June 2007 archives

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June 30, 2007

muse talk art reception review

by gl. at 11:59 pm

the muse talk art reception last week went really well! there were about 50 people there, which i think is pretty respectable for a coffeehouse show. i was especially pleased (and surprised!) to see so many people i knew: special thanks to kristen & todd; jennifer, julie & evan; toni & matt; mary knight & her friend; and seamus & his family. in addition, sven & michaelmas were there, and leeann was visiting from california! i very much appreciated the support! (alas, kim was sick, serena was at the vet, and anna was at a bridal shower. but i appreciated your good thoughts, too.)

[part of the crowd]

one of the great things about this show is that we had an opportunity for perfomances in addition to visual art. so i read the "birthday poetry" series i began when i was 25 and still in colorado. i try to write a poem every year as the first thing i do when i wake up on the morning of my birthday. sometimes the date slips a little, but this ritual turned out to be very important when i was languishing in california, or i wouldn't have written anything at all.

i was afraid it might be too much: 9 poems over 8 years, 3 states and 2 countries: all in 15 minutes! i wrote the transitions out beforehand because i knew i didn't have time to ramble. but i was very pleased (and relieved!) with how well it went: i heard audience responses in all the right places and several people came to talk to me afterwards times to recall similar situations & emotions.

[reading 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 & 33]

and then, as if that wasn't enough, i volunteered to be "water" in the "salmon dance"! who can resist the swirly scarves? i certainly couldn't. a tribute to the lifecycle of the salmon, alisa created the dance a few years ago with a much larger group, so this was a much smaller reprise. still, her handmade salmon sculptures are amazing, and the large windows were great to illuminate them (though they also produced terribly backlit pix, as you may have noticed).

[wandering water]

oh, and i also have a couple of pieces in the visual arts show. :) the art show will remain up until july 24, so stop by to see these two pieces, which are tucked in the back by the big comfy couch. and feel free to buy the work of one of the other artists! *nudge*

["advice" and "a grace it had, devouring"]

this was fat straw's first art show, and throughout the planning process we could tell the owner was pretty dubious and wasn't willing to help or answer many questions. his tune began to change when the newspapers we sent press releases to began to call, and on the day of the show fat straw was very busy serving drinks & snacks. he was very intently watching the performances and afterwards he said he was impressed with the all the arts & the work we did to set up the show. hooray!

[fat straw sign]

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: calligraphy, exhibits & events, other art, writing

June 28, 2007

artist's way open studio (june)

by gl. at 12:01 am

the last open studio before my creative hiatus went out with a bang! i have been RSVPing for 10 with the expectation that 7 or 8 will show up, but for this event we had 9! that makes for a packed studio with plenty of lively & creative people. :)

["summer solstice": click the image to see the other collages]

it was the solstice, which is one of my favorite seasonal markers, though it's hard to accept that we've now turned away from the light and are heading back into the dark season.

so i guess i'd better enjoy the sunlight while i can! i just have a couple of other events to wrap up (mostly write about), and then i have a whole summer waiting for me! eee!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: artist's way

June 27, 2007

see my films at PLATFORM on Friday

by sven at 3:38 pm

See my film work on the big screen this Friday -- FREE!

This week I'm attending the first PLATFORM International Film Festival, here in sunny (!) Portland. My short "The Great Escape" and the teaser-trailer for "Let Sleeping Gods Lie" will be shown during Friday night's open screening.

The show is at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts (1111 SW Broadway) -- on the fourth floor, in Brunish Hall. The open screening begins at 7:30pm, and is free and open to the public. I was the very first person to sign up -- so be here at 7:30 sharp or you'll miss it!


Oh, almost forgot! ...Tonight (Wednesday) there'll be a screening called "Portland Animation Showcase" at 9:00pm in the Whitsell Auditorium in the NW Film Center (1219 SW Park). A music video that I worked on is going to be shown: "Moodbot," directed by Rob Shaw. I made the armature that went inside the little girl puppet. You can get tickets at the door for $10.

posted by sven | permalink | categories: exhibits & events, let sleeping gods lie, stopmo

June 26, 2007

bonnie ward's "making fairy furniture"

by gl. at 3:06 pm

we hosted bonnie ward's "making fairy furniture" jun16. ever since i saw her do this workshop at the last create the world, i knew this would make a great studio event. we had to wait almost a year to get the scheduling to work, but i'm glad it did!

bonnie has an almost indescribably large collection of plant materials to use: we had to set it up a couple of days before to make sure we had room for it all!

