Monday, October 19, 2009

Magnificent Monday

Never thought I'd say that! Here is what I woke up to. I check craigslist each morning and evening for a camera and today I found one for sale for $275. Good deal, but problem is it's coming from Miami. Craigslist users usually say no when shipping is involved. I inquire anyway, couldn't hurt to ask. He accepts - 10 dollar shipping charge. I send the money, he ships the item. In a matter of 90 minutes of waking up I've purchased my FZ50 at a pretty darn good price (comes with card and original accessories). I have unbranded knock off remote shutter + AC Adapter coming in next week for an added $20. If my DV Cam works as a converter, thats 305 for the entire setup... whew!

There's a seller on ebay selling his right now for 245 (15 dollars for shipping) for a total of 260. I've talked to the guy because he has no feedback yet, hes a new member. He seems legit though and even took close-up pics for me.

I had just paid for the craigslist Lumix right before this ebay seller sent me his message so it's a bit too late for me now. It looks really clean and if you're in the market for one or know someone who is... I suggest you contact him and decide for yourself. Here's the link for anyone interested:
Panasonic Lumix FZ50(ends sometime tomorrow).
Comes with everything from the original box and maybe a bit more. Fantastic price!

And that's not all! I spoke with Chuck Duke about a possible interview with him for Stop Motion Magazine (after talking to John about it of course) and they both gave me the go ahead! Really excited about this. I hope I do justice when presenting Chuck's story. I've mentioned him before, but I really didn't grasp just how seasoned he is. Shot from his independent film:

This man is quite the stop motion beast, as well as a Visual FX artist and CG Animator. A Renaissance Man! And his name is just cool. Honestly, if we were given jobs based on how our names sounded, Chuck Duke would definitely be a superhero.

So today was an extremely pleasant day. I wouldn't be surprised if a certain someone who owed me a certain amount of money surprisingly sent me a certain transaction that fell upon this day. *Checks outside for mailman*.

While I was searching for the Lumix FZ50, I took some time to revisit some old movies (I say old but they were released in the 80s / 90s). I watched some Ron Howard movies: Splash with Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah

and Cocoon with Don Ameche.

When old people actually looked like old people and not plastic messes. Another reason why I've always adored "Grumpier Old Men" with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon.

I REALLLLY miss movies that have that whimsical heart-felt feeling seeping through the film. Cocoon made me weep like a baby and I'm not embarrassed to say it.

Also watched some Richard Curtis films: Four Weddings and a Funeral

and Notting Hill (again).

Notting Hill has some of my favorite movie moments of all time, including a fluid non-stop track shot depicts passing time through visuals and song.

I'll be striving to revisit the days of compelling dialogue and story telling in future projects to come. Stop motion is usually tied to these crazy really-out-of-the-box ideas and themes... maybe a "normal" film in stop motion wouldn't be bad :)

This is argue-able of course. Anyway, I'm happy to be part of the FZ50 club and can't wait to get my hands on Dragon Stop Motion.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Goodbye D70, Hello Lumix FZ50

Welp, I didn't think that saying farewell to a camera would be so hard... but it surprised me. I had really come to love the look and feel of the D70 and it pains me to let it go. I wasn't sure if my uncle was still in the market for one and as soon as I brought it up today when he visited, he paid me cash right then and there and took it home. The best thing about it was that I had finally gotten used to it's controls and interface, but on to other news.

I'm now shopping for the revered baby of stop motion cameras:

Panasonic Lumix FZ50. I've been hearing AND seeing too many good things from this baby at Prices are very decent right now and I'm hoping to snag a steal! The good news is that the Analog/Digital converter (to allow video assist on the computer) is considerably cheap on a PC. Actually, I may even be able to use my Mini DV camcorder as the converter. If not the cable will cost me an extra 40 dollars... I can handle that. Then I'll need a remote control button and (if I don't go for the wireless eye fi card) I'll be set! Basically switching the Nikon D70 body for a complete Lumix FZ50 package. Not too shabby.

Before letting the D70 go I did manage to get a decent test I was happy enough with to continue using the Green Screen. That means I'll be leaning towards CG effects as well. I'm not great at it but I'll do what I can and hope to learn as I go. I was also able to get a decent dolly test done too, glad that worked out well hehe.

And the last note. I'm owed a big chunk of change at the moment. Since the FZ50 will allow me to not shoot blind anymore, if the money comes in I think I'll splurge on Dragon Stop Motion as well. I hope it comes in, hah! I think the video assist will really step up my game and process. Looking really forward to holding this camera in my hands. Everything else has arrived and I got no more excuses, once this camera is here, to just DO THE DAMN THING!

