Posthaste May and June Summary

It’s been a hectic two months over here in my world. At the beginning of May I had just finished building my set for scene 1 and had started animating some of the opening shots.  I felt like I was making some good progress on the animation and would be able to finish it by the end of May only to get walloped by a month long monster flare. Then, when I was finally able to start animating again in smaller time chunks, my dastardly puppet went and snapped both his knee joints simultaneously. Bad puppet! Finally, after several weeks of dealing with troublesome joints of both the human and puppet variety I managed to get scene 1 shot 3 finished which is one of the longer and more complex shots in my project. Yay!

I have only one more shot left to shoot for scene 1 which is a quick insert shot of the puppet’s backpack being dropped to the ground and then I just need a still frame of the hallway set through the door to be composited into scene 2. If luck and my health holds, I should be able to get those completed this week.

During some of my low energy periods, I did manage to finish the animation and coloring work on scene 2-3 where my character imagines the path to the mailbox in a 2D sequence. All that’s left if to add some textures to the shot and it will be completely locked and ready for sound and music.

In between all that I also started to design and build my set for scene 5 which takes place in front of a bakery. I had a set building weekend where many of my most wonderful friends came by to help out with measuring, cutting, and gluing and saved me many hours of solitary work which allowed to catch up a little on my flare-induced deficit. Since my final deadline is swiftly approaching for this fall, I think I will continue to have some set-building weekends with friends to help push my project along to completion.

Here’s what I’ve got for the scene 5 set so far.

bakery set

bakerycolors

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What I’ve spent most of my time on has been creating the various pastries that will be filling the window.

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And here is the total work-in-progress video I have of everything I’ve laid into the final composition so far.

mid july pencil progress

Pencils to track my progress. =)

Posthaste April wrap-up

Hello all!

Well April was a busy month, though, sadly, I didn’t get as much done as I had hoped. I had wanted to get all the shots for scene one completed, but that hasn’t happened yet. Mostly a combination of me underestimating how long some things would take to build and a nice big flare mid-month slowing down the works even more. But I’ve started the animation and have one shot under my belt so far, so forward momentum is happening. Yay progress!

Last month I had the basic components built and in place for the scene 1 set. In April I focused on getting the detail work done. Putting the small props in on the desk:

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Laying in a floor pattern.

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Finishing the scarf and coat that go on the coat hangers.

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Both of which are wired along the back so I can animate them at the end of the scene when my character runs out the door.

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Adding a wall clock,…

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… a pair of boots,…

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… a potted plant,…

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…and a floor runner to make it look more lived in.

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The small written details of the notes posted all over the desk.

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And I decided to swap out the green screen through the arched doorway, with some flat optical-illusion type pieces to save me some time in post-production work, as well as introducing some of the flat background elements I plan to use in the store windows in later scenes.

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Before.living room insert

The digital images.

20150507_050447721_iOSPlaced in the scene.

I also built my moving camera rig which I’m pretty proud of. It’s essentially a wheeled box that holds a cut down tripod that moves back and forth on a threaded screw rod. It works on the same principle that you see when you hold a bolt steady and spin a nut on it with your finger and the nut moves up or down the bolt based on which direction you spin it in. In this case, the camera is attached to the nut on a much larger bolt.

 

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Here’s a shot of it in action.

This past week I’ve started animating this scene so I’ll have some shots for you in my next blog post. Ideally, I’ll also have a large portion, if not all, of my next set built. See you then!

Posthaste March Wrap-up

Hello again blog followers and any new folks who may have wandered in. =)

Now that we’re a week into April I thought it would be a good time to post my summary of work from the month of March.

March was really split into 2 sections for me. The first half I spent building a small street set with some green screen behind it to shoot some animation of my mail truck which will be eventually composited into a 3D camera zoom shot.

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Here is the final shot of the truck coming around the corner.

I also used the street set to take a POV shot of Randy’s hand to use as a transition into the 2D walkthrough sequence in scene 2 shot 3.
Here’s the connecting frame from the 2D sequence.

walkthrough f35And here is the POV shot I will use to transition into the 2D.

intial hand ref

Here’s a new version of my work-in-progress laid over the animatic so you can see where I’m at in terms of overall progress.

The second part of the month I spent building most of the next set I plan to use to shooting scene 1 of my project. I still have a little more work to go to fill in props and to build and test my moving camera rig, but I’m hoping to be able to begin animating on the new set soon.

Scene 1 full hallway

My initial planning sketch. Later edited to add the additional doorframe.

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These segments are for the wainscoting along the walls.

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Here is the beginning structure for building the walls of the set.

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The elbow belongs to my friend Jack who helped me with some of the construction and who is designing my titles and credits for me. Thanks, Jack!!

