Technical Difficulties and Animating "Blind"

Well, let me start with the good news :)  Krampus is in the can.  Two late nights animating Saturday and Sunday, and all of my shots are done.  Friday night, however, was a nightmare of frustratingly epic proportions....

I spent the evening preparing everything--tweaking lighting, getting my paint and glue at hand for quick fixes, checking camera angle, setting up tripod support in case of rampant kitty, etc.  Psyching myself up for a night of animating.  Reviewing storyboards.  Got Roman all settled in, kissed the Queen, and disappeared into the studio for a few hours of life breathing.  Until I clicked to open Stop Motion Pro.  Y'see, a few months back I made the mistake of upgrading to Windows 10 from 7.  And I started getting error messages from SMP and Windows.  "This program requires an app download.  Download DirectPlay now" ...ok download..."Could not read or write memory"...Aaaaargh!  After an hour or so of tinkering, digging out my serial # to reinstall and reregister, I finally got the software to at least open.  But with no live view, or onion skin.  And the error popups kept coming.  I just kept sliding them over because if I closed the messages, SMP would close also.

So I decided to use my wife's laptop.  Had to download SMP, reregister again.  Had to reset my serial number because I then had too many registrations, only to have the same issue on the new laptop running Windows 8.  Error error error.
Turns out, my version of SMP, Action HD 7.5, does not run on Windows 8 and up.  I needed an upgrade to use the software.  $160.  (Regular price is $175, gee thanks for the $15 discount SMP).  I don't have money laying around, especially one week before Christmas.

So I decided to go in blind.  No onion skinning, no live view.  Just me and my camera.  And since the end of the clip basically sees the set floor get destroyed, I had one shot to get it done right.

The first night went perfectly, I couldn't be happier.  The second night, the animation plays rushed, but I can work with it by manipulating playback speed, slowing down the clip.  Might be choppy but its supposed to be an old b&w film so it'll do.  It is what it is.  And it is done!

Watch for the one minute PSA here in a couple of days :)


Kreeping Krampus

I am trying like mad to get my Krampus PSA done in the next few days, animating tonight, fri, sat...here are a few screencaps from it so far...


Krampus kontinues...

All set up for the first part of my last scene, essentially the only lengthy scene in the Krampus PSA.  The majority of the short is quick cuts, like a commercial, leading up to this moment.  "Lets see what happens to this naughty girl on Christmas morning..."  Coal bounces out of fireplace to girl (rubbing her eyes with sleep).  Girl picks up coal which begins to heat up.  Drops coal which bursts into flame.  Xmas lights flicker and go out. Black.  Fireplace ignites highlighting the form of Krampus now huddled where the coal once was...

Its hard to see in the pic, but there is a bit of clay coal suspended on fishing line over the fireplace.  The fishing line is wrapped and tied to the thread spool which is mounted on a wooden dowel which is hot glued to my gauges.  Ive never used this method before, normally I would use wire to animate the coal, but the practical lighting on the Xmas tree created so many shadows of the wire that it was virtually impossible to photoshop out.  Hence the (hopefully invisible) fishing line.


Unearthing Jenny Greenteeth

Poor poor Jenny G....so neglected....I never did finish the sculpt, she sat under a plastic bag for years until one day the oil in the clay broke down the wood blocks in her feet and she just fell over.  And shame on me, I left her like that.  Thankfully the feet are whats left to do, so no major damage to fix, except to somehow rig her up while I finish the sculpt.  Also.....she's filthy....gonna pop her in the fridge to harden her and then give her an alcohol wipe sponge bath...


Ten Years Later....

Last week saw the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the impetus for my stop mo adventures.  This is what I posted on Facebook:

" Ten years ago, a storm rocked my world. My queen and I watched from a distance as our city drowned and burned, and in the back of my brain, a story began to brew. In the months following Katrina, I poured all of my angst and anger and hurt into a monster in my mind, and Jenny Greenteeth was born. I began to research stop motion, and along the way made some wonderful online friends who became essential to my recovery, while my city recovered. I started blogging. Discovered StopMoShorts visual haikus. Realized I had a lot of stories to tell, and that I could do it from a dark little corner of my kitchen.
So much of my Jenny G story is a morbid fairy tale version of Katrina. The monster, Ms.Greenteeth, the hurricane personified, with her single eye, the eye of the storm. A doomed little girl named Nola, caught in her destructive path.
Now a decade later, now that I know how to make a puppet, how to shoot frames, import and edit, now that I have a handful of short films under my belt, I think its finally time to let the monster out. Time to focus on the film that has been swimming 'round my brain all along. I hope you will join me on this journey. Just don't get too close to the water......."

