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December 2006

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* Last Blog for '06: Americanized Aardman, The 'Junks' in Bulgaria, and 'Stasis' .... I am trying to blog only once a week, in my constant efforts to minimize being consumed by this 'Puter in front of me. Animate Clay's Marc Spess posted earlier in the week about this. I had that info too, but sticking to my once-a-week blog, however, I will also post here, to further spread the word. A series in production at the CBS network (in USA). They are importing new episodes of Aardman's Creature Comforts series, but with Yankee-American dialogue. Understandable I suppose, why the "suits" do it. There are many 'live action' TV series, first done in the UK, then Americanized versions re-done here. A teaser clip. Some behind the scenes uncompleted animation takes 1 2 3 4 5 6

Moving right along ....an inprogress all Stop Motion project from some creatives/artists in Bulgaria. I recall this one a few years ago and apparently, they are still working on it? Where are you "Suits"? Sheeesh.... have some guts and be bold, and take a chance on something 'different'. It looks cool. An odd assortment of Stop Mo characters. The puppets (except for the bunny) all kind of organic and grungy. Absolutley NOT like the typical bright, shiney, & pristine puppets as done in USA & Europe, BUT also, it is not so rough or etheral looking like the non-commercial stuff such as from the Brothers Quay. These Bulgarian created puppet characters live in a Junk Yard; a rugged & jgritty environment and you can see that the characters are descendents from that world. Check it out The Junks; plenty of links and also teaser clips.

Here in America, another non-mainstream very independent darkish & Sci-Fi'sh all Stop Motion project, created by Jason A. Hite, who was or is still working in special effects makeup. He completed a surreal quasi-photoreal futuristic Stop Motion short. From the behind the scenes pics, looks like shot inside his home. The sets & puppets are huge . A teaser clip of Stasis. Looks interesting. I know, it is easy to be a 'critic'. IMO, the images maybe look just a little too crisp & sharp. Maybe in post, it could be overlayed with mist, fog, smoke, or 'something' to soften the images. Anyway, it looks like it was an ambitious project. Brief Stasis article and Jason Hite's website with plenty of stuff to look at. I believe you can buy a Dvd of this 8 minute short and includes, behind the scenes. If you got any extra 'coin', maybe you might consider buying a Dvd and give a Stop Mo Bro some confidence.

* On E Entertainment Network, 'Starveillance' all Stop Mo series ... Cuppa Coffee in Canada did the hands-on work. They sure are cranking out a lot of Stop Motion in upper North America. Starveillance premieres Jan. 5 See some teaser clips. It plays back a little rough, but watchable. I am sure the animation is smoother than what you see online.

* Okay, I quit .... you won't see me until next year. Perhaps 'you all' will be more cyber virtual talkative and participate more at the message board, instead of just lurking & hoarding all the tips, advice, wisdom, volunteered by the very few dedicated SMA members. I do not want to hear any whining, that you are too busy. I know you check your email regularlyand then you quietly lurk at the message board. It is your choice to be apathetic and non-involved, but just remember; there is no guarantee that the message board or Anthony Scott, myself, and other Stop Motionist notables will be here tomorrow. So, speak-up & contribute. "Hasta La Vista". Maybe, "I'll be back" Addendum: Geeez, I just re-read the above mini-rant. I bet you think I am going to apologize now? Hell No! BTW, help Anthony and BUY the SMA.com Crew Caps & Winter-style Beanies.He is not going to get rich off it, but it would be a symbolic testament of your support for the Stop Motion message board (somebody is paying for it to be online) Edit 12.31.06

* CGI losing appeal? Maybe it needs to REST & allow OTHERS in the 'Game' .... With CGI, it seems like we are not as impressed so much by "it". Perhaps, the excess of it or the formulaic, homogenized stuffed pumped out by mainstream, and maybe, especially, so-so, mediocre stories. Initially, CGI wowed us and me too, but I became numb to it, real fast. Hmmm .... perhaps the public subconsciously sensing that CGI has an assembly line, manufactured quality? (the 'formula' feel to them)