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I’m using k’nex to build modular scaffolding for each of my sets moving forward. It’s a lot faster and cheaper than building a wooden frame for each set.

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Pieces for the desk that holds the letter and various notes from Randy’s mother reminding him to mail the letter.

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Hanging coat wrack made from foamboard and cut up scrapbooking thumbtacks.

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Randy’s backpack which he unceremoniously drops by the front door instead of his shoes.

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A little more prop work is still left to be done, but hopefully I’ll have those done soon and I can get my next scene at least partially animated in time for my next post. See you all next month!

 

Posthaste Post-February Post

So obviously the weekly blog post thing just doesn’t work for me. Part of it is just feeling like I need to actually be working on the project rather that writing about it. The other part of it is just that I’ve always been bad about diaries/journals/blogs and just don’t make it a priority. So I’m going to try a monthly wrap up. After each month of work has finished I’ll write up a little post with a summary of where the project is at. Plus it seems like a much better time frame for a project that takes so much time to make progress on. The updates will actually feel more like progress than the weekly ones would.

So here’s where things were at by the end of February.

Since my last post I have actually moved twice which meant packing up the whole studio and setting it up again two times. The second was actually another move across the country so it took a solid month for my studio to actually catch up with me so I did a lot of 2D work at that time (that time being fall 2014). The moves have caused delays but hopefully I’m going to be staying put until the project is finished from now on.

I’ve gotten most of scene 2 completely shot and the shot 2-3 which is the first 2D sequence mostly done outside of any later compositing/texturing. I’ve done two of my green screen sequences and built the mail truck for the project complete with the ability rumble up and down when the truck is idling in a shot.

I’ve also found several more minions to help me along with the project. I now have a sound designer, a composer, a compositor, and my friend Jack is doing my opening and closing credits. Up next is finishing the last shots needed for scene 2 and then building the set for scene 1. Once each scene is animated to a point where I can lock the timings I’ll be sending them to my sound designer to get started on the foley. My goal is be finished in time to screen at the end of the fall 2015 semester and be able to graduate then.

Here is the updated work in progress for the end of February:

This is the current version of shot 2-3:

Here are some of the progression pics for the construction of the mail truck:

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And here is the rumble feature in action:

 

So that’s it for my February round up. Hopefully next month’s will have an extra shot or two and some lovely set fabrication for you all to look at. See you later!

More building designs!

You know what doesn’t make animating any easier? When you drop the toothpick you’re using to manipulate the character’s eyes and then promptly step on it in bare feet because your studio is ridiculously warm. Yeah. That’s not helpful. So while I’m taking a day or two to let my foot heal to the point where I’m not lurching around like a newborn deer, I thought I’d update the blog with info on much of the progress I’ve been making.

Since my last update I’ve finished the building designs, the 3D team has got them almost completely modeled and textured, I have a complete puppet with full wardrobe and 2 1/2 replacement faces ready to shoot my first few shots for which I’ve already got 2 seconds of animation done. That’s right I got 2 seconds done before impaling myself on Satan’s toothpick. Go me!

To keep these posts from getting overwhelming though I’m just going to show you the rest of the building designs and some of the model images my 3D team sent me. I’ll spread the rest of the updates out over the next few weeks. So onto building designs.

First here are some color schemes I came up with for the house designs I posted last time.

house 1 color sample 2 house 1 color sample 3House 1 additional color concepts

house 2 color scheme 1house 2 color scheme 2House 2 additional color conceptshouse 3 color sample 2 house 3 color sample 1House 3 additional color concepts house 4 color sample 1house 4 color sample 2House 4 additional color concepts

There were more color schemes I came up with, but I figured two of each house was enough to show here. I divided up the color schemes among the house designs but let the 3D team know that any of the color schemes could be applied to any of the houses to allow for more variety in the street set along with the smaller models like the cars and bushes and trees to make each lot look distinctive.

In addition to coloring the residential house designs I also came up with and colored the rest of the designs for the commercial block to go with the Mobius coffee house and the Ceruli Sports store.

luigis pizza luigis pizza colorLuigi’s Pizza. Named for my uncle’s excellent pizza place on Long Island (go check it out any New York city readers!) noahs toybox noahs toybox color

This is Noah’s Toybox, a toy store made to look like an awesome castle. This one is named for Noah, the oldest son of my fellow grad student Jeremy. Noah would sometime come visit us in the lab and he was always lots of fun. sleepy davessleepy daves colorNext up is Sleepy Dave’s Mattress Emporium. This is the largest building on the block and refers back to an earlier version of the project where my main character runs head first into a mattress being moved by two store employees. Since I cut that scene I decided to move the store to the other side of the street so it could still be in the film. This one is a shout out to my wonderful husband whom I tease a lot for being a very heavy sleeper. Hi Dave!

