Thursday, June 29, 2006


Took a lightweight shaped sheet of Styrofoam, hot-glued it in as the meat in a cardstock sammich, wrapped it in hardware cloth, stapled and shaped it as tightly as possible, buttered it with ready mixed patching compound.

Today is an example of how this project blog is effective. I've got crazy Fraulein of das Haus business going on these days and would not have made time to make progress on the next steps if it weren't for the marvelous pressure of knowing YOU are out there waiting. I can't let you down--not letting me--not let me down. See? Beautiful!

Slapdashed together, believing that Doing is more important than Doing Right, right now. I'm letting the first coat of compound dry on the test wall panel (it took the whole quart) and will see how it sets up tomorrow. It'll need at least one more coat to cover the wire and look like plaster. I'm sure there are many ways to create these walls and the cottage, why I chose this way I've no idea. But moving forward is the name of this game.

A Note for the Ladies: I couldn't find my big bulky leather work gloves to protect my hands from nasty nicks from the wire edges. So I grabbed my winter gloves which worked like a charm. Being smaller, they were far easier to articulate. It was the most comforatble wire grabbing I've done yet. I'll be keeping my eyes open for these kinds of gloves at thrift shops in future.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

It's Mike Brent Day!!

Ladies and Gentlemen, we pause from all the wall building excitement to bring you...

A day of TRIBUTE for one of the world's greatest people, a man who gives to each of us day after day, shares his expertise with us, offers his formidable support and encouragement for all of us here budding stop motion puppet film enthusiasts.

He is a cut above the rest, a true artist. An original, whose work will always inspire and take us all along with him to the next level with our art.

He is a deep thinker, a natural intellectual. A filmmaker with a keen sense of film's artistic, poetic potential, fond of using hot shot movement style and symbolic images to express his mystical ideas, emotions, and meaningful states of mind.

Happy Birthday, Dark Strider, we celebrate you!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

This/Not This: The Cottage

By popular request? These are but a few photos off the Halfland reference panels for the exterior of Rana's cottage.

There are dozens more, but I thought I'd offer a taste of what I'm going for in terms of level of detail/refinement, concepts, and style. My apologies to the extraordinary artists who created these marvelous works for not conscientiously listing their names however, I have been grabbing these images from every source imaginable; books, greeting cards, web-spotting, camera phone drive-bys, etc. and keeping a good record of the detail of attribution is something I decided to let slide years ago. But I do very much appreciate the visuals help in realizing what I see in my minds eye.

I call these reference sheets, "This/Not This" because I can point to aspects of each and tell people that, "Halfland's world will look like this, in this way, but not in this way." Example: "The cottage will have this kind of stone chimney but the wooden siding will be color-washed plaster instead, like you see in the toy shop window image instead." That sort of thing.

Unexpectedly out all day today, so wall progress tomorrow, in small, tiny, miniscule, little, pieces.

Good night!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Walls Breaking Down, Walls Going Up

It seems for me, not moving on things comes from my not knowing how, and here's the even more startling part to me, I may not even be aware that this is actually the case at the time. Is that how I got here? 14 years, etc.? Doesn't matter, it all had to come down this perfect way in the end. But knowing that I need to break tasks into even smaller pieces than I may think, and that this could be at the root of my long standing inability to follow through in as timely a way as I'd like, makes me think I can do projects better going forward now.

Today: I drilled holes in square stock and glued in 4 inch dowels. These "pegs" become vertical framing supports for cottage wall panels.

I then drilled the same size holes into the set flooring, forming the interior areas around the Rana puppet stand in ("Stana" as Mike, Master of Word Combines, calls her). You may be able to make out how much larger the interior cottage has been adjusted as compared to the lines previously drawn on the set.

I glued remaining reference clippings of the cottage exterior to large panels of paper to use as I begin to build the cottage in earnest. (I had forgotten two panels had already been completed months ago!)

I cut into the tree to begin to wedge a small (ready built) cabinet into the trunk. It will be incorporated into the bark as part of the kitchen in the tree.

Himself and I moved my computer desk 15" toward the window away from the set to give me more room to dive into the Halfland set. (I'll get a longer keyboard cable so I can put the framegrabber control on a wheeled trolley near all the animating action and still see the monitor.)