[just one of several tables: click the image to see what they made!]

she was also incredibly organized: everyone got their own low-temp glue gun (and a power strip for them all) and a pruner. because it takes so much space, we had a smaller class size than normal, but it filled and they created a lot of pieces. :) it was a lovely introduction to summer. and this has been the only workshop where i've been able to compost the bits left behind! ;)

this was the final workshop before my creative hiatus in july & august. in september, i'll be hosting an improvosation & movement workhsop by two lovely people, matt & toni tabora. see you then!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: classes & workshops

June 24, 2007

lsgl: another compositing strategy

by sven at 10:22 pm

Yesterday I ran into a tricky compositing issue... Which led to an interesting solution.

explorers with stand-in Elder Things

When combining footage of actors with a CG environment, it's critical that the camera angle from the real world and the camera angle in the CG world match.

One way to find that magic angle is to set up CG stand-in explorers. This works best when the actors are only moving from left to right (or right to left) across the screen.

Shots where there's depth -- where the actors are walking toward or away from the camera -- are harder. For those, you can create a sort of CG ruler. You make the ruler the same height as your actor, and the same depth as one stride. That allows you to match up the ball of the foot and the top of the head for the actor at point A and point B.

...But in the shot above? Neither of these strategies work. There's depth involved -- but I can't see the actor's feet. And, to make things even worse, the actors are crouching -- so I can't easily gauge their height.

click on image to play clip (1.2 MB)

After a lot of frustration, it occurred to me that I could maybe get the angle from footage I took with the same camera set up, but which isn't actually going into the film. I found a shot where you can see me taking a full step that seemed like it might work... (I include the actual clip here so you can laugh at my "directing" style.)

Before I got too far into that approach, though, I realized that I was staring at an even better ruler: the living room wall!

CG model of the living room wall

I got out my tape measure... That wall is 9' tall, 13'9" wide. Being just a flat panel, it was the easiest thing in the world to model.

living room wall and CG wall superimposed

Over in LightWave, I fussed and fiddled with the virtual camera until I got the CG wall to match up with the real one.

Then, I removed the CG wall, set up some stand-in Elder Things, and rendered out a test clip with the explorers reacting to them. Did it look right this time...?


posted by sven | permalink | categories: let sleeping gods lie

June 23, 2007

lsgl: quick cuts

by sven at 4:48 pm

Over the past few days I've been going through my new DV footage... Downloading, selecting the best takes, adding the "lavaman" effect.

I've also tightened up the storyboard. After a lot of frustration and reworking, I think I've got the shape of Act III finalized.

click on image to play clip (479 KB)

Act I shows the explorers discovering the distress beacon and deciding to turn it on. With the exception of the last few explosive moments, Act I is very slow-paced and somber.

Act III, on the other hand, is fast-paced and chaotic. The Shoggoth appears, the Elder Things awake and stampede, the explorers get smacked down.

Check out the clip above... I wanted to share a comparison of what the DV footage looks like raw, versus what it looks after I've doctored it with the lavaman effect. (I also wanted to share a sneak-peek at what some of the quick-cuts are going to look like.)

click on image to play clip (95 KB)

I'm really pleased with the continuity between the two shots that show Andrew getting knocked to the ground. The poor soul threw himself down on that futon almost 70 times for me! (THANK YOU ANDREW!)

Unfortunately, there's still a lot of good stuff that won't make it into the film. The shot above is particularly difficult to part with... It's got fabulous drama -- but just doesn't fit into the flow of action the way I'd hoped.

Oh well -- at least I can give it a little of the honor it deserves by sharing it on the blog. :-)

posted by sven | permalink | categories: let sleeping gods lie

June 20, 2007

seven random things

by sven at 8:22 pm

Gretchin tagged me with the "seven random things about yourself" meme. So, here goes...

  1. I was named after my father's anthropology professor, Sven Liljeblad (1900-2000). My standard quip: "Thank goodness I only got the first name!" Sven was Swedish; my last name, however, is Danish. Translated, it means "the farmer's son." The Danes in the family are from back around my great-grandparents' time or before... I don't honestly know how far back, though. I never saw any evidence of Danish heritage other than what's in my name.

  2. During my grade school years, I wanted to be a primatologist. I had dozens of books about monkeys and apes, and knew all the genus/species names. My favorite monkey: Humboldt's woolly monkey... (Which, incidentally, is featured prominently in the movie, Robinson Crusoe on Mars.) Loved the Chinese story of Monkey King raising "havoc in heaven." Loved King Kong -- both the 1933 and 1976 versions.