I also designed the many smaller peripheral elements to make the street look more realistic. Such as decorative potted plants.

decorative plant 2 pieces decorative plant 2 color sampledecorative plant 1 whole trunk decorative plant 1 whole decorative plant colorA jaunty lampost.lamp post colorA squat fire hydrant in an unusual shade of orange.fire hydrant colorAnd of course the slanted traffic light which will slow down the mail truck and give our hero one last chance to beat it to the mail box!traffic light littraffic light back color

All of these were then given to my wonderful design team who turned them into awesome looking 3D models.

house1 house4 house3Early models of the house designs without final lighting or textures.

LightingTest.0001A version of Randy’s own house with some side lighting and a mailbox.

mailbox02Wire frame of the mail box and the SUV as a work in progress.

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Noah’s Toybox unshaded.mobiusLongSampleText02A wireframe of one of the Mobius coffee units with basic color shaders in place.

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And here’s a shot of Luigi’s with various texturing options applied so I could determine which look I wanted for the final piece.

All in all the design work and modeling has gone very will this semester. I can’t wait to see what the blocks will look like once they’re fully textured, lit, and all the smaller elements are in place. I think it’s going to look really cool. I can only hope my physical sets with come out just as well. I’ll be sure to share the images with you once they’re done. Until then, I hope you like what the team and I have come up with so far. Thanks team Delta!

 

Building designs

Hey Everyone!

Give me just a second to clean up in here <blows an inch of dust off the blog>. Ahh much better.

So yes, it has been a long stretch since I updated, but not to fear, I did not fall off a cliff. I just got very absorbed in my work itself and kept putting my time into making stuff rather than blogging about it. So on the plus side I have tons of stuff to update about! On the downside – I have tons of stuff to update about!

Today I’m actually going to start with my more recent work, and then work backwards to fill in the gaps on the other things I’ve been working on such as puppet and set fabrication and lighting tests.

The past few weeks I’ve been focused on the designs for many of my sets. There is a wonderful group of 3D students at RIT (their group name is Team Delta) who agreed to help build computer models of some of my sets to make some of the trickier shots easier on me by allowing me to composite in the backgrounds and saving me lots of building time. These sets will mostly be used for shots where I have some drastic camera moves such as the fast zoom down a residential street in the second scene and a long shot where Randy zooms down a commercial block on a construction dolly. To do those shots with practical sets would require a studio space the size of a warehouse and a lot of time and materials to build so many buildings. With the help of my awesome 3D team, I can now shoot the puppet elements in front of a green screen, and the replace the green areas with the sets they have designed saving me time in both the fabrication and animation process. Go Team Delta!

So, in order to help them help me. I’ve spent the majority of my time this past week working on sketching concept art for the various buildings they will be modeling, and then cleaning those sketches digitally so I can have a more accurate blueprint for the team to work from. The assets they are building include 5 houses for the residential section, an entire block of commercial buildings for the dolly scene, 2 cars, and various smaller peripherals to fill out the environments and make them look like my sets. The big challenge for them will be when they go to texture the sets. This is the process where they add color and 2 dimensional texture files to the models to give them added realism. Because my sets are going to be covered with textured papers, the team will have to match their textures to the actual papers I am using. Hopefully they’ll have a good time working on it.

So here are some of the finished designs I’ve already sent to the group.

mobius block short base

Short block for connected commercial buildings.

mobius base002Long block for connected commercial buildings.

mobius base color sampleColor sample.

Ceruli sportsSports store.

Ceruli sports color sampleSports store with color sample.

house 1 detailedHouse 1 with texturing details.

house 1 color sample 1House 1 with color sample 1 without texture details.

house 2 WIPHouse 2 – work in progress. Still need to finish adding in the windows

house 3 WIPHouse 3  without texture details.

house 4 cleanedHouse 4 without texture details.

mailbox designMailbox design.

curb designSidewalk curb design.

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Examples of practical curbs on set.

bush designsBush shapes. 2013-11-20 03.51.34

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Example of practical bushes on set.

sedanSedan design.

SUVSUV design.

For some of the assets I have the concept work, but not cleaned versions yet. Here are some of those rough sketches.

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Concept sketches for maple tree designs.

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Leaf blocks for pine trees.

commercial building sketches

Building concepts for Sleepy Dave’s Mattress Emporium, Luigi’s Pizza, and Noah’s ToyBox.

Noahs toybox logo sketchLogo concept for Noah’s ToyBox

Vidhyas Videos sign sketchSign concept for Vidhya’s Videos.

More set designs, practical set images, and puppet fabrication posts to come!

See you all again soon!

It feels good to get stuff done

Hello again blog readers!

