Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Death of Moe, but another says hello

I'm grieving! Oh man... the last week has been such a nightmare. As I was making the mold of Moe (which I still have) I realized my brilliant plan of keeping it simple but slightly rough was actually slightly naive and stupid. The bulges of his shoes / head / nose / bowtie etc, protrude into the mold and create a deeper pocket for the foam to rip as you take the puppet out. The arms were too skinny to get a nice surround of foam around the wires, the eyes / buttons did come out very nicely though. The solution would be to just slice off the head and use a body, stick a sculpey baked head on it and start painting... but the arms are giving me an immense amount of trouble.

It's sad to say but I think I have to scrap Moe.

I worked 4 days straight from the mold making to taking the final baking of foam and I gotta say it's rough to come out of all of this without something to animate. However, I didn't come out of it empty handed. I learned everything I needed to fix for the next design and one of the most important things I've gotten a hang of is MIXING THE FOAM.

My goodness. That foam just hates me. My sister and I made half-batches (half the recommended 150 grams) and the mixture was just SO SENSITIVE to everything. I ended up using 1/3rd of the gelling agent and cutting down the refining time... it was just a mess. It took 4 batches until we got something at least USEABLE. But you know, it's been said and done - foaming takes time to get used to. So I can't be angry at it.

To top it off, in the middle of all this I've gotten so sick that I've been in bed for the last 3 days doing absolutely nothing, until last night. Quite a rollercoaster and I don't think I could have even gotten through it the first time if my sister hadn't been there helping me. So to pay a tribute to her I designed a very dorky version (not much difference to the real thing) of her as a kid. I call her Vanni. I made a head out of sculpey and cheated the eyes to where she's forever wearing these big nerdy glasses. It's nothing fancy, just a replacement mouth head without other expression changes... I may regret not giving room for eyebrows but we'll see. Can always make another :)

I'll post pictures next time around, my illness is finally fading away and come tomorrow I'll be making another, much smaller, much simpler mold. Same set, same equipment, just different character for the first film test. Can't let anything bog ya down! Till next time!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Shopping Sickness and a lesson learned

So today I checked the list as I was getting ready to head out to grab the oven. The drive was an hour away but that didn't really seem to matter. The shopping list has almost been completely checked off. I only need to grab a scale and a mixer and I'm done. Or so I thought. We got to the guy's house where the oven was and my heart cried a little... and in the midst of crying was able to let out a little "ha ha".

It wasn't in the greatest shape, but that didn't matter either. I just wanted an oven to continue the process, especially since I haven't done much for the last 4-5 days. I made sure to ask my parents if they knew how to work around the wiring if it didn't come complete with a neat little plug. I made sure to ask a couple of times before even inquiring about it. Of course when I brought it home nobody had any idea what to do with it. On top of that the model was old and most ovens these days have a 4-wire connection vs. the 3-wire from decades past. I liked the size of the oven and it was the only reason I went as far as I did to get it. Needless to say it's now most likely 50 dollars worth of trash.

I hit a small snag today though in the midst of this whole journey, I was actually angry about all of this and quite tired of the whole shopping experience. Art stores here just have absolutely nothing in terms of puppet making supplies and it gets a little fustrating sometimes. The whole oven deal really riled up my Dad and I, but after about 5 minutes of arguing I had to just remind myself what the big picture was. It's cool to know that I can get that heated up and can shut it off with a simple reminder that hey, making a film isn't smooth sailing. You're gonna hit some bumps and the quicker you get over yourself, the quicker you get over it, the quicker you get some work done, and the quicker you can create some magic.

I did learn one thing today. Don't do something unless you're satisfied with it. In this case my heart knew not to take that oven, yet my brain channeled a gigantic wave of procrastination that kept saying "just get it so we can check it off".

On top of all of that, my Dad doesn't even want another oven hooked up around the house. "Can't wire it up" he says. It would have been nice to know that before I spent so much time looking for one, but hey it's all good. I'm going to use the low-temp baking method inside the house that Dave Hettmer at stands by. Since I'm going to only be baking one character thrice times I think it'll be okay. It'll just take about 4 hours a piece.

Tomorrow is a big day... I'm going to screw up my very first foam latex puppet :) Stoked! Till then I'm going to just relax with guitar in hand and vocals out loud. Life is good when I'm just singin' the night away with these songs:

Melissa Polinar - Meant to be
Jason Mraz - Live High
Rynten Okazaki - City of Tokyo
Komatsubara Shun - Kujira
Kotaro Oshio - Angel's Sunday
Mariah Carey - My All

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Smoothing Sculpt / Minding Mouths

Smoothing it once over with citri-solve it turned out okay. There are a lot of bumps and marks still obviously seen but I kind of like it like that... a little rough. The bumps on his head actually look nice. There's a pathetic attempt to give his arms form, dent at the elbow and small bicep bulges... but I sorta failed there haha. I think I'll keep it this way for now and see how the molding process goes. If the puppet comes out crappy then I'll know maybe to smooth it out at this stage more. Here it is!

