Thursday, July 31, 2008

Humpity Dumpity

I tried to avoid having to do it, but now that it's done I'm so glad I did. The Integrity Layer. No longer delicate, these set pieces can now be man-handled and tossed around they are so stable. No chipping plaster, no paint flaking away later, yay.

It took another week but I finished covering the last pieces today with heavy brown bag paper and my new secret papier maché weapon: Elmer's Art Paste ( a brief moment of reverence for this product, please, thank you.) People, this stuff was a revelation. I only tried it at first because I had used every glue I had in the house without any luck. I need to adhere paper to the plaster and burlap layer around all the edges for a smooth finish but nothing I tried had enough GRAB to stick on that surface over all the weird angles. It was taking fore-evah.

To the rescue: I mixed a batch of the art paste at half the water directed to really make it a gooey clear gel (and lawd lawd it worked so well it practically snatched the paper strips out of my hands and fastened them permanently without me! Glorious stuff. So sculptural, so satisfying to work with. GRAB--BAM!

The cats were exhausted by helping me* tear baskets full of brown bags into organically torn shapes (no cut edges allowed as they would show as such under the paint layer). I first covered all the edges with strips and then filled in. These little bags of glue powder are as valuable as gold to me. Git yursef some!

In preparation for the color/paint layer, I am now refitting the pieces together. It's a lot more difficult than I imagined as the loose pieces are unwieldy and don't seem to return to how they were when they were still attached by screws. So far, it's a bit like trying to put the shells of an egg back the way it was before cracking open. All those angles and curves.

I've decided to take the large back-40-acres and position it further away from the main set, make them larger scale/more distant hills, freestanding in front of the sky backdrop. I'll know more when I illustrate the shot-by-shot but I don't believe I'll need contiguous land showing from the sides after all.

(*not really, but it seemed that way. hee)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Earth Moved

A few minutes ago we had a 5.8 (witness map here)(USGS) 5.4 (CalTech), 30 second movement earthquake here in Los Angeles. It was a low rumble build up, where you would think the construction site across the street was bringing in the big equipment to drop something huge, then it got bigger to where you knew it was an earthquake. It's the massive roaring sound coming from the earth that gives the primal mind the first clue. The whole floor made waves and columns swayed, then a big jolt burst underneath where you would lose your balance walking as if on a ship in rough seas.

I panicked and chose to take refuge against a small wall on the back side of our loft hoping that if this was the Big One this wall would create a triangle of space for me not to be crushed. The cats scrambled for behind the washing machine, which is kind of the smartest choice actually. The washer would likely create a little triangle tent if one were right next to it should the whole thing come down.

I tried to make myself roll up next to the sofa back for that triangle support trick as I was advised from emergency prep study but it felt so venerable to be in the open space! I couldn't do it.

This thankfully was not the Big One. Some small things fell off shelves, some cement rubble fell from a crack in the ceiling over my desk. No broken windows or shattered ceramics even. The radio is saying the quake ruptured 8 miles underneath the surface thus making it's percussive force dissipate in relative gentle waves.

One lesson from this is that both and line and cell phones were worthless. One can be sure that will be the case for any disaster. The power in this case was on and I was able to tell Paul that I was alright via TWITTER! Time to hook up with Skipe or Ooma voice over internet for this reason.

The first call that got through after the quake was from a telemarketer. Cockroaches.

Off to survey damage and locate all cats.

Take care all, Shelley

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Colossal Mess

I spent the last week plastering up the entire main set landscape. There were a couple of "What the #@!#$ am I doing?!" that were quickly blotted out with a lot of "Mashed Potato Mountain, Baby, Mama gotta do this." And so I trudged doggedly onward.

Once Nick H mentioned using burlap, the greatest boon to mankind and my new favorite textile, things started to work. At first I used cut up bed sheets to reinforce the layer of plaster, but the course open weave of burlap supplied the necessary support that made the large set pieces rock hard when dry.

The straight away areas went quickly, it was the small curves of the seams where the pieces fit together and strengthening all the edges that took the most time and effort. For some VooDoo reason, about 30% of the strips remained flexible, even with the same amount of mix, temp, material, time, etc. I was able to correct all of it with a second layer, except inexplicably for one small piece opposite the Frog pond. Maybe I smashed it out of shape while sitting on it.

I cut out the bottom of the pond to gain access to more of the set and to give myself an easier time of dressing it and perhaps shooting up from the bottom if I'd like to later. The pond seems even smaller now than it was before, too small for what I'd like. But it does have to be where it is and I don't see a way to enlarge it with the door support being right underneath where it should spread out. Moving on.

