Monday, May 30, 2005

Chemical Kid Reborn!

I feel so lucky that the new place I moved into is right down the street from the puppet masters at Screen Novelties. Mark, Seamus and Chris are working on some amazing projects of their own right now, and even with their busy schedules they were generous enough to help me with a new casting of my puppet. I can't say enough good things about these guys- they just "get it".

Here's a few pictures of Mark and Seamus pumping out a batch of foam latex. This is an art in iteself as foam latex is sensitive to atmospheric conditions and can be tricky to mix.

Setting up molds for a couple of their characters....

Shakin' foam base.

Mixing. Yes, it's a lot like cooking.

And here is the result- A nice new casting of The Chemical Kid, complete with the ball and socket armature shown in my earlier post. This batch of foam came out perfect. Nice and flexible as well as durable. My next step is to seam and paint the little guy, and then it's back to the animation with a fresh new character!

Thanks again for all the help Mark, Seamus and Chris- you guys rock!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Keeping busy...

I shot all the inserts and things I could without the new puppet- so now I set up a downshooter and started the animated titles. Does this mean I have a locked title now?

If anyone out there has a good hookup for getting a Powerbook for cheap- Tennessee's film has ground to a temporary halt due to his computer dying! Read about it at the Private Dick Plog. Spread the word so T can get back to his noir epic.

Saturday, May 14, 2005


So I finished matching the new containment tower lighting to the old set up from two years ago- er, almost. There are differences, but considering I am using different lights and only had some basic measurements from before, I'm happy. With all the cuts between the shots- I'm not too worried.

Here's old and new:

I didn't manage to get anything shot- but I am set up for some quicky insert shots first thing tomorrow! I'm realizing I need to get out there early or wait until night time to shoot. Today it was 95 degrees. Nice thing about garages, those metal doors heat up like an oven. I see an air conditioner in my future....

Random pics:

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Seeing the light

I've never had the gear that I need. Everytime I get going on a setup for my film, I've had to ask around to try and find lights and grip gear to borrow. This time I wasn't getting anywhere, so I today I bit the bullet and bought some stuff of my own. I found a place out in Burbank that makes a really nice knock-off of the Mole-Richardson "Mini-mole". It's a 200w focusable light that comes with four-way barn doors. They were much cheaper than the Mini-moles sell for, so I went out there and bought four. I never feel great about spending more money on this film, but you just can't get anything done without lights. Of course, as luck would have it, as soon as I got them home I managed to break one of the glass fresnel lenses. Looks like I'll be making one more run out to Pyramid Films.

Here's the new lights:

Even with the broken lens I was able to get the old containment tower set lit. It was tricky since I was matching to a setup from two years ago. It's not perfect but I don't think you will notice the differences. The photo below is just a quick snap to show the setup.

Got a call from my friend/stop-mo brother Mark Cabellero tonight. He generously offered to help me with the foam latex for the new casting of Chemical Kid, so hopefully I'll have a new puppet within a week or so!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Superpower behind Chemical Kid

I've been lucky enough to meet and work with some amazing artists over the years. Back on my first job at Danger Productions, I met Mike Murnane. Mike is a super-talented designer/sculptor/painter/all-around great guy who has designed characters for the latest Star Wars episodes among other things . He's one of my best pals, and years ago he agreed to help me out with character design and sculpts for my film. Basically I just give him a paragraph or two describing the character, maybe a cruddy sketch of my own to look at and then Mike takes over. Chemical Kid is as much Mike's as he is mine. Here's a picture of the original clay sculpt:

Mike is also responsible for inspiring the other main character in my film "Brawl Magnet". Years back at one of the epic Super Hero Parties in San Francisco, Mike came dressed as this magnetic red behemoth. I couldn't get the character out of my head, and now Mike has designed a puppet based on the costume. Check out the costume and rough design sketch:

I'll post more about the Brawl Magnet as that puppet get's built.