  3. Other early ambitions: I had fantasies about inventing an army of self-replicating robot monkeys, which would build me a spaceship out of cardboard, and an underground mansion with ten water slides -- and hot tubs filled with caramel and hot fudge. I drew very detailed blueprints for the robot monkeys. (Hm... Now where did I put those, anyway?)

  4. In high school I was on the Math Team. Yes, we'd all get on the bus and travel to Math League competitions... I've actually got a collection of medals that I won. During my sophomore year, I took second place in the state for my grade-level. That was in Maine, where I lived until coming out to the West Coast for college, btw.

  5. In college I was part of a two-man folk-grunge-novelty band with my chum Paul Anderson. Some of our best songs: "Music, Sex and Cookies" and "Movin' Right Along" (from the Muppet Movie). Paul plays acoustic guitar. I play piano -- loudly enthusiastically. [I've been known to get blisters on my fingers.] We both write goofy songs.

  6. I have the same thing for breakfast every single day: Quaker "100% Natural Low Fat Granola with Raisins" (which tastes far better than it sounds) and a glass of orange juice. I eat the cereal with water instead of milk -- and cold, not hot. I tend to buy 10-15 boxes at a time, because my usual grocery store doesn't carry the stuff. I find it convenient to not have to think about what I'm going to eat first thing in the morning.

  7. I've got webbed toes. On both feet, the second and third toes are webbed all the way out to where the toenails begin. The bones aren't fused -- it's just the flesh. I've never had any desire to have them split... And, no (since you ask), they don't really help me swim any faster.

It looks like pretty much everyone I could think of to tag for this thang already has been tagged... So I guess I'll be the terminator for this end of the daisy chain. Cheers!

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany

June 19, 2007

lsgl: 9 days = 8 seconds

by sven at 11:59 pm

click on image to play clip (2.3 MB)

It took 9 days to create 8 seconds of film. Eight good seconds, I think. But still... Ouch.

One of the things I like about doing stopmo with physical puppets is that it's really engaging. You hone your concentration into a laser-focus and march boldly forward: accumulating one frame, then the next, then the next.

CG, on the other hand, has a different rhythm. You fuss and tweak and test... And then you set the render going. And wait. And wait. Sure, the computer "does the work" of creating inbetweens for you... But that just leaves you waiting helplessly on the sidelines while it goes about its business.

So, while I'm getting some really pretty images, I'm not digging the process.

Of course, it's probably not even fair to call what I'm doing "animation" in the usual sense. It's more like special effects work. CG character animators try to keep their rigs (CG puppet skeletons) as simple as possible, so their characters can be manipulated quickly and intuitively. The Elder Things, though -- they're anything but simple. Get a load of these statistics... In the bit of the clip above where the Elders are opening their eyes, there are:


click on image to play clip (516 KB)

What I set out to create: The Elders wake up, opening their eyes. Then they see (before we do) the Shoggoth blocking their only escape. The Elders stand up so they can start running.

The transition from waking up to standing up turned out to be too abrupt. I needed a segue shot. So I spent a day working on the shot of the leg-tentacles that you see above. It's a shot that I've been imagining for four years -- so this seemed like the logical place to throw it in.

Trouble is, it just didn't work. Why? Well, in the first shot the camera is up at eye-level with the critters. In the next shot, it's down on the floor, and canted at an angle. If there were a person attached to the camera, moving from the Elders' eye-level to pointing down at the legs to pointing up feels like an awkward, implausible motion.

I happened on the solution by accident: The camera has to be animated, too -- apparently falling from its first vantage point, landing on the floor.

From an editing point of view, having the camera fall adds action to the scene, making things seem more chaotic. (Which is good for this scene!) From a meaning point of view, showing a close-up on the eye implicitly gives us the moment of mental transition for the Elder, where it goes into a panic. And motion-wise, having the camera fall downward -- it makes it look like the critter is standing up, which flows nicely into the motion of the next shot, where we really do see the creature rise.

For the bit where the camera is at floor-level, I did something a little sneaky. I recalled hearing somewhere about a trick Leni Riefenstahl invented while filming the 1936 Olympics... In order to make the athletes seem even taller and more heroic, she actually dug trenches so she could point the camera up at them from below ground level. I've got the same thing going on here: the camera is actually positioned 2 feet underground.