Tomorrow: Glue cardstock onto the cut Styrofoam wall panels and attach them to the vertical support pegs. Then cut windows into the panels. Challenge: figuring out how to position the bay window in the octagonal floorplan shape.

Next Day: Cover the wall/window panels with hardware cloth to provide something on which the compounds can adhere.

After That: Trowel on ready mixed Fixall patching compound and when/if that runs out, I mix up a batch of un-ready mixed Fixall, and when/if that runs out regular plaster.

A Promise to Gentle Readers: I suspect this blog will have more exciting posts as things progress in the project. I imagine only select stop motionists and friends would bother reading today's brand of grinding middle-work business. But if you have, thank you for the virtual support!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Guardian of Action

Mood image from an Italian photographer that captures the obscuring blur and chiaroscuro I'd like for Rana's cottage.

Kind guardian of action, Sven Bonnichsen (, counted the days since my last post (he's the only one who does math around here) and offered a friendly %3@#$%kicking, reminding me that this blog is for DAILY action on Halfland. Real action as well, not namby pamby faux pretend "oh, I'm thinking of this" stuff either!

I can honestly say I haven't been wasting time and my excuse is that I focused more on getting paying projects to press, taking care of home and hearth (except for ironing, that's still piling up), giving Himself private ballet lessons every night (not a euphemism) and taking ballet three times a week myself. Minimal time has been spent lounging on the (evil) time-robbing sofa with cookie crumbs on my mouth and my hand stuck down in a can of Pringles©ƒ.

That being said, let's go. Because every friggin' waking moment of my life (aside from said moments listed above) is spent relishing fabricating Halfland characters and props to the point where I want to grab my hair in both fists and rend it out by the roots! Dudes, I can TASTE IT more than ever!!!!!! ARGGGGHHHHH.



1. Take the contents of the 32 envelopes of invaluable and necessary reference clippings for every aspect of the project and paste the mutha's down on butcher's paper with wallpaper paste. Take photo of the whole shabang, spread out like a futbol field, and then hang them on rope lines around work/building area.
An essential preliminary step although perhaps a less sexy one than starting to build something.

2. Create a sample of cottage groundscape that includes real roots I scavenged from a tree removal last year and moss and grasses, gravel and dirt. In order to test ideas and see where I'm going with the finished grounds on the set.
Not important to do now at all, possible distraction, but I keep wanting to do it, perhaps because it's an important 3D sketch to make? (interrogative.)

3. Dive in and cover the Styrofoam cottage walls with cardstock and position them on set around the tree. Fasten them with a removable peg system, cover them with wire mesh and then knife on base layer of Fixall plaster coating.
Gotta do it. Been avoiding it. Gotta move this step forward so I can begin building the cottage set in earnest. Frustration rating 6.2

4. No fabrication. Make paper cutouts and run through a selected scene with still camera for 3D story boarding.
Well, gotta fabricate at some point. And gotta 3D story board at some point. I tend to think fabbin' first to get more project momentum going for myself.

or 5. go back to the poor Mach ll foam covered Rana stand-in puppet that's been forlornly harnessed upsidedown in my bench vise since I hacked off the (incorrectly fashioned) bolts in her hoovals, with her faux fleece skin all peeled back and sad lookin'. Repair her feet, her legs, her torso and shoot a clip of her to continue testing camera/software flow.

There are dozens more points at which to start, but I've narrowed the list down to these for voting purposes.

What'll it be? Any ideas/advice on what I should do first, Gang? Thank you so much for the support.

Friday, June 16, 2006

For Whatever It's Worth

Himself scolded me for not posting here in four days. I told him the "finding the music clip" post was MAJOR(!) but he remained unmoved. Can't get anything past 'em.

No time to fabricate anything or fake some real progress--I thought I'd release a paragraph I wrote this afternoon to imaginary friends (often much more "real" than the ones I can serve tea to, mind you!) I was being outlandish with them and yet there is a truth in it that resolves a question of intent I've been mulling over in my mind.

What is the impetus, motivation, reason for obsessively focusing on Halfland and other creative endeavors? On one level, it's something fun to do (understatement) but I needed to unravel a larger feeling that's been pestering me about it recently. The question is, what fruits do such efforts bear? And then, what would I wish those gains to be? It may seem much for a neophyte, nonprofessional, novice I realize, but it is how I feel about it today nonetheless.

