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March 2007

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* Dark Overload, Filmmaking Freebies Tips, Stop Mo in Ireland .... You may have already seen it, but this is first time I seen this posted online; excerpt of a Stop Motion creature Link 2, executed by the Tippett'ster Meister, years ago when he worked at ILM on Howard the Duck.

IMDb, the supposed online bible of the dry facts about movies, actors, or anyone who may have received some credit in the most obscure or biggest films. They have 'something' that may be of instructive value, Ask a Filmmaker Link 2. If you do not know already, Live action filmmaking methods can apply to Animation.

You all zoned out? At stop motion message board someone posted notification about a position. Nobody bothered to click through their site? Some undiscovered entertaining Stop Motion at Flicker Pix (Flash heavy site). At bottom of their home page, click on the link that says Reel and especially the link Old Stuff. Here is Message Board post from them.

You burnt me out this month. As I mentioned in a comment last time; I wonder if you pay attention to any of this, or, am I just doing keyboarding exercises for an office job? No thumbnail images to spice up this blog installment. Got to bounce out of here; my internet connection has been glitchy for a few days. ' Hasta la vista '

* Rare Stop Motion you may have not seen .... YouTube is sure getting interesting to find unique postings of clips. Kind of weird, how we endure the small puny player window video (Tip: wear reading/magnification glasses; it somewhat helps view it). I am trying to keep this blog/news short this time and also with less embedded thumbnail images within the text (takes more work), because last blog 3.17.07, I wrote a dissertation-thesis and it Fried my brain. Writing does not fluidly come out of me (many re-edits to get it, sort-of right). I wonder if you read or get any value from all this texting verbosity.

Anyway, some juicy stuff only for the hardcore Stop Motionist obsessed. Pete Peterson, known for assisting Ray Harryhausen on the 1949, Stop Mo epic, Mighty Joe Young. Pete continued with some stop motion after MJY .... The Black Scorpion (1957), The Giant Behemoth (1959); and these I never saw before, clips of Peterson's Stop Motion test reel for never realized projects, Beetlmen & Las Vegas Monster Link 2 (in the 1950's).

Want some more? I always heard about Beast from Hollow Mountain (1956) but never seen it. The end climax is posted online (almost 10 minutes). It's a strange one. Somewhat good cinematography for live action, but the Stop Motion, not the greatest, but interesting & ambitious.

* Other, not as well known Stop Motionists .... but nevertheless, creative & talented and also members of the forum. Richard Svensson, mostly does not post at messageboard (What's up with that?). He has had a website for a few years, called The Lone Animator. He has a banner at top of this page, for awhile (Geez ... you never noticed?). He lives in Sweden and it seems, he was into Lord of the Ring'ish style before it was popularized by Peter Jackson's Trilogy. Richard has much inspiration from Ray harryhausen. Rich posted some of his work online at YouTube. It appears, he shot it with Video Camcorder (live action & animation); and may not meet your elitist mega-schmega resolution standards; HOWEVER, most important; lots of energy, fun, imaginative and creative storytelling. Check out Rich's work .... Jabberwocky and Pirate Babe vs Evil Toys. This does not appear recent but projects that took him a few years. If you wish, give him feedback.

Dan "The Man" Anderson ..... coming back to LIFE. Also, a member of the Stop Mo message board. He does not say too much but I am assuming, he is busy working on gigs to pay the rent, and also, a family man ("Kids" more important than Stop Motion?). Dan is more than just an animator, but eclectic too; graphic designer, illustration, creative & art director, sculptor, modelmaker, puppet maker, home brewer of armatures, etc.. He has an unoffical animation handle .... known as Animation Daddy. They, or actually Dan, has been working on an ambitious Stop Motion project; looks Cool. Check it out, The Magic Candles. Okay, I got a little bit of energy and I will post a thumbnail image for Dan here. Will later post another link, elsewhere at Stop Motion Works, to attract interest & inquiries.

