Saturday, April 29, 2006

Intoxicating Apples



Apple on Vimeo
Today's clip is about trying out the luxury of having the animation only two feet from the computer--nice--and as a bonus the spacebar was reachable by rubber-tipped pole when my hand was stuck holding the puppet up. It's about more practice with the wire armature, this time with no-fabby-dressing of straw hat, Rana's hand-woven skirting and shawl. I wanted to see how much anicrime I could get away with if the costuming covered the legs. The answer was none because I couldn't see the legs to move them and the hip rig still wasn't able to hold well enough. I've got to figure out how to affix down the handle end of the rig better. This test was about futzing further with iMovie and Quicktime compression settings (I used Mike's link to Jason's tut), which I'm starting to grasp a wisp better. Today is about not trying to animate per se so much as practice animating while working out my system for what to shoot with, what framegrabber and editor to use, ideal compression settings, etc.

Today's clip isn't about smooth animation, or even planned motion. It isn't about the rich detail and colors that I see in front of me coming across via the Darkstrider Unibrain Webcam Patrol of Joy. (I went back and looked at all of Mike's test clips just now to see if the ones he shot with the DUWPoJ had captured more clarity then I'm getting and I was struck by how great all his work is. I'd seen it all previously but now I can see even better the level of artistry he has, like the Ahab leather jacket and sculpts from that era. Plus, I saw some of his fantastic 2D art there that I hadn't seen before and was very impressed! Mike, you are so talented.) Himself said tonight that this is the Halfland stage for me of making my improvements in large chunks and later it will be in small, but equally important, refinements. The main thing to me is that I'm doing it.

Today's Textbook: I either need an armature that holds positions more rigidly, like I imagine a ball-joint would, or I need several surface gauges to mark where parts like elbows are as I move the arm. Thinking that won't do in actual animating though. Maybe just further practice will provide more adequate results. I think I need to put sharp pins in the bottoms of feet as I've been using sticky wax and it doesn't hold the placement as I try to change positions. (The puppet would fall over during the walk and I would keep it going because... say it with me... today isn't about smooth animation.) One thing I notice as well is that the camera's pov is different than I imagined it would be. Positions and the relationship between things look surprisingly altered through the camera's eye than my own.

The Good News: Seeing a puppet in animated-looking positions was another stoking kick-ass experience. (I took the still shot below so you could kind of see what I'm seeing.) Man, this is it. And by *this* I mean stop motion. It's intoxicating.

8 comments:

  1. Ah Shelley, why do you make things so hard on yourself?

    Learning stopmotin is hard enough already without trying to reinvent the wheel (and hopefully do so better than Skullboy in Me Go!). I'm very glad to hear you've moved the animation station near the computer - that's going to make things much much better. Now how do we convince you to just go ahead and make some tie-downs?

    At the very least trade in that Swiffer mop for a good positionable rig made of some real thick almaloy, or with an end peice of wire anyway. You'll want to keep the rig always behind her, if it passes in front the way it does in part of this clip you won't be able to erase that.... take a good look at my Erasing a Jumping Rig tutorial - the principle is the same. But I think for the most part you should be able to keep it hidden behind her and behind set pieces so it doesn't need to be erased (that's until you give in and realize the sheer genius of the humble tie-down).

    "I either need an armature that holds positions more rigidly, like I imagine a ball-joint would, or I need several surface gauges to mark where parts like elbows are as I move the arm."

    Sounds like your armature needs to be a bit beefier... most people make them too weak in the beginning. It also sounds like you need to use the Lightbox function of Framethief (or was this done with iStopmotion?). Check my Framethief Primer at StopMoShorts for details.

    And about animating a puppet in a dress.... you should netflix Corpse Bride and pay extra-close attention to the special features.... they made the puppets without any legs and had this nifty little device that could make them seem to walk.

    Thanks for the compliments on my stuff.... one day Ahab will sail again, I swear it! And it's really exciting to see you beginning to breathe life into Halfland! Paul is right... it will happen in major chunks in the beginning, and then refining stages later. Now, about those tie-downs......

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  2. Forgot to say how nice everything is looking! See, you've almost got yourself a puppet there... just skin the arms and head and she's done. Animating a puppet is so much easier than animating a bare armature.

    The still looks great! That's something I like to do when I'm getting ready to shoot.... a whole passel-o-stills as I get things gradually pushed around into optimal positions, get the lights adjusted just so (that's taking longer as it gets better) and find just the right camera angle for the shot, getting the puppet framed right.

    I shoot the stills in FT, then there comes a point where everything is ready... and suddenly the still I just shot becomes the first frame of actual animation.

