and input on the project.

“Working on the music for Tide has been a sheer pleasure. I love the peaceful nature that came from the animation and I wanted to portray that in my music.  Initially I wanted it to start off with the feeling you would get on a day you don’t have to do anything and can just relax, in this case, at the beach. The character of the rock really touched me.  I feel that many can relate in one way or another to how that rock was feeling.  Everyone at some point has probably felt stuck and alone or wishing for something better. The cycle of emotions is so common with human nature on so many levels.  I wanted the music to portray that inner cycle of emotion that this rock was struggling with, at times, severe doubt and emotional turmoil.  Yet I wanted there to be a sense of hope. Hope is what everyone needs to keep going and achieve more than you can possibly imagine!” – Emily Ippolito

If you would like to contact Emily, hire her yourself or if you liked her work, let her know! Drop her an email at composer@emilyfrancesippolito.com or check out her website here.

The characters

The character of paper was something I put a lot of thought into. With her animation, I tried to make her appear as light and free as possible. I wanted her movement to appear exciting and captivating, with the quality of a dance without control. Everything about her was meant to be exciting and free, always contrasting with the stationary existence of stone. I never wanted this to be a love story, it was never about the desire for stone to be with paper, but rather the desire to experience the world like her.

I wanted the audience to really feel the difference between the two and subconsciously feel the separation. To do this I never gave the audience a view of paper from above. She was always viewed from below, looking up to her amongst the clouds.


I usually placed the camera on a level between the two, looking up to paper and down to stone. It was important for me to be able to control how the two characters were viewed. For an animation with such little physical movement from the characters, the movement and position of the camera became vital.

And finally, we have Stone.


Rock or stone… he was known by both at the beginning. Stone is a complete contrast to the world around him. Everything in the film has movement in one form or another, all except Stone. Stones purpose is to move the audience, not himself. I wanted to push how far a viewer can relate to an inanimate object, how much do we really need in order to believe that something has a soul.

Stone went through a couple of iterations but I am happy with his final form. He was actually the first thing I modelled for this animation. He had to be asymmetrical, awkward but at the same time there had to be some form of appeal, a certain charm. He was a broken kind of beautiful, a dreamer.

Thank you!

This film has been a pleasure to work on and I hope you enjoyed watching it. Please feel free to get in touch with your thoughts! I’d love to hear your opinions on the characters, settings or my process throughout.

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