* Stop Motion and Technology ..... In the historical beginnings of Stop Motion, it appeared to be somewhat primitive, especially when you compare it to 2D drawn animation (aka cartoons), which started around early 1900 circa. With 2D animation, one draws a frame at a time; but using a lightbox underneath (or thin tracing paper), you are able to see through some of the layers of paper and compare the previous drawings to the most recent drawing. A very simple element/principle but it was the core-root foundation of making drawn animation creatively controllable by the artist. In this regard, 2D animation was more advanced than Stop Motion, in the area of production methods.

Stop Motion is usually referred to, as using the straight ahead animation method. As done in the old days; you pose/move the puppet each frame, with no solid reference to the previous frames. It is actually, animating BLINDLY. You have to strongly rely on your memory's ability to internally visualize the animation choreography. Astounding how Willis O'Brien, Ray Harryhausen, Jim Danforth and many Stop Motionists, mastered this animation method. Much trial & error to learn it. Also, the animator had to endure the awkwardness & tediousness of using surface guages, which was your primary visual reference markers for estimating the general incremental frame-by-frame puppet movements. Watch Phil Tippett using surface guages. I look back and think,"Geez!" It certainly was not easy for me and fried my brains, focusing very intensely when working on stop motion shots. Today .... Stop Motion Software (aka Frame Grabbers) is essentially, a very simple technology (compared to complex CGI programs) but has had profound positive impact on the quality of Stop Motion and has maybe helped it stay competitive & marketable with other animation methods, now. The software allows you to see the previous frames and also preview the progress of the animation AS you are animating; it gives you instant feedback and accelerates the animation learning; the software gives the Stop Motionist much control & predictability of the finished animation product. In the ol' school days, using movie 'film' cameras, you would have to wait the next day or longer (for film to be processed), to see the results of the stop motion shots, and if you "Fugged-Up"; you start over. It is, or was, a masochistic & tortuous method to create your 'Art'.

What other ways might technology help Stop Motion? In the early days, there was an attempt by ILM using their proprietary Go-Motion methods. An early form of Go Motion was actually used on 'Empire Strikes Back' (some of the TaunTaun striding scenes). Go Motion made its big splash premier on Dragonslayer feature. Later, Go Mo was used on Howard the Duck, Golden Child, and maybe Willow (I am not sure). In hindsight, very technically complex via mechanical device & stepper motors and seemed slower than traditional stop motion; all just to supposedly smooth out the animation. Back then, from what I read (e.g., Cinefex), ILM seemed obsesssed with excess details and IMO, the general audience would probably not even have noticed. What has evolved today, that has replaced the antiquated mechanical Go-Motion (which only ILM used, many years ago, their complex method), are Blurring programs or software plugins that can be added to the Stop Motion after animation is completed (in post-production). This artificially creates the illusion of smooth or fast action in Stop Motion, by creating what is known as, Motion Blurs which is a phenomenon that results in image smearing when photographing or filming fast moving objects, people, creatures, etc.. Here is an old article (or directly to PDF link) which is dated but gives you an understanding of blurs as related to Stop Motion. Addendum: Master Stop Motionist & Special Effect Artist, Jim Danforth used Go Motion-type Blurring effects for Stop Motion, well before ILM, using less complex methods. When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, you can see examples of it.

A trend now, for the cartoon-style puppet animation, especially for Stop Motion TV series, seems to be the use of CGI mouths-lips that are motion tracked onto the faces of the puppets. After the animation is done, using software in post production, animated mouths-lips are added. I have some misgivings about the look of it and perhaps somewhat contrary to the pure style of Stop Motion. It is not applicable for all puppet character designs, but it seems to work for 'some' puppet styles & looks. I suppose, from the "Suits" point of view, it maybe speeds up production of Stop Motion. I believe Cuppa Coffee Studio (in Canada) has been using CGI lip-mouth animation for some of their Stop Motion. Here is a QuickTime clip Starveillance