So I feel like I’ve managed to make some good progress over the last 2 1/2 weeks, even though I wish I had gotten more done by this point (isn’t that always the case though). Despite being a little behind where I’d like to be, I do feel like I’ve been good at putting in the hours and making progress with each work session. Last week was my first week on the schedule I came up with for the summer months. Getting the schedule itself done was actually the first thing on my to do list. I’ve planned out what I hope to accomplish up through the end of August, aiming to complete all the shots for each individual set in about a 4 week time period. Based on the number of sets I have, that should get the film completed in time for spring screenings and graduation.

My breakdown for June tasks is as follows:

6/1 – 6/7: come up with schedule, finish building and assembling the large stage section, finish one set of clothes for Randy, and design the blueprint for set #3

6/8 – 6/14: (start of 4 week time period) build set #3, finish one set of shoes for Randy, design and build the heads needed for all shots that take place on set #3 (shots 2-1, 2-2, 2-3, 2-5, and 2-7)

6/15 -6/21: assemble finished puppet, shoot shot 2-1

6/22 – 6/28: shot shot 2-2, shoot shot 2-3

6/29 – 7/5: shot shot 2-5, shoot shot 2-7, design moving camera rig (end of 4 week period for set #3)

A side note to myself in this time period is that I also want to get the finalized version of my animatic finished. I put it aside for the moment so I could focus on the stage, set, and puppet building tasks I would need to make sure I could start shooting this month. I plan to keep working on it in between the other elements of my schedule so that I will have it available to more clearly plan the rest of my shots and the schedule.

So at the moment I’m in the middle of the second week on the schedule. Last week I got through almost all of the tasks I had set for myself. The schedule is done through August, as you can see from the June section above. I also managed to get the final holes drilled and the stage assembled on Monday of that first week and got that out of the way.

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Here’s the finished joint for the lower leg segments. I went out and got some L-brackets to give added support and to keep the legs from wiggling at the joints.

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This is the upper section of the lower leg piece, connected to one of the extension pieces with bolts and nuts. The lower legs alone give me a stage height of roughly 3 feet, and the extensions allow me to increase that height by another foot and a half (and the heights in between) if needed. For my first set of shots I only extended the height slightly so that the platform comes up to my mid-torso so I won’t have to bend over when I’m manipulating the puppets.

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This is a view from the underside of the stage so you can better see how the extension pieces and the top platform section are connected.

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And wah-lah! My stage is ready to go.

I spent most of the rest of the week (about 15 hours) working on the patterns for the final set of clothing for Randy, my main character. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to finish that portion of my work from last week – so I’ve been continuing on it this week, putting in an extra hour here or there once I’ve completed the set number of hours I’ve given myself for each day. I feel like I’m quite close to being ready to take the patterns and move on to working with the final fabrics that I bought for Randy. I just need to make a few small adjustments to various parts. Mostly tweaking the waistline of the jeans, and adjusting how the hood is attached and how it looks with the sweatshirt design.

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A set of pattern pieces from a recent clothing test.

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A couple of views of the test clothing having been placed on the puppet to judge the fit.

So as you can see, the clothing is close to what I’m looking for, and I’m hoping to be able to catch up on that part of my work at the tail end of this week once I get my hours for the set building done.

Here are the sketch version and the finalized version of the set #3 blueprints (I use that term loosely) that I put together at the end of last week. Set #3 is part of the second scene where Randy has just dashed back outside his house and is figuring out how far away the nearest mailbox is and how close by the mail truck is as well. Randy and his parents live in a shared house where the other section is lived in by an elderly aunt of his father’s. (Yes, I have put way too much thought into all of this).

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set 3 blueprint 2

So far, actual work on the construction has been a little slow. Some of the supplies I needed, I didn’t get until later than I thought I would. Some still haven’t shown up by mail and I likely won’t get until tomorrow – and that’s assuming they actually get delivered to my door, and not just dropped at the apartment office which often adds a day to the shipping time.

I got started on what I could. I measured and cut out the homesote base which includes the sidewalk and yard section of the set design as well as cutting the pieces I’d need for the risers on the front steps.

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A lot of my time recently has been spent cutting the wooden pieces to make the framework for the house and porch sections. This is a task that has made me greatly miss the well stocked prop shop back at RIT and all the lovely power tools, specifically the ones with ‘saw’ in their names. I have already spent a few hours on the cutting wood portion of building this set and know that I have at least several more, as I turn this:

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Into this:

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using only this:

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And, as much as I do love my awesome Japanese hand saw, it it not quick work to be done by hand. On the plus side, once I do get those pieces cut, not only should the rest of the set construction move along at a faster pace, but I will also be able to reuse and re-purpose those framework sections for other sets in the future – cutting down on those construction times. Yay for reusing materials!

