Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Vanni's Power Drink / Camera Dolly Built

Man with the failure I had last night and the heat still sweatin' me I would have never thought I'd have the willpower to do another test animation today. But then I did. I saw these grey bricks in the front yard lined up and it looked so much like Justin Rasch's Flea test animation that I was going to do a spoof of it with Vanni. I sketched it out on paper but it got so hot that from the first step I just decided to do a straight ahead animation and get it done with. There were only 3 bricks though haha so I had to use the 55mm and shoot up real close.

The movement is pretty crude at parts and I really need to find a garage to live in so I can animate there - the carpet is just a no-no :)

Feels nice to finally animate my own puppet. Vanni has tons of problems with range of motion but I'll be prepared next time when making another character.

Edit: Fixed my entire blog width to fit the wide embeded video :) Much roomier!

Update: I walked downstairs and my dad comes in:

Dad: You do it yet?
Me: Do what?
Dad: The thing, you finish?
Me: What thing?
Dad: *points to garage*
Me: Oh you mean the camera thing? The wood is still where you left it.
Dad: *walks away*
Dad: *comes back 5 seconds later* Ok let's go.
Me: Alright.

*click pictures to enlarge*

We used a lot of stuff sitting around the house. Pipes, all the wood, screws, washers. I bought that threaded rod + circular casings + coupling nut + regular nuts. It cost about 10 bucks since we had all the wood at home. Pretty amazing. It isn't perfect and we didn't expect it to be perfect - but its way better than I thought it was going to turn out. Towards the last inch on one side it stiffens up (and we found out why).

If you're building a camera track here are things to remember:

-Don't bend your threaded rod (I did haha)
-Don't be fancy and try to make a closed end at each head where the pipe doesn't follow all the way through (Dad really liked the closed look) It caused the most trouble and ultimately lead to that last inch stiffening. Does look nice though :)
-Make sure you know where your screws are going and how thick the wood they are going into are. Buy screw lengths accordingly.
-Sometimes simplest things give the best results.

I'm very happy with it and my dad says he'll make an even better / simpler / prettier one later after learning some mistakes here. He's actually a little ashamed of it and didn't even like that I'm putting pictures of it here. I'm just glad this is one part of stop motion that didn't take me weeks to learn and if it comes to it we can build another one in 2-3 hours.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Feelin' hot Hot HOT!

The great equalizer: heat. Turns everyone into a puddle of lazy. If you say you're different than your pants my friend are on fire. I just had another adventure. Shopping with my dad is always an adventure. But we managed to grab what we needed in order to build a camera rig. The Jig part (what the track will actually stand on) will be done some other time, we're just worried about the actual track at the moment.

So we get on home and it is blazing hot. We look at each other and say - yeah... another day. As excited as I am to soon have a fully functional dolly. IT IS JUST TOO HOT! I wanna enter John's (castlegardener) little animation test at stopmotionmagic.com, but even at 11PM the heat is just destroying me. I'm gonna try and do it tonight - might take like 4 hours.

I've been itching to animate Vanni, her head turned out really disgusting so I made a Mr. Potato-esque head for her. It looks more 3d and less flat, but it also looks somewhat different than the original sketch. I like it though. However I've only made 1 mouth for it, a pair of glasses made out of a nyquil box - no eyes. So not much happening with facial expressions, but its all good! I'm gonna hit the bed at noon for a long nap, hopefully pass up the heat through sleep and wake up later in the evening :)

Another note, I tried the spycam my brother never used and it just doesn't do the trick. It's meant for a simple "who's at the door" setup, doesn't zoom in nearly enough and has a shiny round lens at the front - kinda like a webcam. So I think I have to go back to the DV Cam sitting next to the DSLR. At least this has color and I can see it on the computer screen.

In the mean time, gonna hit up some guitar!
Playing: Jason Mraz - Mr. Curiosity <- tricky to imitate the live version with solo guitar! Update: Just did a small test animation using the set up, with the DV cam... not what I wanted but it still works fine. What wasn't fine was the animation haha. A lot of tweaks need to be made to the puppet to get a better range of motion out of it. Puttin' down notes for the next character, maybe I'll revisit Moe with a new armature approach. Anyway I got a mere 55 snaps and I'd already bumped my set - which is just two pieces of wood on a table -.-

Felt good to move a puppet again, but sadly I don't think I'll be able to enter into the puppet drinking challenge. We'll see what tomorrow brings. I'll put that little test together tomorrow too and if its even worth looking at I'll post it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Paint + Me = Suck

A proven equation. I spent last night painting the beautiful foam latex puppet and transformed it into a MONSTROSITY! Of course it isn't that bad but I'm not really happy with it. Again learning much from it which is a huge plus. The plus side is this will allow me tons of animation practice. Here are a few snapperoos:

Alright those weren't so bad. I think being up close and personal with the puppet makes me judge it more critically. But then I turned off the lights and got down and dirty (G Rated).

see the bulgey non-smooth bumperific seams still showing. The paint job also isn't spectacular. It all started with the woodburning step. I was so afraid to go too far with it. Next time I wont wuss on it too much. Next is paste-patching the seams and smoothing it out. I did a sloppy job there too. Then to put the cherry on top of the cinammon on top of the whipped-cream on top of the ice cream that makes the sundae, my layers of paint weren't thin enough (per coating) and it gets blotchy. At first using the foam to dab the paint on I thought I was doing it wrong. Turns out I started it right then screwed it up as I went along haha. The sweater turned out pretty smooth and the rest got crappier and crappier.

