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August 2007

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* Video Format Weakness: Shedding Light on the Dark .... Brother Mike Brent has been on a studio lighting exploration at the message board and his blog. The 12 volt 50 watt track lighting (& his adventurous home brewing mods), very interesting adapting this type of lighting which seems perfect for small lit areas such as the miniature set-ups for Stop Motion. Mike and myself, at this time, looking at the Video Format for Stop Motion. I sense, some Stop Motionists maybe kind of getting snobby now with their Digital SLR Still Cameras, and looking down at us Video Resolutionists™ (we are not ghetto) . I generally do not diss Digital Still Cams for Stop Motion (some exceptions). At this time, for me, I know my end distribution and the finished quality does not require the overkill resolution, in addtion to, the more involved workflow (of processing the hi-res stills).

If you are reading this Strider, just something for you (& others) to take into consideration before
you spend more $$$ on lighting equipment & supplies . I am absolutely no expert on this and only have a general understanding. As some may already know, Video does not have the wide latitude or I believe, also called, dynamic range, of movie film or the high pixel digital still cams. Boy Oyng posted a good layman's soundbyte (and here), about that. Also read this, What Dynamic Range means for your Video.The way I understand it, is, whatever subtle and especially dark'ish, atmospheric, or noir'ish lighting one might attempt with studio lights and you are using video format to shoot, it will not pick-up all that subtlty & details (like film). For one thing, if you light the scene darkly, with video, the image can start getting noise, muddy & lose detail.

I am already thinking ahead about workarounds for this weakness of Video. For example; if I want a Stop Motion shot that is a night scene or dimly lit , I will shoot with the basic main & key lights and if needed, use
cookies or gobos for special lighting effects, however, the overall lighting will be exposed brighter than I need. I want a master video image to be as sharp, detailed, & crisp as possible so that it can be worked in post production, where the final lighting & image grading will be applied using software filters. Tiffen makes such software filters. That is one brand and others available. One well known post lighting effects example is called Day for Night. Some 'D for N' methods more involved, and other's, simpler. Here is is an amazing test clip of a day for night transformation (QT clip) done by a non-professional hobbyist; all in post production. This other one is a video tutorial using FXhome (more steps & involved). Another different way, a written tutorial. To summarize: With video, you cannot just light the scene like you would do film and then expect the same results. We have to use tricks & workarounds to simulate or fake some of that wide latitude range of 'film'.

At this time, as you read in previous SMW News, I am focused on getting my Stop Motion animation test center stage/table together and get going on animation exercises. Later though, will have to get down & dirty with the whole art of lighting and the special needs required for the video format.
EDIT: 08.26.07

* Sony Bravia LCD TV Ads & Dan Anderson .... Very interesting short series of commercial ads being done by Sony. I cannot say that I am into high art conceptual stuff and these ads might be in that category, however, these ads, I like . The philosophy seems to be, to use very minimal CGI and to keep it mostly REAL with traditional special effects methods, doing the effects mostly in-camera. Instead of the current flavor of many ads being overkilled with CGI, in your face-ness, loudness, and hyper-rapid cuts, the Bravio Ads by comparison, are soothing and calming. The Ads are titled as 'Paint' (Scotland) and 'Balls' (San Francisco) and you can view at their site. Also, there are some behind the scenes links-video clips.

I got word from our own, Multi-talented & Skilled,
Dan 'The Man' Anderson, that he just completed doing some hard core Stop Mo work with other puppet pushers, on the third series of the Bravia Ads. He went to New York City. Stop Motion animating of huge clay figures of Rabbits on the streets of New York, with people & traffic everywhere . It will be a combination of Stop Motion, Pixelation and Time Lapse. Here is a soundbyte, Bravia Ad Shoot Overwhelms NYC and includes some behind the scene pics. If you look closely, you might see a person that looks like Dan (underneath the tent); distinguished silver hair, wearing eyeglasses, black T or sweat shirt, in khaki dark green shorts and hiking boots. Release date of Bunnies NYC ad is not exact yet. Dan thinks, maybe Mid-November '07.

* Stop Motionists: Career vs Passionate Hobby .... Our Stop Mo Caves .... Career: If you do not want to pursue your own independent Stop-Mo projects or specialty boutique Animation or FX services, but just work for The Stop-Mo Man, there are a micro few that have the rare privilege of doing Stop Motion for paid regular Income . As you may be already aware, there is a compromise. One adapts to a 'Nomadic Lifestyle' in order to partake of The Nectar of Stop Mo Employment .You have to be willing to relocate & travel to the Stop Motion gig, and the length of work varies. One should not whine, though. You know that this is the nature of general work in the Arts & Entertainment (show-biz).

Passionate Hobby: Then, the other vast majority are devoted Stop Motionists for the LUV of it. IMO, they are the one's
keeping Stop Motion ALIVE (not mainstream Studios) and in the public eye.They do it for fun & pleasure, and creative expression just like any fine arts medium. Our mini studios are in bedrooms, living rooms, storage sheds, shacks, basements and garages. Mike Brent (aka Strider) has been on a recent roll about home-brew lighting equipment & set-up. Some pics of his light bodgering and you can get a glimpse of the background aka Mike's basement/cave. 'We' are brothers in similar work domicile category. My Cave is also in basement/garage. Some photos of my inprogress modification to my existing LIO Table Top Stop Motion Work Center™ . A hassle doing the table top conversion using expanded metal, as I have to strategically support it underneath at interval spacing using thin steel bars to maintain its stiffness. Also a bit pricier, the metal components for top (compared to wood top). Hopefully, this will pay-off later when getting down to doing test Stop Motions and will help speed-up the animation sessions without the need for pre-planning where to drill tie-down holes (or stop during animation, to drill)).

