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September 18, 2007

trying out the new stage

by sven at 10:35 pm

Sunday night I did a little throw-away animation to give the new stage a try. This is also the first time I've actually worked with the Drifter armature. Man... I haven't pushed a puppet since March. (And it shows.)

click on image to play clip (161 KB)

Some notes...

The Animation

Pretty simple: I just did a few poses with pauses inbetween. After moving the arms around a little, I realized that the armature looked dead from the chest down, so I decided to do something where there's shifting of weight. I was sort of going for that thing that Neo does in The Matrix, where he gestures to "bring it on" with his hand. Doesn't really work though when the armature's arms end at the wrist!

The Armature

Initially I had the joints tensioned really tight -- but given the joint problems in this armature, that made it almost un-animatable. So I loosened them all up... But a little too much. Toward the end of the clip the armature collapsed at the hip. Trying to recreate a pose is never fun.

The shoulders have worse range of motion than I'd thought. I knew when I built The Drifter that they were double-jointed -- that's an intentional mistake, because I wanted to feel how this design plays. The unforseen problem comes when you raise the arms up from the sides and then try to swing them to the front (as if to make the thumbs touch). When I do that, the outer shoulder joint binds, and the swinging motion is happening purely in the joints that come directly off the shoulder blocks. Pretty unrealistic.

Given the difficulties of range of motion and loss of tension, I'm beginning to favor wire armatures again. The problems of wire breakage and spring-back are perhaps preferable... Not to mention how much quicker fabrication goes!

The Stage

The stage, being steel, doesn't have the same give as MDF. When I tighten the thumb nuts on my tie-downs, it can be hard to get them tight enough... And then when I try to take them off, they can get stuck. Irritating -- but workable.

I found that I wanted the computer as close to where I was filming as possible -- so I put it up on a box, right next to the stage. I find that I'm paying more attention to the screen than to the puppet, though. I have a pair of surface gauges coming in the mail from MicroMark; hopefully they'll help break me of this bad habit.

It may be that I'm relying too much on the framegrabber also because the camera is in the way of my really getting in close to the puppet. I'm using a digital video camera which has pretty good zoom; I ought to try moving the cam back a few more feet from the table to open up some work space.

I clamped my power squid to the table... A small detail, but it sure is nice not having to crawl around on the floor! There's always going to be a minumum of three cords: for the computer, the camera, and at least one light. I think clamping my main power cord to the table's going to become standard practice.

Frame Rate

I shot at 15fps, which has generally been my default, since my intended medium is always television.

However, did you know that the U.S. Congress has mandated that on February 17, 2009 all analog broadcasts will cease? After that point, all transmissions must be digital. Meaning: if at that point you haven't bought either a digital TV or a digital-to-analog converter box, your television will be useless.

I'm doing research right now on digital television specifications, trying to figure out what stopmoes' new default should be for frame rate, resolution, and aspect ratio.

Seriously folks, killing analog TV is going to be big deal -- and a lot of people are going to be really pissed off when their expensive tube suddenly quits working. Best to start thinking about it now.

posted by sven | September 18, 2007 10:35 PM | categories: stopmo