So that’s mostly where I am right now. I still have most of my day’s work ahead of me so I’m going to leave off the blogging for the time being. I’ve also decided to shift the work on the puppet shoes and replacement head into next week of the schedule with the assembly part of the works, partially because of time constraints, but also because some of the supplies I need for those tasks are in the shipment I’m not expecting to get until tomorrow.  Wish me luck! Hopefully my next post will have some awesome set pictures in it. Til next time!

Spring Quarter complete, on to the summer work

Hey everyone,

So yeah, between the last minute rush that comes with week 10 of a 10 week quarter cycle and then the fun of finals week, I’ve left off the blogging for a bit. But I have returned!

Week 10 I spent most of my time working on making more progress on the final animatic for my project. I managed to get about a solid 2 minutes of work done, and still have about 30 seconds more to fill out before the first pass is completed. There are already some sections that I know need to be shortened or adjusted, so even once I get those 30 seconds done I’ll need to go back and adjust a few things. But I was still proud of the amount of work I was able to get through, and once I get it all ship shape and timed out with a scratch track, I’ll post the new animatic here to the blog. So I don’t have quite as much to show in this post in terms of pictures as I have in some of my past posts.

I did get some more work done on the stage sections though. I made another run to the hardware store and picked up some more screws, and then attached the plywood lids to all three platform sections that I have so far.

Photo May 09, 7 40 40 AM

I also spent most of this past weekend measuring and marking out where the holes will be drilled for the leg sections for all the platforms as well as picking up some of the cross-piece material for that I no longer had when I figured out that I had measured wrong before. So I now have all the materials I need, and am slowly making progress on drilling all those holes.

As you can kind of see when I took that picture of the finished stage platforms, my studio had devolved into a disaster over the course of the spring quarter. Once finals were over two week ago, I took a bit of a break from the actual pre-production work, and spent some time making some order out of the chaos. Not only did I take the time to generally straighten up and to vacuum out some of the sawdust of leftover foam pieces from the puppet building, but I also dragged an old TV stand I had in storage into the studio so I’d have a sturdy piece of furniture to keep Raul the drill press on. Most of the furniture in the studio is old Ikea desks that have been taken apart and moved to various apartments about 5 different times. That much moving wears on particle board furniture and I didn’t really trust the pieces I had to support the weight of the press without collapsing on me. So after a few days of work and a quick modification to the TV stand so the top no longer rotated, I had my nice clean new studio.

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Photo May 21, 5 19 06 PM

I’ve already covered a good section of the floor in more sawdust as I’ve been working on drilling the leg holes today, but hopefully I’ll be able to maintain it a little better now that it’s organized more efficiently.

This week I’m going to try and get myself prepped to start shooting soon. I want to get at least the larger stage section completed and assembled, and have at least one puppet body clothed and with attached hands and feet by the end of the week. Working off of my shot list, I’ve determined that I have roughly 15 different sets that need to be built for this project. My plan is to make a set blueprint with measurements and materials lists for my first set this Friday, purchase the materials over the weekend and spend next week on the construction. Once the set it built, I’ve given myself three weeks to shoot all the shots that take place on that set. If I take roughly four weeks to complete the work on each set, I’ll be finished in time to screen next spring and get my degree.

Some sets have fewer shots to them than others and some have a lot. The four weeks per set is mostly a rough guideline so I can keep general track of how I’m doing. Some sets are actually going to be done with motion graphics and the animated puppet will be composited in. This summer is going to be pretty busy for me outside of the thesis work with many of our friends planning on visiting, plus a wedding we’re going to be attending back east which we’re combining with a visit to see our families which will keep me out of the studio for a week. I’m hoping to work the schedule out so that I can just bring a laptop along and get some of the motion graphic sets and compositing elements completed during that trip. At the very least I can work until my battery dies on the flights back and forth to try and make up some time. It’ll be nice to be able to focus on my project without having a part-time job or another  class to divert my attention, but I can tell I’m still going to be very busy over the next several months. Still I’m feeling a lot better health-wise and my family has been hugely supportive so I’m feeling hopeful.

While my Monday-Friday workweek is mostly going to be focused on working on animating whatever shot is in the queue. I plan on spending at least one weekend day a week making further progress on other construction and production elements I’ll need for the project. One of the first items on my lists is to start working on building a moving camera rig for the longer shots that require the camera to pan. After that I plan to work on finishing up my secondary puppet characters, completed the design of their clothing and dressing them as well as carving their heads and facial expressions.

Well that’s about all the news for the time being. More updates to come in the future!

Fun with construction projects!

So I’ve made some excellent progress in that last week  that’s been making me feel really good about my overall level of getting things done.

I got all the hands wrapped and completed and I got the four main puppet armatures for Randy covered with the polyurethane foam and the pre-wrap. Then this weekend I went a bought a ton of lumber and a drill press to build my segmented, adjustable, stage platforms for shooting on. It’s been a busy week, but with only two weeks left in the quarter I need to keep on pushing through and getting this stuff done.

