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 vixy.net 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 SMA.com 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 Stopmotionmagic.com 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 SMM.com and take a peek at his photos. This guy means business :)

Edit: Don sent me this link: http://rungfilm.blogspot.com/ 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 Videocopilot.net 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!