Sunday, December 27, 2015

Orson Finished -- "F For Formula"

After three months of puppet and prop making, 43 hours of animation, and about three weeks of post work (all working around the ol' day job) -- it's finally finished!

"F For Formula" a tribute/spoof of the classic "Yes, Always" tape:

You can also watch it on Vimeo:

Behind the scenes soon to come.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Orson Now In Post

 Yes, that's right folks, animation is finished and I'm about half done with post.
As with most of my work, I tend to make a heck of a lot of work for myself later, by not doing much actual 'on set' work at the time of shooting (like how I opted to shoot entirely on green screen instead of building a set, as a result, I've ended up with a tangle of garbage masks that squirm like a bucket of maggots with restless leg syndrome).
Sure maggots don't have legs, but you get the idea.
Anyway, this method of madness may seem counter productive to some, but I can say with absolute confidence that it does have many benefits.
One that sticks out above all others -- flicker removal.
I've never really had much trouble with flicker. At least not crazy, flashing flicker. I always had the subtle stuff, the stuff you really only see in the shadows. And the big advantage to shooting green screen, is that once the background is keyed out and replaced, the puppet is the only thing in the shot that has it, so it's easy to fix.

Now, as I said, I never used to have that much trouble with it before, but since my upgrade to a DSLR, flicker has presented itself kinda like this:


So, what was I to do? Well, since flicker was contained to Orson only, I was able to isolate his layer and manually adjust the exposure to to compensate.
This worked fairly well for the big flashes, but the pulsing flicker was still present and quite undesirable.
After checking around the Stop-Mo forum, I found this thread on the subject. They all referenced  several different products, some cheap, some horribly expensive -- and everyone had a personal favorite.
So I wrote down the top three and started downloading all the free trials I could find.
None of them worked.
So, I searched some more and finally found this product from Digital Anarchy.

And may I just say what a lovely product FlickerFree is. It's good... It's really really good.
In combination with exposure adjustment to help the big lightning bolts, FlickerFree basically saved Orson's little life.
Now, the price is $149, and I'm cheap, so I still think it's a bit pricey. But for what you're getting, it is definitely worth it.
By the way, I would've posted a comparison video, to show shots before and after flicker reduction, but I'll be covering that as well as compositing, and other things in a short BTS video that I'm planning on releasing after the finished short.

Just a random pic of my workspace. As you can see, it's organized in a way that only appears to be messy. I used to keep all my production notes on hundreds of little pieces of paper that would inevitably get lost. Now I just write on every flat surface like a crazy person (or a mean-spirited toddler). And just so you know what a professional I am, that is NOT a chalkboard table, it's just a regular black table -- but that is a bistro marker, so it all kind of balances out.
Orson just looks on disapprovingly.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

61 Seconds Down

…And about fifty (give or take) to go.

I'm happy about it, though, Orson is less enthusiastic -- he's been getting far more exercise than he bargained for. 
I'll admit, it has been taking much longer than originally anticipated. However, given the fact that I've only been able to animate during my off days, I'd say it's going pretty well. I did 23 seconds in 7 hours a couple weeks ago. And I managed 13 seconds in about 6 today.
Soon I'll be finished with the animation and it's off to post! I've been having a heck of a time with flicker and I imagine a great deal of After Effects time will be spent correcting the issue. 
I hope to have a 'short something' posted very soon.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Animation To Begin...


I spent most of my time yesterday setting up the shot. Everything has to be so locked down -- and all I did was screw things together, duct tape stuff, clamp lights, etc. 
But now, it's finally almost time. 
It's really odd working with Dragonframe now, instead of Stop-motion Pro. But I've gotta say, in spite of the many differences, I do like the new workflow. The keypad is so much faster than using the mouse to click click click click away at the next frame. And the lip-synch tools are FANTASTIC! Up till now, lip-synch has always been a guessing game, total improv -- I've never had the luxury of actually knowing what syllable was coming next. 
I'm also trying to keep careful documentation of the process so I can get you all some cool behind the scenes footage later on.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Couch, A Script, and A New Computer

Slowly but surely, Orson's world is taking shape. 
This prop is courtesy of my indecision. 

I initially thought of this short with Orson sitting on a bear rug in front of a fireplace. However, due to the finicky nature of ideas in development, I decided to put him up on a fainting couch (still in front of a fire).  It's made of scrap wood, covered in plasticine -- My father was gracious enough to sculpt the detail while I worked my day job -- then I painted and finished it with gloss polyurethane.  
What's interesting, is that this single prop, though time-consuming to make, will end up saving me a ton of time in the long run.  The reason?  Well, with lil' Orson sitting above floor level, it allows me to get away with having only a green screen behind him -- No need to construct a fireplace! --  
Or a bookcase.... not even a single wall will have to be built! A major time saver.

Also, I finally nailed down a script for this. It's four pages, so that equals about 3 minutes (with faster action). That will make this short my longest yet

Lastly, this will be the first short done on my new iMac! 
It's hard to believe that I've been working off outdated software & hardware this whole time. 
My computer is nine years old and runs After Effects on just 3GB of RAM -- and speaking of After Effects, it's still in "CS4". YIKES!
Everything's so worn-out that it crashes/freezes/freaks-out about every 10 minutes.... so today, I finally said 'enough is enough,' and I laid down some cash. What will be coming in the mail – hopefully by this time next week – will be a 21in. iMac with 16GB of RAM and a lightning fast hard drive.
That means no more waiting 9 hours for an 11 second video to render. No more crashes, no more freezing, no more weird error messages! 

