Wednesday, December 31, 2008


My needles arrived!
So here it looks like normal knitting...

Until we add a penny for scale. (That's 4/5 of a US penny.. dang exchange rate! :P ) This is 10 stitches by 20 rows on size 1.5 needles, the second largest of the new batch. I used the full 6 strands of embroidery cotton, and at this size it wasn't too bad to work with at all, could do this on the bus without a problem.

My size 0.5mm needles - these I wouldn't even dare bring on the bus! Aside from dropping them constantly (afraid of bending them) they're very different to work with. I'm used to being able to do a stocking stitch literally with my eyes closed! These little guys are like being forced to work right-handed (or left-handed for you 'normal' people out there!) I managed a few rows before it slipped off... will try again when I'm more awake. I tried with 1 strand embroidery cotton but will try with sewing thread tomorrow.

This is the collection of 5 different sizes I bought, ranging between 0.5mm and 2mm. The penny gives a good idea of the thinness of those little ones! I'm afraid to look at them wrong for fear of them withering...

I'm really looking forward to some puppet clothes with this assortment though! I don't have the final puppet made but I've a good idea of his size so can make his scarf and hat now, and a sweater that he wears at one point later on. It's supposed to be bulky/loose so it should be okay to do it ahead of time. Going to be fun to design the little pattern!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Some props for the upcoming set - these will hang on a wall with 2 threads suspending them from each other.
They were also the first experiment with casting with a 2 part plastic resin (have to double-check the exact name of it). Worked well overall, and great to cast with, sandable and drillable once cured (which occurs incredibly quickly). However - the paint refuses to cure. I probably should've primed the faces first, but as they won't be touched on set it *should* be okay (famous last words). I might start posting some storyboards as I go, but don't want to give away too much story!!

Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays, may you enjoy yourself! I've got a dog who fell asleep curled up with a tennis ball on the couch and a cat below on the floor playing with the now-dropped tennis ball - so things are good :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Okay - slowed down from the havoc Christmas brings, but I am now caught up to where I was before the crash! I'm still doing storyboards on the computer, but am now saving to 2 seperate files and uploading all the final images of the day through Celtx.

I'm finding inspiration in the strangest places lately! Most recent is this quote from 'Dead Souls' by Nikolai Gogol:
"And across the old fellow's wooden face there suddenly flashed a ray of light, which expressed, not feeling, but the pale reflection of a feeling: an apparition, similar to the sudden appearance of a drowning man, which appearance elicits a joyous shout from the crowd assembled on the shore. But in vain do the rejoicing brothers and sisters cast a rope from the bank, and wait to see whether he will not rise once more; whether his hands are exhausted with his struggles or not, the apparition is the last. He is not seen again, and the calm surface of the unresponsive fluid seems still more terrible and more desolate than before. Thus Pliushkin's face, after the momentary feeling which had flashed across it, became more unfeeling and expressionless than ever."

Not saying it's cheerful - but it's beautifully put, and there are parts of the animation where I want to be able to express similar sentiment; I feel like I'm collecting sources and references in anticipation of actually filming!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

not really stop motion related...

But this is just crazy cool! Had to share it on here

Someone in Ontario built this in their basement - it's been getting alot of flak in the media (mostly playing up the fembot imagery) but really it's an incredible achievement and aside from being so advanced - was done by someone in their basement!!

It's going to be interesting to follow - even to see what method will be used for the facial movements. So many of the facets of craft cross over with each other (casting, working with silicone, creating artificial movement, beit stop motion or live-action animatronics) that it's really inspiring to see alternative applications of things. Plus it's just cool :P

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Planning Ahead

So I've still got a ton of storyboarding to do before I even begin set building let alone props... but... when can that stop anyone :D
I'm really excited about this new project, and keep thinking about it. One decision - admittedly largely influenced by Coraline - is to venture into miniature knitting - eeks!
I've been knitting since I was little, and this has been my most ambition project to date:A 4x8' 'Castle in the Sky' blanket made from a pattern I created in TVPaint. So it'll be good to work smaller this time ;)
Will be awhile until the needles get here (special order off ebay) but I can't wait to get started on making his gloves, hat, scarf, a sweater or two, etc! Get them going and work on them on bus rides so I'm not losing time later on.
Can't wait to start - has anyone here tried working with the tiny needles - any advice?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Good and The Bad

