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June  2008

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* 'Clash of the Titans' remake news resurfaces again .... My eyes kind of glaze over and not much excitement from me. Seems like, not too much creativity or originality with new products coming out of Tinsel Town. They go by formulas, demographics, and lowering the product so that it will appeal to the largest audience.  I know that Suits think 'Worldwide', as those audiences will go Gah-gah for anything that Hollywood pumps out, while some of the discerning audiences perhaps getting jaded with these repetitious and homogenized CGI special-effects-loaded flicks.

More than likely, the Clash remake will probably use CGI for the special effects and especially for the animated fantasy creatures. I do not want to hear Studios, Suits, or whoever, SAYING that this 'Clash of the Titans' remake will be a homage or tribute to Uncle Ray. NO, in my view, it is NOT a sincere 'tribute' if you are using typical CGI. A REAL Homage to the Legendary Ray Harryhausen, would USE .... REAL Stop Motion Animation.

In my Gandalf'ic Meditative State©, I see the constant marketing obstacle of Stop Motion in this CGI dominate era. It is the perception by some of the ignorant 'Suits', that Stop Motion is an Antiquated animation technique. Maybe understandable from the internet weaned generation, however, Stop Mo never really accepted by mainstream movie biz power people. Another issue; there are very few Studios that are still practicing *Ol' School Harryhausen animation effects* combined with *Live Action* and therefore, the 'Suits' do not have current proof-of-concepts demonstrating State-of-the-Art, Turbo-charged Harryhausen'esque. A few studios I can think of that could possibly deliver: Loose Moose (England) and Chiodo Brothers 1 - 2 (USA) who also have expertise in animatronics special effects puppetry. I am sure that there are a few other studios or individual artists that can deliver high impact creature Stop Mo effects. If I had the power (hire me ), as first choice, I would employ as lead, Loose Moose & Chiodo Brothers, and additional kick-ass Stop Motion & Animatronics Supportive Team, for the Clash of the Titans remake. 'Gods' go to war with 'Titans'  EDIT: 6.29.08

* Laika Studio Projects and 'Coraline' status .... I subscribe to online news services and it looks like Laika's marketing department bombarded those news services with many press releases about this:  Laika has disclosed a few more possible projects: Here Be Monsters!Jack and Ben, & Paranorman. Also, a few other project ideas mentioned. The articles/press release are not clear, because there is no certainty if these proposed projects will be Stop Motion. Of course, Stop Motion always confronting obstacles as it constantly has to struggle, however, that was its destiny from the beginning in mainstream Hollywood; a prejudice against Stop Motion.

Some more sobering LIO Observations about the hard-core reality that no one seems to address (except me ): A disadvantage that Stop Motion has (compared to 2D & CGI). When ramping up for a big Stop Motion production and locating & hiring a crew, Stop Motion requires Specialized skills which sometimes must be imported from global sources, or, the Stop Motion production is done geographically outside the USA where the Stop Mo talent is located. There is instability with trying to keep a Stop Motion crew, 'on call'. Once the project is finished, much of the Stop Motion team is disbanded. When a new Stop Mo project comes-up, the process repeats all over again. Even though I have some negative feelings towards 'Suits' ,  I can understand that they would be pissed-off because it takes soooo long to get a big Stop Motion project going. This may be another small contributing factor why 'Suits' possibly choose CGI. Much quicker to assemble a crew because there is more supply of CGI people, as their skills are more Plug'n Play universal.

So, in similar thought to above, what's up with Coraline?!  Does it seem like it is taking a long time? I am sure it will be worth the wait, however, originally Coraline was suppose to be released sometime in 2008, but now delayed until February 2009. Come on people!! In this CGI Brave New World , we can no longer afford the luxury of a take-it-easy & relaxed schedule doing Stop Motion projects. CGI can crank it out way faster and those mouse clickers will leave us in a Cloud of Cgi digital dust! Laika unveils development slate  

New Stop Motion Works feature Click


* 'The Dark Power's' Diary into the realm of Stop Motion .... Unfortunately, not at the regular hangout at Stop Motion messageboard but instead, this 'unidentified artist' (he chooses not to reveal his name) has been posting his ongoing experiences at ConceptArt.org, in an off & on topic that has lasted so far, for almost 1-1/2 years (2/07-6/08). It is hard for me to believe, with the 'SMA.com messageboard' and other Stop Motion sites like AnimateClay & Stop Motion Works, which have been online for some years now, that people having some interest in 'Stop Mo', are still completely not aware of 'us', or maybe they are not so good with Internet Searching??