Have a good day / night everyone.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Stop Motion Magazine - and killing the green screen.

John Ikuma, Chief and Editor of Stop Motion Magazine, announced to everyone he could that he would be issuing a FREE magazine two months ago from his website:

Tomorrow he launches his next issue (it's a bi-monthly deal) and I'm pretty excited. I'm a behind-the-scenes junkie and this magazine is the ultimate treat. I really admire John for doing what he's doing... for the love of the art. If it continues to flourish with each issue, he's got a lot coming his way. I wish him a lot of success with this and hope he becomes madly rich. Can't wait to download it! (Remember folks it's free - Spread the word!)

On the animation front... after doing so many tests with the green screen I have concluded that I hate it. All the realism of stop motion - dealing with real objects, real sets, real interaction... it's all gone! So today after my last test, I decided that even if I couldn't edit out all the rigs and get perfect non-flicker / lighting, etc. I could just do it the old fashioned way... nudging the camera and using whatever I can to do in-camera effects. I'll do a small 10 second intro test with Chun Li that I've already planned on the green screen, but if I'm not satisfied with the result I'm going to abandon it. I believe tomorrow (if not then monday), the last of my supplies will arrive and I can set up the shot. Time to break out the dolly and play around with that :)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Out of the Ebay hole.

First to Justin: The test I had planned (after doing a few movement tests) was for Leia to jump off of a high ledge in the distance, whip down to the floor as she lands hard - right in front of the camera, pulls her electrostaff from the distance using the force, figure 8s with the staff walking towards the cam and ends with a revolution above and behind with the staff into a pose.

Then stuff happened haha.

Over the past few days I've been playing around with Leia's movements and ultimately have decided that it just won't work to my needs. I did manage to get better movement from me as an animator though which I'm really thrilled about, but the doll's limitations are pretty clear to me now and I'm not trying to give myself anymore excuses to pursue it further. So, I'm going to keep it around for replacement parts and I'm sure the clothing and accessories will come in handy down the line.

Quick update on the green screen. It's actually pretty good now, I got the lights diffused (high five Yaz!) and the screen lights up evenly, the harsh shadows are gone, and everything is looking pretty dandy. Sample shot:

Since I could no longer use Leia, the first replacement idea was Spiderman (comic version). He's well known and the acrobatics required in his animation would be extremely fun and challenging to do. Here was the version I was looking at:

So clean! The comic version takes after the design shown in the game so it would work well with the Chun Li doll. It comes with all the replacement hands that one would need to animate with as well which was very nice to hear. Comes with web accessories shown and a replacement head (Peter Parker human head).

Now the problems. This was produced about 5 years ago and only 1000 were made. It's now pretty rare and some stores are now pricing it almost double what it was worth when it came out naturally. Add shipping and it would easily go over 200 dollars... for a Toy -.- On top of that there are many many many complaints with THIS PARTICULAR toy because the body inside (or plastic armature) is made of this red plastic that I guess is very prone to breaking. So 4-5 years time sitting in a box + easily breakable plastic armature is not a very good sign. Many have had their toy come into their hands broken before they even got to take it out of the case it comes in. Never-the-less, I loved the look of it so much and had planned out shots already that I went after one on ebay. The only one I could find was a used (displayed) one that would come with no box / no shell and it sold for 110 (thats with shipping) and I just wasn't willing to do that. So, more disappointment.

I made a list of potential characters and I gotta say... when I saw this one my knees went a little weak:
... then it sold for 300 haha. The people who work on toys are true artists I have to say. So good at what they do, really. But I finally decided on one that came at a great price (it was discounted AND on sale AT the SAME TIME!) I recently came into a bit of money so I went for it.

That's Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell. She won't be as well known to the audience but I think the anime look will meld well with Chun Li's design. I've done some research on the toy itself and she definitely has a good range of motion.

It's sad but just the fact that she can kneel down makes me happy! Leia could only bend half way over before the whole body came with it... very very frustrating. She can do high kicks and comes with assorted weapons / hands. The one problem I have is the package doesn't come with actual closed fists. There's one hand that resembles a fist close enough so I think I can make do. In the mean time I'm waiting for these flexible stands I'll be using as mini rigs to animate with to come in the mail (2-3 days) and then I'll start testing the toys. I'm glad the whole toy-hunt is over. It was kind of eating at me staring at ebay auctions all day. Time to watch some Ghost in the Shell clips / movies to study her movement, quirks, and "special techniques". 'Till next time!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

For Leroy: Green Screen Setup

This is what the picture looks like. The screen is uneven because posterboard came from two different stores. (Wal mart ran out -.-)

Here are the shadows being cast.

