Saturday, June 28, 2008

Yunickrich: of Tripods and Quadropodes

Celebrity Quadropod, Illy, was spotted canoodling with an unnamed startfish today. "No Photos please!" he shouted as the paparazzi drove by.

My thanks to Nick Hilligoss, Dick (Yuji) Kaneshiro, and Richard Van Der Male, and all those that teach me and watch me learn.

same test clip only shown at 1/2 speed (funky compression at start)

This is my second test of Dick Yuji Kaneshiro's brilliant Smoomoo camera mover. And Smoomoo is a dream! And Surprise! Reader eFriend from Australia!, Rich Van Der Male, saw Mike's urging for me to get a decent Manfrotto tripod head to trick out the camera slide for swival, pans, and tilts, found one he didn't need, and SENT IT TO ME as his endowment for the arts!! I guess he's well endowed. So, now it's Smoomoo with more movement, one might even say it's now a "Smoomoomoo".

I'm going to say this nonchalantly at first; I adapted the Manfrotto tripod head to mount securely to the aluminum Smoomoo platform. That statement doesn't tell you that I did this without the know-how or ability to have done it! I thought of how to do it myself and used hardware, nuts and bolts that I already had here! That's crazy! I used a steel flange, various washers, nuts, I even hacked off the length of the right diameter bolt so it could be used. Is this how things get done? Cool.

This Made in Italy Manfrotto baby is so luxuriously smooth riding on the glide track. It's not a geared head but I plan to keep testing to see if I can get the look I want with it. Rich, that was an incredibly generous and kind thing to have done. I thank you for it. I'm very grateful.

As I am to Yuji for coming over to build a copy of this fantastic camera mover. And to the brilliant Nick Hilligoss for making the two Quadropodes that could only have been made after his many years of experience animating. They are the perfect scale, the perfect amount of detail, the perfect posable armature. The eyes stay in their latex lids perfectly, the tiedowns hold perfectly firm. Plus their concept for the underwater scene is well, perfect. I can't thank Mr. Nick enough for sending these to use.

I loved my quick test animating today. I was thrilled to start playing with the technology of it, begin to understand that there's a rhythm to doing it, and most of all glad to see that I love doing it. Yep, I'm stone cold solid hooked.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Meet Smoomoo

This is the finished smooth-mover (Smoomoo); a true plank, with length of 80/20 aluminum extrusion bolted with counter-sinked holes (Thanks, Downstairs Clare!), a braking platform that rides in the bar's grooves acts as camera mount. I added incremental tape measures today and glued on a small metal pointer to serve as position marker, highlighted.

The fabulous Dick (Yuji) Kaneshiro generously offered to come over and tell me how to build a camera hand-mover platform like one he'd devised for a film production company recently. He did even better and welcomed talented animators, the Raschs over to learn as well. He told Shel what materials to order and she heroically managed to order, pick up, and deliver it all here for our Sunday Aluminum Party.

Our sweet spokesmodel, Shel, holds up the extrusion for you to see its profile better. Yuji's hands (LOOK! He really exists!) test the bolt sizes before assembly. There was cutting of aluminum and wood, drill pressing in Clare's studio, lunch and assembly of two of these babies. We thank you so much, Dick!

I made this artless, awful, shaky test with it today by plopping the Smoomoo inside the unfinished cottage set and pressing my silverbox camera down on the platform with globs of Funtac®, and shooting frames along the track. It felt perfectly smooth while I was shooting but the results played back look really rocky. Hmmm. I'm sure the unwanted movement was due to my using the soft Funtac® as a base. I'll try it out again with something firmer.

It was father's day, and Justin decided he'd like to come along too and they brought two of their great kids, Nicky, seen sculpting one of his new characters (another good case for DNA carrying talent genes!), and dear little Aedon, who's 7th birthday party would be celebrated later that night back at the Riggity Ranch by her family.

Aedon remembered the woolen needle felting she had done during last summer's visit and she asked to try some more.

FIELD REPORT: Los Angeles Music Center's Toy Theater Festival
Add a 4-star lunch and a walk for fro-yo in Little Tokyo afterward, and you've got what we are still buzzing about as the perfect day's celebration for our 12th Anniversary.

Paul and I dearly love paper, paper puppets, miniature theater, stage craft, live entertainments, etc. So, imagine our delight (Thanks for the tip, Mark!) at there being a massive festival celebrating all of that at the gorgeous Walt Disney Concert Hall (I'd never been inside this landmark before and we got to be on the stage and all over backstage!) It was completely inspiring for my own storytelling and filmmaking ideas.

We went for the whole day and enjoyed every single minute. An easy drive from our place, it was all free to the public due to grants from several arts foundations. There were several theatrical companies, from all over the world, some masters of the art for decades, performing there live before happy crowds of hipsters and families of all sorts. Just to find that we weren't alone in our fascination with these things was stimulation enough!

