Monday, July 28, 2008

I photoshopped a picture of the armature over top a picture of myself. So's I can see how the body mass is going to look. This represents the average shape - Johannes is going to be a little skinnier.

Pretty much finished the first armature. Sure was easy. Though I can't wait for the glitches to become apparent later. That's okay though - that's what this first armature is for. Still need the hands and feets attachments; going to hold off on that for a while until I decide exactly how they're going to be.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Look, an armature! See, I don't just make huge film sets and then smash them before I use them. It was pretty easy and fast too; spent more time on the bus and buying supplies than I did working on it today. Could probably build another one in three hours. Of course this one lacks arms, but that won't take long.
The next step, after confirming that this thing works via animation tests (1st one was a pass), is to build up the body mass with styrofoam. Then I have to make the head. That should be a right awkward bugger, that one. Then its the costume.
The huge scale of this thing seems to be making everything easier. I'm sure it'll make the costumes and head easier too. I've already demonstrated to myself that the animation is easier, as the increments of movement are just much larger than with a teeny armature.
I'm working on the first of the big-ass armatures. Sorry, no pictures yet. Started off by making one joint - seems to work fine.

I'm a bit leary about it - not using standard materials - mostly wood. Though this is for the least-used character (the first armature), so its okay if its a bit of a reject.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The only other notable addition today is a ladder; a real gnarly one. Its based on a spindly warped one I found on the internet while trolling for images a while ago. I added the ropes and whatnot. It was a bit of an afterthought, but i'm glad I made it.

It will sit in two places throughout the film; on the left, and right in the middle while in use. While on the left, it serves to balance out the composition. Note the diagonal rope; this is to continue the curve that starts on the floor. When the ladder is in the middle, it lets me make nicer compositions; I like having some dark lines on one side or the other. Still have a couple more chores to do today on the thing - tommorrow I start on the huge armature.

Last little details/chores. Prettied up the side of the left-hand table, for shots in which it will comprise the left foreground. Added a few little details too; some fancy-ass books in the most visible places (the stacks are made up of lesser props). I wrapped an ugly looking wooden container in leather. I don't know why anyone would have a leather-wrapper container, but there you have it.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Set building is actually my forte, such as it is. But guess what? I suck at animation! And I hate making puppets! And I don't know squat about ties downs, technique, etc. The next few stages of this project should therefore be interesting.
(Pretty much)
Well, that's it. I'm going to spend tommorrow doing a few odd and ends i've been avoiding, such as staining areas that have been sitting unstained for ages, putting the curtain in permanently, etc. I'm also going to go over old notes and ideas and make sure I haven't missed any little elements that will improve it measurably. Otherwise, that's it. The thing is done. Which is good, because the mere thought of it makes me want to puke.
Some of the angles are a bit awkward looking, but all in all, i'm pretty happy with the thing. I really knuckled down and worked on the design of the thing, as I went along, to a much greater degree than I ever have in the past. Its seems to have paid off. I was comparing it to a still from my last stop motion film (which is now ancient); its definately in a different league all together. Which was the idea.

I recalled an old artist's trick; if you've been staring at something for so long that you've lost objecvtivity and are taking visual elements for granted, all you gots to do is turn the thing upside down. In this case, flip it horizontally. Its pretty effective; it was a bit of shock seeing the thing fresh after having started at so many pictures of it. Looks better than I expected. My first impluse was to say 'i'm going to flip all the images around; looks way better this way'. But its obvious that it doesn't actually look different at all.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Another version of an older HDR picture. Looks neat-o. It somehow makes average things look above average. I'm pretty eager to see some HDR pics of all the piles of props and junk. Don't have any of those yet. Its been a while, in fact.
Its kind of benificial that I don't get to see the set with nice pictures as I go along. There's always something to look forward to; if I could see precisely how its looking all the time, i'd start taking it for granted, and get tired of the thing sooner.

Its pretty tedious putting the props in place; its an awkward reach (nowhere to rest my weight), and there's a hot light on the thing so I can see what i'm doing. Hours of putting a couple items in, viewing with the camera from different angles, altering thing, and glueing them down.

The thing is almost done though, which is good. The weeks are passing by, and weeks count with this project.

Boy, this sure is taking a long time. Not due to the level of detail in the props, as much as the number of the things.

Started today by making another pile of them; sketches, paint brushes, brush handles, books, piles of paper, pots, etc, all assembly line fashion.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

See what i'm talking about? The bottom picture is what i'm seeing when i'm in there piddling away on the thing. The top picture is what the camera will see. Looks better.
See the red arrow? You can see the edge of the set down there. I got tired of not being able to get quite as wide as i'd like, so I built a little 3" x 8" extension to fill that space.

Whenever i'm getting grumpy with the results of this thing, I bust out the HDR pics; these particular ones are a bit older - they predate all the piles of junk, etc. Sure looks a hell of a lot better with this type of photography. It's needed for me to see, as the set, which is being designed for specific camera angles and this type of photography, is looking increasingly goofy and odd to the naked eye.
I put the curtain in (temporarily) to see how it looks. Makes sense from a compositional point of view.

