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August  2008

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* StopMoShorts Website Closes its Doors ..... Just announced at messageboard.  Some of you might be confused, thinking that StopMoShorts was part of Stop Motion Works. No, there was no official business connection between the two websites. Eric Scott was the initiator/creator of StopMoShorts. Mike Brent, Nick Hilligoss, Jason Gottlieb, and myself were part of the volunteer SMS team, assisting withmoderating or promoting. StopMoShorts gradually started back around October 2004 and has gone through some website design changes throughout the years. SMS existed before YouTube (which began February, 2005). There were a few, what seemed to be good years for SMS, however the deluge of other free hosting video website coming online seems to have contributed to SMS's viewership and participation decline.

It is always a gamble online and in my view one cannot really count on loyalty from the casual & anonymous lurking audience out here. Of course, there are 'some' exceptions were there is a good loyalty base. In the past, I haveocassionally tiraded about all this. I realize that there are different degrees of interest in Stop Motion and many of you maybe only curious about it or a cursory once-in-while dabbling hobby for you.. In this Sci-Fi-like cyber-virtual online world there is no real permanency. So, do not be surprised or saddened, if you do not frequent your favorite websites then you decide to disappear for awhile but come back a year later, then you find that 'fav' website gone. Hey, Stop Motion Works or the SMA messageboard could also drop out too. I am not saying that will happen, but you never know. That's your loss and the consequences of apathy, no esprit de corps, not staying connected or involved, etc.. I gave you warnings in the past. Remember this!?

Eric Scott and myself have discussed the possibility of Stop Motion Works archiving some of the StopMoShorts content, especially the How-To Tutorials and some other content. Stop Motion Works cannot include all the past SMS animation submissions but maybe will save some of the memorable one's. Note: After end of this week, the SMS links above may not be active anymore.


* Stop Motion: Where to Learn? ..... Since the beginning, Stop Motion has mostly been a SELF-TAUGHT animation craft/art. The alternative, is finding some place that teaches Stop Motion which is RARE. Stop Motion is usually eschewed by most studios/suits in USA and in turn, the educational & instructional institution also follow that pattern (Stop Mo usually ignored).There does not exist, a so-called 'Stop Motion Industry'. This Animation Craft/Art has always existed as a non-mainstream, somewhat renegade and underground,boutique/specialty. However, this somewhat 'Old World' animation craft, perhaps now achieving notoriety & exposure to the worldwide masses/audiences via 'New World' (ironically) Hi-Tech Internet.

If you have the personal drive, perserverance, some fundamental dexteritous & crafting skills, and willing to sweat through trial & error learning mistakes, you can teach yourself Stop Motion. On the other hand, if you are not of that 'nature' and maybe need to have some more personal hands-on guidance through a mentor/teacher who puts a fire under your butt, there are very few schools that offer 'some' Stop Motion education/training. In some of the public educational institutions with animation curriculums, Stop Motion is usually under the title of 'Expermental Animation'.  Stop Motion instruction is still rare today, in the current CGI 'Puter curriculum dominated schools-universities.

Here are a few Stop Motion instructional programs: One is from the Gnomon School of Visual Effects, in Southern California, being taught by the very qualified Stephen Chiodo. A 10 week course and seems verrry affordable compared to typical University curriculum costs. The other one, in my home town of San Francisco, is from the Academy of Art University. They have inperson classes/programs of various forms of Stop Motion techniques (under 'experimental animation'). I believe that is reserved for those getting the major degrees, however, AAU is beginning to offer Stop Motion in their online Cyber-campus division. I hear, this is just a start with possible later expansion of Stop Motion offerings/instruction.  This particular online class will be headed by Ken A. Priebe. I was fortunate to visit AAU when Ken was here in San Francisco shooting the classes/courses. This Stop Motion Works news topic about schools and/or instruction will be ongoing  and  our News Journalism research staff  will do future news updates, as needed. EDIT: 08.24.08

* Digital Still Camera is not the only path to High Definition ..... That is what I have sometimes stated  in the past but at messageboards the Almighty Digital Still Cam seems to be the Stop Mo photographic piece of equipment that is usually proselytized to the lurkers & newbies. Sure, a digital still camera with Xtreme high resolution, can give you all sorts of Anal Retentive options . I say, will the 'public' really notice that on their Hi-Def TV's? I have tested consumer Hi-Def Video Camcorders at stores and had them playback the HD shot video tape on their in-store large screen Flat LCD TV screens. Hi-Def recorded on tape is in compressed format, however,  even from a consumer Hi-Def camcorder, the image quality looks pretty damn good to me and I would think, the general public would also find it very acceptable.  

