Thursday, May 30, 2013


Short test of free-standing magnifier lens effect to get a macro close up of the Time Frog's clock eyeverks.

Christine and I made this brief test to see what the lens could do during animation. It enabled us to get an extreme close-up of the eye that my FZ-50's 50mm lens could not on its own.

I mistakenly left the eye flap open on the side for a few frames and decided to try editing out the mistake with PS in post rather than delete the frames. I used the rubber stamp tool on the offending frames and the edits show badly. If/when I need to fix something again, I'll use a clean plate erase technique, like in rig removal, instead. The rubber stamping looks as though it's animated because each frame was cleaned-up differently.

I plan to hang a black curtain between myself and the set so that my reflection won't be seen in the Frog's other eye.

This clip was action batched:
  1. resized to 1280
  2. worn texture added as a soft light blend mode
  3. color shifted in green and cyan (hue (-) and saturation (+))

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Kyra in Color


Lovely to see my old friend Kyra after so long. Above, her mask straight out of the mold as well as being painted up to her darkest black skin with tinges of Deep Ultramarine.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Paper Skin (non-toxic)


Started making more puppets to shoot. The Mermaid, Kyra, puppet, sculpted 20 years ago, has been lugged all over the place with me all this time. Nice to finally start casting her for use.

Using nothing but rice paper and matte medium due to allergic reactions lately.

It's working very well, fun to do, and results are VERY strong and lightweight, paintable, etc. So strong, too strong in fact. Reminding me of the way the old Celastic (extremely toxic) used to come out.

Puppet Seaming Experiments


I've had some recent troubles with allergic reactions so I wasn't keen on busting out the latex to start skinning the puppets. I had to see if I could go way inert. So I replaced the latex with my trusty Nova Color matte medium in my rice paper maché technique. 

Here, I'm taking the Mermaid Kyra's arms, which are very small, and seeing whether I can seam the two halves together without adding much bulk to the sculpt's shape.

As these are just preliminary experiments, I didn't want to add armatures, opting to add in teflon -wrapped wire and copper foil, aluminum mesh joints instead.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Pond Scumcious

Note of thanks to Animator Nick Hilligoss of Australia for his example of creating animatable
bodies of water by sandwiching dyed hair gel between two layers of clear vinyl.

I'm trying to improve the pond water as it wasn't convincing enough for me in earlier tests. Nick's idea meant more work, but I feel it was definitely worth the effort. We had to install the new gel-filled topper on top of the existing pond water layer for best effect, reworking the water's edge with screws and hot glue, then re-finessing.

The new layer photographs much better and animates more realistically. The added murkiness looks more interesting yet still transparent enough to see the koi (top right) under the surface and the sunken old watch parts that collect at the edges (bottom left).



On Thursday, Christine! and I added something very special and magical to the shooting set up.

Once I saw how a large magnifying lens made the set photograph, I had to have it. It gives the exact plane distortion I have been after without knowing it.

I call it my "free-range polaroid" kind of an alfresco complex of lenses that create dream-like aberrations in the Halfland set's and puppet's raw capture.

I'll be happy to show the effect in our next test posting but meanwhile, please marvel with me at how Christine! has so brilliantly engineered a rig to hold the over-sized lenses to the Manfrotto articulated arm! She used in-house hardware to mimick the old-but-effect "helping hands" ball in bracket tightened down type of gear (seen lower left). Upper right shows our test lens on the rig and the actual giant lens for the shoot in my hand. We wore safety goggles during our first attempt to clamp down on the glass lens with the strong clip in case it shattered.

Seems to work very well and will allow me to angle the magnifier in the path of the camera's lens at various angles during the shots.

I got so excited when I glimpsed the effect that I had to lie down on the floor for a moment or two.

This lens may be the big key to the look of the film.

Scenes from Test Shots

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Eye Doesn't Has It

The purpose of this clip was to try out the new pond water top layer that Christine and I installed on Tuesday. And to play with possible ways of revealing the Time Frog's eye in a dynamic way.

I don't think the clip is successful/useable but it did provide a lot of practical information and learning.

Getting to know what is possible, trying out different ideas, this 226 frame test clip, shot in reverse action, proves:

• My tracking has to get much more smooth and not jerk all over.

• I can pull focus and track (and refocus the camera) during a single stop mo shot.

