Progress. More than one minute into the film.

It has been a while since I have last posted. Lots has been done since then.

Late 2012 the newspaper for my region came out and did a story on the film, which was an interesting experience. Still, if there is one thing I have learnt from it, it’s: never trust the media. I had specifically asked them not to film certain aspects etc, but that was completely ignored. Moral of the story – have selective NDAs on hand.

For those who have not yet seen the article, it is available here: http://www.stuff.co.nz/taranaki-daily-news/entertainment/8062288/Theres-no-stopping-this-dedicated-young-film-maker

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I have also, and finally, put together a showreel: (removed)

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Furthermore,  I am at approximately 1 minute and 20 seconds into “Disappear” (I say approximately to leave room for tweaking/editing). So that means I’m about 30% of the way through animating.

Shot04

So, ticking along. Amongst juggling various other projects, and a life etc, I’m still aiming for completion before the end of June.

I’ve decided to build a motion control rig. It turns out that moving the camera by hand is proving to be far too distracting from the animation process. I will be building it in two phases;

Phase 1:  Dolly (1500mm rail), Pan, Tilt, Focus + 8 channel Arduino powered control box.

Phase 2: Boom and Swing (jib/crane)

Building it in two stages will allow me to finish the film sooner (and save some money initially). I have to say a special thanks to Doug Kropla for ideas and electrical advice, and also Leo Hutson, who will be helping me on the electrical and programming fronts.

I’m sure there is a lot I have missed, but that will have to wait for another time. Back to work!!!

Harrie

First shot is in the can! (and a sneak peak)

I finished my first shot for “Disappear” on Thursday night at around 11pm. After being in pre-production on and off for around 12 months, this is a major milestone. I can finally start to see my vision take on a life of its own.

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Stay tuned for some frames pulled right out of the first shot at the end of this post…

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I actually did a little bit of previs before I started animating to help me with the timing and spacing.

And after a very short practice run I kind just dove right in.

I have to say that character animation in stop motion is by far the single most difficult thing I have ever done in my life thus yet. It probably didn’t help that the first shot was a massive 40 seconds long! At 12fps I shot 488 frames over two weeks, including a camera move on the geared head.

It’s a pretty amazing feeling having this first shot done. I’m gearing up for the next shot now.

You’ll have to excuse the quality of the photos, these were taken on my cellphone because the 2nd slr was in the office.

The following is a still of the last frame in the sequence;

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As promised, here are some still frames from the first shot…

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Now, onto that next shot….

Till next time,

Harrie

The apartment set is close to finished!

So I have finally finished up on “The Great Gatsby” and have been back in the studio for a few weeks now.

The set is nearing completion and I should think it is not unrealistic to start shooting in June as scheduled, unless the feature film I am booked on decides they want me for an extended period of time :D.

First up, I have completed the lighting. I have used 12v halogen downlights, custom wired up and attached to the top side of the ceiling with height/ spread adjustable options. These serve as my “practicals” and will be dim-able, as well as having an option between 20w and 50w bulbs for desired exposure.

So these are mounted above a hole in the ceiling of the set, as below;

And then have some hand made chinese light shades;

Which when attached provide a very nice soft light and create the illusion of having a standard ceiling mounted bulb;

I have also applied an aging process to all of the walls, floors and ceiling.

The kitchen is now also complete. I have since attached a tap, however photos will have to wait until next post.

Also, all of the doors and windows are now complete. All with brass fittings that I have hand made. The window latches are filed out of brass rod, and the door fittings and key holes etc are drilled and filed out of brass bar.

I have made a start on sculpting some of the smaller props also. Along with these are the kitchen tap and the armatures for the dove.

The rabbits are now too complete. I firstly airbrushed them with an appropriate base coat and under-fur shading and then hand painted the wet parts such as the nose and eyes.

After that I used static grass to flock them.

So yeah, everything is coming along. I can really see it starting to come together now.

Looking forward to shooting!

Until next time 🙂

Harrie.

1000 1:6 scale bricks and a wardrobe

Another month has flown by. I’ve been really busy with my theater role in the production of “The Great Gatsby”. The show starts in just over two weeks, so will only be getting busier from here on in.

In the studio;

I’ve finished the neighboring brick wall.

I did a base coat of ceiling paint and then black spray paint. After that, I used various shades of Resene test pots to paint the wall, and drybrushed it to give it a sort of “bricky” look.  I found that the test pots are actually a really cheap way to get ultra specific colors for next to no money.

After that I proceeded to fill in the gaps with cement, wiping of the excess with a damp cloth. After it was all dry I gave it a rub with a dry cloth and it actually gave it a really awesome layed brick texture, with some of the cement having seaped into the grooves of the bricks themselves.