At the Stop Motion board, a number of years ago, some topics came up about some kind of software that will add "inbetween" frames. So theoretically, you only stop mo animate, half the number of frames, then the software is suppose to add the remaining inbetween frames. Much too long to explain , but let us enter our time machine and return to these topics from the past and refresh your memory: Stop Motion Synth Program & "In-Between" software for stop motion. Did you read it? Nick Hilligoss did not just speculate & talk, but he sat his butt down and actually did do tests with the software. Conclusion for now: It does not seem to work for Stop Motion. He posted a video clip and summary of the inbetween tests at StopMoShorts. Basically, the software cannot deal with complex backgrounds and appendages crossing in front of each other. You get strange pixel image artifacts, warping and tearing. I suggested in one of those topics, perhaps the inbetween software can be used for more specific shots and you would need to shoot the puppets green/bluescreen to avoid the background distortion issue. Lets fast forward to today. It looks like, some thinking-out-of the-box creatives at Lumenas Studios (in Utah) are attempting to do some pioneering & trailblazing with Stop Motion. They are working on a Stop Motion project and will be using a proprietary inbetweening software. They have a test online, but the clip size is too small, and too short . Maybe as their project progresses they might be generous to allow us to have a better sneak peek. Here it is Behind the Scene. It appears that they are using their inbetween software with the puppet animated against a solid color or bluescreen background. Just as I previously predicted, eliminating the background, then compositing it in later.. MotionPerfect is the software Nick tested and it is the lowest priced, with so-so results. However, there is Twixtor & ReTimer Pro which are high priced (& perhaps better results) and out of the range, of the budgetly challenged. These time/speed changing programs are not specifically designed for Stop Motion but could possibly be adapted. You probably have to hire a Software writer/author to custom design an 'Inbetweening' application that is very specific to Stop Motion (as Lumenas did).

Stop Motion is primarily tactile, hands-on, real-world puppets & environment (minimal CGI use); and this is what gives it, its own very unique aesthetics, style, & surreal quality. 'Technology' can help Stop Motion but it will always be somewhat resistant to being taken over by 'Puters. There will be Hybrid forms of Stop Motion with the aid of technology, however, Stop Mo will essentially remain an Art form, mostly using old world skills, crafts, & knowledge. One can write a few Bible-sized manuals, about armature fabrication, machining, brazing, sculpting, molding & casting, puppet making, building miniatures, etc. etc.. Edit 03.19.07

* Laika Studio / Campus Starting to Roll ..... Phil Knight (Nike Athletic Footwear King) just approved the architects who will design the all new Laika. One of the press release quotes, "A state-of-the-art feature film animation campus". On the surface, this does not seem like unusual news. You saying to yourself, "Oh, another all CGI Studio. Do we not already have a glut of 'puter animation & digital special effect studios?" IMO, what is very unique, is, that Phil is not dumping Stop Motion but wholly embracing it. They are actually going to include Stop Motion production capabilities into the new campus studio. This is fugg'n rare for a USA based mainstream-type studio. Most of the typical, larger studios are obsessed in CGI only and would never, ever, never, consider Stop Motion. In their myopic short term vision, most Tinsel Town 'Suits' would flush Stop Motion down the toilet.

Although, outside the USA, on a bigger studio scale, Stop Motion, seems to 'somewhat' survive. You have Aardman (the UK), Cuppa Coffee (Canada), Se-Ma-For (Poland), and a few other overseas Stop Motion studios (the large studio category). A BIG THUMBS UP to Phil for "Walking the Talk" in fully supporting Stop Motion. One of the few in the upper echelon that has the forward vision to see that VARIETY is what the public is looking for (people will tire of Copy-cat CGI). Stop Motion is still a most viable & marketable animation medium. Read LAIKA Owner Phil Knight Selects TVA Architects

* High End Stop Motion in the Outbacks of Utah? Yes indeed. You have the larger professional Stop Motion production house, like Laika, but then we seem to have another trend; the small boutique Stop Motion studios popping up in strange places in the USA, so far away from the mainstream entertainment centers on the West & East coast.

A couple of brothers, Nathan & Chris Smith run a low key, not well publicized yet, Stop Motion studio, called Ageless Animation, in Lehi, Utah USA (near & south of Salt Lake City). They originally partnered with Lumenas Studio (see last month's news) who are also in Utah; and the Smith brothers & crew handled the Stop Motion for Davie & Golimyr.