It appears that this unknown person behind 'The Dark Power', has plenty of skillsets & talent in sculpting, modelmaking & fabrication, but he has implied that he is not that experienced with Stop Motion. In spite of his lack of Stop Mo experience, he seems to be very good at problem solving and figured out his own way to construct Stop Mo puppets. He used a rather involved multi-piece molding scheme and then casted the puppet skin with a material that he is familiar with, 'Silicone'. Although, from the online images of his finished demon puppet, in this instance, it is difficult to see any of the 'translucency' characteristics from the silicone. Maybe too much surface paint covering the silicone skin? My own preference: I would have used less complex moldmaking protocol, then use ol' classic Hot Foam Rubber Latex for the skin. In my view, Foam Latex much more user friendly to paint, and especially, easier to repair & patch (compared to silicone).

Here is the beginning of his Stop Motion Demon Puppet diary, and also posted at his website. In addition, he has done a number of projects including this one with some interesting Stop Motion swordfighting called Real 10 & behind the scenes. If this is his first time at Stop Motion, I would say it is damn good. It is not a finished piece and he says, just doing some exercises. I have to give a big thumbs up, to whatever his name is, for such an informative website which I know that many of the lurking info spongers, are in Sponge-O-Rama Ecstasy . Have 'you all' thanked him, given positive feedback, or showed appreciation of his generosity? I see that our SMA messageboard resident, the reclusive GreyGuy, was already stealthily lurking The Dark Power. EDIT: 6.22.08

* Tennapel / Chiodo joint venture Stop Motion for 'Sockbaby'? .... In our SMW News installment last month, we showcased some behind the scenes teaser clips, of a Harryhausen-esque Stop Motion puppet being fabricated at Chiodo Studios. The force behind this appears to be Doug Tennapel. As I stated last month, I don't know him. I assume though, in inner circles, he likely has a 'following'. There are minimal comments at YouTube about Tennapel's video clip postings, and whatever visitors that actually posted comments, Doug does not seem to reply. So, I figure Doug is maybe just posting the clips for his buddies? Someone did post a comment, that he thought this Stop Mo puppet is for something called, 'Sockbaby'. It looks like this is an ongoing little series since 2004! Doug still continuing the series with another episode in 2008 called Sockbaby 4. It appears to be low budget, however, I see that the professional & very skilled Chiodos helping out? Okay, I do not have time to directly embed video clips via our patented SMW Vid Embed Code , so for now, I will just list links to Tennapel's lastest video clip chapters at YouTube: Shooting the Plates, The Shoot, & Sockbaby 4 Trailer EDIT: 6.22.08

* 'Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor' (1990) .... More B Movie fun and probably way more entertaining/escapism than today's CGI special effects loaded mainstream features that are obscenely overpriced. Mysterious Ron aka Ron S. Cole, worked on The Alien Factor flick; all ol' school special effects before the CGI world take over . Ron posted at SMA messageboard some behind the scenes info and he extracted the specific Stop Motion scenes from the movie. Unfortunately only about 1:30 seconds of Stop Mo screen time and I wish there was more! There's the main creature, a large slow moving monstrosity! Then at the end, a very wicked Spidery-like ceiling creature making only a few seconds appearance.  

No question about it and I've know it myself for a waaay long time,that this further validates (along with Brett Piper's fun B movie work),that in 2008 & beyond,  Harryhausen'esque Stop Motion is still a most viable method to realize the otherworldly, the unimaginable, your worst nightmares, etc. etc. by  combining today's state of the art Stop Motion with post producition digital tweaks & enhancements. Stop Motion just needs to incorporate the du jour cinematic techniques & gimmicks that CGI uses, such as the hyper-quick edit/cuts, adding blur elements, and especially, plenty of that hand-held dizzying camera motion. I'm certain it could satisfy the 'Teenager Video-gamer Myspacey Generation' audiences.

Okay now for the links that you are profusing salivating for: The Trailer, IMDb listing, Ron's post at messageboard, Ron's Blog, YouTube post of Stop Mo scenes, and this one, the entire Alien Factor movie was posted by a YouTube-like site in China, but no longer viewable. One more, a photo of the Alien Spawn Stop Motion armature.

* Hey, I can do Mechanical Jointed Art Works like Justin Kohn!  .... I am stealing this news item from Marc Spess' AnimateClay because I'm wasted from last month, digging up & writing stuff for this news/blog thing. For me, sometimes too much effort doing this and the general website maintenance (I also do the coding myself). Writing these short blurbs does not ever come easy for me but I have forced it all these years. I need TIME to work on my own stuff!

