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September 2007

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09.29.07
* Hyper-Harryhausen or Turbo-charged Stop Motion? Where is it? .... Was there some kind of legally binding contract signed by every friggn'n Stop Motion Studio and Stop Motion Animator, worldwide, back in 1993 when the first CGI Jurassic Park was released?? I am speculating the contract might have stated something like this:

"In our quest for CGI Worldwide Dominance, you, said studios or independent stop motionists, are strictly prohibited from producing or distributing to the public, any and all forms of quasi-real, surreal representations of Creatures, Aliens, Monsters, utilizing the Stop Motion Animation and/or Harrryhausen-esque techniques. Per this contract, you will only be permitted to produce Stop Motion, restricted to this specific category: Stylized, Clay, Cute, Warm, Fuzzy; incorporating only Cartoon-like aesthetics"

Maybe I am joking. Maybe not? This is the year 2007; the emergence of the
MySpacey techy toys obsessed generation, and also, the mass infestation of free online video hosting sites, with YouTube being the biggest 'mutha' of them all. Ocassionally throughout these past years, I would do random searches everywhere online and I still cannot find any jaw-dropping, eye-popping, slick, finessed, new millenium, home brewed Harryhausen-style Stop Motion. Oh yes, I already know, there are some that are doing the always popular Dinosaur themed and classic Kong Kong-ish Stop Motion, however, in this topic, I am focusing in a niche/specialty area of Stop Motion that seems to have been neglected or ignored.

I know that
Brett Piper is out there, trying in his own way, to keep Harryhausen Spirit alive with direct to DVD flicks. He does the best he can, with almost zero budgets and Xtreme short production schedules. Other than a micro-scopic few, as of today, there is essentially nothing, zero, zilch, nada out there on this planet earth. I am, like totally, fugg'n astounded.To clarify further, I am referring to surreal quasi-real Stop Motion of the unimaginable; things of your worst nightmare. So, only CGI has exclusive rights to it? Tippett Studio could have carried on the Uncle Ray Stop Mo 'torch', but their very last Stop Motion work was in 1993, with The Coneheads movie.

Check this out. The movie clip below, is a good & rare example of Hyper-Harryhausen or Turbo-charged Stop Motion. I am not even going to mention the name of it. You can easily figure it out and dig-up the info yourself. The clip below demonstrates what was done 20 years ago (1987) without any Computer Digital technology! This movie has had mixed reviews, with some weak spots, but generally, given favorable thumbs-up in the B-Movie genre, as fun escapement entertainment. Please follow my instructions for best entertainment impact: Turn-off your room lights, get close to your computer monitor, put on your reading glasses (if needed), and speaker volume up loud .....

Click______

It speaks for itself and I need not say too much of what you just visually & emotionally experienced. Awesome Stop Mo Creature design; restrained/subtle animation performance, but powerful impact, and you, the audience, drawn into it. Can you imagine now, with soooo affordable and accessible computers, digital tools, software, & cameras that we have, what we can do, to pump-up Uncle Ray-style Stop Motion? Where are you peoples? Will I have to do it MYSELF to fugg'n SHOW YOU? A TRUE 'homage to' or 'in honor of', The Legendary Ray Harryhausen, would be, to use REAL STOP MOTION EDIT: 10.01.07
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09.22.07
* Return of Insect Aliens Among Us .... I resurrected my little model Alien UFO Craft of many years ago (when some of you where in diapers!). Sitting in bad storage conditions for years, it was beat-up, torn latex rubber skin peeling off the sheet metal understructure shell (of the Alien craft). I did lots of liquid rubber latex re-patching & re-painting. You recall, I stated in previous news, that I prefer very small scale puppets, models, & miniatures. Here is a pic of it (8" diam. x 2.75" height) with my hand. It also has 4 bug-like landing gear legs which can be animated to emerge. Originally, I had internal lighting using clear plastic rods (similar to fiber optics principal) for illuminating the model's external port lights. That was a total waist of time. The studio set lights completely washed out the model lights. So, for that old Super 8mm flying Alien craft tests, since the internal lighting did not work, I just stuck reflective ScotchLite Front Screen material on the model ship to simulate lights, using Front Projection (this link and here). In this Digital AGE, using Front Projection does not seem to work as well with DV camcorders. It seems digital video is too sensitive to the FP very high reflective properties. So, with the Alien ship re-incarnation, I have now painted the light ports, a flat white color and will try to enhance digitally, in post. Also, the aerial suspension of model was originally with micro thin, clear fishing nylon lines attached to an overhead flying rig. I now retrofitted it for external rigid mounting of model, by adding internal threaded mounting points, which attaches to an external swivel-hinge joint component, which in turn, is connected to an overhead support rig. Yes, I still have the Insect Alien Stop Mo puppet with the foam latex rubber crumbling off the primitive armature. If I am going to resurrect this puppet, it will involve more serious complete make over (I still have the old Ultra-Cal molds).