Here you can see the seam line from top to bottom. It looks pretty nasty, but I had to take like 15 pictures at a certain angle to get this seam line to really show. It's not as bad as I'm making it out to be, but its definitely something I MUST fix from here on out. Also I was mixing the pros-aide and the paint in poor proportions. I was messing around with it and its not nearly as flexible as I'd hoped. I guess that means I did every single step wrong hahaha...

All is good though. At least 2 more of these puppets to make :) Waiting on foam to come! and 300 feet of 20 gauge wire <- my new fave wire! After watching a film "Dried Up" by Jeremy Casper on SMA.com which you can watch HERE.
They discuss a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff. They built a cheap yet sturdy camera rig:

That's the next step for me. My dad wants a piece of this action too and once he has a free day we'll head out to grab the wood / pipes / washers and nuts to build this baby. Then it's frickin' animating time. YES! (jump in mid air and freeze frame).

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Feelin' like Gold!

Well first off I want to thank Mike (darkmattr.blogspot.com) and Justin (justinrasch.blogspot.com) and everyone even reading this for the continued support! Here's the story:

After what one would call a "valley" in the stop motion rollercoaster life, I decided to take some time away from it all and recover from the battles that my immune system had fought. Actually my immune system just took off their undies and waved it on a stick in surrender because I was sick for days. During which my niece had a little zoo stage play at school and my brother snapped some pictures. I'm a big fan of candid closed-eyed pictures. Always gives me a chuckle. This is Trinity the Panda Zookeeper:

After a few days of rest my sister started to pack her apartment belongings to get ready for her move to Colorado. She had a few pieces of furniture that I couldn't resist grabbing. Most notably, THE BED.

King sized mattress of heaven. My old bed was a queen size and had been around for years. It started giving me problems with sleep and man was I happy when my sis said she was giving me this bed. It alone has changed a big part of my life haha. Friggin' awesome.On top of that she had this really nifty coffee table. When I first saw this I kept thinking how perfect it was to manipulate specs of gravel / salt / sugar/ powder / what have you for things like water scenes. But to be honest it's nice having a coffee table in my room. I had cleared everything other than a bed and a computer desk to make the maximum available space for stop motion stuff. Whenever people wanted to bring food up here to eat / watch a movie they wouldnt have a place to do so. Problem solved! I'm going to give up my computer desk though and sacrifice it to give that short table in the picture above much more height. My sister also gave us her newer, much nicer computer desk - which is in my brother's room at the moment... buuut I may steal that while he's away at the gym - WUhahah.

So this is the first "successful" foaming that my sis and I did about 2 weeks ago. It looks so promising!

Handy dandy mixer which turned out to work surprisingly well considering how cheap it was (10 bucks)
Moe's mold + really really crappy armature complete with really crappy pro-poxy wannabe putty. Kind of fitting that his mold looks sort of like a tombstone. This thing is gigantic by the way. Thats about 14-15 inches from the bottom to the top.

My clean workspace. This is the sculpt of Vanni's body, the hands always take me the longest so it hurts to see them fall apart afterwards.
Moe's gruesome mutilated sculpt after taking it out of the mold. From the start it had pocket problems haha... poor poor Moe. You shall live again one day!

This was the first baking (2 weeks ago). The problem with this one was that it didn't cook all the way. I wasn't sure what to expect, didn't know how long to cook and at what temp. This was my first time trying to low-temp cook it. I put it at 130F for 4 hours. That was the plan at least. It went on until 1AM though and I had fallen asleep. I didn't wake up until 2:20AM and even then the puppet wasn't fully cooked. I only realized it wasn't fully cooked when I took it out in excitement and basically destroyed it before seeing that I could have put it back and cooked it longer. It was alright though because the armature in this thing wasn't anything to be proud of. It was a definite learning experience though. Cook it at a higher temp!

This was my very own trial. I was sick and didn't want to continue with it... but I had to keep trying. I knew going in that it wasn't going to come out right because the bulk inside the armature was too loppy for the mold to fit in place. I know I should have checked it first and all but my mind was kind of a mess. But one thing I did right was mixing the foam by feel and not by a timer. Either way I wanted to try cooking it at 150 this time just to see how it would come out. 150F at 3.5 hours and it STILL wasn't cooked enough. Came out way better than I thought... but still not right. It dented just slightly. I was going to use this as practice for painting and stuff but because it smelled I left it outside. After I had recovered from my illness it had already been 4 days left out in the yard and it started discoloring and stuff. I got a little practice out of it but no color tests.