Clockwise a. Countless pails of plaster were mixed. Bonus: I could mix perfect plaster in my sleep now. b. I made extree boulders and rocks with lightly crumpled newsprint covered in plastered burlap strips. A layer of papier maché on top when dry will make the surface ready to paint rock like*. c. camouflaging seams where set pieces meet was the hardest part. Making them operate as independent shapes that also work together was a challenge. Paint color and fabric "grass", foliage, etc. will assist the illusion later on as well. d. It took two hours climbing above and below the set to get all the rubble up. The whole house is relieved this mess is done. (people foot and cat paw prints in white are everywhere!)

*Matter of fact, an "Integrity Layer" of papier maché over the entire landscape when dry would offer the perfect shape-keeping, chip-eliminating, burlap weave-covering, paint-me pretty mama, finish to this stage. And would also assure myself that these soon to be lovingly crafted set pieces will survive a potential move and re-assembly without crumbling apart.

I had to dig down for a lot of tenacity and aggression to get this much plastering done by myself. It felt great today to use the industrial vacuum, clean everything up dust free for painting, shower off a layer of plaster and get ready for the next step.

I plan to make some test swatches tomorrow of various formulas of paint, sand, water, and Fix-All/plaster over a patch that's already been machéd to see which will serve as... dirt.

Stats: 140 lbs. of plaster of Paris, 42 yds of burlap.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bound and Determined

On the right you see the set re-assembled and ready for it's plaster top coat. I can't wait to paint! Argggggh!

Two days ago I finished chopping the entire giant landscape into seven sections that fit together. I edged every piece using rolls and rolls of masking tape to help bind the edges of the shapes. I fitted them all back together, securing one edge of each piece with screws and washers into wood with cardboard piers propping up the other edge.

I masked one half of each pair at the seam with plastic in order to be able to pull the pieces back apart after I add plaster coated paper into the join camouflaging where the pieces meet.

Yesterday I actually began the process of plastering (starting at the back until I work out the best method/mix). The test area is dry and reasonable stable, I think the technique will work.

And since we got word this morning that we **may** have to move.... It's a VERY good thing this set comes apart! Oui!?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Today I created a storyboard ePad with a script legend on each page. I used it to easily input the shot-by-shot notes I had made while attending conference events this weekend. It was a fantastically fun and helpful step in making this film/series. I could map out all the vignettes that I knew were a part of it and string them together in an order that allowed for logical camera action.

Please either use this link to go to a full screen view of this pdf --or, if you prefer-- click to download the pdf to your desktop via the link under "original pdf" at the top --or-- just scroll to the lower right hand corner of the 16:9 pages in this mini-viewer to get a taste of a few shot descriptions.

Here's an in-progress pdf of the 22 scenes already applied to the storyboard sheets. There are about 9-10 more yet to go before the first series of micro-shorts is done. Surprisingly, the exercise also showed me that another 10 scenes already mapped out would be better crafted as....

Film Series: 2


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Peeling Onion Skins

Today I moved the Smoomoomoo to my desk and attached the Darkstrider Unibrain Patrol of Joy webcam so I could test animating with onion skinning and using a keyboard to trigger capture. For the tests I trotted out a couple of fantastic pupps made by faithful readers of this blog.

First up, a 54 frame audition for John H.'s (SMA aka Castlegardner) hilarious Peanut Butter & Jellyfish Sammich undersea critter. I glued wire into the sammich and kept it floating fixed while I moved the camera to make it appear that the fish was swimming.

Just for practice, I then took the frames into Photoshop, erased the rig, added a blue layer and wave distortion filter to each frame. In iMovie I rotated the video 90º and added a letterbox effect. The detail is utterly lost in these little compressions but the webcam doesn't get a lot of detail to begin with so, it was really just to um, yeah, get my feet wet!

This one was pretty funny. I was testing out Jeffery Roche's (aka Ubatuber) Octo-pussy puppet also made for the Halfland undersea scene. I fixed a tiedown to the Oct's underside and was proceeding to fiddle with its 8 legs, about to have it settle down for a nap when--my real kitty decided to do the same--and wedged herself uncomfortably right on the set! Hee Hee.

John has a terrific new blog that I highly recommend. His Beginner’s guide to ball and socket armaturestutorial on simple-to-make ball joint armatures is easy for me to follow and an obtainable solution. I'm taking the tut to a parts shop ASAP. Woo.

Jeffery's blog is filled with his truly witty Southern-style shorts and his day-to-day progress on projects that capture his formidable imagination.

My thanks again to you both for creating these wonderful puppets!
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