TMP Interviews: Matt & Letia Clouston of Broken Toy (Part 2)

TMP: There are many scenes with some awesome VFX in the series, so far, and I was wondering if you would be willing to share how you pulled these off. For instance, how did you create the blurred speed effect?

MC: We started off with traditional animation, working frame by frame and then putting it back together and watching what worked. With Episode 1, I had finished all but the “salt shaker” scene. It was the last effect for the episode and was, really, just a throw away shot, so I tried a new tact with the effect.

And then Letia and I looked at the result and it was terribly, terribly quiet for a long moment. She didn’t need to say anything; I simply got up, went back to my desk and started all the effects over again with this new process in mind. Since then we’ve been able to incorporate Adobe AE and Motion to help streamline the workflow.

Overall, we’ve been trying very hard to maintain more of a flipbook effect than the traditional speed blur. Partially because that’s been done a lot, but mainly because the characters are starting to realize Quinn isn’t just moving quickly, and that there are massive implications in what he’s doing to the physical world.


TMP: Other things of interest would be what I call the red eyed “Hulk” moment of anger, the drugged and delusional Quinn seeing monkeys shooting at him with bananas, and the moments of shoving his fist through someone’s chest.

MC: Yeah, we’ve been having a lot of fun playing with the madness of it all. I try my best to make each short episode as concise and logical as possible. But then the massively caffeinated beverages kick in and the comic book fanboy in me starts yammering about what I would have liked to have seen in the myriad of superhero flicks out there.


TMP:  Since we have a large audience of film makers, I’m going to go a step further and ask if you have any cool trade secrets to share in the technical VFX department or other areas in the scenes mentioned above.  We love to dish details and help those on a little to nothing budget.

MC: Oh lordie, I’m the last person you guys want to ask about VFX.  I have no real education in the field so when we talk about his powers, stunts, etc, I idiotically say, “Yes” without a real understanding of the tech limitations or time constraints.  I just sit down and keep tinkering.

The cinematographer and I are constantly competing over who gets to do the effects– his in-camera trickery during the shoot vs. me at my nerdy computer station later on.  Ideally you want to do as much as you can on set with only a few polishes here and there.  And more times than not, the viewer isn’t even aware of the work I put into an otherwise simple looking shot.  The beaches in Episode 4 were actually full of people both in and out of the water.

While being blissfully ignorant has given me a “can do” attitude, it’s also made it incredibly difficult for me to express and explain possibilities to people outside our small working circle.  People visiting set just sort of stare when I say, “No no no, the giant robot will be there”.   Chris and Letia have basically had to become Rosetta Stones, translating Matty-to-People.

The red eyes were done by exporting the shot into a multiple frame sequence and then going frame by frame in Photoshop.  It’s a long process but actually seemed to work better (for me) than the automatic motion tracking.  The animal illusion was done with some weird camera tricks and I added multiple lens flares.  And the chest punch involved shooting the soldiers and I separately, then combining the image and, once again, animating the blood frame by frame.


TMP: What is your overall goal for the series? Is there a foreseeable end to Broken Toy, or will it just continue until there is no more insane fun to be had?

MC: I have nothing but respect for webisode creators- they release so much content so remarkably quickly. But we’ve always seen Broken Toy as a feature released episodically. The story unfolds over 90-100 minutes. (I think episode 8 hits the 45 min mark) so we have at least another year ahead of us. A decade if we move at chapter one’s pace. But once we get it all together we’ll see about releasing it on dvd as a completed movie.


TMP: Do you have any projects lined up after the story’s completion? If so, would you care to share anything about it?

MC: For a long time we were hustling, trying to get our projects out there. And it was a maddening process. A few years ago we were trying to get a project off the ground called Roanoke and were told again and again that a zombie period piece would never be made. So we moved onto to Soldiers of Misfortune, and were given the glorious feedback of, “No one wants to see vampires fighting werewolves.

But that’s all part of the process out here. And maybe we’ll jump into that arena again soon but for right now, we’re happy making Broken Toy. At least until Spielberg finally calls. Seriously, what’s that dude’s problem? Like I’m not busy too.

LC: I’m in post-production on my second feature, Three Times a Charm. It’s a high school romantic comedy, so it’s a very different project, but just as fun. Should be released later this year.


We, at TheMoviePool, want to thank Matt and Letia for giving us an exclusive on the intriguing Broken Toy series.  It was both an informative and fun experience.  Be sure to catch the segments if you have not had the opportunity at Forewarned Films official website.