* * * * *

So, right now it looks like animated CG shots are taking 3 days apiece. Shots where I only need to do a still background plate in Lightwave, which then gets composited with actors, have generally taken one day. ...If I don't start getting faster at doing the animation, this project's in trouble.

I've been doing a bit of brainstorming about the "deep history" segment. I've come up with a new way of telling that part of the story that I like, and that's more succinct. But the way things are going now, I may have to cut it down even further -- maybe to just 15 seconds! ...If that's the way things go, it'll be a big disappointment.

I've started harboring fantasies about getting a bare-bones version of the film done for the Lovecraft Filmfest -- but then doing an "extended version" that I shop around to film fests worldwide. I don't know how I really feel about that concept yet... Too soon to say.

posted by sven | permalink | categories: let sleeping gods lie

"down to earth"

by gl. at 1:03 pm

i facilitated "down to earth," the andy goldsworthy-inspired workshop i've been dreaming of for years, at the mount hood arts cabins june 9.

there was so much uncertainty about it for a while i wasn't sure it was going to happen: a project fell through that forced me to make the workshop a 1/2 day instead of a full day, though i initially thought i'd have to cancel it, and then there was an insurance snafu which i got a waiver for but may affect future workshops there. which is too bad, because it's a lovely location:

of course, when i first saw it in march, it was snowing!

so i was glad it wasn't snowing for the workshop, but it did rain like mad in portland the morning of the workshop & i was afraid it would keep people from coming. fortunately, it didn't rain much at the arts cabin until after the workshop: it rained very lightly off & on all day, but mostly mist and nothing terribly distracting, especially if you were working under trees.

besides the beautiful cabin & forest location, one of the reasons i loved this location was how much room we had to roam:

[arts cabin boundaries: click the image for the google map]

even better, they were gladly willing to let us tromp around anywhere and gather as much as we wanted. powell butte, which is another location i would have liked to have hosted this because it's right outside my front door, is very strict about staying on the trail. the only complaint was that because it was so close to highway 26, even though it wasn't visible, you could still hear it. i think the location is so ideal & rare otherwise that it was a small price to pay, and i didn't even notice it until someone pointed it out.

so after introductions and a brief discussion of goldsworthy principles, land use & history, we all disappeared into the forest for 3 hours. i wanted to stick around the cabin in case something came up, but i was surprised that only two of the participants wandered very far from the cabin at all! four of us stayed within 100 feet or less of the arts cabin. then we met together and walked to each person's site so we could talk about what we did & take pictures, then we met back at the cabin to write. the writings were surprisingly deep for such a short writing, so i could tell the whole experience was very affecting.

i usually have a few false starts when creating art at an art workshop, and this was no exception. i tried a variety of locations and plant materials, but nothing spoke to me. with just 45 minutes left, i discovered a hollow, lightning-stuck tree and everything suddenly clicked. all its bark had fallen off, leaving a big blank canvas on its back side. i wanted to use the leftover charcoal from the burned tree to draw something: initially, i thought i would draw flames, but the texture wasn't very conducive to figurative drawing or illustration. so i began to outline the hole, and it turned out that the charcoal made the best marks if i followed the contours of that hole.

[smoke rings: click the images to see the other participants' pictures]

i was so happy to have made this. it felt right as soon as i saw the tree and the charcoal. it definitely stands out: everyone else made more "natural" creations which were quite beautiful. but i loved this. i loved working with the materials, i loved the result, i love all its meanings: it could represent a target, a physical manifestation of the fire spreading, the fire breaks firefighters use to keep fires from spreading, the sorts of fire rings you camp next to, or, as i wrote at the end of the workshop, "a ward to keep away fire, death & rot. it's too late for me, but let me be a warning for you all."

after the workshop, one of the benefits about hosting at the arts cabins was that as an instructor, i got to stay overnight. so after cleaning up and making dinner, i settled into a long night of reading "indian tales," a native american version of 1,001 arabian nights that must have been written in the 1930s. at midnight i turned off all the lights, sat on the porch and listened to the rain in the trees.

still todo: i plan on sending the pictures to apple to print little booklets and sending them to the participants so that their ephemeral exploration has a tangible outcome. and finally, i need to approach the art cabins w/ future proposals: we could have a lot of fun up there! i envision writing & art retreats, labyrinths and more.

update jul20.2007: i just got the little books i made via iphoto back from apple: they look great! it's the smallest size they offer, which is just a bit bigger than a business card. it's just the right size for a little memento!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: classes & workshops

