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.


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


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;


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


Now, onto that next shot….

Till next time,


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 🙂


My Theatre Debut!

So I had temporarily fallen of the face of the earth and lost contact with the world, so I will explain where I have been;

As some of you already know, I have been in a theatre production of “The Great Gatsby”, in one of the leading roles, Nick Carraway. The show went incredibly well and was very positively received.

This was my first show, having previously acted only in front of the camera and never in front of an audience. It was a very big role, so I certainly had to learn to swim as I was drowning, I was on stage for aprox 95 pages (/minutes).  It  was a very different experience and has taught me a lot.

Here are some photos of the play;

Thanks to everyone involved. I had a great time.




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!

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;