This was a pretty big day in Halfland. It started early this morning when I realized that Sven was suggesting I create the storyboard panels in Flash while I was thinking about importing ready art into iMovie to test the animation. Once I figured the difference, I threw yesterday's gifs right into an iMovie project and started playing around. It felt good use something I already knew a little. The pan and zoom effects looked great, the scrub through looked pretty animated, enough for an animatic anyway.

Later, while admiring the finished character sketch posted to Flickr, seen above, that was finessed with an elaborate combination of Photoshop filters to look more like a painterly, storybook illustration, that I thought--hey, why should I go through the effort of creating an animation with the less charming sketches when I could use the sketches as a guide to create the panels with the finished illustration instead?! I looked at how difficult that would be, not very. I added some chirping, crickets, and thumping audio files to the test clip, that'll work fine for a quickie clip.

I realized that the sequence will end/transition with one of the hats falling down onto a sleeping cat below after the birds go into a proper tug-o-war, something that I love and could only have been thought of by working on the action like this in earnest.

I realized that I want to use giant projected sky scapes behind my sets (possibly on white sheets attached to the floor and curved onto the ceiling (just thought of that and how it could be done) rather than green screen compositing, for two reasons. One, I love the way projection gives an illumined quality to an environment perfect for the Halfland world, such as the sky seen in Adam Bizanski's (brilliant) Pink Bullets music video. And two, I love the idea of actually advancing the sky's frames every few film frames, almost like they did with Nightmare Before Christmas' fireplace flames, to give the sky more breath and life.

I realized that I'll need to make metal rods jutting straight down from under the bird puppet's feet so the rods can be inserted into the tree branch as "tiedowns". I realized that I'll need to wire the wing feathers very securely in order to articulate them for picking up and holding the hand mirror. I realize that if that doesn't work I may have to switch to having them use their legs and claws as hands. I realized that the hat that falls onto the cat will be a woolen cap with tassels as that would be the funniest style to see land crookedly on his head. Woompf. (Comedy will ensue--in my head. Alone.)

I realized that this sequence will be entitled, "Quarrel". (Even though there won't be any written language in the film itself, I will have special, single-word titles for each sequence on the files.)

I realized that the mister bird will have feather markings that look like an ambassador breast sash and the lady bird's will look like the decolletage of a gown.

And finally, I realized that I cannot draw a free form sketch for sure! I tried drawing little quick line art renderings by hand tonight and it came out worse than I care to admit (notice I'm not showing it.) I even tried making postage stamp sized thumbnails of the now extended and completed action but it was impossibly tedious to do, especially since I'd already worked most of it out with the other version yesterday. I may try that method again for story ideas that I haven't thought out at all.

And I also realize that anyone who has read this far in this post is either as nuts as me over stop motion or is married to me.


  1. Anonymous11:23 AM

    Hm. Of the two options, I guess I must be "nuts."


    Congrats Shells -- sounds like you had a really productive day!

  2. That picture is really beautiful!

    Interesting though... the background on it is blank, just a yellowish field, and yet that's not how you plan to do the movie? I wonder why?

    Shall I be the one to tell you how incredibly difficult it would be to project up background images? So many difficulties...

    Any compositing program will let you advance the BG image a frame at a time, just as you were thinking of doing with a projected image.

    Were you thinking of fleecy clouds drifting past? I rather prefer a more abstractish approach, maybe a lacing of delicate branches or even just a blank background like in your drawing.

  3. Thanks, Sven. Now I know where you stand.

    Thanks, Mikeee Mikes McMichealsmiths, Yes, I thought I'd keep a plain yellow background for the Birds in Hats animatic animation clip, even though it would be the cottage interior in actual Halfland, to simplfy the process since I'm only really using it for working out the action on the branch.

    About the projected sky, are you saying that I can't project images during shooting? I'm sure you've looked into it at the SMA boards enough to realize that. I know enough to take your word for such things. When I get the set finished I may throw up a sheet and direct my overhead projector at it to see the problems you're talking about.

    It may be that a digital solution will be best, I'll find out.

    The sky/cloud scape I was talking about wasn't for the birds so much as they are indoors. I was thinking ahead to the cottage exterior scenes, yes, blue skies, white fluffers. Hamilton Mattress used lights inside cotton to good effect but I wanted something more like the projected image in Pink Bullets. I even like the way you can see the paper's edges in that. Realistic images become abstracted by showing the workings of the filming.

  4. What makes you think Pink Bullets had projected backgrounds? I just went back and watched it again, and I'd say he just hung paper in the background with pictures of cloudscapes on them. There's no movement, except sometimes between scenes he changed the paper to a different picture, and once he aimed a red spotlight at it that moved from frame to frame to represent a setting sun. If you look, you can clearly see folds and wrinkles in the paper, which adds to the folded paper/homemade quality that's so appealing in that video. I think if he would have done something as high tech as projected backgrounds it wouldn't have fit into the aesthetic.