June 18, 2007

good google!

by gl. at 11:15 pm

google finally sees us! after over two years of languishing in obscurity as hit 257, a search for "portland artist's way" will finally take you to our artist's way offerings on the first hit -- even though i would have been happy to end up anywhere on the first page. there truly isn't a better artist's way link in portland and it was driving me crazy that we were so hard to find, even falling below a woman who simply used an artist's way quote on her page!

the change probably accounts for a few of the fall inquiries we've had lately, even though we haven't really begun to promote it yet. i am so relieved i can feel myself actually breathe differently. but it's also a little unsettling, because we haven't done anything differently and i worry we'll vanish again as quickly as we rose.

before i realized google had given us a boost, i reformated the artist's way structure this term, too: instead of 12 weeks, we're going to try for 10, beginning with the other portland colleges on the quarter system. i have previously been dead set against changing the length, because i've both taught & taken shorter creative clusters and by the time you finally develop enough trust in the process, the group & yourself, it's over! my goal is to get you to habitualize the process so it maintains some momentum after we stop meeting, and it's harder to do that when it's shorter. but a shorter term will give me a little more time to promote after the summer ends and i hope it attracts more people who find the longer class another hurdle to overcome their creative inertia.

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: artist's way

June 17, 2007

finding my c(g) legs

by sven at 11:59 pm

I feel like I'm finally beginning to get a feel for how to animate CG models. (Knock on wood!) It's been a week of migraines to get to this point, though.

click on image to play clip (799 KB)

Today's big victory: I figured out a bug that was plaguing me all week.

A wrote a few days ago about wrestling with the eyestalks. The clip above shows the final outcome for that effort. Unable to figure out what was causing the little "epileptic fit," I wound up simply re-animating the whole thing.

click on image to play clip (1 MB)

I was worried that the mysterious bug would show up again... And sure 'nuf, it did. In the clip above, watch the lower left-hand corner and you'll see the leg have a little unintended spasm.

What causes it? Short answer: It happens if you try to make the arm-tentacle's hand pass through its own elbow.

See, the Elder Thing model is basically just hollow skin. To articulate it into poses, you create a skeleton of bones, each of which has magnetic force that deforms the skin's polygon mesh...

The arm-tentacle's bones are rigged using "inverse kinematics" -- which basically just means that you pose the end of the bone chain, and the computer will figure out how to bow the chain so that it follows the hand's lead...

And if you try to make the hand pass through the elbow? Then the the computer has a problem, and it will suddenly pop the arm-tentacle off in a totally different direction.

This problem was really hard to diagnose for several reasons:

Let me show you the problem up close:

frame 12, IK turned on

The model stutters on the change between frame 12 and 13, and between 19 and 20. Above you can see the arm bowing nicely...

frame 13, IK turned on

...and then, in the very next frame, the arm pops to this pose! (Yeesh.)

That box in the center of the screen is what controls the position of the hand. I pose it independently of the skeleton. When IK is turned on, the computer will do computations to make sure that the last bone in the arm is touching it.

Now let's see what frames 12 and 13 look like when the IK is turned off...

frame 12, IK turned off

See that thin white line that the box is traveling up? That's its motion path. In frame 12, the box (the "wrist goal") is getting close to the arm -- but hasn't touched it yet.

frame 13, IK turned off

In frame 13, the box is now touching the (unposed) arm. This little transgression -- this is what causes the IK to freak out and makes the entire model stutter.

Boy am I glad to finally have the mystery solved! Not knowing why the model was out of my control -- it was torture.

Other good news: I figured out what causes a recurrent crash. If I have a LightWave file open -- and then replace it by opening another -- then when I go to render the second file, LightWave is going to crash.

It's not a situation that I can really avoid. But at least I can be smart about when I save my work. And I know that if I want to render a file other than the one I currently have open, I'm just going to have to quit the program and start it up again.

(Upgrade the software? I could upgrade LightWave 7.5 to 7.5d for free if I wanted -- but I've been reading about other bugs that show up in 7.5d. Too dangerous, methinks, to muck with mission-critical software while I'm on a deadline.)

posted by sven | permalink | categories: let sleeping gods lie

here it comes again

by gl. at 10:52 pm

very exciting news! paper source will be carrying goccos again (as early as the end of the week)! i'm thrilled (and frankly, a little surprised) that it came back!

the paper source price sheet almost knocked me down, though: "little miss gocco" cost me about $250 a year and a half ago, including a stamp kit, extra screens & bulbs, and one of almost every ink imaginable. i don't think i would buy a b6 gocco alone for almost $400. still, i'm glad people have the choice to buy one now! i know the attachment is almost irrational. :)

[edit: ah, i see. it's for a fairly advanced pg-arts machine. which is pretty cool & all, though i'd like to see an option for the entry-level b6.]