Do yourself a favor and check out more of Mike's art and design at The SuperAdvanced. You can even buy resin castings of some of his sculpts!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Chemical Kid version 2

Puppets get worn out- and like a favorite old pair of shoes, it's hard to part with them even when they are barely useful. The Chemical Kid has reached this point of no return and it is time for him to be reborn. This time he has a nice shiny armature from Wuchan at Clay-mate. I spent yesterday and today fitting the armature into the mold and building a custom head armature. The head is a combination of Wuchan's stock joints, re-worked and added to with pieces I machined.

Here are the all the pieces that make up the head- painted with grey primer since brass and foam latex don't get along:

Here is the assembled head:

The complete armature- a really tiny one:

And a shot to show how the armature will fit into the head:

So now the armature is sealed up in the mold awaiting the loving embrace of foam. If all goes well, the puppet could be cast and ready to paint by the end of the week!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Finished shots not finished.

So I was looking back through my thirty-odd completed shots last night and realized I have a problem. The opening sequence is shot against black- not only because I like the look, but also to make compositing the different elements easier. Or so I thought. I was previously working in AfterEffects on an old Mac with a regular CRT monitor. Everything looked fine on that setup. Now that I have transferred the files over to my new Mac with a nice bright LCD, I'm seeing a lot of problems with my composites. Mainly, all of the mattes and layers I created for combining elements are showing up as mismatched black boxes. The blacks don't match. So where before I saw just an even black background, now there is a patchwork of boxes and junk mattes. You can see what I'm talking about in some of the stills below. I'm no AfterEffects master- so if anybody out there has some suggestions for fixing this problem, please add it to the comments below. THANKS!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Opening the time capsule

I had a great day today- the studio is now 90% set up and ready for sets and puppets to make their entrances. It's always fun to see how a dusty old garage can be turned around into a functioning little studio. This is the largest space I've had to work in- I can actually move around a bit without knocking stuff over.

The biggest moment of the day was un-crating the containment tower set that hasn't seen the light of day in over two years.

The top peeking out from the peanuts- a little bit broken up but all the parts are there and it is easily repairable:

A million packing peanuts later- it was free!

Got out the power source and the lights are still working...stay tuned for lighting!

Dishing out some kibble

Had a semi-productive day setting up the new studio yesterday. Built a little spray booth and started organizing all the wood, metal, wire, chemicals, model parts, glues, paints and other materials needed for stopmotion puppets and sets. I'm heading back out there in a minute to continue. I hope to un-crate my main set piece today which had been boxed up for over two years. I have a handfull of shots left to shoot on the opening sequence and I will need to match lighting from my old setup when I lived in Glendale. Looking forward to seeing it.

Here's are few nuggets from finished shots in the opening "prologue" of my film. The film isn't all dark and sci-fi looking like these shots.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Back to work!

Welcome to the new location for Angry Puppet FIlms. After seeing the great blog sites that some of my stopmo brothers have created, I decided to follow in their footsteps. I'm hoping the blog format will make it easier to keep information about my project current- I have never been very HTML savy so maybe this will help me.

My name is Ethan Marak and I have been working professionally as an animator for over ten years. I got my start in stop-motion on a show called Bump in the Night where I learned from some real masters and made some life long friends. I've enjoyed a career in animation with both puppets and pixels, but my true love is stopmo.

This blog will chart the progress of my personal project that as yet doesn't have a locked title. I have been working on and off during weekends and down time for the last five years or so. My hope is that I will get it completed in the next year or two. It's hard to get much done when you are working a fifty-hour week, but I have all of May to work and I am setting up my studio in a garage at the house we just moved to. Moving- yeesh. The shots I have completed on my film have been accomplished in three different studio spaces. My wife and I have moved frequently between the LA and San Francisco Bay areas over the past few years for work. Hopefully I can put down roots in the new place long enough to complete my film.

This blog will be loaded with pictures- but just to get the ball rolling, here's one of my characters....The Chemical Kid.