Oh, I
went off topic. In the background, you can see that my LIO Table Top Stop Motion Work Center™ is in a basement environment (a haven and refuge for my survival and escape from the Koyaanisqatsi (IMDb) events that IS happening worldwide). Washer & Dryer is to the left of Stop Mo bench and my computer workstation is also close by, on left & a few feet forward of the bench. Other areas of garage/basement occupy the metal fab shop, sculpting, molding, puppet making. As I ranted last time, getting too crowded here. Got to get going onto the business of hands-on Stop Motioning . Need to limit the 'more toys & things' side-track distractions & compulsion that many of us (yes, you too) get sucked into. 'Life' is short; we only have today; tomorrow not guaranteed.

P.S. I can sense, maybe some of you are judging me ? "Geez, LIO is so Negative. He is making me Feel Bad" . Hey, stop internalizing so much in your mind. I cannot help but see 'Reality' out there and I may sometimes come across as a little cold & cynical. With regards to Stop Motion employment; I get inquiries and also, some beginners at message board ask about Stop Motion as a 'Career' choice. I do not want to mislead and prefer to give the straight info. True die-hard Stop Motionists will persevere no matter how tough or what obstacles they will encounter EDIT: 08.19.07

* Pronto Takes: Arrrrgh, too much stuff around here , Chroma Keying, and Stop Mo Table .... As I mature in age & wisdom , I seem to be developing this phobia of having too much stuff or junk around the house. At this time I am the only one here, however, I am starting to 'lose or misplace things' and I cannot blame anybody else. Too materialistic in this big & fat USA. Consumerism excess buying via mass media advertising brainwashing upon the minds of the masses .

With regards to Stop Motion, I have quite a collection from years of 'acquiring'; shop tools & equipment, materials/supplies, not obsolete yet movie cameras, etc., etc., but I am
still short of a complete full working, little studio. Then, one's personal property & toys added to the 'hobby' stuff. I do not want to 'buy' anymore! Too crowded here, lost items, and I am tripping & falling over things. This sort-of developing phobia has for sometime, impacted my ponderings of a Stop Motion production workflow. I do not want to be bogged down by labor & time intensive miniature sets that would occupy too much space and especially, if sets are of large'ish scale. That is why I am going to utilize as much as possible, compositing methods aka Green/Blue screen chroma-keying. The challenge is, how to minimize that pasted cut-out photoshop look and make it somewhat seamless. I will cross that bridge when I get to it. Also, directly related to this, a method or trick, that I just revealed at message board (but most of you maybe ignored). Obviously, I am going to need 'miniature sets'. I will be experimenting with using very 'small scale' as used in Model Railroading hobby field. The filmed or photographed miniatures sets will be used as backgrounds or scenery for Chroma Key compositing. The advantage to me is; the miniatures will be real (not fake CGI sets), compact size, faster to build & tear down, and maybe, partially relieve my "Too much Junk anxiety and/or phobia!" . Related Links: LIO Secret Revealed, Green Screen

I am finally getting to work on the LIO Table Top Stop Motion Work Center™ for doing Stop Motion practice/tests. For the top, I will be using what is called
expanded metal steel sheets, with the diamond shape cut-outs. This will cover the entire top of table. I already have an existing very solid animation table/bench with a replaceable wood top. The animation bench is weighted down & chained to a 100 lb cement block, but I needed to modify it for the expanded metal top. A minor issue with the steel sheet top, is, that it can sag and one needs to include thin support bars underneath to reduce this sagging effect & help maintain its stiffness. Phil Tippett Studio in their past Stop Mo glory days, frequently used expanded metal. I am going this route because, I do not need to drill any tie-down holes before or during animation. Less interuption of Stop Mo session and will help me focus on the animation. The expanded metal surface top is not applicable in all Stop Motion set-ups, especially on real projects where you have to animate, many times on Miniature Sets which requires the pre-drilling of tie-down holes on those sets.

P.S. I wish, I could build complex or elaborate miniature sets. If you are able to and you have the time & studio space, then all the power to you. I am just describing my chosen methods & reasons given. There is no right or wrong. It is the finished product that counts. EDIT: 08.12.07

* Quickie: Jesus the Miracle Maker ..... I feel like I'm spoiling you. Take me for granted, huh? I need to take my own advice and NOT blow my Wad so much every week. Recently, at SMA board, I accidentally did some thought streaming rambling (sort-of tirading) at 'In The Fall of Gravity' topic. Feels like I am talking to dead air space. I should just comment/rant to myself, here.

Back to topic: Finally, it's on YouTube; clips from Jesus the Miracle Maker. If you were too 'Frugal' (cheap) to get the
DVD Special Edition (a must for Stop Mo aficianados), you can now view it online. Get real close to computer screen, put on your reading/magnifying glasses (to create illusion of larger screen). Online version is no substitute to the clear, crisp, & large TV screen format from a Dvd.

As some of you might already know, Miracle Maker uses limited facial replacement animation, specifically the jaw
section with the mouth. The eyes rotate within the sockets in the hard resin head and also some eyebrow movement. It's enough to give the illusion to evoke a certain degree of stylized semi-realism, within the context of puppet aesthetics. The rest of the puppet body uses standard jointed armatures, covered with rubber skin and mini clothes. Also, uses larger Stop Mo puppets for the very close-up shots of Jesus and the little girl. Some scenery & backgrounds uses CGI to enhance but not overwhelm. Replacement animation an effective Stop Motion variation/option, if executed with finesse & quality. Here are the links to the YouTube posting of Miracle Maker and Link 2. At right side of YouTube page, you can see more links to Jesus video clips. Also see Free the Dog EDIT: 08.05.07

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