Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Added some paint and some black edge detailing to the easel; looks better. It's really small - hard to work with. I plan to build another one, more of a studio easel, with thinner wood.

Something interesting happened with the top left corner image - looks really like a painting. I'm going to explore further what happened there, as that's what i'm after.

Made a wee little 'portable' easel. It's okay; it's a bit off scale - a bit too chunky looking. I plan to fill it with studio debris, such as brushes, rags, etc.
Added some detailing to my angle table; looks better now. The stain is still wet in the pictures, so it looks a bit soggy; looks better when it dries. I also found that I can create details in the trim flourishes by just using a dull pencil - it creates an indentation, and takes seconds to do. Balsa wood is good.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

For a while now, i've wanted to try 'Tim Burtoning' some set stuff; darkening edges to impart a graphic quality. I think I like the effect. I went a bit overboard in parts; need to keep it subtle. Obviously, what i've done is pretty mild compared to Tim Burton stuff, but it's still a good idea. Seems to make it more painterly looking, which is the goal.

I decided that the table I made (see bottom photo) was pretty dull, so I redid it. I like the new table much better. I've also found that little details like 'lathework' in furniture really communicates the sense of scale.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I stained the 'dias'; looks pretty good. It's fun to see the character of the wood come out. I cranked the contrast on the top-left corner picture; it's a little much, though its the truest representation of Dutch painting from the period.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I like this angle. It's my plan to have a debris pile in the front left corner of the set. It'll do a few things; it'll show that the painter Cornelisz is uninterested in material, menial things (like being tidy), and it'll be useful compositionally, to draw the eye towards the centre, and the painting - just like the rest of it will/is. It will also allow me to get some black into the shots.

Some snapshots with a more powerful light; its about time - it'd be a shame if all the documentation consisted of fuzzy, bad pictures. I realized that its only been a week since I bought the first load of wood; pretty good progress. I intend to take my time with it, and spend a lot of time looking at pictures of the thing as it develops, to see what's working and what isn't and to see what is suggesting itself for future work.

Right now i'm trying to get the finishing of the scaffolding right; it's largely a matter of dealing with the large grain.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Here's a couple more lousy, grainy snapshots. I like how this angle is developing; can see lots of potential here. The space will feel large and open, as opposed to claustrophobic, as previous sets i've built have felt (for other films). They look large, but they shrink when you photograph them.


I built masef' a new window. I wanted this one to be a little more like a real window, and not as manic-looking as the last one. I looked pretty crappy when I stained it; I knew it would, but I did it anyways. The particular type of wood I used for it was the harder, grainier balsa, which really shows the grain with the stain. Overly-visible grain screws up the sense of scale. I'm going to sand it and redo it.

I sometimes purposely half-stain things, or paint/stain things in colours/ways that I know i'm not going to like. Sometimes I get too precious with the things, so doing this helps me 'break the ice' with the finishing, so I can really get in there and work it over.


The 'dias' (raised platform), immediate foreground with steps is almost done; it was tricky, as the back right corner is higher than the rest of it. A bit of a compound curve. The sides will be covered as well, to cover up the roungh construction. The planks become wider at the back; this is so that, from a certain camera angle, they don't appear to diminish in perspective. Hopefully, this will give it a slightly 'off' feel, and will contribute to the painterly look of the thing. It's hard to say if such things will be noticed by viewers; probably not. But it's good to jam it with neat stuff like that. Gives at richness.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I'll comment on these later, when I have more time.

I stained some of the studio furniture, just to see how it would work. The table (second from top) is pretty characteristic of how my things usually turn out - however, I think it's a bit too 'earthy' looking. The surface pattern tends to obscure the details of actual form, which looks a little fake. Once upon a time, I would have said 'it looks neat' and went with it, but i'm trying harder now. So i'm going to rework it a little.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


I've finally started on the 'Interior Cornelisz's Studio' set. Took me long enough. I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to work at home - in the past, i've always had a very hard time doing that. Too many potential distractions. It seems to be wroking, though.

I'm using balsa wood for most of it; turns out its the best material to use - it can be shaped quickly and easily with hand tools (knife, saw, etc.), it's easy to form unusual shapes, it glues very quickly (fir took ages to set up firmly), and it accepts stain well - nice and even. Its lightness is also very beneficial; the 'old style' sets were just difficult to deal with, the sections weighing a hundred pounds each.