So....I have been slowly and periodically hammering away at my tiny stop mo Krampus PSA.  My studio is a hoarders dream of a mess right now and I cant even get to my animation table (the little filler shots that Ive done for Krampus have been squeezed into whatever tiny spaces I could find....one shot was even balanced on my painters easel lol).  So Ive got some cleaning to do, some organizing, one or two hefty shots left on Krampus, and then I am putting Unearthed on hold to officially begin work on Jenny G!  Its been a long time coming and I cannot put it off any longer...


Streetcar Gremlins in Watercolor

Watercolor has become my medium of choice when depicting my lil gremlins.  Here are three of my most recent paintings.  I'm torn when it comes to the Nola children's book, about whether to watercolor the whole shebang or incorporate my puppets.  When I began conceptualizing the story, I intended to use as many "real" elements as possible (even considered constructing a miniature streetcar interior), but I've been loving the watercolors so.
I suspect I will probably end up with some mix, somewhere in the middle....wont find that balance until I start actually creating pages in Photoshop, I suppose...


Nutria Bat Bodied

Started building up the nutria bat's body with upholstery foam and styrofoam.  Next, painting the head, feet, and wings before beginning to add fur...


"Nola & the Streetcar Gremlins" - The Nutria Bat

The original Nutria Bat, from Monster Month 2007

In my previous post on the book dummy, the left hand page shows Nola being carried away by Nutria Bats.  The bats will be puppets created for the book, and I've been working on them here and there, this weekend I sculpted the first head.  The wings were made months ago by laying out the armature and painting a couple of thin layers of latex for the membrane, a tip I got long ago from the great Nick Hilligoss.  The head is sculpey around a foil core.  After baking the head, I removed some of the foil, enough to fit the epoxy "head" of the armature, and Gorilla-glued the sculpted clay head onto the armature.  Body will be buildup of upholstery foam covered in brown fake fur.


Book Dummy

When I decided to begin working on "Nola & the Streetcar Gremlins" about a year ago, one of the first steps for me was to create a book dummy.  After doing some research, I settled on a landscape format, 32 pages, and crafted a mini version of my book using sketchbook paper that I can haul around with me.  It is about 4"x6", stapled binding.  Inside, I can plan compositions of individual pages, sketch illustrations, layout and edit text, all in pencil.  When I have lived with a page for awhile and have settled on it, I redraw in pen.  I will use this dummy as a guide when laying out final pages in photoshop.  These "storyboards" will also help me in the fabrication phase, as I intend to use my Nola puppet for the Nola character, posed, photographed, and composited into watercolor and digital backgrounds.  Some set pieces, props, and supporting characters will also be fabricated, so I will have a "preproduction" phase similar to a stop motion film.


Troll Triptych

I've been working on this oil painting for years, fiddling here and there with it, and hit a stride over the weekend.  This is the central panel in a triptych showcasing the magic of New Orleans City Park.  Other two panels (not pictured) are also a work-in-progress but getting near completion, I'd say 75% there. This is the painting that jump started my Nola Legends series.  I was so frustrated by the sheer size of this one that I decided to go uber-small for the series (2ft x 3 ft compared to 5" x 7").  I'd forgotten just how much I love working (and reworking) with oil paints, I need to do more with them...


Nola and the Streetcar Gremlins

I always have a lot cooking on the stove top, rotating between paintings and animation and sculpture and you name it.  One of the in-development projects (that you may see me blogging about here) is a children's book called "Nola & the Streetcar Gremlins".

I have an ongoing series of paintings featuring fantasy creatures in classic New Orleans settings, and the one image that seems to stand out over and over again with crowds at art markets is my Streetcar Gremlins.  My little gremlins have evolved into their own entity, inspiring watercolors and figures.  It feels only natural to have them featured in book form.