"I want my humble little films to call forth our deepest being in their making and watching. I want them to elevate as an experience. I wish them to carry a sense of truth that registers within the whole being of the viewer that gives rise to a life better lived, a resonance that enkindles joy, peace, enthusiasm, and creativity."

"Where the word of the poet ceases, a great light begins." --George Steiner

Monday, June 12, 2006

UPDATED!!! Rana's Theme

Rana's Theme on Vimeo
This illustration was made to announce that, after a hard slog to locate, the name of my dream music for Halfland was delivered to my inbox today.

This was a big deal as everytime I heard this little piece on the radio under an ad I would swoon from how perfect it would be for Rana's films. After many many months of Googling to find out what it was I finally located the ad agency's name on Friday and found that they had an "oddball question" service and boy, do I qualify on that front! So, bing bada bam, this morning the oddball query dude delivered the goods bless'em. I've registered with the production music service in question and will have to see how much licensing this gem is going to set me back.

UPDATE: I'm getting a bit more educated. I learned that .ram files are not on my hardrive but rather just text that leads back to the site that has the file on its server, like a bread crumb trail in the woods, aww. So no dice putting it here, Blogger won't infringe, or into QTPro, iMovie, etc. I spent hours searching for and installing freeware Mac ripping/converting software that promised to magically turn all files into any format one might wish, ultimately finding that the .ram format conversion is only currently available for Windows bla bla. But I did confirm that the licensed files available from the music service will be usable .wav, MP3 ,etc. formats and higher quality sounding as well. So that's good, as I wouldn't have used it in the film unauthorized regardless. Here's hoping it'll come in affordably or you guys'll have to break out your musical instruments and

FURTHER UPDATE: The fine boyz over at Rogue Amoeba and Audio Hijack ( came through on a Max Audio converter forum query and gave me an answer on how I could copy one format to another that would be usable. And Voila! VICTORY!!! Mwahahahaaaaaa-a.

Tee hee.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

He Becomes He

I hand-feed caterpillars scented geranium leaves, one by one, and wait as they each change underground.

This little fellow came out today. He is a delicate shade of absinthe green. I am fascinated by transformation like this. How could one type of creature become another?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

My Advocate in the World

My mind, my advocate in the world, upon hearing of the arrival of pain, leaves its residence in my head and flies to the side of my emotions, like the minister cat who licks my hand in sympathy.

This is why those in pain liedown. So that their bodies may know others will come to their aid. So that they may receive communion from God in the form of a pink tongue just now.

Just now.

My wails and weeping drive my children away from my womb in retreating fear that their mother cannot look after them.

Helpless, I cannot care for myself, the patient, whose mind has no keeper. We watch as the belly swells and ebbs in measure with grief.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

I Left My Computer Due to Early Taymor

"Using projections, puppetry, masks and Goldenthal's richly layered and highly emotional score, Taymor creates an enthralling visual landscape. In this world of kings, queens, storytellers and warriors, Taymor and her co-librettist, J.D. McClatchy, present a Grendel that is a quintessentialy modern anti-hero. With language ranging from medieval to modern, Grendel serves as a gripping theatrical allegory of the human struggle."

Wonderful Husband Himself, splurged on fun special 10th anniversary gifts for us this weekend, the centerpiece of which were non-nosebleed (!) seats at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for a NEW! World Premiere opera by Julie Taymor. We are huge admirers of her gift for creative theatrical interpretations of meaty, meaningful stories. This time, Grendel, an original score by her love, Elliot Goldenthal, and her own libretto (they share a life-long fascination with the book by the late professor, John Gardner which in turn was based on the classic old English poem entitled, Beowulf. (I knew nothing of it before yesterday, we went to a lecture at the center before the performance that thankfully gave it all context.) The story itself was rife with juicy notions of what it is to be human as told from an ancient, terrible Monster's point of view. Having him around destroying us defines us, etc.