The other really awesome thing about this past week was actually related to the buying all the supplies for the stage building project. I had something like 12 2x4s, 7 1x4s, and 2 full sheets of plywood along with a drill press that I had to lug up to my third floor apartment. Without the use of an elevator (though I did get help from my awesome husband). While this does not seem like a good thing and my muscles are still hating me for it, the great part about it was that, other than sore muscles, I’m completely fine. A year ago I wouldn’t have been able to make all those trips us the stairs and afterwards I probably would have been exhausted and feeling sick for days. This weekend, no reaction! Yeah my muscles are sore but there’s been no joint pain, no fatigue nothing! It’s such a huge step forward to know that I can actually push myself when I need too now. Just since the fall I’ve managed to go from being able to get through about 20 hours of work a week to upwards of 30 on a regular basis and I feel like as long as I keep up with the routines I’ve got from my physical therapist and keep the meds properly balanced (the doctor had me pull the medication that was messing me up before so that’s no longer a problem) I feel like not only am I in a much better position to bust out this thesis project once I start shooting, but that I’ll also be able to get myself to a place where I can compete at the same level as everyone else again within the year. You have no idea how awesome it is to feel like I’m getting back to being me again.

But on to the work!

The hands came out quite well. I spent more time on the wrapping with these than I did with the test hands, really focusing on cutting the adhesive bandage to more exact sizes for wrappings and making sure they didn’t start getting too thick in the middle.

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Behold! My glorious collection of miniature hands! Aww, look they’re waving. They must like you. =)

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So the first part of the hand wrapping was me covering the tips of each finger with a folder over piece of adhesive tape. This way, once I wrapped the fingers, I wouldn’t have small bits of the underlying armature visible.

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Next I wrapped the fingers starting from the tip of the fingers and working my way down to the palm.

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After that, it was just a matter of  covering the palms and back of the hands with a few flat layers and making sure it all smoothed down properly along the wrist joint.

The one thing I did find, along with the fact that cutting adhesive tape requires you to stop and clean your scissors with Gojo after every hand, was that the actual adhesive part of the adhesive tape, didn’t hold up well under manipulation.  After a short time the edges of some of the wrapped sections started to peel back on me.

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You can see it on the pinky finger in the above image. So, part of the process also involved letting the hands sit in their little tray for a few days, and checking on them periodically and using some regular glue to reattach any edges that started to peel off. Once they were re-glued, I didn’t have any more problems with the wrapping coming off, and the joints all move quite well. So yay, hand building completed! I plan to wait to paint them until I get all the heads carved so I can match the skin tone between the two sections.

I also finished off the foam wrapping on the four main armatures I was working on last week. I used some extra pre-wrap to soften the harder edges of the wooden torso and pelvis and to try and make the different sections blend together more realistically. I figure the closer I can get the puppets to resemble actual body shapes, the more realistically I can get the clothing to move when I’m animating the puppets.

And then there was the stage!

This stage building process has been a bit of a roller-coaster these last few days.

First, here are the sketches and plans I drew up for my segmented, adjustable stage sections a few weeks ago.

stage design001

stage design002

The idea behind the design is to allow me as much flexibility as possible in my shooting arrangements. By being able to lower and raise the set, I can make it that much easier on myself to animate without having to hunch over the sets too much and fold myself into strange contortions. I’ll still have to bend over and contort myself in some cases, it is stop motion after all, but I can at least reduce the amount that I have to do so, which can allow me to get the animating done more efficiently. It also allows me to save space in the room I’m working in. Several of the long street shorts in the film are going to require a very large stage to work off of. But others will have a solid camera placement that likely won’t even need more than the 3’x3′ square section. Having to always maneuver around the largest possible stage size would be detrimental to my attempts at making this as easy as I can so I can focus on the actual animating rather than the schedule. So, with all that in mind I came up with the stage designs above.

The top sections are platforms made out of 1″x4″ lengths of wood, and the legs are the sturdier 2″x4″s. The legs all attach with a minimum of 2 diagonally placed bolts where the two sections are joined, but I’ve drilled enough holes to use 4 for the extra stability. The basic leg design is three feet high and has a piece of wood that runs along the bottom between the two supporting legs to keep them squared, add to the stability, to add weight (another stabilizer), and to give me an area where I can drop sandbags that is attached to the whole thing to add even more weight. I also have vertical bolt holes drilled along the lengths of the platform tops so they can be bolted together when I need either added length or width for the shots I’m working on. I also have 2″ extension section for the legs that allows me to raise the stage height as I need too. The extension are also attached with multiple bolts in more than one section, and overlap the lower legs for added support.