Stop Motion is rooted in 'ol' school' .... still mostly hand-made and today, with perhaps 'some' assist of technology, IMO, can still make an impression on the big screen. Stop Mo has gravity-weight, soul, warmth, , real-world & tactile ambiance. Some of the ol' school special effects can still work in the digital-schmigital 21st century. DO NOT let the Technological 'pushers' brainwash you, that classic & traditional is dead. Foreground miniatures, forced perspective and maybe even glass paintings are still viable. Somehow, to me, I am more impressed by the creativity, inventiveness, and problem solving (compared to sitting on your butt mouse clicking methods) that it takes to produce ol' school special effects. Perhaps someday, the box office hit wannabies (the suits) will see that CGI itself, is no guarantee. CGI Gone Awry: The Worst Special Effects of the Computer-Generated. Hey, I did not write that article. Free Speech, you know? If you want to whine , send your complaints to Rob Wright @ Twitch Guru. Forum discussion about article.

* Old world 'Trompe L'Oeil' (to trick the eye) .... A French word referring to an art technique involving realistic imagery in order to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects really exist, instead of being just two-dimensional paintings. There is this sidewalk street artist who does amazing stuff with chalk drawing-illustrations. For some of his work, he uses the technique of anamorphosis to further create a 3D illusion effect of the flat chalk drawing, where it appears to pop-up from the sidewalk. His name is Julian Beever. Here is a video slideshow of his work, also one at YouTube. At Planet Perplex some more pics with comments there and a quick explanation & pics how it's done. Julian's Website Portfolio. NO mouseclicking photoshop pixel digital-schmigital manipulation. All ol' school, traditional, low tech and keeping-it-real baby, but the finished product has tons of awesome creative bang! Keep this in mind with Stop Motion; it is a powerful "Art form" and can entertain or make whatever statement you desire.

* Trailer-teaser slamming CGI .... Something I thought of doing for my own opening of my B-movie trailer tests, but not dissing CGI. Perhaps in the opening credits, hyping Stop Motion & Ol' school methods, similar to Ray Harryhausen's Classics, "Presented through the Miracle of Dynamation!" sort of thing. Kind of a marketing gimmick but also fun and retro. Here it is, a teaser for a feature animation coming out in '07, Quicktime small med large Addendum: CG pics winning big, but 2-D can still hit a Homer Edit 12.24.06

* Corpse Bride Online & Free .... Google recently forked over $1.65 Billion to OWN YouTube. I can see the value, fun & entertainment of teaser & trailer clips being shown online, but the 'entire' Fugg'n Movie? Well, you can watch all of Corpse Bride in 8 parts. If this kind of excess copyright abuse by only the few continues, I am guessing stiffer policies & terms may be implemented by YouTube, especially when Google fully takes over behind the scenes. Like always, few scumbag A-holes make it bad for the rest of us. Right now it is sort of the wild untamed territory with online Video Sharing. So, if Google/YouTube gets hit with more frequent lawsuits, it will not be the same in the future. I suppose, one can say at this time, just "Enjoy it while it Lasts". Some reads for you 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 Edit 12.17.06

* The Good Stuff about YouTube .... 'Tons' of so-so videos and dry & dumb home vids, but much in the spirit of fun. Everyone having a few megabytes of cyber-virtual video fame. There are however, some very creative & interesting gems out there. Online video sharing sites are sort-of an equalizer-democratizer for Artists of all varieties to expose one's talents or skills to the masses (if there is true talent there). No longer does talent or exceptional skill have to be filtered or censored through talent agencies or the few media/showbiz power players, 'choosing' for you. You can make your own decisions and hopefully recognize good or unique upcoming talent, material, entertainment, etc. But sometimes I question what becomes momentarily popular on YouTube; some pretty stupid stuff. Then you got the new phenomenon of Viral Marketing.

