January - February 2004
Preliminary puppet and set designs are in early stages. Designs are on the way for stop frame gib arm and dolly. Still sorting out camera stability image issues . Many camera tests are being done to try and see why there are constant flicker problems. Jan-Feb here in Ipswich has seen temperatures up in the mid to high 30's with several severe thunderstorms. Work in all areas is steadily moving forward
March - May 2004
Using a mixture of plasticine and super sculpy the sculpting of all 16 puppets are finished. These have also been moulded using 16 bags of plaster! The armatures for the main characters were done first followed by the 13 animals, prioritizing the use of the foam latex ( starting with a 1 gallon kit of gm foam). The foam latex runs began and took a while to get the right mix. This all went along smoothly until the lion (which was the first of the bigger animals). We had run out of gm foam mould release and decided to test out foam. We read on the Internet somewhere that people used ivory soap. Nobody here in Ipswich has ever heard of this so we thought it was just scentless soap. It did not work - the whole lion collapsed and was just an outer skin. This appalling failure depressed for many weeks. We then mixed floor paste wax with isopropyl alcohol which seemed to work ok and have been using since. Problems came about when the large animal moulds (2 20 kilo bags worth per mould) wouldn't fit in the oven. Many hours were spent working out how to overcome this. Anything from extending the existing oven to converting trunks. fridges or even baking it in the car on a hot day. The problem eventually solved itself as we slowly ran out of foam latex and money and had to look at two part polyurethane foam.
There has been a camera change from the original Canon G2 to a digital SLR the Nikon D70. This was decided due to problems arising with flicker and depth of field. This camera is proving to be much easier to use for this type of stop frame animation. Have found a 4gb microdrive inside a mp3 player which works beautifully in the D70. This will allow 30 seconds of animation at full resolution (5 1/2 mb per shot) Still have many tests to complete in all areas including computer capture storage etc. Estimating 7 1/2 gb of harddrive space needed per minute of footage and 2dvd's per minute. This will eventually get uncompressed to a 16 bit tiff sequence that is 51gb per minute. This makes us feel sick. Work on the preliminary gib arm, dolly and pan and tilt head have started.
amended weather update - freezing -1. Good for foam latex running - working time rocks, not so good working in tin sheds in the backyard. It has been decided because of time to concentrate on finishing off the main human characters needed for the first scene. The time needed to finish off everything just isn't available. We have been working alone now for 182 days - some days it doesn't feel like we are moving ahead.
Work has started on props, costumes and all electronic gadgets. Each human character we have had to do twice to accommodate costume changes as well as some armature had to be amended to fit batteries etc.
We have found a large shed to shoot the animation in. It has a 8 m high roof which we were very excited about.4Having this space made available has enabled work on the sets to begin. The first scene has lots of miniature trees. We are using real branches and in the preliminary camera tests these are starting to look cool. Designs have stated for ago motion rig and a hand held simulator. The capture computer has been built. This computer uses a looping software which will enable us to reference the puppets movements via video camera while shooting on the digital SLR. We are trying to work to get all that is needed to start shooting in early July. We are cgoorgo mk on the se
First test shots of Wombok Forest
Early July has gone - the weather is warming up. The main puppets are almost finished - only touch ups, pax and hair to be done. The electronic gadgets have been problematic and fiddely to do., but all has been worthwhile, they look so cool and work!! We are six months into production and if all goes well serious frames will start to be captured around 17th July. We will keep posted as to how our capturing and storage systems are working. Weariness has been thrown aside and replaced with excitement as we finish off these last bits.
Work has started on the hand held simulator - what will this look like? and what will it do??? Hopefully it will give a hand held look. To do this frame by frame we are going to do simulated hand held shots on mini dv, capture that into the computer and count frame by frame the movement of the camera, then map that out, so if we want a running hand held shot, it would be something like 2 to the left, 1 up 5 to the right, 1 down etc etc It would be just a matter of remembering where we are in the map. Each type of hand held shot would have it's own map.
