You've found it, the real Halfland. Is the snoring cat Bosq seen in a dream, is he a memory? No, he's in Halfland.
I'm posting this first because it is quite possibly the most exciting thing to happen to Halfland yet, at least one of the most. Let me put it this way, I cried a little in some kind of mix of joy/relief in finding an answer when I couldn't even ask the question.
Here's what happened, last year I stumbled upon an amazing video artist called Remyyy on Vimeo. (first found him through the popularity of his masterful pairings of vintage dance footage with new music.) He's a lovely French fellow who makes some of the most viscerally evocative art films I've seen. So fresh, so innovative.
One fine day he comes out with a simple film that looks precisely like I'd always envisioned for Halfland, not megapixel clean, not hires, not digital, even as it was shot with it. I was wanting Halfland to be filled with an abundance of natural atmosphere and a certain aesthetic mood--is it a dream, is it a memory? No, it's Halfland--but how? Ah, Remyyy did it.
When I found his tutorial for what Remyyy calls his Shoebox a while back (first cry). Flickr photo of set up.
In a nutshell: you use a magnifying lens of some kind and size of your liking, find its focal length and have it project an image of the world around you onto a semi transparent "screen" positioned inside a darkened box, upside down and backwards. Then, position a camera of your choosing at that screen inside the box to capture the wonderful organic distortion and blurring of the world. Wiki page on Camera Obscura.
Finally, over the last two days, I've followed the general instructions and experimented to adapt the technique to stop motion using every magnifying lens and loop I had in the house. I made several sizes and shapes, used various screening materials, etc. I got it working and began to understand the process. The general shoebox is excellent for "infinity" photography of real life landscapes, capturing light, shadow, and subdued color. Sensational. (I plan to make a shoebox for the little digital video camera I'll be sending to Jessica and Hans for the forest live action sequences as well.)
But could it be adapted to miniature stop motion? YES!! I did it today (cried again), the image above is my first successful effort. I call it Macro Obscura. After dozens of experimental test videos I happened upon using an orphaned Olympus 50mm 35mm lens and a strip of simple tracing paper (seems to work best for translucence and opacity for this) and my little silver box for a rough test. There is about a 1/4" depth of field with the naked lens, and it's a very strong macro.
There are technical adjustments still to sort out with my methods, for example my naked eye looking into the box sees a perfect magical land before it, but when I snap a picture or shoot a video of it, there are crass artifacts of tracing paper texture or white point hot spots, etc. I'm hoping to iron these issues out and arrive at a combination of magnifying lens and recording camera that can be used to create at least some of Halfland's footage.
Click on photo for Flickr page; go to "all sizes" and click for full screen view. Only slightly less exciting Clockwise from left; surface texture base coat complete, half (HA!) of the landscape surfaced with vermiculite/mulch combo adhered with clear gel adhesive, close-up of the pseudo soil between towel grass patches (awaiting green dye), it takes two layers of the ground cover (sweeping off excess in between layers) before it looks suddenly like real earth.
Announcing new Pseudo Soil happening on set! I completed surfacing the entire set with grassy towel and batting patches and blending the edges of them with stippled plaster. Then developed a Faux Earth methodology. I'm thrilled with how it's looking, far more real than I thought. What works best is a bold layer of super thickened art paste (Attention People of Elmers: This is not a paste and should be called clear gel adhesive instead.) with a sprinkling of lighter than air VERMICULITE (organic certified no asbestos) mixed with pulverized bark (aka: MULCH) both found at garden centers for pennies a pound. (use gloves and respirators for when the dust gets kicked up from sweeping off excess between layers.) The first layer can be tinted with dilute dye for richer color and deeper look after two layers (dried in between) are applied to all the built in mache undulations.