Time to update - now with good and bad news!
The good is that I was accepted for a fund! I'm very excited - it covers some props/material costs, as well as free training of some very cool equipment, as well as the use thereof. I'll still be working full time a regular job (which I've been at for about a week and a half now - I have energy to animate when I'm done which is all that matters!) and will be filming at home, but the extra training and equipment will be invaluable! Aside from learning more about things like Final Cut and how to use their recording programs, I'll have access to very nice recording booths, and new editing suites, and can do all my wire removals on TVPaint at home or in After Effects there! Really excited about it. I have to commit to finishing the new piece in 1 year, which is a little terrifying, but also a good kick in the butt to get in gear!
The bad is that a file error must've occurred while saving my storyboards I've been working on. It looked like it worked properly, but opening the file the next day everything was gone.... a bit of a setback to say the least. I'd exported some of the images, but will have to re-do a number of them as well. Back to saving everything in triplicate! On the upside I'm sure it'll be better the second time through.
I've also started using Celtx for storyboarding once the images are drawn, and really advice checking it out if you're at that stage! (Not the program that crashed btw!) It's very organized, and is keeping my notes, images, and free to boot. Having loaded some images into there is the reason I didn't lose everything when the file was lost.
Still getting used to this bed-before-1am and getting-up-before-7 deal, but work is going well and allowing me the time and energy I need to animate, so all is good in the end!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sweet Coraline....

Just about two weeks ago I got an email that's kept me pretty excited since then - the promise of something special in the mail! It arrived and special doesn't begin to describe it. I can't describe how excited I was unpacking this package, and it lives up to every bit of hope! From the upcoming movie 'Coraline' (that every stop-motion fan is already a fan of from the trailers) this is a unique box sent out through the mail.

The outside of the antiqued box, numbered 11/50.

Opening it is magic! Inside is a key and the password 'PUPPETLOVE' to the website which unlocks a clip about the world from a puppets point of view - and great teasers for the puppets for the film. The letter is sealed with wax and, appropriately, a black button.
Inside the envelope is a letter from the Coarline Team.
"Since ancient times, strangers who work on feature films have sent strangers with great websites mysterious gifts in the hope that they can connect over a mutual interest and come to love each other. Some people think that receiving random gifts from strangers in the mail is illicit. Not when the gifts are awesome, right?"
A detail of the included photograph. Pay attention to the Other Fathers arms/hands...
Because here they are! They're 'JOINTED/WIRE/SILICON' and include the metal square tubing at the end where they'd join onto the puppet. An actual part of the film! I know stop-motion is so tactile but being able to touch a part of the puppet used is an amazing experience! Seeing the tubing on the end, and feeling the resistance of the wire in the fingers is a learning experience in itself, I feel like x-raying them to see how the finger wires are joined inside ;) I'm incredibly thrilled to have this part of movie history, and this box will find a prized place for display!

To quote from the letter: "Led by Henry Selick, the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, this team has created the first stop-motion feature shot in 3-D. Based on the beloved best-selling children's classic by Neil Gaiman, Coraline is a fairy-tale nightmare steeped in classic storytelling, craftsmanship, and the old-fashioned art of moviemaking magic. That means everything is handmade. Every leaf, drawer pull, and roast turkey. Even the rusty shower water."

I was looking forward to this movie already - now I can't wait!! C'mon February, and c'mon IMAX to show it here in 3D!!

Monday, November 17, 2008


Winter is official, evidenced by the deer standing 6 feet away from me on the other side of the window, eating all of the bird seed out of our feeder. As long as I stay still, she doesn't seem to care that I'm here.
The downside to this (aside from -40C weather, blizzards and trudging through piles of snow) is that foam latex is now much much harder to procure! Having finally decided to take the plunge... well, putting the toe in the water at least, going for the 2 part no-bake to start with - I now find it's much more difficult in winter (due to that lovely below 0C weather). Hopefully the newest company I've emailed will have some good shipping news!

Storyboards are now about 60% done and going well. Much more work than I'd anticipated, but I know how much it's going to help to already have a feel for my camera setup of each shot before I started filming. In the meantime I've been researching the SMA forums for ways to animate the face -I can spend hours re-reading old threads there, very addictive! Hopefully late this week I'll be able to start testing and posting attempts. Can't wait to post photo's again!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

baseboards and jobs

Progress has been very slow! I was drafted to re-do all the baseboards at home (always a tradeoff for not paying rent!) On the upside, I have a shiny (though not horribly accurate) mitre saw out of the deal.
Job applications have been killing alot of time as well - filling out applications, faxing, emailing, dropping off in person, attending 1 hour interviews only to find out they've already filled the slot! It's a big time investment and I can't wait until I have a job I can tolerate, and maybe even enjoy every other Thursday. In the meantime the frustrations are fueling my need to get storyboarding done more efficiently. Yay for inspiration, however it may come about.

