Monday, August 31, 2009

We finally got us some real lighting now. 3 x 250watt heads on stands, barn doors, focus, scrims, etc.

Here's a couple test shots. They're too dark and contrasty, and are overprocessed. But you get the idea. We've been battling with the fill - the top picture is a better photograph, but I found there's something essentially wrong with it. Looks a bit fake. Like there's a spotlight shining on the set.

Tried a fill coming from overhead instead; seems to work better.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Another version made with the same animation. Keying didn't work very good; was using an old version of AE. But its still fun. I feel like i'm 16 hours of practice away from animating at a 'pass' level.
Here's one of the frames that Keylight managed to key out successfully. The green ain't evenly lit at all. Still worked okay. Good ol' Keylight 1.2.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Every time I knock off some practice frames, I can't resist the urge to throw em' into a little shot.

The parallax movement ain't moving quite right; not enough ram on the laptop to check it quickly. But you get the idea.

Here's one of the practice runs from today. I'mma go back in there and do more a bit later. I'm going to use an actual video camera (that I can plug in to a power source) for the live feed through Dragon. Using the actual shooting camera for the live feed murders the batteries.

Animation ain't anywhere near where it needs to be, but there's hope.

The screenscreen behind the puppet looked terrible; I had no intention of keying it out, so therefore didn't attempt to light it. But good ol' Keylight 1.2 still dropped it out pretty good. Not good enough for a pass, but still suprisingly well.

The results from our second, successful, greenscreen test. There's not much going on in the way of lighting and animation - we just poked it around a bit.

But there's no green halo around the thing, and it keyed out the hair nicely.

Here's a bit from our reference footage session. Spent some hours in the studio today trying to use the stuff with Dragon (stop motion software). Not sure how useful it's going to be. Had about 5 half-hearted tries at various things. Just a pile o' suck so far. I'm just going to have to spend alot of hours in there, going through the shots and movements til I become very familiar with them, get better at animating, and become well-aquainted with the limitations of the puppets.

Same deal as the clip below. The pictures are from camera-location tests for scene 4, with the wee styrofoam figures as scale stand-ins. But you get the general idea. Also, the camera movement has nothing to do with what's going on. Namely, squat.

Here's some fake camera movement. Not the way we're actually going to do it; here I just moved two layers at different speeds, than slapped on a generic handy-cam motion track. The final shots are going to use the motion track movement to generate the parallax movement. Tricky!! Science!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Here's how we done our successful greenscreenin':

Bought us up some lime green fabric.

Stetched it flat as a board with thumbtacks.

Put one spot on it; should have been lit more evenly, but it worked fine with this test.

Put the puppet a good 6' away from the greenscreen.

Got us a good lookin' mid exposure.

Slapped the resulting .jpegs into After Effects CS3, as a .jpeg image sequence.

Went to 'keying', and fired up 'Keylight 1.2'. I think it's a plugin that Adobe bought and made standard. Works real good.

That was it. Dropped the green like a rock. Even keyed out thin, partially transparent strands of hair perfectly.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Studio in Chinatown.

Not nearly enough equipment in there yet. I want at least 5 more shiny metal computer boxes, and 10 more light stands and arms.

Did another greenscreen test; worked perfectly.

The process is coming together pretty good. Started off by setting up out various camera angles with set-scale styrofoam mannequins. Here's some. We're going to shoot/cut this scene in a pretty traditional way; over the shoulder shots, simulated multi-camera setups, 'coverage', etc. We jut picked some angles that would get us what we need, and we'll cut between them.

Spent a couple hours last night filming animation/camera movement reference footage - have the first half of this scene (about a minute) in the bag. There was two camera for each shot - handheld moving camera, and a camera on a tripod. The tripod-cam is for the animation reference.

The next step is to cut the footage into a scene, and export the corresponding animation reference clips into single clips.

Then we'll be animatin'.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Been doing lots of stuff. Mostly stuff that I can't post pictures of. I'll put some up soon.

We did a green screen test. It was awesome; Dave had a light meter and everything. Light meters are sweet - they look all professional and junk. The test seemed to turn out okay, though we didn't manage to light the greenscreen evenly due to lack of wattage. And we also failed to make it smooth enough. Doing another test very soon.

I spent quite a few hours with the 'Interior Studio; set, positioning little crude foam mannequins of the characters, figuring out the shot angles. I decided to do it like one would do a television series; instead of one unique shot after another, i've got different 'cameras'. Camera 1 is over-the-shoulder Johannes, looking at Cornelisz, another is OTS Cornelisz looking at the model, etc. We'll film our reference footage to match the 'cameras', and then cut the whole thing together in a logical pragmatic fashion.

