Tuber Love

Kiss My Potato!

Just thought I should take a minute to explain my Production Co. name....Ubatuber...derived from the Latin for....kidding...Its actually sort of a shout-out to my wife, and her terms of endearment. You see, I am the Super Potato (only by night...by day I am very mild-mannered...sometimes even a Sweet Potato). I've used the name Ubatuber since I signed up with AOL in 2001 (ubertuber was taken already, but the 'A' has grown on me), and the rest is history. Here's a progression of logo design over the years...

I've also started tinkering with a little stop-mo Production Co. vid, maybe 5 seconds long, to play before the Jenny short, using a fairly simple set and a real potato...should be pretty cool...


Water Water Everywhere....

I have a few ideas for "animating" the water, and may end up using all of them in different spots, depending on the shot. For the pier shots, I can basically build an attachment that will slide into the set, just below the pier, separating it from the underwater set by a flat surface painted green that I can later remove digitally to add the appearance of a watery surface. This way I can set up a shot, capture once with the underwater floor visible, slide in the greenscreen, and capture again. Ideally two identical frames, one with greenscreen, one without. Theoretical at this point I guess, but it would give me more freedom to experiment in post-production without having to "reshoot" anything. Definitely something to consider in set design.
For the shoreline watery shots, I am thinking about constructing a surface to physically animate...a big piece of wire mesh coated with small green balls of clay...pond scum....then I can animate "waves" in the wire mesh...
As for the underwater camera shots, I can add some layered shadows and tones, streaming bubbles or debris, and wavy effects in post-production also. The key to these scenes will be properly animating the seaweed to give it an underwater, flowy feel. Muted and echo-y sound effects will help too.



Set Piece #1 in the bag...spent about 8 hours on it start to finish. Its about 3 ft long, 3.5 ft tall with the trees. Started with styrofoam, layered three long pieces, wrapped the whole thing in wire mesh, and sprayed it black. For the trees, I came up with a really quick and easy way to mass produce them. I lay out a piece of PVC pipe, approx. 2" diameter. Bend a strip of wiremesh longways on top of the pipe. Stretch a strip of plaster cloth on top of the mesh, bunch it to give it some shape, let it harden, and viola...trees.
I used 2 bags of moss to cover the black wire and styrofoam base, after attaching the two trees, then started adding some small details like the picket fence and 'no trespassing' sign. There will be another piece like this on the opposite side of the cabin, then four progressively smaller versions in front of it making a path to the cabin. The mossy parts need more variation tonally, I may try spraypaint, a light mist over certain areas. Drybrushing won't work because the moss sheds.
I am also considering using backdrops instead of greenscreen effects. This might give me an opportunity to incorporate some painting or charcoal work, and would give me a little more control over the backgrounds, allow me to create more depth with less work. Most of the water effects will be greenscreen and/or digital, so 'scenic backdrops' seem like the more interesting route. May have one ready for a test vid next week...


Full Set Sketch

This is my opening shot. Fade from black. Pan out from the cave. Oooh look, skeletons (all headless...she likes the heads the best :P) Follow the legs of the pier, break the surface of the lake. Pan down the pier, follow the path, up to the cabin. I want it to look like all one shot so its going to be very difficult. This sketch is preliminary, what I'm going to use for the storyboard of the opening shot. Final product should have much more seaweed. Gotta finish storyboarding. Can't build sets til I know what to build....


Puppet Pieces

This week I'm thinking about puppets. Construction of. The little girl puppet that I used in my tests was made entirely out of plasticine, then cast in plaster, so that I ended up with two exact copies, one made out of clay, the other plaster. Then I basically took both apart, mixed them up, and put them back together. The parts I knew I would be animating (mouth, eyebrows, pigtails) remained clay, while the rest I changed to plaster. This gives me an easy place to grip the puppet during animation without fear of smooshing. Generally I like the concept, and the functionality of the mixed media, but for the Jenny puppet I want something different. The only parts of Jenny that I plan on animating are her eye, which will just spin in its socket, her mouth, which needs to open and close, and her arms and hands. Her torso, legs and head will mostly be animated on...seaweed sliming down, that sort of thing. But her body needs to be flexible, to pull herself over the pier, so instead of a clay-plaster mix, I am thinking about using
latex. Flexible surface, moldable, and best of
all, paintable, so I can really give her some texture. For Jenny's oversized arms, I sculpted in clay, made a plaster mold, and cast in latex. Then, using wire mesh and some armature wire, I sculpted her webbed hands, coated them in latex with a paintbrush, and attached them at the wrists. I'm going to give the webbing some wear-n-tear pre paintjob, but the animation test on the hands went great.
Next I did a little run test with the still-unfinished girl puppet. I painted up a forest-silhouette greenscreen, which will ultimately be used as a set background with the cabin, and animated in front of it. My setup is fairly ghetto, my stage consists of two chairs placed side-by-side...high-tech stuff. See, we (being my wife and I) have this whole, empty, spare room. We call it the Spare Room. Its actually a decent sized studio, which has slowly been filled and refilled with...stuff. It has come a long way in the last couple of months and is almost totally cleaned out, which means I will be able to set up stages, and sets, and lights...but for now, for the tests, I've got two chairs and a board.
In the pic above, I've got the light set up on one chair (unfortunately not enough light to provide a decent consistent tone for the greenscreen), the puppet, camcorder and greenscreen on another chair, captured through my hard-drive and visible on my computer's monitor. I only shot about 50 frames, maybe 2 sec. of footage. It's looped in the video test below.

Hand & Run Tests

Watch the video
...another quick little vid...pleased with the way the hand animates...very easy to manipulate...for the running part, the puppet is stationary and the backgraound is moved frame by frame...