Two lights active.

Here's the backup light but it's a bit overpowering.


Fill (a little overwhelming but yeah)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pros and Cons

To Yaz: If you do end up doing frontlight / backlight take a few snaps of your setup! :) I really love the results of it but I'm just not prepared equipment-wise. I'm doing tests with the green right now and if I end up hating it I may take some time to get a setup together myself. Good luck with yours!

To Shelley: "I find it best just to do what seems right and give up entirely on what 'should' be." Great advice! I've been trying to animate at 30fps but it's just impossible with the doll. The only decent looking animation I've got has been at 15fps. At the moment this seems right, but once this heat wave is over I'll try more at 24.

So this is the first green screen test I did. It's super short... I honestly just cannot deal with the heat right now. It takes me (at the fastest) 1 minute per frame and and average of 3 per frame constantly deleting and retaking shots. Everytime I get 30 minutes into it I'm just boiling and I stop. Come on September gimme some of that good ice cold weather :P

This is only a rough cut. You can see bits of the rigs still showing up, but the jist of it is there. Though this doll has been giving me tons of trouble, I'm starting to figure it out. I think it's possible to do this. I'm very skeptical about being able to animate this in the way I see it in my head... but I'll get something out of it for sure.

Everyone seems to be getting so much done now and it's quite motivating. Admittedly (blaming the heat) I've been slacking a little bit. Time to jump back on the horse.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Big Two Four

So I'm 24 now. Looking back I've really only recently done anything worthwhile :) I still feel like a little kid though. Nothing wrong with being a teensy bit emotionally stunted right? Hoho... but I believe the next few years are gonna be real big for me - I just gotta make it happen that way. Which brings us to the animation front:

The past few days I've been setting up the stage for a Leia test and every step of the way an obstacle presents itself. With the green screen in place and figuring out just how much room the toy will give me animation wise, I set out to start the test. I wanted to check just how well the green screen worked first. So here is an example still. (You can click it for more detail but its quite big so be warned!)

With just a bit of movie magic we get this:

So the key is pretty clean. This was just 2-3 buttons worth. There are some color corrections that could be done but for the most part it works and it works pretty well. However, in just 4 frames I've hit a wall. Loose joints, no tie downs, and might as well be liquored up to hell with how much it doesn't balance. The solution now is to prop it up with a full-time arm as seen in the snapshot with the green screen. The arm now needs to be heavier so it won't tilt over, which I have to put together later as well.

Now even after putting all of that behind me, the hardest part is going to be the animating itself. The joints do give you a lot of freedom to pose, but to animate is a different story. Certain joints have to be twisted and pulled during which another joint could be moved. At this point one longs for the rigidness of wire / b&s armatures. I'm not going to give up on this anytime soon but I know it'll be tough to animate this particular toy. I don't think Chun Li will be as much of a problem. The combination of Leia's clothes and joints pose most of the problems.

The last issue (for now) is the act of animating on the green screen. I've always liked not having to deal with depth / scale in relation to the camera. So I animate over the actual space. When the puppet takes 3 steps it will actually move 3 steps and not "air walk". Here's Justin's Dober doing an air walk:

Maybe in this case animating over the same area might prove easier to do. After the heat dies and I weigh down my arm I'm going to give it another go.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Life in motion

These past few days have been weird for me, but a ton of things have gone on. I imagine this post will be a long one. First off:

This is some amazing stuff. There are a lot of details that can be worked on but the general idea shows how much potential it has. Ron put this video up on Vimeo where you can download it (much better quality than rip off of youtube) and I've been studying it frame by frame. I don't want to expose any work secrets but I believe I know how the motion capture was done... I could be wrong of course. I do know how I would do it at least.

