Monday, November 3, 2014

"Art-In" workshop, "Of Mice and Moose", and other things.

In my last post, (many moons ago) I wrote about my experiment with vinyl figurines, and how dysfunctional they are to animate!  My attempt at creating a simple animation puppet was not successful.  But I still needed a simple animate-able puppet for my upcoming Art-In class.

Falling-back to familiar puppet making techniques, I made six simple build-up puppets from furniture foam.  I made a basic wire armature from rosin core solder and epoxy putty.  The puppet's leg armature extended past their feet about 1".  These were used like tie-downs to secure the puppet to the foam-core stage we would be animating on.  I sprayed the foam figures with a few coats of diluted Rit dye.  Tada!  A sturdy, flexible puppet ready to be personalized!.
This photo shows our simple foam and cardboard stage:
The class was super fun!  After meeting at the Comstock Art Gallery, we set up shop a few miles away in the historic Dowse sod house.  We had a lovely huge space to spread out our supplies.  We started with an introduction to animation and film making, and the basic principles of stop-motion animation.  Next, I shared with the class a compilation of short animation clips, showing a few of the many styles and sub-genres within the medium.  Then, we started making our blank puppets into characters!  Rachel was a huge help in assisting the kids in sewing and gluing the clothing, hair, and features onto their puppets.  Four of the six kids were boys, with not much sewing experience between them.

We split the group in half, with half the kids animating puppets with me, and the other half animating captions with Rachel.  She used small crates and 2x4"s to create a simple platform to secure my iPod to.  We captured frames with the iPod camera using Aardman's "Animate It!" app.

Rachel's animation station was fast-paced, less tedious, and more creative/experimental than the puppet animation station.  Some kids (obviously) have a shorter attention span than others, and this was a great way to keep everyone busy.  The kids could could go back and forth between stations, and everyone was happy.

At my animation station, we animated with a laptop and an SLR.  I brought our TV along to the workshop, and hooked up my laptop with an HDMI cord.  It made it very easy for the whole group to see and use the frame-grabbing software without crowding each other.  Rachel and I made a script of shots, and we animated them in sequence.  It's hard to explain animation timing to someone, and until you watch your first sequence of frames, you don't comprehend how very small your moves need to be.  And how slow the whole process can be.  The kids did a super job, and caught on quickly!  We attempted some simple ease-in and ease-out.  If I remember correctly, only one of the kids had animated before, so with that in mind, we had SUPER end product!:)

  The day flew by so quickly.  Rachel and I were forced to simplify our already simple script, but we were very proud of what we and the kids accomplished in only five hours.  Post-production was fast and furious in order to show the whole group our day's accomplishment:

I burned a few copies onto discs and mailed them to the kids.  I got a nice thank you note a few days later:


That's all I can remember at the moment, and all of the photos I have to share, so moving on...

It only took me 23 years to FINALLY visit sited the most magical place on earth.  Disney World was an experience like none other!  So much awesome in those four days of our vacation!

Hee hee!  So fun.

Anyway, since this my ANIMATION blog, I had to show you our awesome "Nightmare Before Christmas" souvenirs:

Rachel's favorite blanket EVER:

And now, I will write about my latest and greatest animation project:

The September monthly challenge theme "Woodland Animals" was too good to pass up.  Nearly all of my animations feature some sort of cutesy, anthropomorphic animals, so...yeah.

I did things very out of order, and built my puppet set first.  I normally write a script, draw a simple storyboard, make puppets, then build and light the set last.  You do things in a certain order to avoid issues and save time, right?  But hey, it sounded fun at the time.  <snort>

Lucky for me, my set worked okay with my puppets and story.  Not perfect, but okay.  The
trees were made from leaves and branches cut from the bushes at my shop.  I recycled my favorite model train grass and sky fabric for the bazillionth time.

I was really pleased with rosin core wire armatures I made for the "Art In" puppets, so I made my Moose puppets in a similar fashion.  The wire pieces extending past the hooves anchored into the foam core so well.  It was easy to bend and hide them when I wanted the bottom of the hoof to be showing.  The mice are just little bits of Plasticine clay.  I don't have a ton of patience or experience working with clay, so they were a bit sloppy.  <shrug>

"Cloud Clay" was the perfect lightweight material to make the antlers on the male moose.

This project went together very quickly, and was super fun to animate.  I think it's some of my best story- telling to date.  
The online community voted my film the best of the five entries!  John Ikuma of StopMotion Magazine sent me a nice prize in the mail, a hardcopy of their latest issue, featuring "The Boxtrolls."  John visited LAIKA studios in Portland, and interviewed the CEO and directors of the film.  Lots of great photos and info about the film!
If you would like to read about "The Boxtrolls" and other stop-motion projects, this issue can be download free as a PDF on your computer or e-reader app here.

Speaking of Boxtrolls, Rachel and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing it in the theater.  It's a beautiful, imaginative film, with charming characters the most advanced stop-motion puppet animation on the planet.  LAIKA's use of 3D-printed facial features is really mind-boggling.  The practical special effects are also spectacular.  Definitely adding it to our collection when it's released on DVD!
Super crummy photo of us at the theater:

Changing subjects one last time, the innovative folks at Stop Motion Pro have updated their software yet again!  This past spring, they asked for volunteers to help test a beta version of their new software.  I offered to help, and a few weeks later, I had a call from down under!  After a nice chat with Paul, I was emailed a trial version of the software and a list of tasks to try.  I wrote down any glitches I found, took screenshots, and filled out a detailed feedback survey.  It was a really interesting project, and exciting to be a part of!  The testing process was pretty informal, but I was told repeatedly to please not share my findings with anyone.  The software was finally released to the public a couple weeks ago!  You can read my statement on their shiny new website here!  (I'm at the very bottom).

Ooph, I think I'm finally caught-up!  Sort of.  Thanks for reading along!

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