Friday, October 31, 2008


He gets up from his chair and sits down nearer the music box.
He slowly gets up from his chair and drags it closer to the music box.
He jumps up, excited, and leaps over to the music box.
He grumbles as he stumbles to the music box.
He tiptoes quietly to the nearby music box.
He shuffles listlessly to the seemingly distant music box.
He mumbles as he makes his way to the music box.
He sighs and drags himself over to the music box.
He gently maneuvers to the music box.
He dances towards the music box.
He leans towards the music box.

This is why I'm really enjoying storyboarding - it's realizing all these options for each movement - noone simply gets up and does something - they do it with a style!

Side note - has anyone tried wooden armatures? I'm going to try making one, if only for the learning experience, but hopefully to work with ;)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Okay, I've got 2 minutes of storyboarding done! It's a rough time estimate, as I'll tweak all the timing when it's done, but it's giving me a good sense of flow. As frustrating as it is to try to draw it all out (I want to build everything instead!) it's been good for thinking more about camera angles, length of shots, etc.
Attached is one of the frames - as you can see, very very simple drawing style - the cat's sneaking back out of a cupboard after getting stuck inside, as seen through a Polaroid camera. We've actually got one kicking around, so I might try and see if I can take pictures with my DSLR through the Polaroid view finder for the shots - if not I'll fudge a frame for it.

Friday, October 24, 2008


So, a call for help from anyone reading this! I need cat stories! My new piece is about, among other things, the relationship between an older artist and his cat. I really want to play up the dynamic between the two, and I think the cat is a great potential source of humour in the film, but ours tend to sleep more than do anything ;) (And I'm allergic which limits things a bit)
So anyone who has stories about their cats they'd like to share, and are okay with potentially ending up in a piece, please share! Any animal that random has to have some entertaining moments ;)

Monday, October 20, 2008

NSI Online film festival - online now!

Wahoo! So the NSI film festival I got into is showing Judder now, as well as hosting my de-mysteriousness online (producer pic required) as well as having an audio interview - you get to hear me say 'um' quite a bit, good times :P But if you want to check it out the link is:
EDIT - apparently it's only available in Canada, one of the geographical blockers! But the interview's still accessible if anyone's interested.

Just finished basic scriptwriting for the whole story, need to start doing more storyboards now - I'm also going to start taking more photographs of just anything in and out of the house - start establishing the graphic feel I want for the film - should be fun to be able to bump the camera after a shot and not worry :P

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

beginning storyboarding

So this is the beginning of my storyboarding for my new animation. They won't all be drawn in as much as this, but the intro scene has some panning shots of the set, and I'd like to time those out on the drawing first, get a sense of it all.
I think I'd read that for some movies a storyboard will be sync'd to the audio, then as each clip is filmed it's swapped out, until the animation is complete. I'm thinking of trying this way for the piece - right now I see some parts soo clearly, and others not at all - and I found Judder really frustrating in not having the timing near as clear as I'd like. So - going to try this way - it's looking at being around a 3 min piece so should have new drawings soon to start blocking it in!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Preview Link

The video preview for the next few films for the NSI online film festival is up, and I'm excited that Judder is part of it! Here's the video:

I'll post once the full video and interview are up!

Also have some new storyboards to post in a few days for a new animation *about time!*

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Editing in TVPaint

I created a quick video of the editing process for blending mouth lines - it's just the events, so it doesn't show selecting the areas/brushes, but it gives a good idea of how to blend them using samples of surrounding skin tone.

I also did some screengrabs from the program and posted them on SMA.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Laptop is back and repaired! And today I got to see clips of Judder on tv - for the first time without having to press play first :P I was accepted into an online film festival for the NSI (National Screen Institute of Canada) and Judder'll be streaming online in a few weeks, along with a phone interview I did (which was a very stressful few minutes!)
A local TV station interviewed the head of the festival (as it's head office is in Winnipeg) and they used clips of Judder in the interview! Really exciting to see it on tv :)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My first lipsync

My first lipsync is finished! Here's the puppet I used -

I went with a marionette style mouth, with replacement mouths. I decided to blend the lines in TVPaint afterwards, as it seemed the most efficient way to go - both pieces of the head are baked and I didn't want to start getting plasticine crumbs on her sweater. Here's the video of her talking:

I also finished another 15 sec of a puppet doing exercises (pushups and stepping in place) but sadly the small versions are on my laptop, which I am now without for the next week or two. On the upside I've only got 6 days to finish off 3 more sculpts, 10 castings, and alot of sewing for another project so no laptop is probably a good thing!!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Demo Reel Help!