I've also discovered that I can push finishing nails into balsa wood with a pair of pliers. Another serious bonus - no clamping and waiting. Its going to make things much faster.

The picture is what I did yesterday. It's a terrible photo; need to get more light in there. I also photoshopped the still into the set design sketch,to see how it's working. In one version, the window is boarded up; wanted to see if I liked that better.

Monday, January 14, 2008


I was reading a book on Terry Gilliam recently, made up mostly of edited interview material. It was actually quite encouraging, particularily his statement that he felt more comfortable working with limitations, be it time, money, etc. He had the universal problem of being overwhelmed by too many possibilities in film making, something I feel pretty keenly.

Also, I was reminded about how little is actually needed to tell a story - in discussing the making of 'Jabberwocky', he stated that many shots were filmed on partial sets. Some sets were little more than little details, which would imply a larger space. This recalled our work on 'The Fall of the House of Usher' - there were many elaborate sets, but many of the shots were accomplished through quick improvisation - reusing bits of other sets, mirrors, etc. I was amazed at how much you can get away with, with nothing suffering for it.

That being said, I am going to likewise try to limit myself with the current set construction duties - going to focus on a very general theme and ambiance, and not build every little detail to perfection regardless of it's likely screen time.
The Dreaded Suck

The persistant problem with working on a big project like this, more or less by myself, is the wealth of possibilities. It's almost paralyzing - its hard to commit to any one approach for fear that it could have been better. I also tend to want to make every little detail have significance and be well thought out.

The last two films turned out pretty sub-par, for reasons that weren't clear at the time. When you're deeply immersed in something, and your head is jammed way, way up your ass, its hard to be objective and see things for what they are. Meaning, I know that I have the proven potential to make a peice of shit, and not even realize it at the time.

I'm not that worried though; the first two films revolved around the building of the sets, and the story and animation came last. This time, I know there's a good story there - we worked very hard on hammering it out to its essentials.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I've decided to make the interior sets less 'filmy' and more 'theatre-y'. Meaning that i'm going to reduce the number of cuts, and film it more as if you were veiwing a play, or a painting. The film itself being painterly, or almost a painting itself, is a pretty key idea to the whole thing. If I do alot of back and forth cuts, i'll lose that feel. There will be some (reaction shots, etc), but i'm going to reduce them.

The story revolves around a large painting of hell; i've made it so that all the scenes are woven together via the painting - all the events of the story will be represented within. The implication is that the painter, Cornelisz, is painting/making his own doom, and that the doom of hell (hell is pretty damn doomy) is mirrored by the doom of the story. Doom, doom, doom, doom, with a side order of doom. For example, Cornelisz's studio is within the painting too. Ain't that neat. Therefore, for the story to mirror the painting, it's logical that the story itself should therefore appear painterly. This is a bit hard to acheive - so, i'm going to make the scenes appear a bit false - a cross between theatre lighting and Rembrandt lighting.

The upside of this is that my sets can be very suggestive - i'm not trying to 'sell' the sets as being real. They just have to suggest the location, and convey the key points of the architecture.

The downside of this is that the animation shots are going to be very long. On the old films, it never took that long to animate a shot - they were only about 4 seconds long, and usually contained many 'holds' (the character is still, and frames can be added later to extend it if need be). Now, i'm thinking about doing shots that are 20 seconds long.

My original plan was to film the characters against a greenscreen, and then stick them into smaller scale sets. The armatures are 9" high, which means that the sets would have to be quite big. However, since I plan on making the sets look like theatre sets, this large scale isn't so troublesome. The set i'm currently designing, Cornelisz's studio, will only be 5 feet by 2 1/2 -3 feet high. And, there will only be three walls to build, two of those being pretty minimal. So i'm just going to do it full-scale, for this set at least.

Some of the others sets will have to have multiple scales going on, because the scale is so huge.

I'm also finally going to be making the sets out of lightweight cheap materials, like paper and foamcore. No more 2000 pound sets made out of solid wood.
I've noticed that I always use the architecture of the set to mirror the mental state of the characters. In the first two films (The Masque of the Red Death and The Fall of the House of Usher), the characters inhabit a ruin. And they're ruined too. It's now looking like Cornelisz's studio is going to be a bit of a ruin.

I'm making the same film over and over.
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