Live action camera movement can be tracked in post and applied to any layer (in this case the puppet animation) as well. It's important to shoot higher res in this case because camera shake will involve a black outline until you reverse-track and composite the animation together with the video. I did the exact same thing with the little fireball test, I'm just not sure how Paul did it per-say. But here is the example of the footage alone being motion tracked (and pointing the plots automatically for you!):

Notice the outline. Doing animation and putting it on top of a shaky video will automatically put it out of frame and break the illusion of integration. With the test done by the gang I hope they used some kind of program to track the camera movement - frame by frame point plotting would be really tedious to do. If you use a program all you have to do is plot the general path for the puppet, in this case an L shape around the corner, animate accordingly, apply the motion track to the animation and it should fuse together well. If there are any areas you feel don't fit you can go in and nitpick at individual frames. I've shown this before but here is the animation on top of the tracked footage I did:

Next up is the motion blur and from Paul's posts it suggests he did them frame by frame. That's a lot of frames to individually motion blur. For Moe's Disco Dance I only had to blur out a wire each frame and that was hell to do already. Paul being the compositor though, he could have done something else.

With After Effects you can literally drag a motion blur effect and calculate how much of it you want at specific times and animate it accordingly depending on the speed of the animation. There are plug ins that are already created to near perfection for cases like this - just insane how fast you can get things done now (and with quality I might add). Some say that using a plug-in for motion blur is too "perfect". I think it needs to be pretty darn perfect. It's not something someone can hand blur easily. Motion blur obeys certain rules and it coincides well with the rules given in a program like After Effects.

There are other details like the lighting (which I'm no expert on), the animation, the shadows and color correction, small hiccups with the motion blur and there's actually a split second where the puppet doesn't align with the footage correctly and gives it a floaty feeling. Small details Ron, Paul, Nick, Mike and LIO along with the rest of the community have discussed in length I'm sure. Moving on.

This is Chuck Duke on what I assume is his own personal film. He recently worked on Fantastic Mr. Fox and has some hefty film titles under his belt. He joined up at like... 4 days ago? And already has given me such great advice and insight into my own future. I feel pretty lucky that folks like Chuck and you guys and gals here would take the time to teach me. He even worked on Mr. Resistor!

If you have a minute or two head over to and take a peek at his photos. This guy means business :)

Edit: Don sent me this link: for this film. Entitled "Rung". Check it out for more info.

Princess Leia arrived yesterday and I gotta say, the detail that goes into these toys is an amazing thing. I haven't even touched it yet I felt so unworthy. 30+ points of articulation. I hope it works well with me in the animation process. The weapon she came with is gigantic. It's as tall if not taller than the doll itself (stretching over 1 foot long). I'm hoping that doesn't cause too many balance issues later on. And the last note is that she only comes with a set of hands. Usually toys come with replacement hands... a pair of open ones and closed ones. There's ways to cheat it of course and I'm not complaining about it - I'm happy with it thus far.

My sister bought Chun Li for me the other day as a gift for the big 24 and it's on the way. To get over the guilt I called it a "career investment". When I was plotting out the shots, there were a lot of complications involved. Transforming 2D into real 3D can be extremely tricky. I want it to have its edge but I don't want to stray too far from the original design. I've always been drawn to the artwork that went into the following:

The gameplay is extremely fast paced with effects left and right. Not only that but they're big and flashy. I don't know if I can or even want to incorporate all of it but it'll be fun to try. Sometimes keeping it simple can yield the best results. Most of the questions are if it should / can it be done during the animation phase or in post. Furthermore, studying the clip frame by frame shows a lot of frame-blending. It's used in the game as a way of keeping continuity because the moves are so drastic. When footage gets to the extremes of slows or fasts frame blending is usually implemented. Here is a single frame:

And here is the next frame with blend:

This was done in the older versions of the game but the new version achieves the fast pace and is completely clean... only it's shot on 30fps. I've seen this game in play for a long long time and never knew it blended frames in it's animation until I dissected the video. It's really interesting stuff and that's another thing I'll have to experiment with. I really hope to achieve the fast pace feel. I don't know if I should shoot at 30fps or not. At 30fps the animation is clean but it is wildly fast. Would using the video as a straight reference and toning it down to 24fps without frame blending be so bad? Another thing to experiment.

After all of that I haven't even thought of exactly how the animation would be handled. I won't really know until I hold the doll in my hands and do some test animations. How do you animate about 20 kicks in a second and keep it somewhat smooth? Are loops possible in this case? How do you integrate the effects with the animation smoothly? So many questions to be answered and only experimentation and practice will tell.

Sidenote: Mike favorite-ed a Sara Bareilles song "Gravity". I really love her but I've never heard of this song till now. So thanks Mike haha, you've got great musical taste! Learning it on guitar and I've just about got it... it's one of the toughest songs I've ever attempted - so many funky chords. The mood of the song really fits how I feel at the moment. Till' next time.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

What a Strange day indeed.