So I ask: Using just a Digital Still Camera, how would you combine 'live action' High Definition combined with HD Stop Motion such as in Harryhausen-esque?? As far, as I know, you CANNOT shoot 'live action' with a digital still cam. As I ponder this, puffing on my Gandalf-ic Pipe of Wisdom , it seems that an HD Video Camcorder with HDMI interface (firewire-like connection for Hi-Def format) would maybe be the commonsensical and cost effective choice for shooting both the Stop Motion & Live Action?? Please, DO NOT mention the Red One cam. You have the $deep pockets$ to purchase that?? I am looking at resourceful, creative, and 'affordable' ways to shoot Hi-Def resolution Harryhausen-type Stop Motion combined with real people/actors. I have not figured out the technical details yet, but I believe a consumer HD Camcorder and a workflow/process can be worked out or tweaked to do it. HDMI capable HD camcorders, I see as the optional alternative to digital still cameras and perhaps the trend is starting: Stop Motion Pro & Blackmagic Design working with AardmanMaking of 'A Short Love Story'  Also, check out the Stop Motion Programs that are High Definition HDMI ready, listed at this News Flash EDIT: 08.24.08


* 'The State of Visual Effects' White Paper Report ..... Something maybe distantly related to Stop Motion, if you wish to classify our animation art/craft as 'Special Effects'. This White paper released in July, appears to be a summary/overview of the Special Effects biz as related to mainstream work, especially those gazillion dollar productions and also applies to commercial advertisting work.  It is the view/opinion of their pundits and very heavy emphasis on Digital Visual Effects and just mild references to traditional special effects. IMO, with a myopic viewpoint, they suggest that CGI 'Puter work will make other forms of visual effects techniques obsolete. Do not fall for these grandoise predictions as 'truth'.  They are merely giving you their  guesstimations. 'We' who have clear vision & intuitive commonsense can see the bigger picture and other possible 'truths'.  Like I said a million times, do not look to 'mainstream' to embrace Stop Motion. Stop Mo always existed and still survives from the spirit and passion of independents & outsiders (of Hollywood). Uncle Ray was sort of, a 'renegade' too. In his career, he always had difficult time selling Stop Motion.

I know you are all maybe excited about Coraline which will be venturing into the mainstream market. Phil Knight is behind Laika Studio and he is not from the Hollywood mainstream.  We are fortunate that he has embraced Stop Motion as part of Laika Studio's products & services. Another important aspect in my view is; Phil has the very large monetary means to invest and back-up his vision. All other USA based big studios are too cowardly to experiment and trailblaze and like sheeple, just stay with their formulaic & homogenized products.

I think Stop Motion works better when the production is a small to medium sized crew/operation. When Stop Motion gets too big or bureaucratic, it maybe loses 'something' (hard to explain). Also, the larger the production, it obviously becomes much more budget hungry (costly). To me, Stop Motion is more personal and an expressive tool for individual artists or a group of artists working on the smaller projects.

Face it folks, WE have the predominate CGI which is favored by mainstream biz. Thanks (or maybe NO thanks) to mouse clicking technology, the insanity today as dictated by the 'Suits' in their quest for the lottery chance of a blockbuster; is their ever increasing time deadline pressures they constantly push & push, to crank out the special effects. I cannot deny that CGI can do it way faster (but at obscenely high cost). They have the biggest advantange of accessing a plethora of Plug'n Play crew. 

I believe, Stop Motion does not work as well within the mainstream movie biz  production workflow methodology. Fact is:There is a limited Stop Motion talent pool and it can take a hella long time to 'ramp up', especially finding/hiring a crew (if it's a big production). As I have alluded to in the past but worth mentioning again, Stop Motion is more suited to other venues & alternative distribution options for public consumption. Just a reminder to you all, that there are boutique practioners of Stop Motion worldwide, not necessarily mainstream work, but they are perhaps fulfilling a niche market which this White Paper completely ignores or maybe they never thought of (new emerging/alternative markets). Also, the report does not address, but perhaps difficult to quantify, predict, or formulize; the changing taste trends of the audiences. How much of the onslaught of artificial CGI stuff can the public take? Don't you sense an over saturation of it? To me, CGI or Digi Special Effects all having the SAME-NESS LOOK & FEEL. The Suits will never, ever GET IT. The foundation is, Good solid story & characters. It's NOT the Fugg'n Computer (CGI) .... IDIOTS!! Read Visual Effects Society's The State of Visual Effects or Html version. Also check this quick read Nuking the Fridge - Visual Effects Backlash In The Making?


* Interview with Anifex Studio about Stop Motion ..... Anifex Studio located down under in Australia and interview conducted by people at FX Guide. Almost all their website content focuses on mouse-clicking  'Puter special effects & CGI animation, but this specific one to me, was rare for them, in that they are actually covering the hands-on & tactile Craft/Art of Stop Motion. In the high quality Quick Time interview clip (not fuzzy Flash video), you will see glimpses of Anifex's shop/studio and you can freeze frame to study & absorb it. The interviewer does a good job at asking good questions. Anifex does variety of animation, 2D, CGI, and strong emphasis on Stop Motion from Clay animation style to Harryhausen-esque. If you have not seen it yet, or to jog your memory watch this commercial clip, then come back here. I will wait. 