As you can see in the design, using the extensions causes the legs to shift outward in either one direction or the other. To prevent the stage from being off balance, when using the extensions with a single platform, I plan to have one shift forward and one backward to offset each other, and when used in combination with other sections, I’ll either continue to alternate the legs along both, or, if adding width, I will shift all the legs to the outside so that they create a buttressing effect and hold the platform sections together even more strongly.

I also plan to use the extra 1″x4″s as cross-braces when I’m shooting, to make these things as immobile as I possible can.

So with all that planning and measuring done. I heading off to frolic in the aisles of Home Depot.

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Photo Apr 28, 7 31 27 PM

I came back with lots of lumber, and my shiny new drill press!

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I’m thinking of calling it Raul ( I find it’s more fun to name your equipment because it makes for amusing conversations and feels more personal when you swear at a machine that’s giving you trouble). The drill press just made way too much sense to get for this project to let the price talk me down. I want to make sure that all the holes I’m drilling in the legs and platforms are at the exact same 90 degree angle so there’s no offset when I connect the pieces. Between that and the large number of holes I need to drill, this thing is going to save me a ton of time.

So I lugged all my equipment home and starting drilling the holes, and laying out the frames for the platforms when I came to a horrible realization.

It turns out that 2″x4″s and 1″x4″s are not actually 2 inches by 4 inches long. It’s sort of like the whole quarter-pounder thing at fast food chains where the weight is the pre-cooked weight. The actual size of a 2″x4″ is approx. 1 1/2″ x 3 1/2″. Some online site say the discrepancy is due to the drying process, while others just say that this is how they were standardized. Either way, it’s really, really frustrating when you spend an hour carefully calculating the lengths of the lumber you’ll need based on the idea of a full sized 2″x4″ and 1″x4″ and then find that a lot of your wood is not the size you thought it was, and entire sections of your cache of lumber are now at least a half inch too short.

I figured all of this out after several hours of clearing a working space, putting together the drill press, and drilling holes in all the 1″x4″ framing sections. Needless to say, I was pretty damn frustrated and just had to walk away for a bit.

But I decided to make the best of it, grabbed some other scrap wood from the studio and re-designed on the fly. I’ll still have to go back next weekend and get some more wood for the sections I just need to replace, and most of the support braces had to be hand cut so I’m not as far along at this point as I wanted to be, but the good part about being able to push a little is that I can put in an extra hour or two each day and hopefully get myself caught up by the end of the week.

But the top framing sections are done, and tonight I plan to get all the plywood top sections attached to them so I can move on to drilling the holes in the leg sections I can still use.

Here’s the pics of where they are at now.

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Photo Apr 29, 6 09 51 PM

So, overall, a very productive week as we approach the end of the quarter. If I keep this up, I should be able to start shooting my first scenes in June like I plan. Yay progress.

Alright, I went way over my hour limit this week – bad blogger – and now it’s time for dinner. See you next week!

Fingers and foam – a continuation

It has been a crazy past couple of weeks.

Health stuff has been kicking my butt again. There’s always the risk when you try a new treatment that it’s going to make things a little worse rather than better. The new drug I’m on has some unpleasant side effects that kept me from getting my work done which in turn lead to a backlog of both thesis and project management assignments which caused me to put off updating the blog again. I also think that trying to update on Friday’s is a bad idea. All my assignments for Project Management are due on Saturday and so I tend to spend most of my time on Friday’s working on that – which makes the blog entries more stressful than they should be. So, I think I might try and make this a beginning of the week task. Try and make it a more positive -here’s what I’ve accomplished and what I’m going to aim for in this coming week.

So on that note – here’s what I’ve accomplished. =)

After having tried out my various hand tests, I decided to use the metal hand design from the third test hand – combined with the fingers from the first test hand and to add a washer to the middle for added stability. Over the course of the following week, I got those 4 pairs of hands shaped, and glued.

First I started by shaping the metal loop that would the base for the palm section of the hand, and then twisting the remaining wire together beneath it to act as a wrist segment that can be attached to the lower arm section once I’ve gotten the wardrobe on my puppets (that comes later).

Photo Apr 10, 6 22 39 AM

Once all eight loops were made I used some #8/ M4.2 washers to give the palm section some more surface area to grip when manipulating the hands, as well as to act as a tie down guide if I ever need to use the hands as a contact point.  I have no idea what M4.2 means in terms of actual measurements – but it’s what was on the label for the box of washers – so I’m going with it. I used the JB-Weld to attack the washers to the wire frame and let them sit for 24 hours to dry. After they had, set I flipped them over, and added some reenforcing epoxy to the underside of each of the palm segments, to keep the washers more securely attached. This of course meant another 24 hours setting period.