Most of the time the camera will be sitting on pan and tilt head.
This is written on a large storyboard in our shed -
First real shot 20th July"
it is now 17th August and after many interruptions ie going to the TISM CONCERT (well worth the interruption) and of course EKKA research , Birthdays, and some paid work, we have 30 seconds of edited animation!
This is all very exciting.
One really annoying problem has been the capturing computer. The looping program is very unstable, flashing up coloured frames in between frames which makes it very hard to animate by . This has really held us up and we find days going by trying to make this work. We think we have fixed most of the problems by buying and installing a new graphics card and reinstalling all softrware etc. The graphics card turned out to be excellent in another way as it allows two monitors to run off the same computer at once. This is handy when the one loop needs to be seen at both ends of the shed. It also gives a much clearer image to look at. The two monitor set up is something we had been thinking about for a while, so it is cool that it worked out this way. We still don't think the problems are over and are thinking we will need another computer for the Nikon and editing software, leaving the looping computer only for looping.
The Nikon D70 has been unbelievable. We have been using a macro lens most of the time , now and then changing to a wide angle depending on the distance allowable. Each night the external hardrive that stores the jpeg and raw files (the Nikon does this at the one time) is then backed up on two separate hardrives and dvds, the external is then wiped for the next days work. For anyone interested it takes 8 gigs of hardrive for every 1 minute of footage and roughly 2 DVD'S per 1 minute. We have three hours of frame counting timecode that matches the frame counter on the camera. When we take a shot we make sure that we have matched these frame numbers to a small white board held in front of each shot with the same number printed on it. SO FAR this has all worked out!!! So it is all looking good as a timecode.
Along the way we render a dv copy that we are offline editing as we go.
We have been using a dv camera placed as close as possible to the digital SLR to give us the reference loop on the computer to animate from. This has been working ok but after several 16 hour stints of puppet walking shots we decided to make it easier and put the puppet on a walking frame. For this shot we lined up the beginning and end shot (as it was also a camera pan) on the SLR and it all looked good on the monitor. As you can't see through the SLR while shooting we relied on the loop image from the dv camera. This shot was about 8 hours work involving a camera pan, the puppet mock walking on a frame while bouncing a flashing coloured ball - all while navigating through a forest pathway. When we rendered the footage to have a look at the days work, we were appalled. The puppet looked fine she looked like she was walking, the ball looked great BUT clearly visible in every shot was a beautiful black gaffa taped frame and stand following her. When we got over it, we thought "fix it up in post" using photoshop frame by frame. Reluctantly we tried this but it didn't really look any good and it is sort of defeating the purpose of us trying to most of everything in camera.
SO WE DECIDED THIS BLUNDERING FAILURE WOULD NOT HAPPEN AGAIN.
Today we found a mini surveillance camera that fits (with minor adjustments ) into the eyepiece of the SLR which hopefully this will give us a accurate looped image of what the SLR is capturing.
We now know why writers lock themselves away for ages so they can concentrate on their work!!
Catching up on September's update - 14th October.
We now have 31/2 minutes of edited footage. This is good. The first nine weeks of animating was set in a forest path -one puppet walking continuously and the other riding a skateboard with flashing electronic gadgets. When we had finished that part of the animating and it was time on move on to a new set and when every last tree and branch had gone - we celebrated.
We have done a few pan, dolly, crane and tilt shots with our home made motion control rig and pan and tilt head. We made a few (heaps) of mistakes to begin with, not realizing it all had to be worked out with MATHS. Anyway it all is worth it when at the end of the day we see the shot. Some shots are taking two days to set up and a day to shoot. Lighting is taking about the same time as animating. On the fridge are the words
IT IS TAKING 1 HOUR PER SECOND .
