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December 28, 2005

sets for "moon baby helps a star"

by sven at 11:10 pm

Yesterday I started work in earnest on making a stop-motion animated short -- spurred on by the approaching deadline for the Super8 class' final project. Tentative title: "moon baby helps a star".

basic animating set up

I commandeered Scarlet Star Studio's meeting space and began assembling sets. My basic set up involves two tables with pegboard bridging the gap between them. Since pegboard is pretty flexible, I reinforced each of my two big scraps with wooden rails. I've got three spot lamps that I borrowed from Radius Studio; super8 requires a lot of light. I put a little step ladder next to the table so I could easily get up there and take shots looking down at the set.

experimental set

I like to brainstorm with my hands, seeing what I can make with what's around me. I like the sense of improvization... And in this case, it helps me avoid fantasizing about things that I don't have time to construct. At this point in the game, I'm still working out what my story is going to be; the impromptu sets I've been trying out are suggesting story ideas as much as anything else.

One interesting thing I discovered while doing this physical brainstorming: it's helpful to have the set about a foot higher than table-level. When I'm sitting in a chair, this puts the floor of the set close to eye level -- so I don't have to crawl under the table to screw in the tie-downs. In the photo above, you can see that I've put one of my pegboard scraps up on bricks, and have a test set thrown together.

cave set

I've found it very useful to have a digital camera handy while I'm playing around like this... It allows me to try out different camera angles, and later on I can string the photos together into a sort of storyboard. Since the Super8 film stock I'm working with is black and white (and silent), I took all my test shots in b/w.

the cave entrance

The cave walls are made out of butcher paper that was packing material in a box of art supplies that Gretchin ordered. It had such an interesting texture, I knew it would come in handy when I got around to animating! In that same box, there was also this interesting paper mesh... Turns out it's excellent for creating a floor texture that still allows tie-downs to pass through.

nighttime outside

Here's an exterior shot. The dark sky is two huge pieces of black foamcore. The mountains and hills are leftover insulation foam from a sculpture project several years ago. The stars were decorations I made for our tent when we went to Burning Man in 2004.

So, the story as I've imagined it so far: Black shadow creatures steal a star from the sky and whisk it down into the depths of a cave. "Moon Baby" -- a name that Gretchin suggested for my new puppet, which I'd been referring to as just "baby" -- also lives in this cave, and discovers the kidnapping. He steals it back from the amorphous nether creatures, and after consulting either a map or some sort of guardian being, journeys to the entrance of the cave. Stepping into the outside world, he throws the star back into the heavens, and all the stars above dance in joy.

posted by sven | December 28, 2005 11:10 PM | categories: movies, stopmo