Remember last month I spotlighted here, Lasse Gjertsen from Norway? He seems to now be getting a little bit of notoriety in the mainstream circles. Read Unrefined Musician Uses Stop-Motion Video To Play a Catchy Tune. Some of Lasse's works are very creative and other's, well, kind of low brow but he has a core spark-energy that will probably evolve. BTW, if you did not see yet, here is one of Lasse's other, better works I'm Taking a Walk. In the overinflated costs of mainstream showbiz & ad market, something similar to this piece, might cost a few million $$$ to produce. IMO, the writing, creativity, direction, design, and finesse execution that Lasse demonstrates here, is what brightly shines through and most likely done, very cost-effectively; in a corner of his bedroom on his computer!! Also, here is another good read YouTube not just for stupid videos Edit 12.17.06

* 'Annie Awards' Nomination for Best Commericials .... This award is like the Oscars, but for animated works only. In general, I do not pay attention to 'awards' that much.Plenty of creative talent & works out there under the radar of mainstream suits & studios and not recognized. Anyway .... Some nominated Best Tv ads. I posted these in past blogs but because the internet is ephemeral and also, in this modern but getting crazier culture, many of the public's brains seem to be afflicted with ADD ; I will post here again. One is the Laika made, ESPN Stop Motion "Believe" spot, The Making Of & finished Believe ad. The other nominated one, the "Dragon" ad for United done by Duck Studios, also using Stop Mo animation techniques. At United website you can see the making of (a whopping 30mb download) and the completed Ad. Duck Studios, does a wide variety of animation styles & techniques. This particular demo reel shows the Stop Motion samples Addendum: Okay, I re-edited the above and toned down my ranting stye rhetoric. There is perhaps some value to being recognized by your peers via 'Awards'; IF it does not get too nepotistic, elitist, or political. Stop Motion needs every shred of public exposure. Someone emailed me this .... also nominated for Best Commercial, Seamus Walsh & Mark Caballero work on the Candy Factory spot. The complete '06 Annie's nomination list. Edit 12.17.06

* LIO's Third Secret Missing Tool .... In last week's news/blog (12.09.06), I gave you an update about where I am heading and short term goals with regards to Stop Motion. I am trying to establish some kind of shooting/animation production work-flow, so that each project, tests & experiments will hopefully be efficient, easy & quick to set-up. I cannot guarantee it will work, but something that I am striving for through trial & error.

Well, I kind of whined last week. I had a specific tool that was essential to the 3 major parts to my workflow: It was the Sanyo IDshot camera, Stop Motion-Maker Advance Software, and I finally received delivery of the final component to the LIO Recipe . I complained about the company being slow to ship it, but as I suspected, it was merely due to the Holiday period causing delays. I will reveal to you what it is but not just yet. When it is exposed, you might say, "What the Fug? Is that it?" Ahhh .... but that will just prove 'your' shallow & neanderthalic mind! Tools or techniques DO NOT have to be High Tech Complex or Xtreme (that is a clue). In many different aspects of Life, the principle of 'Less is More' is applicable. Also, this item was mentioned at the Stop Motion forum (July '06) with a posted link but it slipped by most of you. I initially missed it too, until I took a second look and did my usual Sherlock Holmes-style deep research & investigation Edit 12.17.06

* Marvel Heroes Ani-Move Studio review (part 1) ..... I briefly mentioned this new product a few months ago. Recently, the Jazwares company was generous to provide me a test model. Very eye-catching packaging for the kids. Practically no assembly. Just pull it out of box and install the batteries and with the RCA video & audio plugs connect to any TV and you get an instant image on the screen. Internally, it stores only 44 frames, however the camera has a slot to accept an optional SD memory card and it can store almost unlimited number of frames. It plays back at 6 frames a second. So that means it takes 75% less time to animate for one second. The results are not so smooth, but remember this was designed for kids. The Ani-Movie Studio comes with Marvel character cut-out cardbard flat figures that one has to punch out and assemble. I have to say, they are delicate and I think in the hands of kids, these flat cut-out figures might get pretty well beat-up or parts lost. Also, the cut-out figures seem too large to lay against the base & supplied backgrounds.