We have been alternating between a 90mm Tamron macro, a Nikon 50mm and Tamron 19-35mm wide angle. The macro has proved to be the nicer of the three. Lovely depth of field and has a nice feel to it. Technically all has been running smooth except for a few looping problems (the DC10+ ) keeps losing its driver, we haven't been able to solve this yet. We have added another computer to the set up (for the Nikon capturing) plus a second tv output to our desktop looping program.
The puppets have been great to work with. We would have some great changes to the next ones we make and have learnt a lot about the design and what needs to be stronger etc. After 11962 frames the girl has had to have a few repairs, eye surgery, two broken upper leg wires and on a high jump broke her knee. We are still having a lot of fun. It is only when we look back at the photos, like we did today, we realize how much work we have done and how focused and disciplined we have been.
It is now very hot in the shed - very very hot. When we are shooting all the doors have to be shut and all cracks holes etc have had to be blocked off or stuffed with foam because of light changes. It is very stuffy and very hot. We are pretty exhausted and are having a few days off to catch up on other things and try to work out some relief from the heat as it is not even summer yet!!!
We will be updating this site shortly to include a separate page on the technical research we have done for the eventual online edit.
Hot day, hot lights ........small fan!!
5 minutes 13 seconds
We are still dying in the heat - BUT SOON ALL WILL BE FINE AS WE HAVE BOUGHT AN AIR CONDITIONER!!!
Hard to find time to get onto this website (that is why October and November is squashed together) and now that I am sitting here at 2.00 am to do this it is hard to remember all the things that have happened.
October was a very productive month with some days getting 16 second shots. One day reaching a 30 second shot. We sort of got carried away once we got over the months of walking and it became so much more interesting to do something else with the puppets. We have had three set changes and have discovered the beauty of coloured gels. This is not something we have been big uses of before but they have been very interesting and have created some cool looking colour effects.
The girl puppet who had all the broken armature problems finally had to be totally cut in half and the bottom half replaced. This worked well (seemed bodge at the time) but at last she can stand without wire support.
Technically all has been working fine. The Nikon has still had no problems. We are still trying to work out our online editing and storage. We keep getting told to down res our files, but with a probable year or two left to finish this project by then this size may be the way it is all done. Who knows we are just going to keep going with it -hopefully breaking new grounds as we go.
At this point we are at the beginning of one of the biggest set changes yet. It will probably take us a few weeks to get the set plus all of the props finished. A new character is introduced and new costumes etc have to be worked out and finished. We have also had more outside jobs (money) than at any other time of the year. This has made it very difficult to keep it all going as the loss of focus is one of the hardest things of all, but on the other side the money allows us to continue.
We are two minutes off time for this part of the film. This is ok we can make this up later. All of the script has been worked out to a timeframe. Say at this point we are suppose to be 7 and a half minutes into this part of the film and 10 minutes into the whole film. We thought this would be the best way for two people to plod through a feature film. Say if we were targeting for a finished 70 minute film and we are now almost 10 minutes into it, it is planned that by the time we get to a next certain point we will be 15 minutes into the film and so on. It has been written as one film but has three separate sections, each one introducing new characters and new sets and a new mood, which will allow us to keep our enthusiasm and interest going. Each section has then been broken down to these time frames, so in some parts we have allowed freedom to move around in a five minute section and others are strict to the drawing boards. We keep calling this the backbone of the film. If we stick to this we have the 70 minutes but we can also play around with it a make it longer if we want. Anyway it is working for us. The only problem is the break in focus and this is something we have to work with.
Heaps of distractions in the month of December with other work, Christmas and the making the next lot of sets. props etc. The new character has had to have modifications and some of the sets had to be done in miniature. So we have been very busy doing this and actually couldn't do any animating this month and can't wait to get back.
We had one disturbing thing happen - one of our hardrives just wiped itself - nothing left all gone - we tried to get it retrieved but there was nothing left. We were glad we had the other hardrive as a backup and that we had been burning the footage onto dvd. We lost our offline premiere dv project that we had been making with our low res jpeg's.
We managed to get that back together again - but it was disturbing!!