Earned Excitement


Today I finally finished animation. Very exciting!

First of all I had a shot where the characters passed behind a tree with some nice mushroomy growths that cast a shadow on to them, so I set up the camera with some card and cut the shape into it using the Stop Motion Pro live feed as a guide.

This shot also called for the wolf to walk up on to a step, so rather than tilting the camera like I did last time, I set up something slightly better using some blocks of wood that I drilled holes in to so that I could tie-down.
 I also used some CineFoil to get a nice dappling effect.
 It was a good thing  only needed my wooden blocks for one shot... turns out balsa wood wasn't the durable material it should have been. Who knew.

With that shot done I set about doing a dangerous shot. Dangerous because I needed to create a rig to allow my puppet to be lifted off the ground as it jumps over a tree stump. My original rigging points didn't work at all and snapped off when I was testing them (for some reason I decided to do this once the fur was all on so repairing them was impossible).

My solution was to use foam-covered aluminium wire mega-twists (as seen at the top of this post) and hot glue some metal rods into the end of them. I then used a power drill and made holes in the front and back balsa wood sections so the rigs could slot in to them.

Other than potentially destroying my puppet for a 2 second shot, the other reason I left this shot until last was because the rigging points would create a hole in the fur, which wouldn't be visible in this shot but, of course, the wolf was facing the opposite direction in some shots, so I didn't want there to be big gaping holes visible.



The End Is In Sight!


Today was probably the best day of animation yet. Managed to finish 3 shots, totalling 14 seconds of animation, and now I only have 5 seconds of animation to go! I might actually finish my film on time...

So the first shot I did was the slow-mo time lapse animation, which provided a challenged because I had to do a nice smooth walk cycle about 12x slower than I'm used to. It actually taught me a lot about why certain things move when they do in the walk cycle, opposing motion and all that.

Also, because of the speed of the movement I found it useful to use Stop Motion Pro's drawing functions so I could mark out how fast the puppet should move.

Below is the setup for the shot that ends my film and it turned out to be the most complicated lighting setup I've ever done, and somehow I managed to set it up extra quick and finish off the 4 seconds of animation before uni closed. Maybe I've gained enough xp to be a Level 2 Lighting Person? Awesome.

Time Lapse

POSTDATED - 14/05/12

Today I've been working on the big sexy time lapse shot. Setting up this shot required a little bit of extra equipment borrowed from the photography department, as well as having to venturing into the engineering department! Excitement!

Anyway, first off I chroma keyed my live-action guide footage in, which was the live-action footage at sunset of Ky walking over the horizon at St. Lythans. While I was fiddling around with making the low-res guide footage I also had a go at compositing this live-action footage onto the long exposure time lapse sequence. Originally I thought I was going to have to rotoscope around Ky with travelling masks, but I discovered that because the sky was so bright in this shot I could use a combination of blending modes in After Effects to take out all of the white, which did 90% of the work for me. Bonus!

Next I set up the camera in a rough configuration and took still to mark the wolf's start and end points.


What I found in this setup didn't give enough room to fit any lights in and I wasn't entirely sure where to put the lights because in the original footage the light source is the setting sun, which is in shot. The scaffolding we have for attaching lights wasn't up to the job of getting a light there, and using a tripod would leave the stand in shot, so I went down to the photography for some more advice. Roger loves my little visits. Probably...

From roger I got a C-stand and some other gadgets and gizmos that I don't know the name of. The first problem I ran into while using these bits of kit was that the scaffolding in my booth was clearly put together by someone with a loose understanding of spanner theory. Or maybe just really tired wrists? Anyway, I had to fix the scaffolding up tight, so I went on a mission that led me to the engineering department and borrowed a socket wrench kit from a guy who looks and sounds like Keith from The Office. It probably wasn't Keith from The Office though, his name is Jeremy. But maybe that's the actor's name? Oh Man!
Nope, Keith from The Office's real name is Ewen MacIntosh apparently. What a disappointment.
Anyway... Pa-Pow! Take that, gravity!

Next thing to do was set up the camera and table up so that I could get proper angles on the lighting, keeping the keylight further away from the puppet to match how the sun is far away (I did my best, but obviously there's only so much room I could work with).

Finally I played around with different gels to get the right colouring on the puppet, and adjusted my secondary light with some CineFoil so that it would drop some light on the green screen but not spill over on to the puppet.