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: printing

June 16, 2007

like a good neighbor

by gl. at 9:40 pm

i helped linda paint her new studio this week. i enjoy being asked to participate in projects like this -- not because i am building up recriprocation points, but because i honestly enjoy helping people create things and making things happen. truly.

(and i didn't think i could really be bribed with pizza, especially since i don't drink beer and i am trying to be better about cholesterol. but i had an extra slice of rovente because it was so good!)

[last stroke!]

linda is converting her garage into a studio: the project is a lot of fun to watch & read about. she's certainly more patient & braver than i am! she's going to start hosting classes next month: go, linda, go!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany, painting

muse talk art reception june 24

by gl. at 12:05 am

You are invited to attend the group art show "Muse Talk," and specifically the opening reception Sunday, June 24! I'll be exhibiting two calligraphy pieces, but the really neat thing about this opening reception is that it will include performances, so if you come you'll get to see me "dance." :)

Plus, this will be the premiere reading of my "birthday poems": I write a poem on my birthday every year and this will be the first time I've read them all aloud as a series!

Muse Talk: Art is a Language
Featuring visual and performing arts
from members of RADIX, Circle of Women in the Arts

Visual Art Exhibit dates:
June 17-July 22

Opening Reception & Short Performance Works:
Sunday, June 24, 1-3 p.m. (performances begin at 1:30 p.m.!)

Fat Straw
4258 SE Hawthorne

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: exhibits & events

June 15, 2007

h.p. LOLvecraft

by sven at 1:34 pm

...Couldn't resist!

(Pop reference: Lolcats)

posted by sven | permalink | categories: let sleeping gods lie

wish upon a star

by gl. at 1:34 am

look what i made at the lov.li fair june 03!

[shown roughly actual size]

jennifer wells had a make-and-take art glass table: you made something, she'd take it to her studio and fuse it. i thought she was a very good teacher: all tools were provided, and she gave you a brief but thorough demonstration of how to cut glass and prepare the piece for fusing. she was also quite amenable to questions without seeming irritated or hovering. i've never worked in glass before but i was surprised to create something i liked so much! (i tried several different combinations before deciding i wanted to make a scarlet star.)

at the fair, i also picked up a couple of beautifully made books made with scraps from the artist's etchings. extra special decadent bonus cookies to diane for making it all happen!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: other art

June 13, 2007

lsgl: a sharp poke in the eye

by sven at 11:59 pm

The past three days have been spent trying to animate the Elder Things waking up... It's been pretty miserable.

a rare happy accident

Three challenges.

One: This is the first time I'm really doing "character animation" in CG, and I'm struggling to get comfortable with the tools.

Two: I'm trying to figure out how to make a beast that has never existed -- and which has no Earthly analogs -- look natural.

Three: Mysterious technical problems have arisen (related to gimbal lock?) and I've been trying to trouble-shoot them.

Let's look at a sampling of renders that illustrate...

click on image to play clip (157 KB)

The clip above was my first quick test. My initial conception of the eyes was that the stalks do all the moving, the eyeballs are fixed in place. I discovered with this clip that the eyestalks can't be too flexible, or they start looking comedic.

click on image to play clip (213 KB)

To what extent do the eyes function independently versus in unison? My initial thought was that each eye essentially has a mind of its own. So I did this test render (above) where each stalk moves around randomly. ...I was thinking about simulating the way that human eyes dart from point to point.

Nope -- don't like it. The Elder isn't five separate creatures; it's one -- and has to act like it.

This clip also made me realize that the Elders are inherently a bit wall-eyed. Human eyes don't point in parallel lines -- the eyes' sight lines converge upon a single point. With Elders, though, in a neutral pose the sight lines point away from each other.

click on image to play clip (145 KB)

Having seen in the first clip that the eyestalks ought to be somewhat stiff, I decided to try taking that idea to an extreme -- having them locked in place, the eyeballs doing all the moving. Result: creepy, but not in a way that fits into the film.