It holds up pretty well to closeups…

In fact, even at an individual level, I find them to be fairly photorealistic.

I liked them so much actually that I ended up doing one of the interior walls of the apartment set in brick too (the one that would be the exterior wall). So, around 1000 1:6 scale bricks later…

In addition to that, 1:6 scale carpentry keeps on rolling on. I’ve found myself having to cut a lot of balsa strips, and this was becoming very time consuming to do by hand, so, I made an adjustable strip cutting jig. I recommend it to anyone who needs to cut a lot of balsa, it saves SO much time.

You just adjust it to the desired width and then run it along the balsa. Super easy and way more accurate than I was doing by hand.

I’ve finished my last piece of free standing furniture; the wardrobe.

For those who have read the screenplay, you understand the significance of this piece, and for those who haven’t – the wardrobe is the place where the man has kept his dreams and aspirations locked away.

Here’s the frame;

And a mid-build shot;

And here it is finished (with the apartment bricks in the background);

I handmade a lock and fittings out of brass and used some tiny 12mm hinges.

One of the back panels is also hinged, so it can open for me too shoot through the wardrobe for a shot or two.

I’ve really been enjoying the tiny furniture making.

So now I am working on the apartment door, the windows, the plinths etc, the kitchen, the rabbit, the dove. Well, I guess I’m working on lots of stuff.

Thanks for reading, until next time.

Harrie.

Furniture, hands and a tiny key.

Wow how time flies huh? Another month already. With this in mind I’ll quote Bruce Lee;

“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.”

Been a good month, lots of progress. I have all of the furniture finished apart from the wardrobe, which is a hero prop (I’m starting on that tomorrow).

I’m finding the balsa to be nice to work with. The furniture ends up extremely light, which from a production point of view is a little unnerving, but it feels fairly strong. It’s nice to carve too, for handles etc.

I’ve found a fairly good workflow for the balsa now, and a lot of the joints are carved out and inserted just like full size furniture. Wanted to be sure it would photograph well.

Next up I made a tiny key. This is for when he unlocks his wardrobe in which he keeps his hopes and dreams locked away. I had no idea how I was going to make it, so I ended up melting some pewter on the stove and casting a blank in a mold I cut from MDF. After that I filed, drilled, and sanded it into a key. Doesn’t get much more “from scratch” than that.

I’ve also made a whole bunch of 1/6 scale paper work, reports and general paper clutter to fill his dining table to which he brings his crappy job home too. These were just printed at 1200 dpi on the laserjet then manually cut up and assembled. The printing is pretty fine so I think it should photograph nicely.

As you can see, I’ve dressed a little briefcase too. The base on which this photo was taken is actually what will be the characters bed too.

The Liquid latex build up hands (over the annealed aluminium wire, brass knuckles and heatshrink armatures) are now done too.

They don’t have fingernails, which is something I’ll learn to live with. But other than that they have a fairly organic feel to them. I did a fair few sets, this photo is of my spares alone, for the inevitable case of finger armatures fatiguing over time. One pair of hands has rare earth magnets embedded in them too.

So now I’m also working on what will be the view from his apartment window; a brick wall, with a curtained window.

I cut a whole heap of bricks out of wood;

And started gluing them the the wall;

And now I need to fill in the gaps with some sort of putty and then score it to imitate the cement, and then paint and weather it. I’ll do the window frame when I do the rest of the windows and doors for the apartment.

I actually found the wood to have a very cool texture, almost like that of bricks in fact.

On top of all of that I’ve bought a new computer to be able to handle the shooting and post production needs for this film. I’m feeling a little light in the pocket at this very moment, but it had to be done.

For those geeks who are interested; Intel 3.4gzh corei7 clocked to 4.5ghz, 16gb of 1600mhz ram, Raedon 6870HD gfx card, and about 5.5TB of hdds, with the scratch disks running in RAID0 to keep up with the high bitrate footage. Still need to get a video monitor (prob HDTV), capture card (Matrox or Blackmagic), protools & mixer, and some back up HDD’s as finances permit.

 

Until next time!

Character completed, hands, furniture started.

So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’m gonna make it a “first week of every month” thing from now on, unless it’s just a few quick photos.

I’ve fabricated some new sculpting tools out of brass, after watching a tutorial excerpt by Marc Spess (very talented sculpter), and sculpted some apoxie sculpt hair onto the baked sculpy head. Then undercoated it with my new Badger 150 airbrush (which I am very happy with).

