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* Artificial Stop Motion ..... As always, mainstream movie biz has never really recognized or respected the Stop Motion technique and in recent past years, the CGI juggernaut just about killing-off Stop Mo. We are now being more insulted. How? You may have heard, read or seen, the possible trend of some in CGI now trying to simulate, emulate or putting it more simply; faking some of Stop Motion's characteristics. Could there be a CGI glut? Is it becoming soooo homogenized, cookie cutter similar and now "they" are desperate and running out of originality and creativity and they need to hijack or parasite-leech off our Stop Motion Legacy? What specifically, has gotten my stop motion shorts in a bunch? At message board, a brief thread about Tim Burton collaborating with CGI artist Shane Acker on a project called "9". Press releases, articles 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 alluding to Shane's stuff looking like Stop Motion and even Acker, is quoted. You can watch the movie clip at Acker's Site.

"9" is interesting and certainly surreal but to my eyes and senses, it is CGI; it has feeling of "too controlled and exacting" (hard to explain), maybe some floatiness, its airbrushy look, and it just does not look tactile real and does not have the undercurrent energy of real Stop Mo. However media, film festivals, &
Sea of CGI 'ists go gah-gah about "9". It could have been done with Stop Motion and I think would have provided much more textural richness and visual impact, BUT, would a real Stop Motion "9" received as much media or movie biz attention? CGI pushers might con some of the public with their fake Stop Mo, however CGI will never-ever capture the animator's direct hands-to-puppet control & spontaneity (not filtered by computer), the "one take, live performance" nature, the imperfections, the imagery elements of real tactile puppets, real objects-props-sets, real light & shadows, etc.. Is an airbrush illustration an oil painting? Is a soyburger, a hamburger? Let CGI be CGI and Stop Motion be Stop Motion! Upate: Not necessarily critical of Shane Acker's work. There are also others attempting to fake Stop Mo and I'm sure other studios trying it too (commercials, music videos, etc.). Mostly pointing out, as I have said often, how the mainstream CGI Powers That Be; studios, the "suits", their publicity machine, or whoever; myopically think "CGI" is the supposed panacea cure-all, and any other cinematic or special effects methodolgy, visual style or aesthetics is inferior.

* Paint Specialties Lab .... Leo Bergman Passed Away July 25 .... details Here

* Laika Entertainment & "Coraline" Update ..... This is follow-up to previous news posting. In the media, previous info about Coraline has sometimes been vague; it was not clear if Coraline was going to be Stop Motion or CGI. Sometimes press releases or article authors unintentionally are not accurate. This is from a reliable source directly from Laika and it looks like good news: Coraline is being planned as Stop Motion & CGI. Two worlds will be represented. The normal one will be CG and the fantastic world will be Stop Motion. It would be about 50/50 in terms of screen time. Also, the Laika contact informs me, if Corpse Bride and Wallace and Gromit are big successes, then all of Stop Motion gets a boost. You may have heard about The Fantastic Mr. Fox to be directed by Wes Anderson which has previously been mentioned in the media. I am told directly by Laika that this project is definitely happening and it is planned to be all Stop Motion. Well, I apologize to Laika for being skeptical, but someone needs to be a thorn, probe, ask questions, and unfortunately, I have to do the dirty work Laika Entertainment apparently will not abandon Stop Motion and where ever feasible, will promote Stop Motion; of course it all depends on the client or director, and on the entertainment biz market's up & down trends. Thanks Laika for your continuing efforts in keeping Stop Mo alive in the new millenium!

* Laika Entertainment? Hmmmm ..... so this is the new name that Nike head honcho, Phil Knight has bestowed upon the ol' Vinton Studios. The press release feels like it's written by the "suits". Their direction looks like CGI Feature work. How much more CGI will glut the market and audiences "yawning" even more? George Lucas intends to get into the all animated CGI game and major studios including Disney, Fox, Warner Bros. and Sony; then you have to consider the overseas outsource production of CGI. All Pixar wannabies and having nocturnal wet dreams of $mega-zillion blockbusters$? Good choice though, Phil selecting Henry Selick as sort-of an overseer up there in Portland, Oregon, but I am guessing, he must follow & obey his bosses orders. A missed opportunity by the Laika corporate "suits"; no Stop Mo passion & abandoning it? Coraline was previously hinted that it was going to be done Stop Motion, but now Laika are saying it will be all CGI? Yes, ol' Vinton / new Laika associated with Corpse Bride BUT serving as one of "producers" (not doing the actual shooting/animation). Why was CB not done here in the USA, in Oregon? Let us go back in time and see the Stop Motion produced by the ol' Vinton Studio's talented artists: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 -Some early Henry directed Stop Mo 1 - 2. I hope the formerly known Vinton Studios now resurrected as Laika, will achieve success, but I think a BIG MISTAKE to diminish or discard the importance of Stop Motion and I do not sense a commitment by them to continue or promote this unique animation art/craft. UPDATE: I got some feedback about this. Sometimes information on the internet is wrong or the press releases are not accurate. I am just observing, commenting and asking questions! With new information we just received, I can assure you you that LAIKA is in good hands with Henry Selick up there! I may comment some more in next news installment.