BTW, the EEFX Chromakey/Screen which I revealed in the past, as one of my secret weapons, IS indeed, an amazingly MIRACLE product. Verrrry even reflection without any hot spots. The EEFX screen is verrrry forgiving. No, I do not work for EEFX & no percentage for the advertisement-plug.The photos that you saw of my Alien model flying craft; the background EEFX Blue-screen was not lit in any special way. It is just the fluorescent lamps (lighting the model) spilling onto the screen and the ambient light spill from an overhead fluorescent light strip in studio. I did not intend to put time into this whole Alien saucer & puppet thing, as I went off on a tangent from my more immediate objective. I may put the above on brief 'hold', as my original intent is to first get back to hands-on Stop Motion Puppet Training at StopMoShorts. EDIT: 09.23.07

* Software learning curve, sucks sometimes .... I somewhat delayed for the longest time getting into the down & dirty, of learning software. Mostly, doing it half-assed & puttering around with the programs. I have not been very focused due to Life interruptions eating into my personal time. I got Adobe Premiere, After Effects, Photoshop. Who were these programs designed for? The user interface on some are sooooo non-intuitive. Photoshop is the one I mostly use because of the necessity for dealing with website still images, so I am more familiar with that one. I find that how-to use software books vary in quality in how they effectively explain & instruct you. Also, those books become dated quickly, because of constant new software versions . So, I am not wasting more $$$ on how-to software books. If I get any books and if they suck, I am immediately getting refunds. I think a better way, are software tutorial demos which I have seen excerpts/teasers online and you'll find some home brewed free tuts on YouTube. Alternative is, well written tutorials with many, many images, pics, illustrations. So if any of yous got a hankering in producing how-to software video tutorials here is a freeware program (Windows only) called Cam Studio link 2 which is an on screen recorder/capture for making demo or instructional tutorials.

Speaking of
Software, I have finally been tinkering with Stop MotionMaker Advance. Has anyone actually used it for some of its strong compositing-chromakeying and other special effects features? Where are you people? Why don't you post at messageboard? I know, I know, one can use other more expensive software to do what SMMadv does. You miss an important product point: Stop MotionMaker's emphasis of packaged features to enhance Stop Motion creativity, and especially, very cost effectively (affordable). I am also finding that the finished results is faster than doing it in other specialty software, in which, more jumping through hoops/steps is required. Stop MotionMaker does not have as many of the refined features of the pricey software, but it seems most sufficient for the budding creative Stop Motionist. As I am testing SMMadv, I am seeing how user interface might be modified slightly for more user friendliness or better control of some of its existing cool features. Pending further tinkering, I will volunteer any feedback to Craig (creator of SMMadv). He has been responsive to feedback and surprisenly, is quick to update if he feels it improves the product. BTW, Craig has announced that he will be focusing mostly on a New Stop MotionMaker which will be compatible with Windows Vista and a unique, new strong feature; it will support High Definition Video, 1920 x 1080, live feed (with the HDMI interface/capture card). Again, I also do not work for Stop MotionMaker. Just letting you know that I am going to be testing it for some of my practice Stop Mo experiments. Okay, talked/blogged out. Now your turn. What are you doing or up to? EDIT: 09.24.07
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09.15.07
* Vicissitudes of Life ..... Everrrrrrry damn week I do this! Can you give me a break? Remember, Writing does not flow out easily for me.You do not know the effort this requires. Why don't you do it, and see for yourself? At least, I tell you when I cannot do this News/Blog thing. Others, just leave you hanging in silent abandonment as though they do not give a Fug about you. I 'might' have something tomorrow, a few days, or maybe not. You just have to check back, peoples. So, you are going to desert me if I just miss one? Geeez, that's all you, never satisfied lurking audience do ..... take, take, take . Addendum: Okay, I am slightly chilled-out now , however, I am still taking a break from this weekend's SMW News EDIT: 09.16.07
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09.08.07
* The Blank Stop Motion Canvas ..... That is sort-of the analogy I am using for my Stop Motion Works Animation Center™ . My idealistic goal is, to create everything on this canvas size area. There are restrictions I have here, most especially, limited space. One pre-requisite; I prefer to work with small Stop Mo puppets, (also uses less stage/studio space!), however, if forced to, will reluctantly use larger partial Stop Mo puppets for close-ups.The biggest challenge or problem solving issue, is how to create visual scope & magnitude within a very limited studio size environment. I am not a purist and will use every trick , particularly digital backlot techniques, and as required, using very small miniature work (& here) which would be used for composited backgrounds or scenery, in addition using photoshop'd, pieced together still picture elements to create matte painting-like imagery, and maybe, 'Classic' in-camera foreground miniatures and force perspective effects. In the past, I already revealed to you some hints and my modus operandi. Some additional points that I may reveal later.