I'm getting to the point where i'm taking too much time, being too timid with the props. Like i'm poking a corpse with a stick. Just got to cram the shit in there, before I get sick of the thing. Which i'm pretty close to being.

I'm also getting tired of looking at shitty snapshots; they form the basis for how I view the thing, even though I know it looks a lot better with real photography.

I'm happy with this angle, but there sure are some other key angles that look like a bag of ass. My goal in the next few days is to more or less finish this thing, and to summon enough will power to have at those angles that are sucking so thoroughly.

It's hard though, as i'm at the notorious 'the magic is gone, and I know more or less what the finished product will be' stage.

Made some sort of a tripod-dealie. Not really sure what it is. Don't really matter; i'm just after shape and colour.
Painted some circles on the floor. The top picture was the mockup up with the camera, the bottom is the actual paint job. Looks pretty goofy from this angle, but it makes sense with the camera on it.

Monday, July 07, 2008

If i'm watching somebody else's project take shape, I find the most interesting thing to be the problems and screw ups; more importantly, how they're discovered and how they're fixed.

That being said, here's a bit of a screw-up; I was about to load up another corner with props (see bottom half of top photo). Then, it occured to me that I should really be framing this shot up with a scale armature stand-in. When I did that (via a crude drawing on a piece of balsa wood), I discovered that I would have been wasting my time. If I was to actually frame the shot up like I had it, it would only include the character's legs. And I felt like such a smarty-pants, designing things with my camera. After having made that discovery, I popped off about 80 shots, all with the character stand-in in them. How the set is actually going to be seen turned out to be quite a bit different than I was anticipating.

I've been carefully designing big pretty-looking wide shots. However, the average shot will have the camera jammed up pretty close to one wall or another; not much wide stuff going on. I then made a crude photo-storyboard for the first few shots of the first scene. Its quite ugly, but the ugly stuff tends to be where the important decisions get made.

This is very useful stuff; now I know what i'm actually going to be seeing, and from what angle. So now I can pretty them up, and avoid spending ages making scene compositions that'll never be seen.

The top picture is before the design process, the bottom is after. Glad to see its working. I'm finding that I can alter the set to a great degree using these piles. Which is handy - lots of control.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

There's one key prop missing, obviously; the painting itself. I was undecided about how to make the thing, as I figured the detail level would have to be pretty high in order for it not to suck. However, i've rediscovered how much detail can be implied with just a few lines and brushstrokes. So i'm just going to print out a lines-only version, glue it on a backing, and paint in some colour washes. The painting will look in-progress, and will be seen to progress as the film goes on.

This snapshot isn't pretty, but it's doing its job. The coloured lines denote the composition; how I want the eye to move. Now I just have to make some junk that will mirror the lines. I might just paint/scratch some streaks on the floor - don't want to bury the set in actual items.

The curved line at the bottom-center of the set is pretty cheeky. I'm going to put crap there just in that shape.

I've been putting in 12 hour days, trying to get this beast under control. I can't think of a good way to cut corners and speed it up, as the quality/detail level ain't really negotiable - the detail level is actually pretty minimal. It's mostly about composition at this point. So, the only solution I can think of is to work longer days. Which i'm doing. Getting up and going at it at 8 in the morning, rather than starting at 10, and spending two hours scratching my head because i'm asleep and confused.

Alot of this stuff is pretty goddamn tedious, so there's lot's of little mind games one has to play with oneself. So I don't puke from the monotony. Generally, i'll take a snapshot, doodle on it in Photoshop to see how I want the composition. Then, I make a pile of crap. Not designing a particular item for a particular spot - just churning it out in an effecient fashion. This doesn't require any attention span, and the gratification is pretty quick. Then, I get out the camera and needle nose pliers, and put the junk on the set. This is the sore-back/brow-furrowed stage, requiring concentration. Then i'll go make specific props to tidy things up; a small skinny blue book here, a long light-coloured paintbrush here, etc.

I also try to leave myself something specific and non-tedious to do for the next day; decide it in advance. So I can get right into it, even though i'm half awake and confused.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

I usually put the date on my snapshots; its clear that this damn set is taking too long. I don't have that much time left, and a lot of work to do. Gonna have to pick up the pace. I put in a 12 hour day yesterday - i'm going to have to make a habit of doing that, or else curtail the quality/detail level somewhat.

The design process

I've got a routine down now:

I pop off some snapshots, then crudely draw over them, to indicate the composition of the piles of shit (see top photo). Then I make a pile of crap (see middle photo). I pile the junk roughly where it is intended to go, then pop off some more snapshots. Then I draw on it again if needed (see bottom photo), then glue the suckers down.
Battalions of props. These are only some of the ones i've made in the last couple days - they're pretty fast to do though - the detail level is pretty minimal.

Mini paintings; its suprising how a few brush strokes imply alot detail which ain't actually there.
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