Me and some of my gremlin art at the Piety Street Art Market

I started reading up on children's books, mainly the pros and cons of seeking out a publishing house versus self-publishing through a site like Amazon or Lulu.com (I am still undecided, though leaning towards self publishing because it would guarantee the rights to Nola et al would remain with me, most important).  I have also been reading accounts on writing for children, my fave being the book pictured here, "Origins of Story on Writing for Children", which includes essays from people like Maurice Sendak and Madeleine L'Engle.  And of course I can always bounce ideas off of my personal expert, my five year old :)

My little puppet Nola seemed like the perfect vehicle for a book series, so I squashed the two thoughts together and the idea was born. Each book in the series will be called "Nola & The..." and each book will start the same way...

"...Nola always wears her scarf, even in the summer.  Her feet are on sideways, and her eyes are quite large, and sometimes one of them wanders.  She is a very ordinary girl, with very, very bad luck.  Just about any bad thing you could ever imagine happening has happened to Nola..."


Ghost Puppet - rods n cables

Ghostbusters subway ghost

I have decided to go with a ghost, spook, spectre for my first rod and cable puppet, using my video tutorial from Stan Winston school as a guide.  The puppet will be built up from, and remain mounted to, a base board which will help limit movement so that I can focus on the head mechanism.  The "spine" of the puppet will be made from flexible toilet bowl tubing which will allow my pup to sway and hover.  It will most likely be painted in purples and blues, except for the area nearest the wood base which will be black along with the base and my pants and shoes, to create the illusion of a fading ghostly figure.  I have to continually remind myself that this is a "live" puppet and not initially intended for film (my inclination would be to paint the bottom green for chroma keying, or to simply "composite" the pup with a digitally induced fade).  It will be challenging I think to try to capture the fade with a paintjob, but I have faith.  I will probably start slapping clay on this guy in the next day or two.


Stan Winston School


I have been drooling over the courses offered at Stan Winston School for many many months, and now I am officially a student!  For my birthday, my Queen and Little Prince bought two courses on dvd for me, one teaching stop motion puppet fabrication with the awesome Chiodo Bros (six hours long!!!) and the other focused on how to create a monster puppet with rods and cables.
I've been following the school on facebook for awhile and have been flabbergasted by the sheer diversity of courses offered, streaming or on dvd, everything from simple latex how tos to complex animatronics, costumes, set making, creature design, you name it, all taught by industry professionals.  You can even sign up for a monthly service to stream four courses per month.
I cant wait to get kracken on a rod/cable pup! I just need to decide what kind of creature I want to make.  Stay simple with no legs (audrey two?) or go whole hog (a deep one from lovecraft lore?) or maybe go somewhere in between (a zombie that would require no puppeteering in his loose hanging arms?).  I plan to use silicone for the first time here also (yay new materials!).


I'm Having Krampus...

Krampus puppet, feeling shy...
Nose-picker? NAUGHTY!!
Santa's hands

One of my ongoing stopmo projects is a short short featuring Krampus the Anti-Claus. Krampus is Santa's twisted companion, responsible for the naughty children of the world.  Coal is his calling card, and he is often depicted with bundles of birch branches for swatting bad boys and girls before dragging them to Hell.
My short will be presented as an old-school PSA speaking out against Christmas.  Due to the depression and elf layoffs, less toy production means more Krampus as Santa is forced to re-evaluate his definition of "naughty."  My tagline is "Ban Christmas for Krampus".
The short will be around one minute, b&w, and will only feature a handful of shots.  A homeless elf in an alley (done).  A truly naughty girl about to stab someone (done).  Classic shot of Santa checking his list (closeup, only his arms produced, not a full puppet). A nose-picker labelled as naughty who will then be our example of what happens when Krampus calls on Christmas morn...


I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaack...

Its alive.....ALIVE!!

I've been away from my blog for too long...been trying to troubleshoot posting from my phone so that updates will be easier to make and I ended up settling on an app called Blogaway for Android which is the first that has allowed me to successfully add images...so this post is a bit of a test...if all goes well, watch for more postage comin' atcha.......