Today I logged onto AIM and as usual the automatic aim webpage pops up. I always X it out immediately, but I caught a glimpse of a familiar picture right before the page disappeared. I went back to it and saw this:

Student Disappears Just Before Wedding

This is someone I went to middle school with and this wave of reality just dropped my heart to the floor. It wasn't like we were best friends, but still it's such a hard thing to swallow. I'm still in shock and don't even know how to react. Annie - hope you're alright.


A mere 6 hours later...

Body thought to be missing Yale graduate student Annie Le found stuffed inside wall at college lab

This world doesn't make sense to me most of the time. Sigh~

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Is it bad to abandon your plans? Hah!

So after researching this whole thing along with Patrick Boivin's toy collecting hobbies and animations, I realized a couple of things.

1. The Toy Industry is a monster and doesn't feel bad about taking hundreds of dollars from loving mothers.

2. Mr. Boivin's Bruce Lee and Iron Man dolls are more expensive than my whole camera setup.

3. I want these toys.

I'll be honest I'm sort of cheating my way out of not having to work with Moe. I'm just disheartened with the turnout and not being able to make anymore with a broken mold. But I gotta say this is exciting stuff. I've purchased the cheapest toy I could find that had a costume and maintained the articulation of the Bruce Lee doll.

Princess Leia in her Boushh hunter disguise.

Under the helm is a resemblance of Carrie Fisher. I'm not a big fan of Star Wars, but I do like Carrie :) The costume is pretty well made and I'm happy with the low low price I ended up paying for it. (25 smackers)

Next up however is a wallet-eater. The Voluptuous Chun Li.

This [Toy] originally went for 200 when it was released. Two Hundred! I tell you this industry is insane haha. The lowest I found was half of that, but the shipping costs are monstrous. I may get it as a birthday gift, but we'll see. I feel so guilty even considering this. But the animation would be so much cooler with this doll in it. Growing up I played the video games so I'm familiar with how she moves and her notable quirks.

Yesterday and today I worked on Chun Li's signature fireball: Kikouken. I frequent and Andrew Kramer (guy who posts up free tutorials) made a 3D Light Casting tutorial on their site which really resembled what I was looking for. With a few tweaks and a lot of rewinding... I finally made this:

I used the footage that was given on the website. Came out alright! There are a lot of effects to do with these two dolls and I feel capable of doing all but one. I've never done such fast animation as what I plan to do before and I'll have to study a lot of video to get it right. Not only do I need to learn how to animate it, but I need to learn how to add the effects on top of it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A New Moe Begins

Welp, a lot of people in the entertainment industry tell me that its all about the small victories. This morning I whipped up a batch of perfect looking foam, got it all in on the first try and waiting for it to slightly gel before turning up the temp. Bang on the money! About time I got back on the production track!

I did try a couple of front light / back light tests but they turned out horrible. I just don't have the lighting system / room to do anything great, at least that's my excuse for now. I did buy some poster boards to try a bit more later on. But for now I've scaled down the size of the shooting area down to a single curved green poster board. No tie downs, just rigs and a camera. This is going to be interesting. Sadly one of the things on the list have already been knocked off :( Welp, gotta keep on truckin' - it's about that time now... to turn on the oven that is.

P.S. Thanks ya'll for the encouragement! Also thanks Mike for all the info you've generously given to me and the whole SMA community!

Edit: Uh oh, maybe I didn't add enough gelling agent because usually after 20-ish minutes it really thickens up, so far it's still whippey. We'll see after 2.5 hours.

The puppet didn't come out as perfect as I had hoped, but it came out intact. The major problem is the mold (which was poorly made in the first place) has broken. I wanted to pop out one more Moe puppet before it met it's demise but the mold has spoken.

There are issues with the foam though, small bubbles appearing on the surface (not too bad), a big airpocket residing in his lower back (kind of bad), and a small rip on under his right armpit (I think it's fixable).

The plus side is it's cooked properly this time, the smell isn't bad at all (proving that my previous puppet had a lot of ammonia in it still) and I can pull off my film with just the one puppet. There's a shot I want to do that involved two puppets but I think I can composite my way through it. Got my cheap priced (and cheap quality :/) green screen poster board and I'll be on my way with this film... once I get the puppet done... starting tomorrow morning :)

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Next Step

The film I plan on creating has some fast paced action sequences in it (at least as far as I've intended), but I've never done any type of such animation. SO! I'm going to try and do a Patrick Boivin style fight scene. Anyone who's doing stop motion has probably seen his Iron Man vs. Bruce Lee video:

From what I can tell, I'm almost positive he uses a complete green screen for each puppet, inter-mingling some shots that include both puppets, a panoramic background, and a virtual camera. Add in some cool effects, great sound, and an awesome soundtrack and you got yourself a hit youtube video clip. There are a few things I'll need to put together to achieve this. I believe he uses a lot of braces, as if it were rod puppetry, and masks it out later. I've been doing a little of that with Moe but my helping hands can't take too much weight. So I may need a giant support beam of some sort to hang the helping hands from, which hopefully won't cause lighting problems. But first things first, I have to make 2nd Moe, this time with actual bone structure.