In our
last episode, the Stop Motion Works Animation Center™ was off & on 'in-progress'. It took longer than I wanted, due to some hassles in modifying & converting that existing animation table/stage to receive the expanded metal tie-down top. In hindsight, maybe would have been more efficient to design & construct a new one instead of retro-fitting. Also, better to get a large single sheet of expanded metal and then tack weld the re-inforcement frame and under support cross bars (stiffens the metal top & prevents sagging). I did not go that route, because, I would have needed to acquire a mig welder. More crap to buy & another diversion & detour (I do not need). So instead, I used 4 separate smaller pieces of expanded metal sheets which when pieced together, created a 5 foot wide (60") by 2 feet 10 inch (34") deep, tie-down suface top area, Link 1 & Link 2 . A minor pain in the butt. The steel angle iron frame, steel support bars and other metal components, all had to be plethorically drilled & tapped-threaded, to fasten & assemble it all. It is still not the way I want it, but I cannot waste more labor and drag this on. Maybe later, I will tweak the table some more. So Fugg'n much to do, so little time. Why did I not choose another more user friendly passion, hobby, interest?

First top priority item on my list, is to FINALLY proceed with general
Stop Motion animation exercises to see how rusty or bad I am,or how much practice I need to get back into Stop Motion shape EDIT: 09.09.07
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09.01.07
* HDV Stop Motion coming your way? You hear me tirade about Digital Still Cams.You should know my position by now. Just in case, to remind you; do not twist in your mind, that I am supposedly against higher resolution. You are WRONG. As I repeatedly state, it all depends on your finished end distribution. High res NOT applicable in every case with regards to stylistically, aesthetically, surrealness, etc. etc.

For myself, I just do not see Digital Still Cameras as a Stop Motion user friendly workflow and
other issues. Stop Mo is already difficult enough. IF I were to make the move to high resolution at a later time, I would most likely be watching the development of High Definition Video products, specifically, affordable consumer HDV camcorders and supporting software/hardware and especially HDV capable Stop Motion animation programs.

To my amazement, Mr.
Stop MotionMaker himself, Craig, has the visionary insight in starting to explore this. Craig just revealed 1 & 2, that he might be doing some secret developing of software for single frame capturing of HDV 'live image' feed! I am guessing iStopMotion, Stop Motion Pro, and AnimatorDV, also might either have HDV capability or they should be aware of the HDV trend. Those companies offer excellent Stop Motion animation products & customer support and I am not necessarily favoring Stop MotionMaker. For the budget conscious arteest-animator, SMM products has been offered as a cost effective option. With regards to cameras, I know, some of you have had orgasmic dreamsabout the Red One, but come on, get back to reality. IMO, way overkill excess considering the actual end distribution (film audience does not care what equipment). Craig, keep us posted on your progress EDIT: 09.03.07

* Contest Prizes for Animation .... Someone supposedly won $25,000. (USD) for one month of his time in making an amateur music video that included some Stop Motion object animation. I am not a brutal hard arse critic , but there are different degrees of Stop Motion quality. Sometimes it's subjective and other times it's so obvious, whether it is bad or good.. Some are beginners or just learning and other's just adopting a preferred Quay Brother'esque rougher aesthetics & style.

The music video is 9 minutes long, but in my view, not that interesting or unique. Many at the Stop Motion message board, specifically those I know more personally, are far more capable in doing way more finessed Stop Motion. Here is the
prize winning video in question and articles 1 & 2. I am just skeptical how this could have won and if he will actually get that prize. I am not sure about the mindset of the judges or other submissions not that good?

Apparently, there seems to be some brief cycle of more animation contests, ranging from meager rewards/prizes, all the way up to that $25,000. prize, which is the highest I have heard of so far. Somebody at Stop Motion board posted that he likes to
enter contests and claims to be a regular winner and says, this is a way for him to make some money.. Stop Motion could have an edge, but I am guesstimating, as more people find out about these prize competitions, it will be difficult to win and you will have to produce something that is actually 'good'. IMO, 'contests' not really a consistent means for 'profit' but perhaps more value as a way to market yourself (name recognition), similar to entering Animation Festivals and prestige of listed awards to include in your portfolio-bio. EDIT: 09.02.07
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