* The Wizard of Speed & Time .... a somewhat underground semi-cult small film from some years ago, by Mike Jittlov (his site seems deserted & not updated). Brief looking online and apparently, Wizard difficult to find. I do not think you can buy it as a new video release. A quick search and these are the only rare online clips I found of Wizard 1 - 2 and a fan site with some good links. It was kind of hokey story but fun, and for us special effects techno nerds, Wizard was an educational course of home brew classic special effects; pixillation, stop-motion, cel animation, photo cut-out animation, and lots of in camera special effects. What I really dug, is the photo cut-out animation effects of the cityscapes and mountains as the wizard blazes through at hyper-speed (all done with flat artwork, cels, photos, on animation stand).

* Rubber Johnny ..... a recently released abstract short by Chris Cunningham. Mostly online promoted and sold through internet! It is not Stop Motion. Definitely a strange or unique one for the general public. At the Rubber Johnny Website there is a very brief movie clip (flash) and here is a very short RJ Quicktime micro-teaser. I could only find this more lengthy clip excerpt RJ Flash version. Rubber Johnny goes against all the current Hi-Resolution trend and in your face CGI & Digital flavor du jour excess. Rubber Johnny imagery very rough, grainy, in black & white, and very documentary stylish. Technically speaking, LOW TECH special effects but that is irrelevant and does not matter within the context & visual style here. IMO, highly creative work and good example of "Less is More" which contributes to its creepiness because you cannot clearly see it or it teases you and your subconscious then comes into play and enhances the experience; what you do not see can be more frightening.

* Go ahead .... spend $8000.! .... As some of you may already know, the craze, or maybe a better description, the" trend" for some practicing the Art-Craft of Stop Motion, is the adaption of Digital Still Cameras to capture High-Resolution Still-Frame images for the potential viewing of the their finished animation works in the future, on High Definition TVs and some even contemplating transfer to 35mm film (who can afford that? ). There are endless discussions at SMA.com about Digital Still Cameras and unfortunately, there are no clear-cut answers and one has to do much trial & error to set-up a functioning Stop Motion digital still cam workflow. With DV Camcorders, there is more standardization, it is more straight forward, and easier to set-up for Stop Mo. However, for some Stop Motionists on the Hi-Res bandwagon .... Digital Video's 640 x 480 max resolution, is not good enough anymore? With digital still cams, the issue is with the shutter/aperture.... these cameras were never designed for the very high volume of shutter cycles (that animation requires) and so the DSCs at some point will wear-out and need to be repaired or a new camera needs to be purchased. Camera manufacturers are usually vague about shutter life expectancy. Also, because of the DSCs Shutter/Aperture, there can be introduction of flicker or exposure variances. At this time, these glitches seem to be a trade-off for animators and they perhaps tolerate these bugs with some workaround remedies, in their quest for high resolution nirvana . If you do not know already, there has already been the use of digital still cams in some of the limited Stop Mo professional work (in this CGI glut), such as television commercials and some Stop Mo TV series such as the recent cult hit, Robot Chicken. Also an independent feature length Stop Mo parody adultish movie Disaster. The upcoming release of Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, has used Digital Still Cams to shoot all the Stop Motion, specifically the EOS-1Ds Mark 2 at a wallet busting retail price as high as $8000. (USD) each . Sheeeesh .... a little overkill with these mega-million $$ flicks .... but if "Studio Suits" giving you all that $Cash$ .... what the hell .... right? Because Corpse Bride will be a more high profile Stop Motion project, this will perhaps publicize more, the digital still cam methodology to the News & Entertainment media and the Public. One of the promotional hooks for marketing the movie.

In my own opinion and my observation ..... perhaps the use of Digital Still Cams for higher end professional Stop Motion applications, could be an interim or temporary non-Film solution to grasp that holy grail of high resolution. In a later edition of Stop Motion Works News, I will mention a few alternatives to maybe shoot High Resolution Stop Motion "without" the use of Digital Still Cams and it might not be that costly!? (compared to Canon IDs Mrk 2) Some of you can possibly already guess what those alternatives might be, so stay tuned to see if you are right! Those who currently develop Stop Motion Software should also pay attention! The evolution or progression seems to be high resolution animation capturing, and if you are forward thinking, there could be a niche growing market here for developing High Res Stop Motion programs that capture direct to computer's hard drive and also including the necessary Stop Motion tools such as onionskinning, instant preview, frame flipping, etc.