Here's the list of the challenges I hope to complete while doing this clip.

1. Try out the dolly.
2. A rack focus of some sort.
3. Slow motion effect (toughy, but try it out none-the-less)
4. Over a minute of animation.
5. Motion blur.

6. Frontlight / Backlight!

Alright! Here goes!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

So much has happened...

Been quite awhile since the last post, I've been caught up in this frenzy of catching up with the news and it has turned me a little bit bitter. Sometimes I ask friends a few questions and we immediately jump into an argument - the beauty of politics. I feel like I've been so detached from the world, sitting inside my little bubble blissfully ignorant of life outside it. It has become such a ghastly place recently - the U S of A and I'm ashamed I didn't make myself aware of it much earlier.

BUT! On the bright side it gave me a great concept for a film that I think has enough merit to pursue to the end. I don't know if I'll be able to tell the whole story in anything around ten minutes though but we'll see... maybe 20 will do (10 minutes is already ambitious -.-). With a few tips from my friend Jim, I came up with a sketch of the protagonist - Milton James Harvey.

This is the evolution of the Moe character - pretty neat how far he's gone :)

Speaking of Moe I did this really small commercial clip using a Butterfinger bar. I'll admit that I had 8 days to do it, slacked off the first 4, got sick the next 3, and did this overnight haha. I am so driven -.- Because of the time restraint I'm not really proud of it, but practice is practice none-the-less. The light was too low, the clip was too short, the list goes on and on... but my dad and I got to make some chairs!

Here it is:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Moe's Disco Dance - Contest Entry!

During my time practicing the animation with Moe I came across this contest at - a place to buy/sell handcrafted goods. What better than a stop motion animation to fit the theme: "A Handmade Moment".

So I tried a couple of different moves and for the past few days have been working on just this little tiny 30 second clip as an entry. It's amazing what you can learn doing something like this and I've certainly gained a mountain of knowledge from doing this minuscule clip. It seemed easy to do at first but post-production (mostly cause of my own laziness during animation) took far longer than I anticipated. Never-the-less after just two normal work days and then two sleepless nights I've completed it and I'm pretty satisfied.

Any tips / critiques about the animation are extremely welcome. If you really like it drop a vote - but I'd love a comment about anything I can do to up the animation game. Thanks for lookin'!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Even More Practice

This time to some music by Kevin MacLeod.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Moe Practice

Tried a shot last night, was hot - had the fan on - ruined the shot (watch the screen), but was good practice none-the-less. Moonwalks are tough.

I also found a few ways around the quality aspect thanks to a comment by Rich Johnson! But for these tests I'm going to stick with the slightly blurred videos. (they're only 5-10 megs a piece and makes for superfast uploading to youtube).

2nd try

1st try

Monday, July 27, 2009

Moe Blink Test / Dragon Stopped Motion

I've got my little set up running now and it's taking a long time to get used to everything. I was hoping to use Dragon Stop Motion on this little 30 second dance animation but the trial wasn't working after I installed it. Dyami from the Dragon Stop Motion team is trying to figure out a fix as we speak. In the meantime I'm using AnimatorDV simple+ for video assist and Nikon Capture NX2 to capture the high res stills. This morning I watched Nick's "The Seventh Skol" short animation again:

Truly great and you can see why so many people have such high regards for Nick Hilligoss' work. It's just masterful stuff! It's videos like this that really pump you up and drive you to keep pushing forward.

So I thought I'd get my feet wet. I got through a very very small test animation:

Does this video look blurry or is it just me?

I'm still having problems with not shooting enough inbetweens. This animation would look better at 15 FPS, which means I have a lot of smoothing to work on. Another problem is that I can't export into true HD (1920 x 1080). Everytime I try to After Effects crashes. Maybe my desktop just can't handle it :) I'll try it all out on my laptop (which is twice the machine my desktop is) once I get a hold of the discs from my brother.