Still, this clip made me decide that the eyeballs do need to move in their orbits somewhat... Probably only 20-30 degrees in either direction.

click on image to play clip (762 KB)

So, my new conception: Both eyestalks and eyeballs can move, but both should be somewhat stiff. And the five eyeballs all try to focus on a common point, rather than waving around independently.

How to accomplish this, from a workflow perspective? Animating one eyestalk at a time wasn't working out. I decided to pose all five eyestalks, save the file under a new name (so I could backtrack), and then move on to the next pose. And I decided to pose stalks first, then go back and animate eyelids, then go back to pose eyeballs in third pass. ...This plan of attack seems to work out pretty well.

I was feeling pretty pleased with the clip above... But then that weird little epileptic fit at the end emerged. Despite several hours of trying to eliminate it, I just couldn't figure it out. Ultimately I just had to admit defeat and start over -- not knowing what to do if this problem comes up again. Unhappy!

Production has slowed down to a crawl -- which is very hard to swallow. But I just keep telling myself that doing the CG animation will get easier as I keep getting more familiar with the process.

My random observation of the day: I wrote at one point that I was feeling "utterly baffled." ...Hey! That's anagram for "butterfly's leaf!" Neat!

posted by sven | permalink | categories: let sleeping gods lie

June 9, 2007

seven random things, no more and no less

by gl. at 1:58 am

diane tagged me with the "seven random things about yourself" meme:

okay, now i tag... sven, shelley, jeffrey, mph, markalope, alesia & melanie sage!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany

June 8, 2007

lsgl: i love math!

by sven at 11:59 pm

I've got the first three shots of Act III in the can now. It's exciting to feel momentum beginning to build again. Earlier this week I was working and reworking the storyboard -- and kept feeling like I was just spinning my wheels. Here are the new shots strung together:

click on image to play clip (3.6 MB)

Earlier today I had cause to shout "I LOVE MATH!" ...Um, let me explain.

Taking Gretchin's and Jeffrey's advice, I decided to speed up the explorers' egress. Easier said than done, though. See, in AfterEffects it's easy-peasy to tell the computer, "shrink this clip down to 73.5% of its original size" or "stretch it to 147%." Trouble is, the film isn't actually made out of rubber.

I've got 30 frames per second. It's easy enough to halve that to make 15 frames -- just delete every other frame. Or double it to 60 frames -- just slip in a duplicate of each frame. But if you ask for an odd percentage? Then the computer has to start cutting frames or slipping in duplicates at odd intervals. And it shows.

Oh, but it can get so much worse! If you resize a clip oddly -- and then resize it again -- you can start getting some really ugly stutters. ...And that's exactly the situation I found myself in this afternoon. Check out this example:

click on image to play clip (2.5 MB)

See the stutters? The larger you make the image, the worse they look. Definitely not something I want to project onto a 20-foot-tall movie screen!

I was starting off with a clip that was already stretched to 170%. It had a lot of digital spatter that needed to be cleaned up... Which required creating something like 150 little black, red, and blue patches (usually onscreen for just one or two frames) -- which was about six hours of work.

The clip above shrank the clean 170% version -- not the original -- down to 60%. I tried a bunch of other likely percentages, trying to turn my 170% version into a speedier clip without stutter... Without luck. Then I remembered one of my fave formulas (no joke) from high school algebra: if A/B = C/D, then D=(C*B)/A.

So: In the first version of the clip, I stretched my footage from 100% to 170%. Let's represent that by this ratio: 170/100. I rendered out the despattered clip -- so it was no longer 170% of something else -- it was just 100% of itself. I want to know what to divide that 100% by in order to get back to the original pace... Represent this by the ratio, 100/X. Solve for X. (Calculators are allowed. This is an open-book test!)

Thus: (100*100)/170 = 58.823529. I plugged the number into AfterEffects as my stretch factor... And it worked!

YES!! I love math!

posted by sven | permalink | categories: let sleeping gods lie

artist's way guided intent (june)

by gl. at 7:28 pm

the last artist's way guided intent before our creative hiatus will leave a lasting impression! masks naturally invite deep personal explorations, so it was wonderful to have such an open, willing, vulnerable group. it was fun to meet new people and encourage regulars.