Anyway back to subject: Look who popped up out of nowhere?:  Justin Kohn. You don't know him? Well, read on. It seems, he kind of  ignored the internet and now placing his smalll stake in it. Welcome to the cyber-virtual world, Justin! I believe he still hangs out in the San Francisco Bay Area. One of the ol' school Stop Motion skilled animators, that also has the rare added skills as a Stop Motion Armaturist. Stop Motion gigs not always plentiful so eventually, Justin has sometimes gone over to the CGI Dark Side (PDI/Dreamworks) to pay the Rent/Bills. Hmmm .... He does not mention his CGI work at his new site (link at end of my micro-ramble). 

I too, have put feelers about offering Poseable Art Sculpture for some time now but I have not received serious inquiries, however, I have to be honest and say, that I have not really done much campaigning & promotion of this. The few inquiries that I do receive, they have noooo concept of what is required to create these custom Metal Mechanical Jointed Wonderments. In other words, they cannot seem to get into their heads, it costs some $$$ for customized commissioned pieces, especially if it's going to be One of a Kind Art Display Piece. I also have Bills/Rent to pay, and now, have to cough-up more $$$ for the excess high gasoline costs (in USA). I would rather work at some Straight Job (which I do!) and I'm not going to give away or undercut my hard earned, mostly self-taught Stop Motion knowledge & skills. 

Again, good to see Justin making a splash out here and 'you all' should appreciate this kind of work as comparable to anything in the Fine Arts and acknowledged with commensurate $Value$ compensation (speaking to collectors out there)!  We need more of the ol' school Stop Motionists who previously defected to CGI , to COME BACK HOME! Also,another former Stop Motionist extraordinaire (a Gumby Alumnus), Eric Leighton, has returned to hands-on Stop Motion and working as one of lead Stop Mo Animators on Coraline (Laika Studio). Here is Justin Kohn's Channeled Alien Mechanical Spirits and IMDb EDIT: 6.15.08

* Where I might use Digital Still Camera for Stop Motion .... For now, I am staying with Standard Definition Video for Stop Mo sketching & experimentation, however, there might be an exception were I would use a Digital Still Camera for certain special effects shots. Then in post production, I would dial down the Hyper resolution back to match standard def video. Anyone remember the recent Transformer toy animated videos that went a little bit viral on the internet? They were done by Patrick Boivin. Some speculated that he animated the camera, also that he might have used blue/green screen, and even crazy inquiry if it was CGI (obvious it was not). Most of the guestimations were wrong. He shot it all with a digital still camera which was completely locked down then in post production he zoomed & cropped the high resolution still images and did the ALL the camera moves DIGITALLY, resulting in the illusion of docu-style, hand held camera motion. Again, this is where I might use a digital still cam, not for final hi-resolution quality, but as a tool to achieve animated camera moves. Patrick is French Canadian and these are his words excerpted from his responses at his YouTube page:

- I care about the lightning. Don't shoot with the sun light. It changes to fast.
- I make sure my camera is still. Since I take larges 6 mp pictures with a digital photo camera, I can   manage to zoom in them later on.
- I use anything to help me hold my figures.
The best is modeling clay. I just take my time using  wires that erase in the edit.
-Then, when my animation is done, I take a last picture of my set without my figures. I can then  use that plate later to remove the unwanted stands.
- I do my editing with After Effect in with I can make masks that allowed me to removes thing from  my animation.
- My stop motions are 15 Fps. I also do a lot of editing.
-Yes i did customised my BumbleBee a little, so it can moves that way. It's all in pieces now

Click the numbered links; each video will then appear in the player window below; then click bottom left arrow to play video: 123

Just to restate the methods he used: The toy figures are modified and clay & wire used as rigs to support the figures in certain poses. He used no chromakeying compositing and no automated match moving software. First, he did the hands-on animation of the actual toy figure, but after, using software (After Effects) did a lot of image by image manipulation such as making masks, maybe blur additions, and using clean background plate to do the erasing of the  puppet support rigs. The last step; the manual animated digital camera moves via softwware. It appears that he did not use a Stop Motion frame-grabber' for previewing, but used his editor to perhaps adjust the timing of the images. Patrick's method is not the usual Stop Motion technique. My preference and the more common Stop Motion methodology is, to get all the timing of the 'action' in-camera AS you are animating the puppet. You should not have to do extensive timing adjustments in an editor. But hey, who am I to criticize? That is his method of choosing and it's the end results that counts. He does not do much Stop Motion but more a general creative artist & calls himself a 'French Canadian Autodidact Director'??  His YouTube Channel  EDIT: 6.08.08


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