Till then I have a lot to think about in terms of what my animation is missing. Need more subtle, realistic movements and twice the amount of inbetweens. Better to shoot more and edit out later than to come up short and left caught with my tail between my legs.

I have a few kinks to workout with my setup - getting a better picture out of the video assist, learning more about lighting (so far it's just the Par 46 Can... which is awesome by the way), rigging the puppet better, etc. I'm really looking forward to using Dragon Stop Motion if /when I can and hope to figure out the problem with exporting to true HD - not to mention a loss of picture quality (though for these tests I do shoot with JPEGs). However, first things first - I really need to work on animating :/

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Subtle, Flow, Real.

Saw this clip on Vimeo this morning. My goodness. The clip will speak for itself.

The story of Adi Dassler from Dario Nucci on Vimeo.

More inspiration to push me forward! Moe the test puppet is complete. After messing around with him the arms are obviously now way too long (I had to laugh at myself for that making such a big deal out of how long I wanted the arms in the first place). Never-the-less I have a puppet to really practice animating with. Now that the dust is clearing from the party I'll have to get back on track. I'm planning to move my stuff downstairs and setting up an actual shooting area. I'll try and post my tests next time!


Friday, July 17, 2009

Won't... you be.. my neighbor.

I was getting ready to paint Moe last night when I realized I didn't know what color I wanted him to be. I went back and searched some sweater vest models to see what colors looked well. I knew the shoes were going to be black and the pants dark grey. Initially I was going to go with a black sweater vest via that Ryan Seacrest picture... but after putting it on paper it didn't seem to flow right. It was like he was trying to hide himself in darkness. I was thinking maybe Pink sweater vest to really go bold, with white dress shirt... looked off. Tried green sweater vest, white shirt, red tie - looked like Wallace's long lost brother. Tried brown, red (which was okay but a little over the top), and many others. I ended up going the calm Mr. Rogers route but I'm not sure if I'm happy with it. The colors look fine (though I think the tie is a mistake... maybe a red tie to complete the Mr. Rogers look. I always do this to myself, mess with colors at the last minute. Here it is:

I've yet to do the skin, pondering what his tone should be still. This of course is just a test puppet so maybe I should give myself some lee-way in terms of taking chances and making mistakes. I really think a red stripe on the tie would look better haha. But I have a bigger problem:

Don't know if you can see it but I'm still blotching the paint job too much. I had to use flash to get the details but my paint doesn't come out as smooth as I want it to. It could be the foam I'm using to do the coats. It doesn't do a really great job so I end up using the brush a lot - which I believe creates the blotchi-ness. It's definitely a step up from the Vanni doll though. Next time I may give his sweater vest a tri-diamond design across the belly.

My sister is getting ready to turn our house into an alchy-fest. Her going away party. Had to clean up my mess (which was huge) and won't be able to break it out for 2 days. All dandy though I could use the rest and draw a few doodles for a short animation. Gives me time to think about the colors too. I'll try a crazier color combo next time! Till then~

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Successful Failure keeps me a Smug Sailor

Two days ago I had an attempt of Moe's Foaming go slightly wrong. I didn't mix enough foam even though the mixture came out PERFECTLY! I baked it anyway to see if the foam would even come out (where the feet / head create slight pockets) aand it did! His head was hollow because of the lack of foam but I was extremely happy that the mold worked haha, phew! I saved the armature by cutting off the foam... which might be useful as body parts in some test animations.

Here is Moe with his split head - notice how it JUST creates his body form, almost no spill haha.

I went at it again when the temperature allowed; 6 AM in the morning it was 70 degrees. Unbelievable! I waited until midnight the night before last to mix some foam but it was still high 70's with humidity and I've had a lot of foam curing way too fast in those conditions to try that again. This time I mixed more foam only to be too confident with how much I had and come out with the same problem. This one however is salvage-able (is that a word?). His left lower leg is a tad hollow but I think I can bulk it up a little during the cabosil paste phase. The rest of the puppet is pretty solid and holds it's shape very well.

I'm very very very happy that I've made friends with Foam Latex - we finally see eye to eye. I'm starting to judge on the fly when to stop and move on to the next step of mixing, etc. While touching up the seams with the soldering iron I kept thinking of how terrible this smell must be for my health via Shelley's comment on the previous post. I took a couple of breaks inbetween each 10 mins or so of working just to catch some fresh air. Felt really nice! Even with a mask on the stuff just stinks while burning. It gets worse if it starts blowing into your eyes. Work with a fan or behind the wind!