* New Corpse Bride trailer ..... Some forum comments about it. Obviously, it will be riding on the coat-tails of Nightmare Before Christmas and the trailer even briefly borrowed some of the original music from NMBC. 12 years ago, NMBC premiered same year as Jurassic Park (triggering the CGI juggernaut). Corpse Bride's animation is verrrrry silky smooth. Also, the overall look of the sets and the puppets appear softer. Maybe the images (animation shot with digital still cameras) were tweaked in post production? I would guess, perhaps attempts to give Corpse Bride a hint of CGI qualities .... the very fluidous animation and especially the airbrushy appearance. If it is so, I am not sure what I think about that ..... Stop Motion trying to kind-of look like CGI? Although, I may understand them doing this, because the public have been sooooo Pavlovian Conditioned by mainstream movie biz's constant bombardment upon the mind's of the masses, of only one kind of visual flavor via CGI. Stop Motion's more crisper tactile look, feel & snappier style (compared to CGI) should stand on its own, but the "suits", as always, shut-out other visual aesthetics, creative styles, & sensibilities. I have ranted before ..... do not look to mainstream movie biz for Stop Motion's survival. They are only doing Corpse Bride because of Tim Burton's CLOUT! Stop Motion will live on in other venues and niche markets. BTW, I am not necessarily criticizing CB, but merely giving my initial impressions. Edit: With so friggen much of homogenized CGI & Digital Special Effects eye candy, hopefully Corpse Bride will make some impact or perhaps provide a little reminder to the audiences, studio "suits", and movie reviewers, that Stop Motion is still sort-of kicking around.

* Cam Motion Animation .... Just had a flash thought earlier this week for doing cool and offbeat animation exercises and practice sessions. Misha Klein aka Mish-Mash triggered this in me when he posted last week at SMA message board a brief test animation of a
Moving Camera (.avi movie download). It looks fricken amazing and can even produce a puking state because of the motion! Misha used a hot little tripod head that some of us animators are getting (I have one too) .... the Manfrotto 410 geared tripod head. Misha animated the head/camera by feel and it has a natural hand-held camera look to it! So I says to myself ..... Why not just do regular exercises of animating-moving the camera! You really do not need a puppet. Just animate panning, tilting, dollying and tracking camera moves through any kind of table top setup .... it does not have to be a finished set. Just place a bunch of objects on table top. The more practice you acquire animating the camera .... the better & faster you'll get! Okay it's weird .... but it floats my boat! This might be going into my To-Do regularly list with the additional aids of some brewski refreshments and puffing some fine pipe tobacco whilst undertaking the relaxing camera moving animation sessions Here is 410 Message Board discussion. Note: Make sure you bookmark Mish's BadBullets Blog. It is getting interesting and more deeper revelations of the inner workings of the Mish-Mash-Mind

* New teaser Kong Trailers .... Some posting activity at StopMo Forum about recent teaser clips of Peter Jackson's version of the upcoming King Kong to be released this year, Dec. '05. As I have said in previous blogging ..... very early promotion campaign that the studio suits are allowing or giving Jackson permission such advanced exposure of Kong to public via the online diaries. At this time, all I can say ...."I am not sure what I think of the new Kong yet". I know that many of the passionate devotees of the original iconic 1933 King Kong have sentimental & nostalgic attachment to Willis O'brien's classic masterpiece. Some of my tentative comments about the Kong teasers:

1) I just don't know about the casting of
Adrien Brodie & particularly of Jack Black. I think though, Naomi Watts will work A positive plus .... Peter Jackson did not choose any big name actors. GOOD! I think, $20 million is obscene for supposed "name-draw actor". Should be quality story and characters as solid foundation of film. Maybe Kong will excel here.
2) Dizzying camera movements seems to be the flavor du jour of most contemporary movies. Will this gimmicky style over substance camera technique be rampant in Kong? I want to absorb the scene and not be excessively jacked around or robbing & cheating me of what I want to see, by plethoric barf inducing camera motion. Moderation maybe okay but many times it can be a distraction when abused.
3) Hmmm ..... CGI, Motion Capture and the new Kong basically a gigantic copy of a Silverback Gorilla. I would have hoped for a slightly different Simian hybrid version..... more battle scarred, more leaner (not so chunky-buff), and maybe more orangutanish brownish-greyish fur.
4) New Kong will include Jurassic Park-populated Dinosaurs. Hey .... it's CGI! Why not clone the Dinos and have whole herds of them!?
5) A big PLUS though .... the new Kong will be a period piece set in depression-era 1930's ..... atmospheric and kind of film noir'sh. Also good ..... some preservation of traditional special effects, using plenty of very detailed miniature and model work.

I am guessing .... some content aspects of Kong have been included to please the "Suits", i.e., movie product merchandising and perhaps that's why all the Dinosaurs and making Kong a very recognizable Gorilla? "Suits" maybe unecessarily paranoid that the masses cannot accept a non-typical or unique simian type creature? I do not think the Kong production will ever admit to
that but the $Bean Counters$ putting up the money must certainly have some influence. Lord of the Rings did it's share of merchandising but it seemed a little more moderate. With the last Sith Star Wars ..... even Darth Vader and Yoda were hawking products on TV. IMO, it so cheapens the specialness of the characters by reducing them to the mundane. Thank God, with Lord of the Rings .... Gandalf was not selling Pepsi! In conclusion .... I would have been reeeaally happy if P. Jackson just allowed one measely throwaway cameo background Stop Motion creature in new Kong .... as homage/tribute to Willis O'brien and Ray Harryhausen. With digital tweaking .... the audience would never notice. Kong's estimated budget is about $150 million . If money was the issue for Stop Motion inclusion, I would have given them a discount on a custom made killer Stop Motion Armature!

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