IMO, the way Marvels Hero Ani-Movie Studio is designed, it is more suited to 2D or flat style animation, whether cut-out, drawn, animated finger painting, flat clay animation on the base, or maybe some kind of rotoscoping-tracing animation. The camera is attached to a neck and is in vertical position and shoots downward towards the base. You can try Stop Motion with it by swiveling the entire neck to the horizontal side position. It only gives you one main axis of camera adjustment (via the neck), but unforunately, the 'base' is very visible in the scene. There is not enough movement of the camera head for more positioning adjustments to compose scenes for Stop Motion. IMO, the camera head or neck part should have another main axis of adjustment; or maybe could have been designed so that the head can be removed from the neck-base and then some cables to re-connect the camera to the base or neck. If the camera head had more omni-directional adjustments, it would be more user friendly for Stop Motion or other animation options. Someone who is a hands-on tinkerer can probably do these home brew simple modifications.Also, I think maybe small Stickfas-type poseable figures in the form of Marvel Characters could be part of the package.

I do not know if there will be later versions of Ani-Movie Studio, but this is certainly an interesting start. Very slick marketing too. I think the inventor may have something and perhaps might develop other products? I am thinking about a very economical LunchBox-type unit that connects to TV for the animation market? Also, using memory cards for frame storage instead of a hard drive.You know where to reach me, if you need any designing help, advice, or consultation.

Here is Jazwares website (flash-heavy), still in the works, about the Ani-Movie Studio. If you click the 'videos demos' link, it will be more clearer to you about my comments. Discussion at Forum. In a later blog installment I will offer some more thoughts. Also, believe it or not, I can see the possible application of this unique "toy", as a useful pre-production tool for storyboarding & timing of your animation project ( Hint: Animatics). Stay Tuned! Edit 12.10.06

* Overdue Update: StopMoWorks aka LIO Debut .... What can I say? I cannot help that real life gets in the fugg'n way . Do not point your finger at me saying, "What the hell is taking you so long?" There are three of your own fingers pointing back at yourself and I can say the same about you. Also, do not second guess and mistakenly think that I am not doing anything behind the scenes. I got plenty of ideas, tests, experiments, techniques, all percolating and I write them down and they are not just floating vaporously & aimlessly in my head. My style in most everything I do is kind of slow & methodical in the beginning. I take the time to first visualize, rehearse (in my mind), and lots of thinking with a pencil.This has sometimes been frustrating to my past bosses or co-workers (at regular jobs) because they are conditioned to be impatient and hyper stressed. It is like the Hare ... they are all Hurry-Up and do plenty of Screw-ups. I am probably more like the steadfast Tortoise who will win in the end and then I soon become consistently proficient & productive .

I have not actively sought animation related work. I still get some requests to do custom Stop Mo armatures but I will not sell myself short. Many times the inquires are expecting Wal-Mart prices . Only if it is an interesting project and it if I am compensated for it, I might consider it. In addition to the vicissitudes of Life, taking on other side projects can create further delays. I have sometimes accepted some armature work, when I knew I should not have.