I've noticed that I've done a bit too much lately and my hands are really feeling tired and sore. Actually yesterday I was just pretty flat out exhausted. This heat doesn't help either.

I was going to do another armature / foaming right before posting this but I feel like I should take a day or two off and just read up about lighting. I'd like to dodge the whole 500 watt bulb scenario and go with the 30-150 range. I have lights saved from Live Action experiments just incase I need a big powerful light but I'm hoping a long fluorescent tube will be all I need as far as big lights go. My father and I will try to recreate some of Nick Hilligoss' "cheap lights" and maybe purchase a pair of small Par Can lights as pinspots and barn yard window them up with cinefoil. Another project for father and son to work on :)

Hope Nick doesn't mind me stealing and posting his picture here!

I'll take 2 days or so to touch Moe up with paint - get some rest and try to do a few animation tests. It's amazing how just a small little flappy wire in his mouth changes the animation game. I've got my entire camera setup tested and working. I was really worried about the video assist but a little bit of black tape keeps the cam pretty stable on the viewfinder. The picture quality isn't the best but it's great for a video assist. I should have taken a snap and posted it - maybe next time. Finally got all that mumbo jumbo out of the way.

I'm finally moving out of the technical stuff and stepping my way into the fun stuff. For Stop Motion Magic's challenge (a tribute to Star Wars) I was just going to put a lightsaber in Moe's hands and let him loose. As I was drawing the sketch...

All that stuff at the bottom was me goofing around for halfland sea creatures for Shelley's film haha. I'm not the most creative guy :P I wanted to make a creature based on a play on words like "Singray" or "Key Serpent". After 5 minutes I saw how sucky of an idea that was - just look at those drawings haha. I realized there sort of is one already made "SeaLion"

I thought the design was pretty cute but I had no idea how to go about making a puppet like that with the flowing mane and all. So I left it at that and I messed around further with Moe:

I know its hard to see but I like this picture of Moe:

It's probably the closest to what I had originally planned for him to look. Again it's not amazing but I truly shock myself sometimes - the fact that my drawing looks like an actual person haha. If you saw my drawings as a kid you might have this urge to throw up just a little bit. They were hideous. In anycase I'm looking forward to finally animating this sucker.

And speaking of animating this sucker... Dragon Stop Motion is expanding to the PC market. A huge jump for PC users doing stop mo. This is just terrible news for me as I've always loved this program and have fought off purchasing such because it was never available for me. AND THEN THEY GO AND DO THIS. How dare they. My wallet...

So I requested a trial hah and they've sent it to my mailbox which I'll activate as soon as Moe is painted. Realizing that I was instantly ready to drop 250 dollars on a stop motion program really got me thinking about being so new to this and going too far with it. I haven't done nearly enough testing and practice and I'm looking at these lights / rigs / programs as if they were new cars. In the end I'll probably get it - but not until I've done some extensive testing to the point where I can call myself a stop motion animator. That'll be awhile. To top it off I've even discussed taking over my brother's detached garage (like a seperate giant toolshed now) to use as my very own stop motion studio. The space is great - the room is easy to get pitch black and it's seperate from the house so I can be a little noisy if I chose and have a little privacy.

I keep thinking... this is either going to be a giant success or..

a giant success. :)

UPDATE: Today I just saw this Par Can 46 Package (comes with lamp / clamp / safety cord / 4 gels) on ebay for only 11 dollars! The shipping of course cost more than the darn thing itself - total was 27 bucks which I thought was a steal. The lamp is 200w and requires no assembly - just find a place to hang it and plug it in. I really want the Par Can 16s or 20s to use as pinspots but I really need to test the waters first. I can buy 100w halogen bulbs for the worklights I have and force it out of a hole to emulate a spotlight... possibly.

I've been reading Mike's ( site and blog with all these lighting posts as well as the threads he made at TONS of information that I couldn't soak all in one day. There's fingers and dots and all sorts of body parts I couldn't wrap my head around. The hard part is I have no goal in what kind of lighting I'm aiming for right now. I don't have a set - just a puppet in front of a wall. So I think it's best for me to try a light or two and figure out what I need first.

My dad is able to do Nick's low voltage light kit setup, apparently it is "SO SIMPLE" according to my daddio. "You just do that and plug that in and done" Haha.

I may try doing one light with the kit just to see how its all done up close... and how a 30w bulb fares with the overall lighting. You guys know how amazing Nick's stuff always looks :) He's doing 'something' right!