Monday, August 29, 2005

I'm down with downtime!

I had my last day on "Moral Orel" on Friday! I am now free for a few weeks to concentrate on having fun with what's left of the summer and working on my film. I had my first Misha Klein style late-nighter on shot 33a. I was jammed up on this shot from the start, since it had a lot of technical things that were working against me. First of all- CK is crawling down the side of the tower which is only about three feet off the ground. The camera is on the floor looking up. I had to animate from a sitting position in a rolling chair, which sounds fine until you're in it for hours and your ass falls asleep. Another "bunchy" factor was that the character had to be supported using fishing line from above, which inevitably leads to certain frames where you just can't quite get the pose you want. I spent a half hour on some frames trying to balance him into place, and had to restart the shot when things started going badly. Finished take 2 at 2am in a bleary-eyed moment of inspiration. Like every shot I've ever done there are ten or twelve things I'd like to fix, but I'm trying to stick to "does it work with the sequence and tell what it needs to?". If it passes that test it stays in the film. Plus- I never want to animate from a chair again.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Between frames.

I was thinking about the stuff that goes on between frames today while I was working on shot 33. Many people feel that one of the differences between stop-motion and computer animation has to do with the process with which the movement is created. I feel that all stop-motion animation has a special energy to it- which is why even a beginner's stopmo is more interesting to me than much of the CGI out there. The stopmo animator is having a physical interaction with the puppet every frame. Time folds as an hour of work results in a second or two of finished animation. During the moments between frames, the animator is forcing his or her will on the inanimate, coaxing it to life. Focusing thoughts into tangible, real stuff. And as with any creative act, the mental state fluctuates throughout the process. All sorts of thoughts and feelings bounce around in my head as I am animating. Frame 10, feeling good. Frame 30, should I take a break? Frame 76, worried about work. Frame 125, I really gotta' pee. Is it possible that these moments aren't completely separate from the animation, and that the energy exchange between the animator and the puppet is somehow reflected in the final product? I sure don't know, but it's something to think about...

Monday, August 15, 2005

Chipping away...

One more little shot in the can- shot 31. I'm trying to focus on the progress and not the daunting amount of work ahead. Sometimes I feel like life is moving by in fast forward and I'm stuck in single frames. I'm looking forward to an upcoming break between "Moral Orel" and the next season of "Robot Chicken". I plan to get the next set and puppet built and start animating another sequence.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Hurry up and start.

I took a couple of weekends off from pushing the puppet. The first, to get a breather since I was getting a bit burnt out from the day job. The second, to hang out with family visiting from out of town. It was a nice little break but now it's time to get back out to the garage and get some shots done. I've got the next two shots lined up (same angle) and have let the action brew around in my noggin' for the last two weeks. There is such a difference between the quick pace of working on a TV series and being able to take your time with a personal project. At my current job, we are assigned a minimum of 12 seconds of animation to complete a day. You get to work and pretty much have to start shooting without a lot of planning and thinking out the shot. This is good and bad. It creates a nice spontaneity and forces you to simplify the action "pose to pose" style to make it a clear read. On the flip side, it doesn't give the animator enough time to get into nuance and subtle acting, or to really work out posing and timing ahead of time on the exposure sheets. On my film, I really like to know where I'm going with a shot ahead of time. Often, this means simply acting out a shot myself until I am familiar with all the moves. Other times I will make detailed exposure sheets with thumbnailed poses and notes about the acting. My stopmo brother Misha Klein is even videotaping himself acting out each scene to use as reference- and he's getting some great inspiration that way. There is something kind of magical about performing a well planned out stopmotion shot. I say "performing", because it truly can feel like you are an actor performing a scene through this little rubber figure. In it's most rewarding moments, animation feels effortless, with no barrier between you and the puppet.

OK- enough geeking out. Got to get ready for today's twelve seconds.