Monday, February 26, 2007

Try Not To Pee

(But if you do HAVE to, do it as quickly as possible. That was my motto to myself during Sven's visit, that was how much I didn't want to waste so much as a minute of this rich and valuable time.)

A big raucous thank you to Sven Bonnichsen. His visit was so special for several reasons. There was a certain short hand to the time together, a certain harmony and comfort, that made the experience splendid, invaluable, and meaningful for me. But then again, that's Sven.

After talking together on many interesting subjects, we both focused on showing and telling the things that are not as translatable through the computer, things that come to life in person, the color and textures, how things feel. For example, I learned that Sven's Dad and Jimmy pupps from The Great Escape that he brought with him are a complete blast to animate, good Lord. I could not tell by looking at photos or the short, but brother, were they a pleasure to work with! "Down and Dirty"? my tuchkus, they moved like silk! This clip isn't at all good or about anything other than hooking up the web cam via Firewire to Sven's laptop and start feeling up the pupps.

Webster Runs Amok on Vimeo Just messin'. (I had promised to try something with Webster.)

During our visit, we talked honestly about each of our strengths and weak points in this medium. For my part, the most comfortable area for me in all of this is in the details, set dressing, prop construction and finishing, textures, realistic faux finishes, rich costuming, fabrics, sewing, painting, a little building, anything, the more intricate it is the better. I feel my weakest point was obviously in animating, as I have done next to none at this point. I had in mind that after my main set was finished I'd start in on developing my chops with animated "preparation exercises" in order to have better command a puppet's performance. But after Sven's visit I think I should not wait, and want to simultaneously begin to exercise these skills while I build the set, say, one day a week? I was also kind of waiting for the next great camera breakthrough. You know the one, where you get the resolution and clarity of a digital still camera that flows flawlessly with a great framegrabber like Framethief and plugs directly into a portable Mac moniter? But while waiting, I am now happy to dive in with the Honorary Strider Stop Motion Patrol Unibrain Webcam of Joy and my second hand Nikon Coolpix 950 with the broken battery hatch latch held up snug with a rubber band.

To put me on track, Sven generously wanted to accomplish teaching me voice syncing while he was here. He walked me patiently through the entire process of adding dialog to animation, something I would have aptly avoided for YEARS!!! on my own. But everything is possible with Sven around. His clear and positive nature makes even the most daunting task seem doable! I learned how cool Garageband is and the input and distortion filters there, how to make a Papagayo dope sheet based on that sound file and then how to use that to animate the mouth of my puppets, how to use Quicktime Pro to export that into different formats and frame rates. Loved it!

It's About Damn Time You Learned How To Do The Sound! on VimeoShelley first learning sound and not caring about any other aspect of this little clip with Dad and Jimmy (and Toby!). Voice talent, Sven Bonnichsen.

I'll give Sven first dibs on describing what type of mini workshop we did for his exploration. I had such a blast and will show my cool results later!


  1. Super cool post!

    Totally jazzes me up for another test......{Stay on track justin ....dont get distracted!!}
    seriously...these tests are really cool....animation is fun!

    I totally think you should'nt put off animating...its therapudic , however you spell it.

    Practice now so That when you are ready to film you are experianced and have developed alot of answers to the wild problems that will definately arrise in the creation of your film. Plus you will quickly improve from your first animations ....this could create you doing lots of reshoots due to the growth of you skills.

    excellent stuff though.

    you just grew this last Svensday and thats incredibly exciting!


  2. by the way!!!

    how the heck are you guys getting these videos to come up on your blogs. I want this power??

    any help?


  3. I can really feel the love flowing through the internet! Seriously, it's a joy to see these pics and read your commentary on Sven's visit. It's clear to see you two connected fantastically and kindled the flame of stopmo joy between you. And even just reading about it, I'm getting some of the sparks. Man, I wish I could stop by and we could build some puppets!

  4. Svenday is truly sending giant ripples through our entire microcosmos!

  5. Svensday! I meant Svensday!!!

  6. Justin you are 100% right on that. I could tell from the tips Sven graciously shared about things he'd learned from animating that the preperation clips I'll do before my main shot are going to make it that much better.

    Oh, the magic power comes from a cool video host called Vimeo ( and I really dig 'em. They have a super clean interface, no ads, and a generous amount of free storage, 250 MB week! That's plenty for 320x240 web clips!

    I'm so glad you caught the feel of the visit, Mikeee. And omagod YES! We remarked how you especially would have dug being here and/or somehow we are going to HAVE to do this all together, some time, some way, some how, gotta. Too too much good stuff to do together.

    (*Wouldn't the Svensday joke have been so much more perfect if he had come by on a WEDNESDAY? The rhyming-doh-she is too moiche--I must laugh!)