One of the most exciting aspects for me was that Michael Curry, technical engineer and essential ingredient for Julie's vision to be fully realized, in my opinion, had co-designed and contributed his own gifts to this project. For me, when these two get together, Julie's entree into high levels of literary culture and expressive conceptualizations, Micheal's ability to reach into her mind/vision and bring it out to fruition without losing a drop of it's artistic eloquence, it is one of the most powerful pairings possible. I'm thinking especially of the half-animal, half-flora, "unformed" ten foot creatures that wander as if in a dream across the stage at one point. I can't comment on the music (as I don't relate to music in general) except to say that I thought the visuals and the music were perfectly matched in terms of texture and mood, both primitive, discordant, and of the period in motif.

Aside for some, in our opinion, major set issues from the usually brilliant George Tsypin. (It felt to me as though they had to throw relatively unfinished-looking replacements of their biggest set pieces up after computer glitches had caused the opening to be postponed--though I could be totally wrong about that.) It was as if the set were left largely blank, which unless the bareness deliberate, didn't match the fully-realized puppets and creatures to me. I've been SPOILED by the 1992 Taymor/Curry/Tsypin's Oedipus' set which was much more of a work of art unto itself than this. With that you saw every penny of the millions well used. I suspect if this production opens as planned in New York next month, it will look more at home. (they're calling LA an out-of-town try out!) If not then, perhaps when and if Julie makes Grendel into a film.

There were several moments that blew my mind as we've come to expect from Julie. There was a particular moment at the end of Act 1, when she enhanced dramatic crescendo of the story with modern artful films projected onto black proscenium scrim. It was a moment of the story, the music, the visuals, the multi-dimensionality of the performers on stage and on film coming together creating an experience that transcended mere theater. Brava to Ms. Taymor. There were several scenes that achieved that magic.

Thank you for indulging me in a review. Believe you me, I could go on even more than I have here, but please allow me to attach a personal note. Happy Anniversary, Dear. Thank you so much for grabbing the rare opportunity of a worthwhile way to celebrate our life.

For those interested, another write up here from the Press Telegram;

Friday, June 02, 2006

Much Like Notches on a Bedpost

A peek at the updated goal marker on the underside of the Halfland main set

A few more walk throughs of the animation process... and then fabrication on the main set takes up in earnest again. I'll likely simulwork on puppet casting and finishing during that phase as well. Then of course, there are the rehearsal clips. (Tee Hee.)

So far, the first official scheduled commitment is to complete animation for film 1, scene 2* by the last day of this year (12:31:06:1:2)

*Complete story outline here:

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Beginning of Stillness

crummy on Vimeo
The tiedown indignation of last Saturday--but happily made from imported stills for the first time!

Not for the lack of enough foam on her arms and bodice,
Not for the wrong way Tiedowns,
Not because you can't see the problem hooves due to the difference between the view finder and the lens position showing the board the camera is set on,
Not because the animation was done without web cam/onion-skinning assist...

Posted because this is my first test of using my digital still cam (Nikon Coolpix 950) for stop motion capture!!!!!!

Sven (, to whom I will be eternally grateful for this fact alone! gave me the tip that QuickTime Pro had an "Open image Sequence" feature that will create importable clips of a series of still shots for you. This was greatly encouraging for me as I've never understood how this was possible. People would say it was doable but I could not grasp how. As I was about to click the perfectly reasonable $29.99 for the QTPro, I was hit by a Mike Brent gene splice and thought that I should first check to see if some software I already had might also share this elusive attribute. It hurt my head to think like him but the results were admirable.

I finally loaded up the Holy Adobe Premiere and After Effects apps that had been kept in a dusty time capsule here since I got them 6 years ago. I installed and tried them both out on this momentous day, even though they were so old they kicked off Classic!!! Yeeekh. I persevered with trying to import the folder of stills, even though both programs running in Classic repeatedly crashed out.

During one last Google for "stop motion sequence", I stumbled onto a mention that my (newly purchased) iStopMotion frame grabber also shared The Magical Gift; imported the folder, exported the clip to QT Sorenson 3, opened it in iMovie, slowed down the pace, exported the revised clip again to a QT Sorenson 3 (twice compressed) and uploaded it to Vimeo (UPDATE: The uploaded version had an error, not knowing what caused it, I resaved a lower res version and replaced the double Sorenson 3) . All just to see what would happen.

I'll be finishing the stand-in puppet and trying out variations on this still frame theme, but now we're on our way.
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