I'm probably going to slice off his bottom lip tonight. :]
I needa start to get down how I want the wire armature to be formed and plan out the different mouth shapes. These past 2 days I haven't done much and I feel slacky already... the next 2 days are just waiting around for matierals to come :/

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Sculpt, The Room and The Whirlwind

First off, apologies for the blurry pictures. I was messing with the shutter speeds and hand-held shot these with 1.5 second shutters and thus, the blurry effect. Starting off with the sculpt:

This is an early shot. I ended up giving him a collar and propping the bowtie forward a little bit.

The 28mm lens really skews the dimensions a little bit, it's a lot more lanky in person than in these pictures. I had a few ideas for his outfit. It started with a magician get up, then a tux, then a shirt with a tux painted on it. In the end I just made him wear a dorky desk-job outfit and I plan to put a piece of fabric (imagine wearing a towel cape) behind him. If that towel thing doesn't work his getup still seems fine. I think I'll color his outfit in the ways of Dwight Schrute.
I'm extremely proud of myself for even being able to do this, as simple as it is. I thought for sure that I was gonna have to ask a friend to do a sculpt for me. It may be a little ugly and crude, but it turned out way better than I first imagined. This was a crucial victory for me as now I know I can do the entire thing on my own. Help is definitely appreciated but I know at least that I won't get stuck anywhere if I'm going solo.

I know that the shoes are no special feat but I'm so proud of them haha. Maybe it's because they were the first things I've ever sculpted in my life. Ever.

Here are a few snaps around the room, again sorry for the blurries.

These are the only two tools I use. I should get a few more but these are working fine for now. The rubber tipped brush is my favorite. Here is the rig I work on.

And the camera I shoot with:

Hah. Just kidding. The guy I bought the d70 from threw his box away when he bought it. He recently bought a d90... get this... "for fun" so he didn't need the "leftovers" that was his d70 anymore. My sister picked it up for me and told me of all the cameras and lenses he had at his place. A spanish camera enthusiast he was. He kept the d70 in pristine condition. To be honest I was afraid of handling the camera because it looked so nice and I didn't wanna mess it up.

And... the final curtain:
The Whirlwind Effect. Here is how it works. When someone asks you what the hell happened to your room to make it look this way. A whirlwind did it. In the next 2-3 days I'm going to clean this whole place up and organize my tools / materials.

The foam material is coming soon. I'm grabbing my oldschool oven on saturday and the only thing left to do is grab a mixer, preferabbly 3-speed, and possibly a pin-spot light. I'm thinkin maybe a 16 Par Can that'll run about 15 bucks.

After cleaning up I think I'll be ready to create some puppets and set up the camera for animation. Just need to citri-solve the sculpt and smooth it out after I finish the hands.

Another major concern is the mouth. I want to go with replacement mouths but the only reference I have is Justin Rasch's little girl puppet . He uses a flat foam surface with baked clay replacement mouths... I think. I don't even know how they can stick together so well... foam and clay. For Moe I would have to work with the flat surface of the upper jaw and replace the bottom lips. I don't know how heavy baked clay ends up being but I'm hoping it'll work out for the best. But all in all it's a blast.

Excitement she wrote!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Testing the waters

Here is a very uninteresting picture, I took about 5 pictures but didn't realize what kind of power a single open window had in shadowing the room. Check this out - this is right under a lamp that in person blasts a pretty mean light. But the natural sunlight to the side dimmed it so much. Just goes to show how little I know about all of this.

I've been waiting for a design, but decided to just go ahead and try sculpting. Turned out quite well. I made most of the lower body, just need to bulk up around the thigh a tiny bit, smooth it out and add a couple of details. I'll take pictures of it later tonight along with the room im working with at the moment. It's really clean... -.-

I thought sculpting wouldn't be that bad, but it is toughhh stufff... I knew this was going to be the hardest step for me but jeez lah weez. It's still fun as hell to do though, I'll get back to more tonight!


Update again: It took 2 hours and 100 actuations, but I have a feel for the camera and configured a lot of settings to my liking. It's late and stuffy, just gonna head to bed - post some of the pics tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Foam Latex Adventure

Alright, things are stepping out of the realm of fantasy and coming into reality. Camera and lens are soon to be set (shooting on a Nikon D70 - excitement!), ordering a plethora of foam latex / sculpting / mold-making products from FXwarehouse, storyboarding a very small short and waiting on a design fix from good ol' Jim Truong.

As early as I can remember (we've known each other since pre-school), Jim has always been THE artist to compare to. I was sure that he was going to be huge in the art world but life led him down another path. I was always sad about that but I'm going to get another taste of that creativity again and I'm pretty stoked about it. If you're reading this Jim, isn't too late to change!