You Stop Motion lurking newbies (of the MySpacey generation) , are so spoiled now with all these Stop Motion Secret revelations (& take it for granted). In the old'n days before the Internet excess existed, 'we' only had still photos from magazines, to study with our magnifying glasses. WE earned it the hard way! As you watch the interview, notice within yourself, your heart rate increasing as your mouth salivates & froths with orgasmic-like excitement of seeing real miniature sets and the various fabrication stages of real puppets, then comparing that to CGI'ists sitting in front of 'Puters. Which is more funner?? Watch: Regular QT Lowband and QT Broadband Anifex website

* New Stop Motion United Airlines Animated Ads .... United doing a promo campaign to be aired during 2008 Olympic Games (from China). There are about 5 in the series of of these ads, using an old world, stylized look and flavor. Some are all CGI or have 'Puter created elements, however, attempting to avoid the excess hyper-slick fluidinous and airbrushiness signature of CGI. The ads were produced from worldwide selection of studios/directors, including Jamie Caliri & his crew. Read & watch: United Airlines debuts new commercials Caliri's Ad is called Heart United's YouTube page. In case you do not know, Jamie is behind the 'Porsche of Stop Motion software' for Macs, Dragon Stop Motion

* Tennapel / Chiodos in news again .... How many times have I recently plugged Doug Tennapel & the Chiodos, here and here? It seems that I am doing an episodic series on them! Someone had a comment at Tennapel's YouTube page guessing or misleading us that the Stop Motion puppet was possibly for Doug's new Sockbaby but there was no confirmation or denial by Mr. Tennapel. Well, I just found out that, all this behind the scenes Stop Motion stuff is for an episode of the Sarah Silverman Show. A vid clip of Doug & Chiodos finally revealing the purpose of this alien lime green, Stop Mo puppet creature.


* LIO Observatedô: Stop Mo Animation forum, past month July .... Just announced, 'Master of the Majicks', authored by Mike Hankin. An in depth book about the Stop Motion Master, Ray Harryhausen. They say, 10 years in the making. Ernie Farino, a Stop Motion and all around animator in the early days, is behind the Publishing company producing this book. It is suppose to eventually be 3 volumes. Volume 2 will be available this September, however they are skipping Volume 1 and they give an explanation at Archive Editions.

Stop Motion process becoming very accessible, streamlined ('puters/software), lightweight & portable compared to 'Old'n Stop Mo days' of heavy & costly film cameras, pricey film lab processing, power consuming lighting equipment, massive heavy stages, complex to execute blue/screen. Emerging now, LED Lighting. This is actually for disco night club lighting, however, Craig from Stop MotionMaker, decided to take the trailblazing plunge, by purchasing & experiment with this 'new' source of lighting, which might be strong enough illumination alternative for the miniature environment of Stop Motion. Also, do not forget about this amazing very easy to setup, space-age & very lightweight, portable blue/green screen that we announced way back EEFX company.

This is somewhat peculiar to me. This poster shows a homebrew method how to make a double ball joint, however he makes a 'copyright claim' to this ball joint, as though he owns it?? He states, you cannot sell these kind of ball joints to others? Well, years ago, I experimented with almost identical method using 1/8 inch hole perforated 16guage thick sheet metal, 3/16" size balls, and using 2-56 T-nuts through the middle hole to hold the plates together under tension. He describes a technique similar to making bicycle 'chain link plate' double ball joints. Chain links are much stronger though, than the perforated metal which can have a tendency to bend Cheap easy double ball joint

Another free video hosting website wanting animation uploads, unfortunately good Stop Motion work that stands above the crowd may not be as plentiful as the other animation techniques. Looks like more online demand than 'supply' (Stop Motion)?? The new website is called 4mations and maybe with a twist. It does not appear to be a 'consumption for the masses' YouTube-like thing, but instead, perhaps more of a portfolio-like showcase, including prizes Also, do not forget about Wild Pitch TV that appeared last month at the messageboard. Do not know what the status is or if the website has been officially launched or in Beta. Not much content and especially, not much animation submissions, yet.

What an amazing find by this poster! A resource for sound effects! Soundsnap. I hate to burst his bubble though, our SMW News staff posted that about 1 year ago .

Looks, like a TIME CRUNCH with getting Coraline finished?? Hiring more people.

* Miscellaneous: Who is David Gordon Green & What is 'Life's A Zoo'? This D.G. Green dude appears to be known by the general independent film community and has kind of a cult following? I never heard of him until I got some news buzz about him which claims, Universal Studio has some interest in him. News article says one of Green's project is called Your Highness, " ....about a friend that smokes weed and fights dragons, or at least, creatures of some sort". He is also quoted as saying, wanting to use Harryhausen-esque Stop Motion. Status of project seems to be uncertain. I quickly looked, and it seems Green's contact info is difficult to get. David Gordon Green's Future Projects - Remake of Six Pack and More & Variety

Every once in awhile I have received press releases about an upcoming Stop Motion animation series, called Life's A Zoo. At the time though, there were no previews available and only still images of some of the Stop Mo scenes. Also, the Zoo website was always under construction (and still is) but now has a brief preview clip. I am still not sure of the concept of this series whether this is for cable TV or Internet. It seems to be similar to 'Robot Chicken' with regards to the 'Low Brow' kind of humor. Cuppa Coffee Studio (Canada) did the actual animation work. Then this other site, Blip TV has much more snippet clips than the official Zoo site.

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