Nate & Chris are now working on their own projects, including distribution, under the banner of Candleman Films; a series of holiday themed stories via the magic of Stop Motion. They recently released, The Light Before Christmas and another one called, Jonah: A Great Fish Story. Take a look at their teasers. IMO, high production values. Also, as needed, they judiciously sprinkle just a little CGI digital effects, to only enhance the Stop Motion. They seem to be creating new Holiday Stop Motion Classics for a new generation. Both, Jonah & the Christmas tale, are slick & finessed. They seem to have captured a look & style exclusive to themselves. Even only seeing the brief trailers; it projects much warmth & nostalgic feelings similar to those now retro, Rankin-Bass Stop Motion, when you and I watch as kids. In these hectic & insane times, a refreshing antidote to escape; for kids & adults alike. Nathan & Chris are stepping up to the plate to fill that need. Both animated tales are about 1/2 hour long each and can be affordably purchased online. P.S. Here is their other website, primarily for investors, Evergreen Holiday Classics, giving more info about the business side. Some more reads here too, Jonah article & Ageless Animation

* Tony McVey's: Ann Darrow attacked by Dino Birds (pterodactyls) ..... You can go back to earlier blog/news and refresh your memory, Meister Tony McVey slowly emerging. I stated back then, ".... but wait until you see what Tony does with this singular & small (pterodactyl) puppet in the animated scenes". You know how the lemming-like CGI special effects practioners are sometimes obsessed with digitally cloning to produce large crowds, herds, animals, birds, creatures or whatever numerous quantities of characters (recent one was the all CGI & motion captured, Happy Feet) ..... simply because "they can", but these plethora of cloned characters does not necessarily make a better story. IMO, many times, just eye candy to show off the special effects studio's technical ability (yawn). Whoaaa .... going off topic.

Anyway, cloning can be done in a Harryhausen-esque Stop Motion product or what I like to call, Hyper-Harryhausen. No, not thousands of Stop Mo characters, but nevertheless effective, if you need to do a few or some multiples of similar looking puppet characters in a single scene/shot, with some assistance of digital post production tools. Something I am planning on doing in my tests but Tony beat me to it . Turn up the speaker volume & enjoy Skull Island

* Retrospective: Harryhausen's Jason Greek Mythology Classic .... Found a 4 part article, originally published for Cinescape Magazine back in 2000. There are no photos with the articles, but very detailed and well written about the production of "Jason and the Argonauts". The information in these articles is almost as revealing as the Animated Life book. As I said, no pictures with the article but the author effectively uses the written word. It is a good read that you can stretch over a few days, if you like, JASON and THE ARGONAUTS: A Retrospective by Ted Newsom, Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4

* USA Analog TV Broadcasts Ending February 17, '09 ..... Mark your calendar, TWO years from now; that is what they are saying. Big Brother interfering and further impacting your lives by making you unecessarily spend more $$$ on unecessary crap and what a half ass job they are doing publicizing this enforced change. If you do nothing, after the above date, your existing or recent TV of only a few years ago, may not be able to receive over-the-air TV signals. This is not about HD image resolution on your TV, but has to do with the digital signal transmission replacing analog; the type of television signal being transmitted over the airwaves.

Many of us have perfectly working older TVs. They can last for many years. Typical of planned obsolescence & waste; happening at hyper fast rate and now mandated upon us by order of the FCC powers (via our elected politicians). All you, Pro Eco-Green, Global Warmists; what do you have to say about this obscene product waste of functional & working Analog TVs, Dvd recorders, VCRs, etc.?? I left out details about this Fed Government law, shutting down Analog TV signal broadcasting. Google for yourself and prepare for more fugg'n hassle in a few years. There should be OUTRAGE but as usual, apathetic lazy public who only complain & whine, only when it is too late. Something to get you started, Analog TV - Ladies & Gentlemen, Start your Tuners - Planned obsolescence becoming built into culture Edit 03.04.07

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