[waxing & waning: click the image to see some of the other masks]

we wrote before we began making the masks and before we shared our masks w/ the group. the first prompt asked, what part of myself do i hide, or what part of my personality is a defense? i hide the part of myself that is unsure. i feel like i have to be "on" all the time. that's why i love this moon mask, as it demonstrates that one can wax & wane and still shine. i wrote, "i am not the sun: i do not consume myself and spit out flame." it has a a spray of stars wrapped around its dark side and gleaming gems embedded on its outer edge.

this was the last guided intent we'll have until september, where we'll explore our "creative blocks!" one more open studio/collage night on the solstice, and then i will try very hard to do nothing for two months. we'll see how that goes!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: artist's way

June 7, 2007

lsgl: a big crowd of elder things

by sven at 11:59 pm

click on image to play clip (941 KB)

Having stirred up a heap of trouble, the explorers start heading back toward the cave entrance. Incidentally, this is the most Elder Things we've seen in a shot so far: 34 of them.

(Plogging is sort of like watching the dailies together, no?)

explorer in position A

I've come up with a new tool for helping me get the camera angle right while compositing. I created a box in Modeler that is 6 feet tall x 4 feet long. Six feet tall is how tall the explorers are. Four feet is approximately how long one human step is.

I focus on just one explorer while tweaking the camera. What I'm looking at, mostly, is where the top of his head is, and where the ball of his foot sits (I pick one foot to work with). The trick is to try to get the perceived height of the explorer in position A to match the perceived height of the box's rear face -- and similarly, to get the explorer in position B to match up with the height and position of the box's front face.

explorer in position B

Last month I did a little studying up on how artists simulate perspective. It turns out that the main trick is learning how to draw three-dimensional grids. Once you've made your 3D grid, all you have to do to draw an object in perspective is this: draw a cube that approximates the size of your object at the proper position in space, and then sculpt the cube (or several cubes) into the object that you actually want to draw.

My perspective tool is basically doing the job of one cube in a 3D grid. It's much easier to tweak the camera position, angle, and zoom by referencing a box, rather than an organic object... Still, I keep the lavamen stand-ins on hand to double-check my work.


Today I tried using media deprivation to help me stay focused: no music, all day!

Very effective... It was much easier to get into (and stay in) the semi-hypnotic state required to do animation. On the other hand, after ten hours that level of focus also starts making me a bit loopy.

Sven quote of the week:

I can see through time. That's what animators do.

posted by sven | permalink | categories: let sleeping gods lie

June 5, 2007

poem: the deluge

by sven at 6:40 pm

Big act-of-god type rainstorm today. With the kind of thunder that rattles the lunch in your belly. Stood out on the front porch awhile watching.

the deluge

the unmapped craters of raindrops
remind me of the
moon we will never know

molten and newborn
tattooed by falling stones
from grandfather worlds
shattered long before

my eye is cut in two
when the whip of light cracks
and its wave of sound
rolls through my chest
like the beginning of existence

I grieve for the maps
of this moment
and that before
which will never be drawn

this world
is a burning library
of lost miracles

June 5, 2007

posted by sven | permalink | categories: writing

lsgl: mountains of madness

by sven at 5:15 pm

Sunday I did a bunch of work on exterior shots.

click on image to play clip (192 KB)

I'm pretty happy with this shot of the blizzard sweeping over the explorers' camp.

well, at least one mountain of madness...

For those who don't know, this film I'm making (Let Sleeping Gods Lie) is inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's novella, "At The Mountains of Madness." ...So it's nice that I'm finally able to squeeze in at least one shot of an actual mountain!

The image above was PhotoShopped together out of four or five different images. You see how the cave entrance is set into that sort of... glacial shelf? Well, I wound up having to create most of that out of nothing -- picking out colors and digitally painting abstract shapes that blend in with the stuff in the middle.

click on image to play clip (206 KB)

The "mountain of madness" shot is going to be further modified. It needs blizzard added to it, and then my "Shoggoth cam" effect... Which has yet to be invented.

While experimenting, I came up with the clip you see above. I don't think it's what Shoggoth cam is supposed to look like -- but I'm really intrigued with the look, nonetheless.

posted by sven | permalink | categories: let sleeping gods lie

June 2, 2007

lsgl: too much fun

by sven at 8:35 pm

we're comin' ta gitcha gitcha gitcha

At the drop of a hat, our friends Kristen and Todd came over today to help me with Let Sleeping Gods Lie.

there she is! git her!

I'm fine-tuning the storyboard for Act III, and needed warm bodies to help me figure out blocking and camera angles.

loom... loom... LOOM!!

I think (when we were being serious) I managed to get the shots I was looking for...

But wow -- movie-making that's fun? I could get used to this!

Thanks K, T, & gl.!

posted by sven | permalink | categories: let sleeping gods lie