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Once the washers were firmly placed, I started using the 24 gauge wire to create the fingers. This time I worked from the center outward, looping the wire around the washers and the wire frame first, and then twisting them together to make the lengths of the fingers. This gives me the ability to then make the fingers longer than they need to be, and to cut them back to a standard length among all eight hands. It’s always easier to trim the wire back, than to have to redo the entire finger segment.

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At this point I also hit a snag in that I ran out of the 24 gauge wire and had to run to the store to grab some more. That also proved to be complicated, when it turns out that there was a package of 26 gauge wire on the hook where the 24 gauge was supposed to be, costing me an additional day of work. Note to self – always double check the label on the actual supplies before leave the store.

But once I had the proper wire in hand (no pun intended) I was able to finish up adding the rest of the finger segments to the remaining hands. This then led to another round of epoxy to make sure that the fingers would all stay in their proper spacing, and another 24 hours setting period.

Once the fingers were fully twisted and attached, I decided on the length of the fingers I would need. The test hands ended up being a little large, so I went with a slightly smaller size for the palms and finger lengths for the final puppets. After figuring out how long I wanted each of the fingers to be, I bent the tips of each wire finger inward toward the underside of the palm at that length, allowing me to leave a tiny 1/8 inch length to fold back on itself to create the tips of the fingers. I did this because just trimming the fingers to length would make it more likely for the wire to start to unravel. By folding some of the extra wire over, I can create a rounded tip that will make it harder for the wire to come apart, and it makes the tips of the fingers just a tiny bit wider than the rest of the fingers which tends to look more natural in animation – even though it isn’t factually accurate to how hands look.

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I then added more JB-Weld to the tips of the fingers to solid-ify them, and let them sit for another 24 hours to dry. Now all that remains is to cover each of the hands with strips of the adhesive bandage and I will have four sets of hands, ready to be painted and attached once the heads and clothing for the Randy puppets are done.

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Since there was a lot of down time when working on the hands, waiting for epoxy to dry ect. I also started working on covering the final puppets with foam.
This is to give the puppet a more realistic body shape underneath the clothing, which goes a long way towards making the puppets move more realistically. If the cloth drapes in such a way that you can see the fact that the stomach area has no filling or that the legs and arms are uniform plastic tubes, it can break the viewer out of the accepted world you’re presenting in your animation.

First I covered the areas that needed the most filling with blocks of solid polyurethane foam I bought at a craft store. I filled out the thighs and lower legs, as well as the stomach area and the gaps the joints at the shoulders and elbows. The foam is attached using rubber cement which is a dry stick adhesive. The way it works is you coat the two sides of what you want to bond together, in this case, the puppets lower leg section and one side of the foam block, with the rubber cement. You then let them sit until they are both dry (this only takes a minute or two). Once both sides are dry, you press them together, and they attach. You have to be careful with your aim though – it sticks very quickly and if you’re not careful you may end up having to cut the foam block off and get a new one because the placement wasn’t correct. The rubber cement actually bonds better when you let both sides dry out, than if you were to attach them when the cement was still damp.

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Once the blocks of foam are in place, I then move on to filling out and shaping the puppet by wrapping it with a thinner foam called pre-wrap. I actually discovered pre-wrap when I played basketball in high school, and had a tendency to roll my ankles when coming down from trying to grab rebounds. The school trainer had to wrap both my ankles in athletic tape before each game. In order to make the tape more comfortable and not have it stick to my skin, she used this pre-wrap foam on my ankle first. It’s essentially a very thin sheet of foam, that comes on a roll.

For the puppets, I bought some of this pre-wrap and cut strips of it to wrap around the puppet. By controlling how tightly or how loosely I pulled the wrap, I was able to round out the blocks of green foam and also create some tapering in certain sections of the legs. Because the arms are close to the width they need to be, I just wrapped the foam directly around the arm sections, layering more in areas I needed to be thicker, and less where I didn’t. The ends of the pre-wrap strips were secured with rubber cement, just like the rest of the foam. The end result, is a more human-like body shape for the puppets, that will look much better underneath the puppet’s wardrobe.

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Photo Apr 19, 11 47 28 AM

At the moment I’ve finished covering 2 of the final four puppets in foam. Though I hope to get the remaining 2 done tonight and get the hands wrapped and completed.

Once I have the foam covering and the final hands finished – I will have completed 6 out of my 8 project goals for the quarter which ends in 2 and a half weeks. The other 2 tasks I want to finish are building the stage sections I will need for shooting (I’ve already designed them), and finally finish the new animatic I’ve been working on in bits and pieces all quarter. My overall goal is to have at least one full puppet and set completed by the end of May – so I can start shooting a few scenes, while I finish off the other puppets and sets.

So that’s where I’m at blogosphere. Hopefully my health will level out a bit an allow me to make the final push for the end of the quarter and for the beginning of my planned shooting schedule.

See you next week! (I hope)