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November 13, 2009

birthday animacation

by sven at 7:00 am

click on image to play clip (30sec - 2.6 MB)

For the past few years I've been going on a personal retreat for my birthday… This year, however, I wanted nothing more than an animation "staycation" vacation. An animacation!

Gretchin granted my wish, setting up the studio with all the accoutrements of home and bringing me hot meals on a tray. For two glorious days I got to spend every waking moment in animation land. YAY! THANK YOU, GL!

replacement bits

Day 1 was spent on stage design and revisiting the process for shooting RAW. Day 2 was spent in the flow of creation.

I decided early on that rather than use up my time fabricating props, I should work in a medium that allows improvisation. It could have been clay or wire… But cardboard felt like the right choice this go around. It's plentiful, it's essentially free -- and it plays friendly with paint.

(Doing series of replacement bits totally had me thinking about Bruce Bickford.)

self-contained animation station

After doing the Ichbonnsen on Muglorp clip back in July, I was feeling really discouraged… Putting the camera and lights on tripods eats up so much floorspace, I lose my entire studio during the shoot. And clean up can take days.

I've found a way to fit everything inside a 2'x4' footprint now. It means sacrificing images with really deep depth of field (which I love so)… But for the time being, I just can't afford big productions, space-wise. Going small is a self-imposed limitation for the sake of maintaining momentum.

tabletop: half for stage, half for computer

I'm using a 2'x4' folding table. Lights are clamped to 4' tall wooden struts attached to the table with C-clamps. Half the tabletop is is for the stage, half is for the computer. Ergonomically, I'm finding it's really valuable to have the computer immediately next to the set, and at the same vertical level.

The lights are four 200 watt GE lightbulbs, pumping out a total of 15,780 lumens. By bouncing the rays off the ceiling, what I'm doing is approximating high noon lighting on a slightly overcast day.

(I've also got two tiny little 40 watt bulbs on hand, which I'm looking forward to trying for a moody noir look at some point.)

taping off the field of vision

There's a crucial difference between set design and stage design. Stage design begins with available studio space, takes account of room required for cameras, lights, tie-downs, etc. Once you've carved out a volume of space that the camera can photograph, then you can work at decorating it -- which is where set design begins.

I've discovered that one of the most valuable things a stopmo stage designer can do is measure the field of vision (FOV) of their camera. It turns out my DV cam has a FOV of ~38° -- whereas my digital still camera has a FOV of ~55° -- which is better suited to a small stage.

Knowing the FOV, I've calculated that the ratio between my visible backdrop's width and the distance from the backdrop to the camera is essentially 1:1…

That's a mouthful… What it means is that if my camera is 2 feet back, then I need a backdrop that's at least 2 feet wide. And since I'm shooting with a 4:3 aspect ratio, I immediately know that my backdrop should be at least 18" tall. Cool!

space for stuff outside the FOV

By calculating the size of my FOV, I don't waste time fabricating stuff that won't be in shot. Granted, if the camera is going to move, I'm going to need more space -- but I still think knowing the exact dimensions of your FOV gives you POWER.

To help me further visualize how much room I had to work with, I taped off my work area. The table space that falls outside of the FOV can then be used for setting down animation tools or erecting out-of-shot support structures.

camera fixture

I hate camera tripods. I bet most stopmoes do. If you accidentally kick a tripod leg -- which happens all the time -- your shot's ruined. What an absolute JOY, then, to figure out that I could fix the camera directly to the stage.

The fixture I built isn't ideal. If the camera tilts even slightly left or right, it's really obvious in your film. I used cardboard shims to take care of the problem… But I think I've finally reached the point where I'm ready to purchase the much coveted Manfrotto geared head (sold separately from the tripod).

my Day Of The Dead sugar skull

Like I said, this clip was improvisation. Beforehand, I wrote out a long list of things that one might try with cardboard… But in terms of content, I had no idea that I'd wind doing flowers or a spiderweb or a skull.

The mind's well of creativity is a funny thing. I can't help but think I was influenced by the sugar skulls that we decorated at Bridget Benton's Day Of The Dead party back on Nov. 1.

[Am I squeezing this in here just to avoid having to do another post? Maybe.]

posted by sven | November 13, 2009 7:00 AM | categories: stopmo