Here is the mixing table with a very Kathi Zung-looking armature. As you can see the foam kit is almost depleted, gotta order another one real soon.
A close up of Vanni's bottom-half of the mold.
So first batch gels as we're pouring in the foam into the mold. We tried to go by using a timer again. Suggested gelling agent 14g per 150 foam latex base batch. I used 75g of foam latex so 7g of gelling agent should be the recommended. I used 4 grams of gelling agent here and it gelled EXTREMELY quick. Foam is fustrating.
Here is our dog Jay, trying to console me. And on that note we tried again. 2.5-3 grams of gelling agent this time and going by feel now instead of a timer.
Success, here it is in the oven. While that's baking I'll show you a few other designs I tried.

This is my nephew Thomas. Spending days of the week with him I have to look at this face constantly. One of my short scripts called for a baby so I thought why not. This is what I came up with.

He actually has a shirt like that... haha.

Here's the original sketch of Vanni.
And here is the head made out of baked sculpey. Screw-head in the mouth as a soft-key for the replacement mouths.

And here are sketches of two of my old friends from elementary days:

So with the mold finished baking - 175F at 2 hours 22 minutes.

PRESTO MODESTO! It actually looks use-able! Booyeah!

Blurry backshot!
Here it is after my crude cut of the flashing.
Here is my oven mit. I got this at a thrift store and I was quite mislead. I still say it's the container's fault and not mine. It was on the wall so I couldn't see behind the glove... but I could see that it had something with the same pattern behind it. I figured it was another glove! The label says: "2 Pc. mit set". I opened it up to see it was a little teapot mit + base. It looks awesome and manly to boot.

After cutting the flashing I realized I didn't have a wood burning tool. I almost used an old hot-glue gun to do the job, but I figured I would need something specficially to burn foam and just went out and bought one. First time I ever went to home depot looking for something, going there, finding it, purchasing what I intended to buy, and leaving there a happy customer.

Another shot of it after some slight detailing. I was afraid to go too deep haha... even though Kathi says it's better to go deep and recover what was lost with the cabosil paste. I just couldn't hurt this one.
After I finished (besides the things under her foot).

I'm really happy with this wood burning tool. It's pretty thin at the tip which lets me make the burns more accurately. Also it wasn't tooooo hot allowing me to actually touch parts accidently without making a scratch.

My dog expresses my feelings. *sighhh* time to relax. I'm letting the foam cool for just a tiny bit before I wash the mold release off and let it dry till tomorrow.

Above it all I've been getting back into being more active and healthy. I've realized how taxing stop motion can be and it doesn't help to be a giant flubbering mass of procrastination. I kind of missed the old days of just hanging at the courts till the lights shut off at midnight, camping, swimming, just enjoying the world. It's not for everyone but I think it'll actually help me maintain my momentum in this crazy stop motion world.

Hope to post more soon. Thanks again for the support guys... it means much more than you know! See ya next time!

Friday, June 12, 2009

One Fever to Another

So most people who know me personally can attest to the fact that my immune system does not exist. Nickname: Bubbleboy , me, has been struck with fever down to me just sprawled out on the bed for days. But I think I've finally overcame the situation and it's time to jump back on this out-of-shape horse.

Complication 1: Did I mention I hate home depot. They don't carry pro poxy! Oy... I'm positive they have what I need... at another store location in another city. It's like there's this imaginary foot behind my butt constantly swinging forward every step of the way. Anyway, I ordered the pro poxy and it's arriving tomorrow.

Complication 2: Crappy armatures are my specialty. I've had much practice at them. But just to change things up I made something useable. I tried Mike Brent's hand wire configuration but all I could conjure up was a pile of poo. 1/8" wires were also a bit too thick for my puppet being so short (the shorter the wire the harder it gets to animate / bend). I've worked my way around a few problems and I've found what will work out for me in the end. But the big thing I'm missing to make the armature much easier to build and handle is the pro poxy - which should be fixed pending Complication 1.

Complication 3: Foam is not my friend. But like most desperate outcast kids I'm going to force it to become my friend. I figured out what I was doing wrong and got the mixing times almost down to a science. I took pictures of my most successful foam trial yet but my sis has it on her camera (left it in San Francisco of course!) and I'll get the pictures off of that later tonight.

As far as puppet making goes I think I'll finally, and I know this has been a long time coming, be able to get out with a fully animate-able puppet complete with head. Heads are always nice to have. I still have to do the replacement mouths but honestly I'm just looking forward to getting the foam part just right. It'd be nice to not have to worry about foaming in the future.

I'm also writing up a small story around Vanni. When the puppet (x3) comes out complete and painted I'll be doing animation tests with it while I make the secondary characters. One of whom is based on myself as an infant.

I'm going to limit this first short bumper-status film to 3 characters max. I think I'm speculating a little too much when I need to get these hands dirty with animation. The puppetmaking hump is almost over... CANT WAIT!

Side note my sis is about to move away - accepted to Pharmacy school in Denver - and I wish her the best of luck. She's taking this weekend to look at the apartments over there. I'm putting together a small story pitch for when she gets back. A good feeling getting back into the habit of making small goals and reaching them.

Post some pics soon as I get em!

Officially back in the game.

P.S. Go watch Up! (first act is classic)