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!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

'Hard' part is over!

The mold making process really tires me out. I've been using WED-clay to make the walls for the mold and by the second time around I knew it was the wrong material to go with. I just had this giant block of it now so I'm using it. My little niece loves playing around with water and combined with this clay does miracles in creating a mess - which my niece also loves doing. At least she's getting a kick out of it :) Next time I'm gonna go with Klean? or Kleen Klay as recommended by Ron Cole (Isomer) in his badass mold making tutorial videos! It looks easy to handle and is re-usable so an investment is well worth it.

Over the course of making the initial wall as Kathi did in her video, my energy just gets zapped to hell and by the plaster stage I was really cutting corners which is a huge mistake. I just hope I didn't do too much to create a faulty mold - would be heartbreaking. Normally I have over an inch on all sides of the sculpt but this time parts of it came in just under an inch -.-! All the important details are still intact as far as I know. We'll see later today - I like to let it dry for at least half a day to put my mind at ease.

So I was reading up on the handbook at getting some insight on urethane foam and puppetmaking in general and came across this message that I think Mike (Strider) posted:

"Working with foam latex requires a considerable set of skills that must be developed over time... such as sculpting and moldmaking. Before diving in head first and investing in the expensive equipment and materials, it would be wise to develop these skills and familiarize yourself with some of the various techniques and materials involved."

Hah, maybe I should have heeded that warning :) The reason I jumped into Foam Latex was because of Gerald's Last Day. When I saw how capable Foam Latex was I bit the bait and was reeled in. Of course most of it is the animator, I was just impressed how much movement there was and I wanted a piece of it. But I'm pretty lucky I've gotten anywhere with this process. I feel like I didn't have to spend the crazy amounts I had anticipated and I've learned so much throughout - I'm very thankful for all of the info at that site.

Sidenote: Got my whole camera set up bought and paid for. Webcam -> Angle Viewfinder -> Nikon D70 -> Laptop -> Nikon Capture -> Camera Control Pro -> Me. Feels very nice to have the whole set :) Only thing left is the lighting and the immense process of LEARNING lighting.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Finally. Done with the sculpt. It pays off to have a design beforehand. Cause if you're like me and you don't - sculpting on the fly can make your face cry. And I'm not going to lie, I had a few tears to dry.

Here he is:

I'm very happy how the hands turned out. Just gotta put in beads for his eyes before making his mold as well as do another once-over to check for any details. Other than that, DONE!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Moe's Progress

Tried a lot of ways to get finer detail with him. Ended up taping a twisted wire (with loop at end) taped to a pen. 2 more days to finish (I lied before hehe)

Sculpting is really growing on me! Quite fun :)
Starting details:

Left Hand:
Or round fingers better?

Maybe somewhere inbetween?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Now thats 'Moe' like it!

First off, my father and I were talking about the dolly and he had insulation foam in his hand. He said he had tons of it and would make the camera tray move smoother and more quiet. He was right - but because the design of it all is so cheap it isn't PERFECT although with the foam it runs pretty darn smoothly now. But, he wants to make another one - we might be able to re-use half of the stuff we've already built. He wants a thicker drive shaft, bearings for the drive shaft to remain steady, and possibly foam in a couple of places to try and make the rumble of the dolly almost nil. He likes doing this stuff and it shows. We've always had a hard time getting along but since this whole stop motion turn we've been working together really often - its quite nice.

I guess I take after my dad some senses. I'm reworking Moe - this time with everything I've learned put into action. Moe 1.0 I thought had too skinny of limbs - it wasn't true. His limbs were fine I should have just used 1/16" armature wire. However I did cut off his mouth - which I shouldn't have done either. His design was also very rubberhose-y. No curves except for his dome haha. So this time I've shrunken his head and gave him some more style. He'll be a little bit more dashing this time around. On top of that I was looking up preppy clothing images and Ryan Seacrest came up all over the place. One of the images really worked - Sweater vest!

Here's the progress:

Building it up.

Forming it out.

So what I've come to want:

Long limbs / extremities for better motion control.
Not to work with super sculpey heads if I can avoid it.
More detail.
Facial expressions (brows, mouth, eyes). Clay brows, flapper jaw for mouth, beads for eyes.

I may elongate his legs a centimeter or so - his fingertips can almost touch his toes with his arms just dangling down :D

He'll be wearing a sweater vest on dress shirt with tie and brown or black slacks with fancy shoes courtesy of Ryan Seacrest. He'll also be wearing a much smaller head on his shoulders. I imagine it will take me 2 days to finish this sculpt in full detail. 1/16" wire for the upper body is the key! This time I'm getting it right :)

*Also found out that my sis put the shutter settings on her point/shoot camera for 1 sec - thats why they kept blurring. See the diff between the first and second picture!*