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  3. Sorry about so many little comments in a row! About wanting to use several guages, or as I mentioned the Lightbox tool, I find I use Lightbox less these days (as a lot of animators say they do) and rely more on frame scrubbing. I'll drag the playback head over the last dozen or so frames again and again, watching each limb - each part of the puppet, to see if it's moving right. On Buster's run, I found i couldn't remember which way arms and legs were moving, till I hit on the plan of only concentrating on his right arm. Much easier to just remember one like that, and in a run that's all you need is the direction one limb is moving... everything else can be extrapolated easily from that. If the right arm is going forward, the left is going back, and vice verse for the legs.

    But halfway through the shot something started to happen.... I got into the zone and became able to focus completely on what Buster was doing. I didn't need to scrub anymore at all, in fact it became detrimental to the flow. I was giving his hands some follow-through, they were sort of floating along behind the wrists, so I could tell which way an arm was moving by looking at the hand, and that told me all I needed to know about the entire puppet. I had essentially become a human framegrabber! For a brief shining moment I knew what Harryhausen must feel! It probably only works on a repetitive cycle like a run though, or to a lesser degree maybe on more normal moves.

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  4. Anonymous6:02 AM

    Shels, Great work! This is really moving along and the still shot at the end was a superb way to end the post. The clip on your blog is very misrepresenative. For one thing a lot of the action is cut out. I only realized it when I went to Vimeo by clicking on the Apple link. Also the resolution is so much clearer there. I am thrilled to see this moving along. Mike's comments are amazingly on target and helpful. Another leap and a bound this coming week, please. PK

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  5. Thanks Mikee, I really get what you mean about the flow. I can imagine getting to that point one day. fyi, the no-fabby dressing I threw on the armature is by no means even close to how Rana will be finished out. The set, puppets, and props for Halfland are going to be worthy of gallery display when the movie is done. That's one of the important things I learned from watching Julie work.

    I hear you on the rig, I'll go back to the drawing board on that. However, I am not willing to drill holes in my finished house set nor take the time while shooting to bolt down each step underneath the set floor. If that is the way stop motion is done then I'm not doing what is thought of as stop motion. I'm clear the rig has to come from above. One strand of Almaloy coming from one place will not work as the puppet will be to heavy in the end. I'll look at two or three strands, maybe both shoulders and the hips, to see if I can get the puppet to stay put. I doubt anything flexible will work.

    I also have looked closely at the work for the fabric in CB and realize fabric is its own character with its own distinctive issues. I get more about animating than you may think from my rough clips.

    I think I've been less than clear about what I'm doing at this stage. I'm not trying to animate per se so much as practice animating while working out my system for what to shoot with, what framegrabber and editor to use, ideal compression settings, etc.

    I write my posts about what is happening currently, my beginner ignorance and all, in order to get input, like what you always generously give, to meet me at the precise point of where I am.

    The good news is that all systems are go, I absolutely love stop motion.

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  6. Thanks PK!, I fixed the clip link here. I see that waiting until Vimeo converts it to Flash clears up the previous trouble. Yep, on the progress. It's the doing the does it, she says after so long.

    (Disclosure: PK = HImself = (Highly Supportive) Husband)

    Thanks dear.

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  7. Lookin' good! Can't wait to see Rana in action in all her puppet glory! Whichever method you chose for motoring her, whether you revolutionize and develop your own processes or rely on traditional techniques, it all boils down to practicing, and tweaking, until you are happy with the final product. Having clocked in a staggering 6 hours of tie-down animation just this weekend, I am in no position to champion their merits :), but I should tell you that it isn't as rigorous as it might seem. I actually quite enjoyed it, and I'm not a very technical person when it comes to my art. I understand not wanting to drill holes in your set, that's a horrible feeling, but at least explore the option of using tie-downs with a makeshift test set before ruling it out?
    I'm having a similar problem costume-wise with my girl puppet, I want her to be all bundled up for winter (big coat to the knees) but still retain poseablity in her legs. Going to closely rewatch the Mayor's scenes in NightmareBeforeChristmas for inspiration.

    Keep plugging away and soon enough we'll all see what you see when you close your eyes...

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  8. "...we'll all see what you see when you close your eyes." That is such a sweet way to put that, Jeffery! I can appreciate your whole comment and think you've got it right, each one has to find the methods that fit their own objectives.

    I may use tiedowns in the outdoor sequences. Maybe I could paint squishy foam board to look like hardwood floor slats for the lone interior. That way I could stab the feet down with teeny pin cleats! Kidding. Or am I? (said with sinister intonation.)

    The mayor in Nightmare would be a fabulous style to emulate for the girl.

    Rock on.

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