Okay, so I'm going to put together a demo reel - never know when it'll come in handy! I'm aiming for 3-5 minutes as that seems to be the norm. I'm going to include a clip of Judder but am doing a bit of new work as well.

Quick poll - ballet or kung fu? I'm going to spend a few days with a larger puppet (8" as opposed to the 6" largest I've used before... it's going to be so much nicer!) And to do a few extra bits of animation for the reel I'm thinking of doing an athletic movement (dance, karate) instead of the traditional walk cycle. Any input would be greatly appreciated! What do you think works on a show reel, what to avoid - feel free to give any advice! It would be really appreciated.

Also - support rigs - edited out? If I'm doing a dance piece where the character is in the air a large amount of the time - is it better to edit out the rig to look more finished, or can it be left in? I'm not sure if editing skills are as important as showing the animation, don't want to dedicate time to it if not as important as pushing puppets!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

new pictures

Okay, so I've got a few new (and a few older) pictures to post - sadly none to do strictly with animation! I've been really slow to get work done lately - in part from migraines I was getting nightly. I was having to keep my computer dimmed as much as possible, keep everything quiet - the bathroom fan made me feel like screaming! But my bf helped figure out that I was getting them when I was working in low-light settings - so I've been making an effort to make sure I'm using a lamp with all my detail work now - and no headaches yet. Something I really should be doing anyway.
The mural is done, took 7 hours of kneeling on hardwood floors, ouch! But they love it so it's all good.
The first pic's above are of a character -I'm calling her emmyymme - the image has been kicking around for awhile now, it was originally fleshed out for an animation pitch that didn't end up being accepted, but she's becoming a recurring motif in my current/future projects - I bugged Mike Brent (Strider) alot for help/crits, so thankyou!

Next up is a sculpt with the first coat of latex on - the one used for the resin cast a few posts ago. I didn't realize how much the latex dries out the Sculpey, and will need to recondition it - but I now have a snazzy mold and plan to make the final product soon.

And these last two are my newest sculpts for some dolls I'm making - attempting to get into a juried craft show. She's Sculpey (Super mixed with black Premo) and will be plaster cast and made with Sculpey with fabric bodies. I found the amazing trick of using water with Sculpey! I'm guessing it's just a friction thing since the clay is oil based, but it lets it get much smoother without the problems of using alcohol - also allowed for all the hair detailing without using plastic wrap or getting burrs. There'll be 5 dolls total - starting the second one tonight, hopefully have pics soon.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Disney Princesses...

have the most bizarre proportions! I'm doing a kids room mural in the morning of this image:and it's going to be interesting to see them 4' tall and still having waists only 4" around :P

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Across the Universe...

... is beautiful. I get so consumed in trying to make something look real or plausible it's so amazing to see something that just blatantly exploits the beauty of a scene.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wahoo! I'm officially an artist in distribution...

I headed down there last week, transferred Judder to BetaSP, and filled out the forms. Hopefully it'll get a screening this way! I have a screening in October which I'm excited about - it'll be in the city at Cinematheque - not sure about the details of it all yet, but it'll be my first non-student show which I'm very psyched about.

Progress has come to a near standstill on the new project lately as I've been sick for the last week, but hopefully everything will get going again now. Sadly it's also job-hunting time - I've been unemployed since January when I had to quit due to getting full-time hours (impossible during thesis) and had the luxury of taking the summer off as well... now it's the fun of dressing up and trying to find a job I can tolerate - eeks. I think I've gotten to spoilt just hanging out at home working on animations and playing with the pup, the 'real world' is going to be a shock. Tomorrow I go and track down some more interviewee clothes.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Manfrotto and Monsters

I'd been searching for the Manfrotto (410 jr geared) tripod head for awhile now, but Amazon was the leading seller and they only shipped it to the U.S. But, last week I found one used for sale on Kijiji (a great site!) only it was Montreal's page - so it took some googling and tracked down the seller (a Montreal used camera equipment store owner) and was able to have them ship it here - arrived this weekend and is perfect! Great condition and saved quite a bit on it, I can't wait to try it out!