I was expecting to spend a small fortune on doing this, but I dug into my RED Scarlet fund and just went straight for Stopmo materials. Camera(d70) + Lens(Macro 55mm lens / 28mm wide lens) + Puppet making process kit(the whole shabang) will add up to cost about 750 dollars. This includes an oven, a mixer, 50+ puppet making items and the whole camera setup. I think I came out pretty lucky with a price tag like that.

The best part about all of this is that everyone seems to be turning the corner in the support area. I'm not getting anymore of these:

"There's no money in this!"
"I hear Pharmacy is the new cool thing."
"You're crazy."
"You know your cousin just got a new job. He's such a great knowledgable person."
*Stare* "..." *Walk away*
"I was drafted into the army to witness the most awful things and live through unimaginable situations for my youngest son to fiddle with paint brushes and make little doo-dads"

That's right folks! That last quote was just a joke but sadly the rest were not. I've gained a lot of momentum in just a month's time and I don't expect to slow it down at all. Watching the guys at really fuels my drive to keep pushing forward.

An even cooler aspect about this stop motion adventure is that my dad and I have been able to work on little gadgets together (we built the armature together as well). We've never really seen eye to eye on my choices until just recently and it's a real pleasure to just work together on the same side for once. Next we'll try to construct camera rigs together and practice using them on Moe.

My little cousin is getting into stop motion too and from what my uncle says, he's been doing it since he was 6-7 (about 4 years ago). Little showoff! Haha, but even he is asking about the process - how to capture frames and edit wires / rigs out, and loved the armature we made.

So what I need to do now is:

Find the rest of the items on my checklist (about 20 miscellaneous items to go).
Track down an oven and make sure I have a place to put it (as well as deal with the power issue - 220 for an oven).
Finish storyboard.
Get design from Jim and start on sculpt.
Make sure I design the wire armature to get the expressions I want.
Make a damn film!

Huge huge thanks to Nick Hilligoss / Mike Brent / Justin Rasch (and his family) / EVERYONE at for posting their process' and answering a bajillion questions (to which I could just search and read). And also to Kathi Zung for her awesome video: I've seen it at least 10 times to make sure I'll get it right. Hope to snap some pictures for the next post!

Till then,

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Super Simple Set!

Alrighty. I wanted to make a film but soon realized that it was way out of the park ambition-wise as there was just too much set-building / design and puppet creation to go through to achieve what I planned for. So I wanted to make a short that would help me grow as a director/animator without having to worry about all of that. I decided that I would make it all about the character's action and as little as possible about the set.

Here we go:

The curtain - just a piece of material I poked holes into and hooked onto a thin brass rod. It's supposed to resemble a shower curtain :)

The sign - I wanted to make it a low budget sign (thus made of cardboard) but it turned out a lot nicer than I had anticipated. This sign took an entire day to make... quite sad I know :)

The only thing I'm missing is a table that I think I can just pick up at a toystore. I may just nail together a craptacular mini-table from balsa wood. If you hadn't guessed yet this short film is about Moe's magic act.

And here is what Moe might look like:

These are from two different doodles I made. I'm no artist. Just this very simple drawing took me awhile to come up with... haha. But I've never made any characters before either - first time is always slow in progress I guess!

I'm planning to make this guy out of foam on top of a wire armature, but I don't have any of the materials to do it yet. The plan might change and I might use clay... or something else. Lots of options though my first pick would be foam latex (I'd love to go through the process so I can make puppets later with more ease for future films). I'm also waiting to snag a Nikon D70 body to shoot this film with. I'm pretty excited about what's to come but I'm guessing it'll be about 2 weeks before I can start animating this short.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Homer's Run n' Spasm

Couple of hours on the floor is not good for your back. I started making these noises in the video towards the end of the animation... the end is a little rushed.

Lenses are in!

I've been getting dizzy just staring at ebay / craigslist pages for the last 3-4 days but they've certainly paid off. I just got my nikkor 55mm f/2.8 micro (macro) lens in the mail yesterday,

and my 28mm f/2.8 lens is coming in 2-3 days.

All I need now is a d70 body (saw a great deal on a d80 but that was gone literally within 2 hours of the owner's posting) and from there I can get accommodated with my new partner in crime. There are tons of stuff to learn still: building a set, building and using a camera rig, lots of animating tricks to learn, animating with glass, character / set design, armature building, puppet sculpting, puppet clothing, scenery creation, in-camera effects, lip syncing, and much much more.

Stop motion has me hooked though, and I'm just taking it in a bit at a time. Today I'm attempting to animate on top of a sound byte for which I created my armature for. About 12-13 seconds of animation. It's just body movement without having to worry about the extra bits of animation (fat/blubber, hair, clothing, etc.) so I'm hoping I can just dedicate one day to it and come out the other end in one piece.

Till then...