• I can zoom, but I had better put some kind of increment marking to follow, that just moving it by hand without any measure, makes the zoom choppy.

• I can shoot action in reverse and use an application (thanks to Christine's suggestion) to rename all frames/files in a folder, reversing their sequence, so that Quicktime can assemble in the other direction. Christine used Renamer but that didn't work with my OS 10.6.8, so I bought one called A Better Finder REname 9 ($19.95) which did.

• Our new top layer of pond water (thanks to Nick Hilligoss' suggestion) looks much better (i.e.; less like a sheet of plastic being rippled) but we'll need to animate it much more slowly (less often) to get it more pond water like.

• I can't use the action of a ragged black border to burn the frame edges via batch process as it "boils", moves each frame, for some reason.

• The frog's clock hands are animatable but I have to be sure and close the trap door to access them on the side each time. In this clip it is flapping like a flag.

• Capturing the film at the proper higher resolution (as Nick and Mike kindly informed) means:
  1. Minute globs of dried hot glue, tiedowns, eye reflections, window reflection, and stray cat hair become like boulders, as Mike warned.
  2. The 3Drender action I like to run on my frames can't take a whole folder at once, PS crashes on my system. However, breaking them up, 10 frames in 22 separate folders, running the batch processing on each folder--and then reassembling the whole 226 into one folder again before converting to motion in Quicktime--does work.
This clip uses four passes of processing actions:

  1. Resize to 1280 x 720 for editing (also ran a draft at full 1080 to see how it looked--a little to starkly flawed screened on a computer, projecting it onto a large screen at some point might blur it back into fantasy dreamy)
  2. The Jeremy Birns 3D render for a toy camera effect that I love.
  3. The raggged black border for a burned edge effect (to cover the gaps on the corners left by the distort of the above action.
  4. I also used crude iMovie image adjustments to heighten the contrast and shift the white point toward blue range, as the raw footage looked too boring for me.

I added sound via iMovie (only editing app I currently have) I will note Nick's suggestion of using Partners in Rhyme for the actual film but opted for free mp3 files from Sound Jay for this quick test.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

White Halo

This test clip experiments for the first time with:
Tracking shot in 2 speeds (1/8" and 1/16" on second half) Pretty good although a bit clunky on my part.

Flying rig removal on moth at end (have to watch my arm shadow & use another kind of support) SO EASY!!!!!

Far landscape seamlessly blended to pond set thanks to Christine's brilliant lighting idea.

Christine animated the moth in the first half, all of the water ripples, and all of the watch works turning.

I used three different layers of textures on the frames:
1. A light smear of Vasoline on the camera UV lens.
2. Jeremy Birn's Barrel Distortion and Chromatic Aberrations Action in PS.
3. White vignetting, addition of grain, and downsized to 990 pixels wide Action in PS.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Holy Holga!!!

Very happy to report I discovered a possibly batch processable image effect that brings the vintage camera look to my Halfland footage that I thought I never could.

It's a Fake Barrel Distortion and Chromatic Aberration PS action written by Jeremy Birn. I combined it with other actions to vignette the edges a bit in the above test still but feel what Jeremy has created will provide the film with the magical storybook feel I so wanted. Thank you, Jeremy.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

The Color of Time

The equipment tests continue as we get closer to the look I'm after for the film.
This gets pretty darn close!

Above you see the finished Time Frog verdigris green patina puppet paint job (what else is the color of time?!) more clearly while the rest of the pond set has been blurred in camera with Vasoline© on the edges of the UV protection lens cover and then additionally enhanced in PS with a texture layer blended to multiply in green with burned out edges and erased over the frog.

Christine and I learned a tons in making today's test(s); how to gobo the window light to cut down the glare on the frog's left clock eye (above was my test with a paper watchface over his eye), that hot glue doesn't work on my set as tie down for his hands, that a piece of cardboard with a barcode on it allows us to focus on the plane of the frog's nose area instead of at the camera's field of center, that the pond water needs to stretch to make it more slack in order to ripple when touched between frames, the the whole set and room we are shooting in moves slightly regardless of how little we move--and/or the camera is somehow moving no matter how much we try to lock it down with every frame, that the shaking can be fixed in post production with Adobe After Effects, how to animate the Koi puppet with more minute movements and less often to get him swimming at a slower rate, that animating is far more fun than we thought it would be.

If you were here in the room with us, there is nothing you would rather do than make your own stop motion films.
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