It will be grand.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

It's ALIVE (lil' George Orson)

Orson is well on his way to being a real boy, in spite of some considerable setbacks.
I won't bore you with every detail of my month-long series of unfortunate events (not the book, of course) – so a brief summary would go like this:
The second week of July, I sliced the index finger on my dominant hand at work and got four stitches.
This inhibited my puppet making for about a week and a half.
Then, when I was all healed, I had a silicone casting fiasco, followed by clean-up.
And finally, I've been battling some weird batches of foam latex that have caused me to recast Orson's body and head EIGHT TIMES now – due to an unknown contaminant in the gelling agent, the foam has come out the wrong density/consistency....
Till now --

It's worth mentioning that I never actually got the right consistency from the bottle, as it were.
What I ended up having to do was run the foam at a lower volume (whipped for less time than normal) in order to achieve proper density.
All this could've been avoided, I do believe, if the gelling agent I was supplied was properly formulated.
The company I purchase foam from shall remain unnamed, as I don't want to give them a bad wrap.
I called them a week ago and told the very polite - no sarcasm inferred - quality control guy about the problems I was having and after an hourlong conversation, neither he nor I could figure out what the issue could possibly be.
I explained my theory: that perhaps one of the components had been formulated wrong.
He said that sort of thing only happened once or twice in the past and he was "quite sure nothing was wrong" with this current batch.
I however, disagree. I've been buying from them for seven years and have never run into anything like this. Making puppets with their foam has always been easy, even a joy to work with -- but this last experience has left a bad taste in my mouth.
As of this week, I have yet to speak again with the representative and tell of my findings. Nor have I attempted to get a refund for either kit (the sum of both came to $102 approximately).
In all, I'm just glad to finally have a puppet! And in the future, I may switch to a different brand of latex... maybe.

ANYWAY, back to the good stuff.
Here's the hair getting glued to the head with Pros-Aide.

 Some pics of the moulding process -- the clay sculpt in the water-based clay bed.

The rarely seen burlap and Ultra Cal 30 build-up -- the first few layers are just runny plaster to capture all the detail in the sculpt. From there, I start to add more layers of plaster and burlap (soaked in plaster) for support. After about two layers of burlap strips, I go back to plaster only -- this being a mid-size mould, I'm working toward a thickness of about 3/4 of an inch. For smaller moulds, I've been able to get away with a 1/2 inch -- any thinner and you risk instability and cracking.

The finished mould halves. I let them dry out in the convection oven for a few hours at 150˚F. This way I can be sure the mould won't retain any excess moisture that could potentially ruin the foam.

The armature in the mould. Cored out with upholstery foam.

And now a quick look at the head. The mould is made the same as the last. But what's really cool about this is the facial armature that allows him to speak. This pic was taken about 3/4 of the way through, as some of the lip wires are still to be attached.
The head is mostly wire and epoxy putty, thus, to make him less top heavy, I built the head around a ping-pong ball.

That's all for now.
Barring any further difficulties, I should have some set-building pics for you before the month is out.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Welles Baby In Progress

Starting a new short and it's starring a baby Orson Welles!
Haven't quite worked out all the beats of the story -- as of now, all I know is that it'll be a commercial/out-take type deal, based on the classic "Yes Always" recording -- but I figure I'll have it set by the time I finish making the puppet. 

Sculpting the head (which is about 3 inches high) out of plasticine -- using my original sketch and some pics of both young and old Orson as reference.

I'll have more on the way soon -- Next: mold making, and casting, as well as a second puppet.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Quick Test

Been trying to keep my skills up as I move forward on some new projects (FINALLY!)
In this case, 3 hours of work gets you 16 seconds of rough animation.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Present and Future

I've been stuck in a creative mud hole, spinning my wheels for a good while now -- actually, it's been since New Years! -- and its driving me crazy.
Anyway, the cause of all this nonsense can be traced to one thing: moving forward.
Or, at least the attempt at doing so.
I've been desperately trying to get 2 new projects off the ground and as it turns out, the thing that's keeping them there is.... LIVE ACTION. Trying, and apparently failing at making a move from miniatures to real life -- I do love animation, but it seems to be bogging down my goals.
The problem is, getting all the proper materials, locations, and people together at once, is proving to be quite the challenge.
I never knew how hard it would actually be. Even something as simple as lighting the scene, is now five times more difficult than in animation.
I'm going to stop there, because, it's just going to turn into a rant. Suffice to say, I'm not being lazy, I'm working on something (many things) and it's going SO SLOW!
But, I'm saying all this, to let you know there will be some action, and soon. As I move forward into preproduction, I'll be sure to post plenty of pics and tests, and other bits of goodness --

I'm  in the middle of writing a new short story, which I'm debating if I will make it available here. On that note, I'm also considering putting up a sister site (or maybe a second-step-cousin-in-law site) where I would post short stories, illustrations, and other musings on a regular basis... this is just a possibility, but I'm hoping to come to some conclusions very soon.
Also, I've got a new feature script currently in competition over at Slamdance.
I'll find out where I stand after the judging period in September -- and the wait is KILLING ME!

So, in conclusion, I have some decisions to make. All of my future endeavors will cost me time & money and I'm giving my self the deadline -- by the end of summer, I have to make a move. I'm getting my new Show Reel ready, putting together a portfolio, and if all my attempts at indie production fail, I'm gonna start looking for work in LA.
Goin' out west... etc.
Hopefully, whatever I do, I can still keep things up to date here.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Random Test

Did this as an experiment to see how motion blur should be applied to movement.
I'll be making some new stuff soon, stuff that will involve more creature type animation to be integrated with live action. I will try to get better behind the scenes documentation on future projects -- that way there will be more to show, more often, and I won't end up going these LONG stretches of time without a post.