‘Confusion Through Sand’ is a Hand-Drawn Masterpiece Two Years in the Making

Ornana Films is a small production company based in San Rafael that is no stranger to awards. They took home the Jury Award at the SXSW film festival in 2012 for their short "(notes on) Biology" which continued on to win several other awards that same year, including Exceptional Short at Santa Fe Independent and the Grand Jury Prize at FFF. Two years later at SXSW, they premiered their latest short "Confusion Through Sand" to much acclaim. Now, after a year of waiting, the hand-drawn masterpiece is online for free along with a behind-the-scenes video documenting the work that went into this brilliant animated short.

The Story

The nine minute short focuses on the terror and confusion of being at war. The soldier and his squad end up in several stressful situations, often unsure of who’s friendly and who's the enemy, only to find out after the launch of a rocket propelled grenade or a barrage of gunfire. Not only is the film visually stunning, but also a compelling commentary on the horrors of being at war.

The Making Of

Just as Rome was not built in a day, this incredible film did not simply happen overnight. Danny Madden spent two years meticulously drawing each frame individually from scratch. However, this film wasn’t nearly as simple as drawing and photographing. The film utilizes extremely dynamic “camera” movement, “lots of perspective shifts and radical camera movements…” as Danny describes it. In order to accurately depict this camera movement, the team spent time shooting reference video that they would then use throughout the drawing process in order to more accurately depict complex camera movements as well as emotion. Once the drawing was complete, each frame was photographed while being lit from behind by a lightbox. Finally, Ornana teamed up with post-production powerhouse Skywalker Sound to really bring the film to life.

The Takeaway

While the film may be animated, it still possesses all of the qualities of a high-caliber live-action production. It has a compelling plot, characters with complex emotions, highly dynamic camera work, and phenomenal sound all on top of artistically stylized visuals that I happen to love. It took years to produce and was done with the highest attention to detail. The film was not only executed brilliantly, but is an important commentary on a very relevant subject in today’s world. Hopefully each viewer is able to take something away from this stunning film, whether it be artistic inspiration, political motive, or simply stopping to think and question the world around them.

For more from Ornana Films, head over to their website or Vimeo page.

Sam Merkel's picture

Sam Merkel is a 19 year old photographer and student living in Madison, WI. He spends his winters traveling the midwest photographing various crews of snowboarders and his summers enjoying having feeling in his extremities.

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I watched the first 4 minutes, until men pointed automatic weapons at young children and I turned it off.

War is shameful, nothing else. It's not necessary, it's not glorious and I don't care what flag you fought for. If men on both sides would stop signing up to kill strangers Earth would be a better place.

Magnificent job! I'm simply amazed