After that I spent a few hours airbrushing and matte coated it with some Krylon stuff when done. The eyeballs, which I had made and hand painted previously, were then covered in vasaline and inserted into the sockets. I then sculpted eyelids over them out of apoxie sculpt. The eyes can be animated by inserting a needle into the pupil. The eyelids can be animated subtly in post if need be, as I will be doing extensive secondary animation in post for the mouth to achieve subtle expressions anyway.  I finished the rest of the paint job by hand. The eyebrows are Van Aken plasticine, so they can be animated.

I’m fairly happy with how it turned out considering it’s a first attempt.

Life;

Over Xmas and New Years, we had some family stay, my aunt and uncle and their kid. Was really great taking a couple of weeks off to live a bit. My aunt sometimes works in project consulting and scheduling (I think?), so I sat down one afternoon with her and did a schedule for the film. Man, I really had no idea how much time this thing was gonna take me. Principal photography is scheduled to start on the 1st of June, Post production complete on the 31st of December.

I think they enjoyed it here. New Zealand is a very different country to the Netherlands.

Back in the studio;

I spent some time on the milling machine and made a whole bunch of brass knuckle brackets for the puppets hands.

After that I just did the usual, twisted aluminium wire and heatshrink . Then apoxied the hands into some brass tubes as to make them slot in to the armature, thus making them easily replaceable. Pre-coated them in PAX. They looked kinda freaky, as if the skin had been eaten off them or something.

Then started building them up with cotton wool and latex.

They are nearly done now. They haven’t turned out as good as I had hoped, but hey that’s life sometimes. They are totally usable, I just tend to have high expectations.

I’ve started on the furniture too. His bed is done and so Is the dining table.

I used 6mm open cell foam (cushion foam) sheets and some Ados spray glue to bulk out the armature, making sure to leave access holes for the tightening screws. After trimming the excess foam off I made a start on dressing it. The clothes required a fair bit of tailoring but they got there in the end.

He is nearly finished now. His shoes are painted with PAX. I made a tiny 1/6 scale belt buckle out of brass. I made his beeper. All he is waiting on now are the finishing touches on the hands.

Will probably upload some photos of the finished character in the coming month.

I think he is going to work pretty well in this film.

Life;

After having spent much time in a dark room over the last 6 months, I thought I’d go out and audition at the local theatre. I ended up landing one of the leads, Nick Caraway, in a local production of Ken Duncan’s adaptation of  “The Great Gatsby”. Should be a good little show.

Also, I’ve come across a location that has sparked some massive ideas for a feature film.

More on that later this year.

Set is built, painted and ready to be dressed. Progress!!!

So it’s been about 3 weeks since I last posted and I have gotten a fair bit done.

That big pile of timber….

Turned into over 100 small bits of timber, which I’ve spent some time assembling into a section removable stage.

The set sits on top of a timber stage I built (I went a bit over kill with the stage, the thing is super solid, I estimate that it could hold a metric tonne of weight).

On top of the stage sits the set floor, which is 20mm MDF with floor board lines dremmeled into it. The four walls consist of six sections in total and the cieling is made up of two.

Everything is bolted to everything else, so in theory any piece can be removed without effecting the stability of the set. I tested the set for strength, I weigh about 200 lb. and the ceiling holds my weight. This is super handy for mounting lights etc in places I other wise could not.

Also, since over half of the film will be shot on the dolly (threaded rod advanced linear guide under construction) with a geared head, the ability to remove any walls I need but still have a ceiling is incredibly valuable.

Ive also added a hallway (to be shot from the apartment interior) for one of the shots.

And the set is now painted.

It still needs all the plinths, door frames, window frames, curtains etc etc. And of course a whole lot of hand made furniture that is still on my “to-do” list for this set.

There will be hand made light fittings in the ceiling too. I am hoping to develop something for that so I can partially light my set with the two ceiling lights, it just gets a little tricky at 1/6 scale I find.

I’ve made some modifications to the armature I bought from Animation Supplies.

I didn’t really trust the lock off joints, particularly because this will be a very high use puppet, so I reinforced the joints with aves apoxie sculpt.

I did my first test animation with it yesterday. The B&S armatures have a pretty steep learning curve I found out. I found it extremely difficult to get the joints to a comfortable tension. Particularly the toes. For the money the armature is very good, but in future I think I would build my own, as I dont think I like to have this many ball joints, particularly not on knees, elbows and toes.

Maybe the puppet will play nicer when I pad him out with foam in the coming week or two.

I finished the rabbit too, about two weeks ago. The sculpt is pretty rough, but it’s going to be covered in fur anyway, thats why he has some weird lines too, because I hope it will aid the bending points so the skin will not fold in unnatural ways. I will cast it tomorrow as I had been waiting to find an affordable supplier of ultracal 30. Turns out there isn’t one, but I managed to get some discount anyway. Then I’ll make a couple of liquid latex rabbit skins and have a play with different fur and paint combinations.

