We learned a lot while making this film and we would like to share those lessons. Hopefully when we catch up on a little more sleep we will be able to piece through the hazy memories and get some stuff updated here.
Like how to build a smooth camera dolly for 30USD. Or why not to use mould making latex for hand construction… or how cardboard and glue can make anything. And how cardboard is free and glue is expensive…
Dried Up was born out of a stopmotion/building class fall semester of 08. Jeremy and I planed to do a small collaboration project with each other in addition to our final thesis work. For being in an animation program we still grasped hold of that many times elusive naivety of what we could actually accomplish in an 8 month time frame. We now look back and laugh at our selves and our silly ideas. Stuart, a junior in the program at the time proposed an idea to us based on the likes of James Hampton, and Henry Darger. They were reclusive guys who unknown to the community created insane works of art. They didn’t save the world in the end, but they became famous after there passing. This lead to the idea that our character would not be appreciated in life and he just had to stick to his guns and do what he had to do.
How did it actually happen? I don’t really remember. We only had 8 months, and there were three of us. Fortunately one of our friends found out what we were doing and insisted on helping. With out her, this would never have looked this good, nor would the ending have been completed on time. Plan small. Get Help. Try and have fun… and sleep when it is over.
Our storyboard and animatic were painfully loose. Half of our films aesthetic was based on the stuff we found, and what it would look like in the environment. We also knew after we built the sets we would be moving the camera around a lot to get perfect shots so we didn’t do many revisions on the storyboard. That is a mistake. Always plan out shots. Always revise. Even if you don’t think you have time. We didn’t think we had time, and actually, as it turns out, we didn’t.
Yeah! More in a bit!
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We practiced walk cycles alot. This is our first attempt at full character animation. Our first tests are downright embarrassing.
The puppet construction was an interesting endeavor. All of our puppets faces are fashioned with Magic-Sculpt. It is a two part resin that becomes rock hard in 24 hours. It can be carved, drilled and sanded. If you accidentally grind off a nose or something it is easy to mix up a little more a rebuild the damaged surface. We also used the stuff for the feet, and for the old ladies hands.
The skeleton of all of the puppets was made with aluminum armature wire and held together with J-B Quick, which cures in a fraction of the time of J-B Weld. Another 2 part epoxy that hardens like metal. It ain’t as strong as a weld folks, but it works very well. After the armature wires were twisted and epoxied into rough skeletal brass fittings were put on their for arms so hands could be removed and then the puppets were sandwiched with foam. We found a spray adhesive that works wonders with foam. It is called Bull-Tack spray adhesive, and holds foam together with a minimal seam. Once the foam sets up it is carved out with heavy duty scissors and then wrapped with a yellow bandage tape from CVS.
For Cecil (the main puppet) we went through 4 armatures. Our entire film is him walking around and picking up object. It ain’t easy on aluminum wires! This being the case we had to make sure his hands, head and all of his clothing were replaceable.
Camera, Software and Rigs:
One of our first conversations about stop-motion was what software we were going to use. We new for a fact that we needed something stable and something that would control our camera. One of our classmates kept talking about Dragon Stop Motion. He would say stuff like, “It’s the only program you will ever need… you idiots!” He was right (about the software). I was amazed early on, and then I discovered the ability to mask out different aspect ratios and even custom ratios. I knew I loved the program. If it or the computer crashes, or some one accidentally unplugged a hard-drive, everything is saved because it saves each picture individually. Further into shooting we discovered the x-sheet, and once again we were blown away. This is the program, hands down. There is no way I am shooting animation without it. Ever. I was an idiot not to. Andy was right.
For the shooting we used a Canon XS. It is the cheapest Canon rebel on the market, but it has live view and full manual controls. Much of the film was shot with the stock lens. I would not recommend this. The elements in the lens are so cheep and loose that if you bump the lens, or if you attempt to pull focus, they make the entire pictures shift and no amount of coaxing can get it lined up with the previous frame. Any rack focus we pulled we did with a Canon 50mm f1.8 prime lens. It appears to have gone up in price a little bit since I purchased mine which is a shame. It was a great lens for the price.
Jeremy and I watched coraline separately. One night working on sets he asked me what I thought. I told him it was beautiful. He told me every shot was a moving shot… as in, we needed to have every shot moving. It was a bit of a joke because we had no camera rig, and we had both agreed that keeping the camera set for each shot would allow for us to get done on time. I stopped talking and stared at the ceiling for a bit. Jeremy said god gave me a design, I then jotted down some notes and told him I would have a camera rig by morning. I don’t think he knew if he should take me seriously, but by morning I had shot tests on it and was ecstatic with the results. It cost me $30 bucks.