Pure delights (links have clips and photos) , here's just a sampling of the wonders we saw; The most ambitious production of the day had to be "Once Upon a Time" by Redmoon Theater. Seen in the first two images top left you see a portion of the front of their theater and next to it, the theater's back, the many scenery flats and backdrop pulleys visible after the show. There were four puppeteers/actor/singers who operated all the dozens of foldouts and highly clever puppet tricks to tell there original story spectacle. Upper right shows a marvelous young woman who walked around all day with her theater on her chest and told her story with only a kazoo (perhaps to save her voice). Her show was simple yet ingenious as a real audience watches a paper audience react to a little elephant summoning the strength to jump through a hoop.

Bottom left, shows Monsieur Alain Lecucq giving us a performance of "A Robinson" about how Robinson Crusoe came to live on his desert island and all the adventures he and Friday had there. Middle bottom shows Redmoon in performance. Lower right is the hand of witty artist Laura Heit, a teacher of experimental animation at CalArts. Her show was called "The Matchbox Shows" And was the show I was most excited to see. Her puppets were all made out of matchboxes and depicted a tiny inventive circus whose acts all arrived in matchbox train cars and employed painted matchboxes and matches to create all the suspense and thrills of a world class show. We were charmed. I loved how tiny everything was, how detailed! And how clever her acts were.

We also saw (not pictured) "A Short Entertaining History of Toy Theater" by Great Small Works where live musicians gave us a wonderful explanation of what Toy Theater is and how it came about. "Toy Theater Peony Pavilion" by Chinese Theater Works was Paul's favorite of the day. How they condensed a 22 hour classic Peking Opera down to a 40 minute paper puppet show I'll not know! But it was wonderful! There were six other shows we didn't even see. Hope they'll present the festival again one day. Recommended!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

It's been Wall-to-Wall Halfland

How to begin to unpack what's been happening in Halfland... Hmmm....
A Beautiful Mind
One of the major milestones for the project was my wallpaper-pasting down every single remaining reference image collected over the last 15 years for Halfland onto over-sized posterboard, by category. I had completed doing this a couple years ago for the main characters and some of the tree and cottage materials but this was finishing all the rest over several days. I had everything pasted and ready for Intern Sophie last Monday. After feeding her an after school snack, she helped me attach all the sheets onto an entire wall of the shop, floor to ceiling, wall to wall+.

These images are incredibly valuable to me. I believe in collecting reference images for projects like a whale eats, by allowing the food to come to me as I travel through the ocean of life. All I do is filter it as it comes across my mouth, as it were. I am ruthless about it. I will cut images out of rare, irreplaceable books, buy a whole magazine just for a single image, and print out copious web finds without attribution. All of it is up for easy viewing and inspiration now. So helpful.

Sky Pie
After much much thought, I believe, I have truly and finally worked out the sky I'd like to create for Halfland. The plan is as easy and inexpensive as I could make it and even though it's hand-made, it gives the coveted "infinity illusion" I'm hoping for.

In order to determine the actual size of scrim I will need to buy, I got the bright idea to use a 10' x 20' plastic drop cloth to measure the space. I thought I might use these as the final sky itself for a minute, so I tested what sort of medium might work to paint it as a sky cyclorama. Polymer mixed with transparent dye worked ok. But really got me was how white, opaque clouds looked on their own sky layer, one can be seen above right, through tree branches. (click always to enlarge any image).

It wasn't until a nap this afternoon that I hit upon my sky recipe. Seen below...

The woven nylon stretch fabric I used in my test scrim photographs with a moire pattern that isn't visible to the eye. Buying the non-woven theatrical scrim should handle that. This clip doesn't show how well the infinity effect works as a result, but if you can see past the moire, into how the three layers of cloud shapes interact, you might get a sense of it...

Here's my awkward scale elevation of the sky system in the workshop space here with the set. It should look something like this when the cardboard trees are built to cover the support column, as shown on the left. The system will have to be installed in different spots as scene shooting moves to alternate sides of the 360 degree set.

Felted Vool
Art Bonus: I made little blessing booties out of a second-hand raspberry wool sweater that had been washed in hot water in order to weave its fibers into wool felt. Or how my great Polish Ballet master pronounces it; "VOOL!". I added hand-felted rosebuds to the toe for Ella Rose and tucked a little blessing on a strip of paper inside. I love Verking vis Vool and sneak projects with it whenever I can. I even introduced needle felting to Intern Sophie last week. She went totally ape for it and was excited by the idea of using this technique to craft the tiny fuzzy woolen socks for her cat puppet in her film in development; "Socks: The Movie!"

Thank you for reading. I can get back to finishing out the set now... Wishing you well!
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