So, busy few weeks gone. Busy few months ahead. I really do love this though, I am getting to do so many different things. It’s an artists dream really.

Maximus guarding the entrance way.

Slowly getting a head. Also, the start of a rabbit and a pile of timber.

Been a very productive week. I really love being in the new studio. I’ve even found time to do some music and paint a bit, in between apoxie setting times.

So this week I have gotten the head sculpt completed and baked (sculpey) and attached it to a neck made out of latex. Next up will be hair. I am undecided as to wether to sculpt hair out of aves apoxie sculpt, or to use real hair like I had planned originally. I tempted to go with the sculpted hair for stylistic reasons, as the eye brows will be made out of Van Aken plasticine to allow for easier animation. I’m thinking that the Van Aken may be a good option for the eye lids too, otherwise I may have to do replacements. Decisions, decisions.

Sorry, it’s not the best pic, more to come later;

I have also made a start on sculpting the rabbit, which will need to be animatable, for the hat pull part of the performance. I’m finding this a good logistical challenge as I do not have the budget to run foam latex, so I will make a two part mold and pour liquid latex to create a sort of skin in which the armature will sit, then stuff it with cotton wool or something. The trick seems to be to get creases in all the right places in order to make the skin move in the direction it should when the body is flexed, otherwise it will pop out in weird shapes. It’s a bit of a “finger’s crossed” approach I am taking on it.

Here is the base sculpt, there are still a fair few hours of work needed on it though obviously;

You will notice the latex neck on my characters head in the background too. Figured it would be good to do part of the chest too so I can undo the characters top button and loosen his tie.

And lastly, I finally bit the bullet and did a massive timber shop. I came home with a huge load of wood and can now begin to assemble the animation stage, as well as beginning on set construction. Going to be a full on few months getting ready too shoot.

(to give you an idea of how much wood that is, the pink bits are 20ft (6m) lengths…)

Viva La Studio!

Its been a long time coming, but finally it’s done. I moved in to the new studio a few days ago here in Taranaki after a few weeks of evenings spent renovating.  It’s really great to be working in a dedicated space.

The studio is 4.5 x 3 meters (13.5 sqm) with a 3.5m high ceiling. It’s not huge but there is enough room for a post production area, a workbench, a kitchenette with enough room left to operate one stop motion animation set at a time. It’s light sealed, and with matte black paper on the walls too it will have excellent lighting control. This means that I can also use it as a photography dark room when I get the gear again.

The studio also has it’s own 50 KVA 240v transformer (which it shares with the engineering workshop owned by my father) so the power will be clean and regular.

Here are a couple of photos;

My actor is “Under Construction”.

Been a touch under the weather over the last week. Although that may be a gross understatement. In turn progress has been very slow. I have however locked down a floor plan for my set, so I am more or less ready for a trip out of town to visit my parents and use my fathers workshop for constructing a few things. I have also had the chance to do a fair bit of research whilst being sick, i.e; catching up on movie watching time. This week I want to get a good chunk of my pre-viz done in maya, so tomorrow will be spent creating a 3D prototype of the set.

Anyway, all that put aside, I have an armature which is for all intents and purposes complete. It needs a little tweaking as to joint tightness etc, but that will be an ongoing process. I’m also most of the way through sculpting the base of my characters head, which will be given a matressfoam neck and covered in a thin, tinted, layer of liquid latex. Hair will then be added (I’m going to use real human hair) and the eye lids will be sculpted in sets out of super sculpey and animatable in a replacement style. I’m not 100% sure yet as to how I will do the eyebrows yet, but I would like to use real hair for those also, Im just not sure how I will make them articulated without making them too thick. At this stage I am going to try a small piece of 1mm wire to which I attach some latex and subsequently hair. Perhaps I will drill two small holes into the characters brow from which to articulate them. The hands will be liquid latex build up.

Anyway, lots of work to catch up on.

Cheers,

Harrie.

Final Draft Complete – heavy pre-prod time

As some of you might know, I have been working toward a new stop motion short film project over the last few weeks. I have just completed a final shooting script that I am very happy with. It seems to be very important when doing animation to have a script you can absolutely lock down as it save a lot of unnecessary work.

The screenplay, working titled “Disappear”, is about a man who has locked his passion in life away in order to fit into a corporate paradigm. The story is about his decision to escape.

Its a very light hearted and stylized take on the subject matter, and I think it will translate over well to the medium.

Well, time for pre-production. Sets need to be built, puppets made. Not to mention the animatic, story boards, basic sound track laydown.

This year is gonna fly by.

I will endeavor to post weekly and let you guys know what I am up to. I will take some pictures along the way and try to upload some animation tests etc when I have them.

Cheers,

Harrie.