Monday, July 25, 2005

On simplification....

I just finished Shot 30 yesterday. Ten long hours in that wonderful 100 degree garage, suffering through my most complex shot so far. I really beat myself up for this five seconds. This is the first time I've walked the Chemical Kid, and his short little legs didn't make it easy. That in addition to the complex camera move and the weird high angle perspective on him made this shot a real beast. It got me thinking about the rest of my script, and about simplifying some of the shots to make getting this thing done a bit easier. I love pushing stopmo into that cool cinematic big-screen world, but I'm getting realistic now, and I need to trim things down.

Friday, July 22, 2005


All set to shoot shot number 30 this weekend. Realized last Sunday that there was no way I could set up and shoot this involved of a shot all in one day, so I did all the prep work and shot a pop thru. I'm glad I did since it revealed a lot of little technical problems. Plus- I was able to show the pop thru around and I got some great feedback and suggestions. I have a few tweeks to do to the lighting and then it's time to shoot!

Friday, July 15, 2005

Moving around.

The shot I'm setting up for this weekend involves a camera move. As the character walks towards us, the camera tracks back, rising up while tilting down to end up in an overhead view. Motion control would be great for this, but most independent filmmakers (myself included) cannot afford one of these specialized rigs. Luckily there are other ways to make the camera move in stopmotion. Through the use of geared movers and tracks, the animator can incrementally move the camera in almost any way a motion control rig can. I like to call it "Handmo", and I've put together a pretty decent system for use on my film. It started with a simply constructed stopmotion dolly which was built by Brady Whitcomb. Brady has plans for this online, and will even build one for you at a very reasonable price. I then added some more movement to this with a counterweighted offset arm to allow moves over sets, and a vertical lifting device used in lab work. The camera mounts to a small gear head made by Bogen that allows incremental pans and tilts. Below is a photo that I took about a year ago when I had the rig all set up for a few shots.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Shot a Week...

Production has moved back to a steady crawl. When I'm working a full-time job, I've found I can really only manage to shoot on Sundays. So I complete one shot a week. At that rate I should be done with this film around 2011 or so! It is frustrating to not be able to devote all of my time and energy to my film, but I am strangely energized by the day job. I work with a group of really talented animators, set and puppet builders, and camera operators. Every day I see something that inspires me or gives me new ideas. And working on a show that requires at least 12 seconds of completed animation per animator per day forces you to get better no matter what. It's like animation boot-camp. We are rushed, and we can't take as much care with individual shots as we would like...but the ideas are there.

Sunday, July 03, 2005


Yesterday I finally got back to shooting shots with the Chemical Kid. The new puppet is done, and I am sooooo into it. The little ball and socket armature is a HUGE improvement! Creamy, smooth and sturdy. The new face controls I added also seem to have made the character more expressive. I was having fun seeing how many emotions I could get him to show. I'm pretty happy with the first new shot, though adjusting from shooting on 2's at 30fps (at work) to 1's at 24fps (my film) is a jolt to the system. Moves get fast and poppy really quick, and I felt like I was moving in slow motion averaging 20-30 frames an hour. It doesn't help that the CK is a really small puppet, just under five inches tall. In his close-ups any little bit of hair or fuzz that sticks to him shows up as a tree branch.