Stop Motion is so damn time consuming. My overall objective is to have some kind of production set-up where I can crank-out Stop Motion reasonably fast. and still, somewhat have slick production values. I do not want to be stuck with one project that will consume years. I have no single project, but more of a potpourri of different things I want to attempt. I do not want to be bogged-down with complex workflow such as this obsession that some beginners have with Digital Still Cameras. Also, all the time & labor in creating involved miniature sets, is not for me. I know what my end distribution will be, and TV resolution is still good enough and acceptable. These will be my main key tools; using the infamous Sanyo iDshot as my primary camera and Stop Motion-Maker Advance. I want to see how much I can "push" them. For me, one of the other challenges will be, trying to get the biggest bang for the $ Buck $. I have on order, another important and not expensive item-tool, that will be essential to my workflow formula. I have not received it yet and 'they' seem to be taking long time to ship it. Maybe it is because I just recently ordered it during the conjested Holiday period. At a later time, I may reveal the mysterious "third element". Anyway, that is the latest from StopMoWorks Edit 12.10.06

* Bent Image Studio does TV commercial Ad for South America client ..... IMO, many times ads that are of the 'International' market seem more interesting, daring and with different sensibilites than the stuff made for the Yanks. A formulaic style or pattern about USA made ads, or maybe a somewhat self imposed creative restriction by the ad agencies, suits,  etc ? This Bent Image (Portland, Oregon USA) produced ad was for a client, I believe in Argentina, S.A.. It combines Stop Motion with 'some' CGI, but the computer stuff is very subtle and compliments the Stop Motion and still preserving the organic-ness tactile feel & qualities of it. Check it out, it is called, "Lux Provocateur" OT player, or YouTubified version. I am not sure if this is for TV, Internet viral marketing, for USA viewing or just for South American audiences. Why was it done in English? I hear there is a Spanish version. I am not aware if there are any behind the scenes about this project. I do know that Chel White directed it and someone by the name of Jim Clarklink 2 did some concept work for this. Well, up to you to do your own searching and maybe post at message boards, if you like.

* Stop Motion Studio still going since 1947! You say what? Yes an animation studio that has been around 60 fugg'n years! You ask, where? Well ... definitely not here in the USA. You already know, historically in good ol' America, the mainstream Suit's rejection of Stop Motion and 'they' still generally eschewed it. Grandpa O'Brien & Uncle Ray struggled with Stop Motion and studios were verrrry cheap with production budgets.

Anyway .... the name of the Studio is SE-MA-FOR Film Productions which is in POLAND! They do variety of classic style animation techniques and special effects. In the USA we are so ego-centric & myopic and we forget that there is a vast world & variety of 'culture' out there. That is one of the benefits of the Internet, I suppose; becoming more of a Global Village and maybe jogging our memories that the USA is not the center of the world. You might recognize Se-Ma-For past works or heard of them indirectly. They just completed the Stop Motion Peter & the Wolf, directed by Suzie Templeton, which has just been released in Europe on DVD. Also, some years ago, Sem-A-For, was involved with an unusual stop motion animation, of almost full human size puppets. It was called DIM. They have plenty to read at their site and at bottom of their home website page there are some teaser clips. Here is one to start you off Maru

* JibJab's Cut-Out Style Animation ... HOT! You hear me boiling sometimes about Flash enabled websites. NO GOOD if used excessively. Screws up efficient site searching & navigating and it can get too gimmicky and gets old. A pain in the ass waiting for each Flash page to load, even with broadband connection. However, Flash does seem to be a very effective & creative tool for a certain kind of animation style. Flash Animation is kind of a high-techy version of ol' school Cut-out Animation as used by many animators of past & present and by the well known Classic & Cult, Monty Python Flying Circus, with Cut-Out animation done by Terry Gilliam.

Weird Al Yancovic recently released a music video parody of 'American Idol' winner, Taylor Hicks' song, "Do I Make You Proud". Here is a news item about Weird Al & JibJab Studio. Al calls his version, "Do I Creep You Out". Looks like JibJab has a nice little niche going. No hyper realistic CGI excess but simple flat 2-D Flash/Cut-out Animation style. It is the Creativity & Freshness of their product that sells it. Seems suited for internet, as one can probably pump out Flash animation way more quickly than other animation methods, and especially, Stop Motion, which is possibly the most labor intensive. ____________________

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