And then I proceeded to animate my wolf walking sooooo slowwwwwly, which turned out to be quite challenging surprisingly enough.


Grappling with Dappling and Capture Swing

POSTDATED - 09/05/12

Another day, another animation challenge. 
From my beautiful gif you can see two things. First the lighting is very dappled in this shot, so I saw this as an opportunity to do some lighting effects I hadn't tried out yet. Second, the shot required the wolf to be walking in front of Ky, downhill.
To solve the first problem I made use of some Cinefoil. To begin with I clipped a sheet of it to the spotlight barndoors, but found it made the shadows and highlights far too diffuse, not giving a clear dappling effect. Not to mention it, worryingly, started smoking when it was placed that close to the bulb. So, not wanting to burn the Atrium to the ground just yet, I MacGyvered myself a holding device made from some aluminium and a spare light stand. This also allowed me to put a gel over the barndoors, which better simulated the footage's lighting and just generally looked delicious.
The next problem was the angle of the camera. In a perfect world I would have custom-built a metal animation table for shots like this, bending the perforated steel to match the topography of the live-action footage, so that the puppet would land correctly. Never going to happen. So I tilted the camera to one side, and animated the puppet with his haunches much lower down, so that the captured footage balanced out and the wolf appeared to be walking upright.



POSTDATED - 08/05/12

For this shot I had a high angle shot of the wolf, which meant it was unavoidable that I would have a lot of the steel animation table in shot, which as I had found out in my first shot, caused some problem with compositing. I figured out a solution though, which was to use green card double-sided taped to the table, allowing for a flat colour.
 When the puppet walked through the shot I had to push holes through the card to let my tie-downs through. Luckily in this shot they would be covered by the wolf because of the angle of the camera. However I'm glad I had this shot to challenge me, because it may be an issue in further shot, and having the card with a few holes potentially visible during the shot is a lot easier to composite than a whole table full of holes.

YeOlde HeliographicBoutique

POSTDATED - 05/05/12

I had another shot where I needed the mouth to open wider than it would allow, so again I whipped out my specially designed animation pins and... hey, wait... where'ditgo??

Gaffer Faffing

POSTDATED - 02/05/12

Been plugging away at the animation, steadily getting quicker at the actual animation because I'm getting into the swing of things - although this is offset by the learning curve I'm finding for setting up lighting. I'm finding each shot is generally providing new challenges, and so most shots seem to take anything up to 4 or 5 hours to set up. Sometimes I look back on a day's shifting things around the studio that has amounted to zero seconds of actual animation and seriously reassess my capabilities as a functional human being. I mean usually it's just the inhuman levels of caffeine I'm existing on, but still.

Anyway, below are some in-camera images I have been logging to show some of the stages in the process of making adjustments to lighting to get the shot right. Setting up a shot begins with creating a compressed version of the raw footage to use as a guide for the shot, which I can view while shooting using the chroma key function. Below I've used a GIF for blogging purposes, but while shooting it would be a full length video.
As you can, in this shot the sun is very low and getting orange, so initially I tried out putting the lighting in the shot, but quickly found this would be impossible. Even this having the light directly behind the puppet did create the appropriate flaring effect the light was far too bright, meaning it bleached out too much of the green screen, which would make compositing a nightmare. Secondly, the board I'm using for green screen would in not way fit around the light, and cutting a hole in it wasn't an option as it would ruin the screen for subsequent shots. Using some green card was also not an option because of the fire hazard it would present.
 I then set about positioning the table and camera so that it would match the angle of the shot, moving the puppet through the shot to check he would appear to be the correct height (he's supposed to be roughly 7 feet tall)
 Next I began to notice a lot of lens glare from the light pointing almost directly at the camera
 I used a bit of Cinefoil hot glued in place on the animation table to block the light hitting the lens.
 Next I wanted to simulate that toasty orange sunset glow as the wolf passed off screen right, but wanted the lighting to remain cold while he was on screen left - further matching the original footage. I found that clipping a straw-coloured gel to the spotlight barndoors filled up too much of the frame with orange light, so I bodged together an aluminium wire frame to hold the gel in place. I moved this further away from the light source, meaning the orange tint was more contained.
 Finally I positioned my puppet in his rough start position and moved it through the camera, taking note of the path he should take so that the perspective matched up with the shot. With that done, finally I was ready to shoot some god damn animation. WOO!