    Overhead projector? You mean the kind like the A/V geeks used to wheel around on a cart through the school corridors? Those take transparencies, right?
    Where would you get a transparent image of cloudscapes that move from one image to the next, and how would you register them perfectly? You'd almost have to take film footage of the sky and have each frame blown up to 8X10 or whatever as some kind of transparency with sprocket holes or some kind of holes punched for registration, and have an animation pegbar glued securely to the platten of the projector. Or else use a movie projector that's been specially modified so it can freeze on one frame for a long timew without melting it. Would the bulb maintain a constant level of illumination for such a long period of time, or tend to go yellow/orange and get dimmer, as incandescant light usually does? You'd also have to lock the cart (or whatever it's on) in place securely and make sure you never bump it. A projected image that gets bumped will jump a lot farther than an actual setpiece that gets bumped, because of the length of throw of the light beam.

    And projecting onto hanging sheets.... you'd have to ensure there's no incidental light behind it (like sunlight) or it would pretty much kill the illusion, especially if it moves.

    I thought you were wanting to make a nice simple movie with a beautiful homemade aesthetic, not compete with WETA digital and ILM for high tech stuff?

  5. If you do want to shoot footage of moving clouds to incorporate that can be done much easier with a bluescreen/greenscreen type compositing program. You'd have to paint the background wall bright blue (or some color that's not on your puppets or your set anywhere, can be any color actually) and it would have to be very brightly and evenly lit, without any of the spill light getting onto the set (or it will mess things up good). Generally that's accomplished by having a lot of space between set and background... like 4 or 5 feet. And that means a big background wall , and that means a lot of light to light it evenly, with no dark spots anywhere.

    It would help if you could have only a small area where the sky shows through. Much easir to get even illumination on a 3 foot square area than an 8 foot area.

  6. There were a couple of instances in Pink Bullets that *appeared* to me to be projected at the paper. I can isolate them as screen shots to show it but it really doesn't matter whether Adam did or didn't do that. It inspired me to think of doing it myself regardless. Like I said, when he showed the paper edges and wrinkles it became part of his motif perfectly, just like the ink lines showing on the paper puppets. Showing the workings became the style.

    In terms of what I was thinking about for here, firstly, I plan to block out all light during filming. Secondly, there are large proscenium and walls here with enough room to get a goodly distance behind the set, so I should test it out at least. Thirdly, I feel projecting *unregistered* sky images does match the Halfland look of a rustic, handmade, world to me. I'd like there also to be a dream quality to it, perhaps using optical lenses and other atmospheric elements. The point is, that when the set is done I'll experiment with a few things to see what hits the mark.

    Yes, I've got a real vintage geek A/V unit! I use it to project transperancies onto walls for artwork. I was thinking of using it to test the projection idea, see how it looks as a still frame. If it looks good I may want a film projector running sky footage. Or I suppose I could use overlays of sky scapes on the overhead, if it looks good to have the sky change that way.

    Let me be clear, I am NOT going for a polished product like big companies might. It WILL be homemade, hand-crafted because it is, no matter what I do. I imagine at the end of the day I'll have used everything in it, straight puppets, in-camera effects, digital effects, all of it. But it will all be put together with whatever I have available to me naturally. That's key, kind of my own Dogma 13 type rule. I use what I have or can get easily. Sometime I can go into more detail about why that's a rule and why it works philisophically for me. It partically has to do with the "power of limits".

    Yours, until the kitchen sinks. s

  7. I'll bet I know the shots you're talking about..... there were a couple of shots where toward the end the lighting shrank... as if he tightened the focus of his spotlight or moved it so the edge of the image darkened. I think that would be fairly easy to do.

    Ok, I can definitely see where it might work to have a large-ish transparency of a cloudscape and maybe slide it a little bit between frames. That would actually look pretty cool. And I always loved those old Noir films where they obviously used rear projection behind the car, and the road twists and turns without being in sync with the way the driver is turning the wheel. I actually really love that kind of thing, and always hoped one day I can do something similar (though I imagine I'd do it in compositing software). It looks even cooler if the lighting doesn't really match the foreground lighting and the BG image is greally grainy or slightly out of focus!

    And yes, if you plan to block out incidental light that would help a lot. Last I heard you weren't going to do that.

    So.... heck, I guess it just might work~!
    Worth 'spearmintin' with anyway.

  8. E-X-A-C-T-L-Y! YES! I've been watching some films from the 40's and LOVING the rear screen projection look so much. Just as you say, with unmatched light and mis-aligned action gives a old-fashioned hand-made look that is terribly appealing.

  9. Well I finally catch up with this thread...

    I say go for it Shell, I don't see why you could not use a overhead projector back projected on a transparent screen and move the slide or transparancy across the projector top as you animate. Maybe do it as a separate pass and composite it into your stop motion. Quirky movement might add to the hand made feel quite nicely.

  10. Thank you, thank you, thank you for that, Mark! I think it'll work too, in just the right way! We will see. Cheers!


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