Sunday, April 09, 2006

Mashed Potatoes

Remember in Close Encounters of the Third Kind when Richard Dreyfuss' character was compelled to create ever larger and larger replicas of Devil's Tower mountain? He started by looking funny at his starchy side dish and ended up with a highly detailed 1/4 scale model or something? We are about there people. Yep, big ol' mashed tate-tee mountain sitting in my shop. Monomania.

My starts at actual animating for today came in the form of some preliminary, yet valuable, decisions on the set instead.

I cleared all small props as all I'll need right now are main furnishings to block rough camera moves. I gulped and struck the cardboard wall guides (posted earlier) in order to re-position the walls around a better placement of furniture. This was by far easier to do since I wrote up a story outline and knew the action, a far more logical order of things in my case. Furniture first (knowing the general action) then walls set up around the furniture.

I cut a 2x2 up for support posts and hot glued them temporarily to the set floor after struggling to get the bay window right. I cut pieces of crumbly (but free) Styrofoam for wall panels and cut new windows into them. (don't worry the walls will be wrapped with wire and essentially dry walled in during the cottage fabrication phase) Everything right now is thrown up in place with sealing tape and chewing gum but spending any time doing fine craftswork for these tests would be unnecessary and way off point. It's all about how I'm to shoot the story right now. (She says in head over and over.) Knowing exactly how I will be shooting will confirm important things, such as the scale of the puppets, before things go too far into their fabrication.

Tomorrow I'll take sample shots for two hours and then coarsely edit them into a rough clip with iMovie for posting here.(Later, I plan to move into an editor like Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere with After Effects, or another program that's perhaps new on the scene) as I suspect I'll need more control over digital effects than iMovie can give. I may edit in an easy to use program and then embellish the footage with more of a special effect program, like Premiere. Again, I'll know more after experimenting with these upcoming tests.

Hey, here's a couple of great innovations that came out of the Action Only® filming methodology employed today... You see, I have my computer in one corner, and my set is on saw horses "way over there" which means that although I smartly purchased an extra long firewire cable for the USB to webcam connection, I neglected to connect in my head until today that I'd be using my keyboard to click the shutter and needing to view the monitor for onion skinning (permission to snicker at this granted). Himself helped me think through how to reconfig the shop so things will be rosier in time for the real shoot. For these tests though in the next few days I'll be either bumping the camera to click off frames and/or mightily wearing down some major shoe leather.

And in another advance, I saw that once in the new position, there will be one side of the set I won't be able to get far back from for long shots. So, I thought of slipping in a large piece of plywood/turntable under the set base in order to swivel the whole shebanggg on the tabletop when needing to shoot that side. Heck, if I could stabilize this very lazy susan to the table well enough I might be able to keep the cameras tied down and rotate the set in front of them! I'll report back on how that goes.

A Production Philosophy Moment:

I'll say right here that I'm not looking for necessarily smooth animation in this, my priority is in A.) Using what materials and equipment I already have, or can gracefully get my hands on, and B.) Making the film in a way that is a pleasure for me. I can't get everything or do the things that would make it ideal, but I am doing it period. If there are lighting flickers from electrical surges or jiggles in the movements from my choice of tiedowns, that's going to be part of the art for me rather than a detracting from it. I expect the animation to be better than "Maus" my casual software test (posted below) but after this week of shooting roughs I'll know more about the style I'll be settling into for this.

Small clip tomorrow.

See you then!


  1. Anonymous12:33 PM

    this is a great post, Shel. Really conveys the energy that you are "doing it." It's all systems go, and me and your thousands of web fans are waiting with baited breath for the animation today.

  2. This is exciting!

    After you've shot a few minutes of animation you'll be starting to get your groove on. After maybe ten or fifteen minutes worth you'll be getting pretty good (and the early stuff will start to look like crap to you). No real point to this, just sharing my own experiences, and wisdom I've heard from other animators.

  3. Totally! Dark Strider, I can image that's the case.


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