We had a filming session last night - didn't work. Couldn't get big enough movements out of our actor, and we ran out of time before we could remedy it. Gonna do it myself next time.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

We've been doing more stuff that I can't post pictures of. Just boring old words.

Been testing out fake camera movement; we've got a plan/technique.

Here's the routine for a shot;

1. Film an actor acting out a motion, with a DV cam, on a tripod, wide enough to catch all the action.

2. Film the same action with a DV cam, but with the camera moving to follow the action and framed up approximately how the final shot will be. This is filmed with a white back drop covered in black crosses; reference marks.

3. Shoot the animation, wide enough to encompass all the camera movements. Shooting to be done against a greenscreen.

4. Using the After Effects motion tracker plugin (in which reference points are anaylzed and followed automatically by the computer), duplicate the camera movement from step 2.

5. Apply the auto-tracked movement to the animated footage.

6. Drop out the green via After Effects.

7. Drop in a jpeg behind the character, with the same motion tracker movement applied.

8. If the character is far enough from the wall that the greenscreened puppet should be moving at a different rate than the background (not needed for most shots, in which the character is 2'-3' from a wall - reallife scale), use the AE parallax function to move them at different rates.

Result; natural, real off-the-cuff lively feeling camera movement. And it's actually really fast to do. And, the best motion takes can be selected.

We've got the scene planned out, reference footage shot (just test footage so far). Going to go in Sunday, and test out the whole process. Once the routine is reasonably set, we'll film the reference footage, and that's it, we're filming finally.

Monday, August 03, 2009


After a long war with animated HDR photography, we finally win. Found the holy grail. HDR being a process whereby three exposures are combined into one. There's different uses for this; one is producing a very clear, crisp nice photograph. The other is 'tone-mapping', generating a non-real looking whacked-out image with incredible detail and texture. We did test, after test, after test, changing every variable we could think of. The result was always the same - an extremely strong flicker; in the areas where strong darks meet strong lights, the light would dance in an atrocious fashion.

There's two different controls for increasing HDR whackiness (referring specifically to Photomatix Pro); light smoothing, and luminosity. All the tests involved changing the luminosity. Even dialing the luminosity back to a barely-HDR setting resulted in the exact same horrible flicker. The other whacky setting is 'light smoothing'; there's five settings - very high, high, etc. 'Very high' is the most reasonable setting, 'high' is getting a bit silly, and the other three aren't worth talking about. Suprisingly, changing 'light smoothing' from 'very high' to 'high' eliminated the flicker altogether. We processed the same frames with over the top ridiculous settings, still came out clean as a whistle.

However, the 'high' setting of 'light smoothing' pulls some pretty weird highlights out of some strange areas. All the recent tests have involved a completely still setup - no moving camera. It remains to be seen what happens with that.

Results to be posted shortly.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Being doing other film business these days. Not much that I can show pictures for.

Redid the storyboards for Scene 4; the scene in which Cornelisz expounds upon his idea of beauty via an awkwardly-tied model, and then sets a large bird on Johannes. This is going to be our 'tooling' scene, in which we work out the whole process and workflow. I'm expecting it to take longer than the other scenes.

Going to get together with the crew today and go over the storyboards; print them out big, and stick them up on a wall all together. They've already been altered once thanks to Mike's input. It's not that they're better directors/storyboard conceivers than me, it's just that they have a fresh eye. Which is essential.

Also been talking other business; we've decided to keep the Chinatown studio for five months, tentatively. We figure if can't get alot done in five months, we're beyond help anyways. I hope to do alot more than one scene in that time. Hopefully, all the shots involving the Interior Studio set filmed, at the very least. As soon as those are done, we'll drop the studio.

I've been running a battery of HDR tests, trying to remove the flicker. Nothing seems to help, including a UPS (uninterrupted power supply). Going to try shooting RAW files next; HDR seems to really hate .jpegs. These tests are key - if we simply can't do animated HDR, it's going to change the storyboards (the boards currently involve a moving camera, i.e. animated HDR).

The clock is ticking now, which is good. Gives a sense of urgency. Trying to do all I can right away, without putting stuff off.

Once we get the HDR question settled, we'll finalize the Scene 4 storyboards. Then, we'll do a 'reference footage' session in the studio, in which we film our friend (who is a good 'body actor') with a pair of digital cameras. This is some pretty complicated stuff - he'll be interacting with another 'body actor', quite closely. But, the set spot they will be greenscreened into ain't a flat floor; there's a raised platform. Should be nice and hard.
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