    If it doesn't wear readers patience too much, there are more cool photos and thoughts on what I realize now some of the reasons getting together is so good for all of us coming soon as another post!!

  7. More for Justin, you can choose a video host, make a FREE account, format your clips so that they are 320 x 240 Sorenson 3 (as most peope have that on their comps), upload the mofos to Vimeo (or place of your choice), then after that host converts your clip to Flash, take the "embed" html code (< a href="http:...) and plonk it in your blog text! woo hoo! It's all perfectly understandable there, really not much brains needed.

    Sven's website web site, not free Blogger blog, can host hizzen own clips, but you are like me with Blogger right now, so this way seems to work suitably well for now, eh? I notice other folks have chosen this way too, Jeffery and Hila Bila. Mike may have othe idees but I think he also hosts his own?

  8. again, so know I love the collaboration bug :) I expect the implosion of a world of creativity when we all meet up someday...

    Yes, vimeo is nice, in fact the guy who created the site commented on my last jenny clip, so I'll probably stick with them since Ive got a new fan :)

    And yes, absolutely animate now Shell....I feel like we are in the same boat...the fabrication part is natural to me, Ive been creating with my hands for decades, but the animation, the breath of life, is new to me too...

  9. Absolutely well said, Jeffery. Great big picture take.

  10. Anonymous12:10 PM

    You mentioned you made a Puppet...Any Photos!

    Was it for Halfland?

  11. Hi Ben, the puppet was for Sven's mini-workshop and he made a quickie animation with it. The idea was to make a departure for him and this sure was. I'll let him talk about it if he wants.

    I made a little mask/puppet during that workshop that I'll show soon.

    Thanks for asking! How are your projects going?

  12. Ahh how totally awesome. I'm so excited for you both to have such great quality artist-time together.

    If I may comment on your reticence towards the actual animation process--I feel that way on an almost DAILY basis. Then the drill sergeant in my head barks at me: "Just BEGIN." Put something on the stage, point the camera, and start shootin'. That usually gets the ball rolling and squelches whatever insecurities I'm feeling about how the finished work will look (which is usually the underlying issue for me).

    Just my thoughts.


  13. Yes! Thanks so much, Michael. You are quite right, starting in is such a key in these things. Mike used to say that if you pick up some wire and start to twist, next thing you know you've got a puppet! So true, so true.

    I'm not afraid to look bad that I know of. The reason I haven't animated yet is that I was building the set, which in this case is a long ass job. I'm seeing that stop motion is a slow process, like the French dude said in the Windmill Boy doc. But working alone, doing things that are wholly new, is a lot slower still than I had imagined it.

    Nevermind, I will animate. It's toooooooooo much fun not to! Right on.

  14. hey herself,

    wow! what a cool blog. and what an exciting time you are having....i think it's awesome that you are starting to focus on animating....(i'm flirting with that idea myself but i'm a totally baby beginer and super shy about it so don't tell anybody!!).

    i just checked out your blog and am really impressed with all your sets....i love the detail and colors.

    looking forward to reading more. thanks, too, for commenting on justin's and my blog, it's always cool to read what you have to say, i really appreciate your enthusiasm and encouragement.

  15. Gosh thanks, Shel! I guarantee that any animation you choose to do in the future will be absolutely wonderful. Think of it. With your dance background and depth, imagine what beautiful works of art you could make?!

    What if you decided to make a music video with paper puppets of a piece of performance music that you especially loved. Or expressing visually a poem that means something to you?! It'll be fun to watch what you choose to do as time goes by.

    I learned from Sven, and Jeffery Roche recently commented, about the natural movement of a puppet, Jeffery called it the breath of life, that happens when an animator gets it right. Sven talked about the placement of the weight as the puppet stands and shifts while gesturing, that kind of thing.

    I believe dancers have an advantage over other beginning stop mos because we already understand movement when it's natural, the line, placement, choreography, etc. Now it's all about learning to put that onto a puppet and go WILD!

    Yes, do it, do it, do it, do it!!

  16. Anonymous8:36 AM

    Thanks Shel,

    For once things are happening at Off the Shelf, I've decided not to go with the Mail Man its been put on the back burner. But I have a new project in mind and will be taking action on it very soon!

  17. Sounds good, Ben. Do it do it do it!

  18. thanks for the encouragement (again!) i know you are right and i am curious and excited about all the possibilities that float through my head during the day now as i begin to seriously think about how i might make movement (as well as sets and puppets) in this medium......time is a big issue (or maybe just a big excuse!)

    i think i just need to start small and do some tests here and there and see what they spark and where they take me....

    but first we've got to get this dog into production.....................................

    i'll keep checking in to see what you're up to, you're good inpiration.

  19. Yes, please keep checking in to follow progress here, Shel. It helps so much to have an audience I care about waiting for some action. Woo hoo.

    Let's go!


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