I'd been hoping to finish the audio challenge at SMA, but aside from being past the due date, I'm caught up in making props for my next film and can't find the time to complete it - but as Ceri's amazing puppets were involved I thought I'd post part of it here. The idea was to have a stop-motion kid loitering in front of a 7-11 type building, the background being rear-projection. As he's standing around listening to Bret's music the background starts to flicker and changes to a scene of Ceri's monsters, all unbeknowst to him. By the time he turns around to have a look it's flickered back to a nice brick wall. Hopefully eventually I'll be able to complete a rear-projection piece - for now, here's the background animation - thanks again Ceri for the actors!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Clear Resin Casting

I need some clear resin objects for my new animation, so I did my first experiments with resin today - wow does it stink! I'm going to be working in tiny portions for each cast and the bottle measures in ounces, so I borrowed a scale and did some translations - 1 ounce of resin equals 41ml (based on an eyedropper) so, for the casts I'll be doing, 2 1/2 ml will use 1 drop of catalyst.

Since I had to mix a full ounce today for converting the weight to ml I did a test pour in a discarded mold I'd made - the final object will be made out of a better mold of the same object, but with a little twist - hopefully pull off an idea I had in sculpture class a few years ago. I've completed a 2 part latex mold today (using mold-builder, much better than the rubber latex I've been working with until now!) and need to build an exterior 4 piece plaster mold before I can start casting.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

New Books!

Yay! Stop-motion birthday's are the best - I now have Susannah Shaw's 'Stop Motion: Craft Skills for Model Animation', Barry Purves' 'Passion, Process and Performance', and 'Filming the Fantastic: A Guide to Visual Effects Cinematography' to keep me entertained! Great timing, I've got a few new big projects I really need to get going.

(Also now have 'Alien Apocalypse' too, but looks like I'll have to ebay 'Beyond Re-Animator')

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Judder on YouTube

I finally put Judder up on youtube... sort of. I'm still hoping to get into a few festivals, which rules out putting it up easily, but if you want to see it just add me as a friend or contact and I'll add to the private viewing list - my ID on there is emmyymme82 (I'm soo original with those huh...) A bit of a hassle but the bouncy balls are much better in this one, I promise! There's even added motion blur at Prosser's suggestion.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Clash of the Titans Remake

Stop motion has evolved in the last 30 years, and is being compared critically to state of the art CG - this is a campaign to acknowledge new stop motion and make it a part of the movies today.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Shoes are almost done!I took a little break from finishing the new breathing armature (take 2) to work on his shoes. I had a bit of trouble with shoes last animation, so this time I made Sculpey (the cheap stuff) mockups of the shoes, then covered that in a thin layer of liquid latex. The latex turns into a thin rubber shoe, which I can glue the fabric on to easily. the soles are latex baked in textured molds, and will have small tiedown holes cut in them (once his feet are made). Just need some laces and some wear and tear added and they'll be good to go.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Breathing armature

So here goes the first breathing test for my new armature. It's just a few frames - some doubling and sequencing to get an idea of the movement, figure out how much to move it each frame.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

DSLR manual focus pull

A quick post of a 10 sec clip from Judder of a focus pull done manually on a Pentax K100D DSLR with a 18-55 lens. I painted a little dot lining up the beginning of the focus pull and other to mark the end, with an arrow to show which way to go (first time didn't do that and it came back to bite me in the @!) I just used the little ridges on the lens as guides, a third of a line per frame, animating every 2nd and 3rd frames to ease in and out.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Custom Action Figure finished!!

A little side project has been taking up a bit of time lately - and finally finished! A custom 9" B'elanna Torres Voyager action figure, missing from the release of official figures - made for a bday present. The clothes/body were used from other figures, but the head is completely custom. Even made of plastic so it squishes a little like the real ones! Now back to armature making!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Documenting Judder

Now that my external hard drive is repaired and back I uploaded some of the documentation from 'Judder'. This was my ceiling camera rig! It's a 3x5' steel plate (with a lovely wood veneer - it was an old desk) bracketed to the ceiling. A monopod is held by a large magnet (originally used for hauling boats out of water) with a tripod head attached at the other end. The camera attaches and films upside-down. This gains access to areas normally obscured by the set and allows for easier perspective for some shots. The monopod could retract up to approx. 1' from the top of the rig, down to level with the set.

The streets, routered but not stained. The car is made of foam and will have LED's running off of batteries added, covered with foam coat and painted.

Staining the streets and beginning a tree.

A chaotic shot of the set in progress.

The sidewalks curve away from streetlights. Streets are routered and sidewalks are dremmeled.

To save time I inset all the tiedown screws ahead of time for the girl walking down the street. This was before I bought wingnuts, the greatest invention ever! The set was so large for some locations I needed someone to sit under the set and control tiedowns for every change while I held the character in place above.

Her umbrella frame, soldered together.

Her dress, hand stitched, on the Model Magic mockup of the character.

An idea of the scale of the first two characters. All characters in the other 2 sets are approx 6" tall.

The original streetlight design, changed as the light was too scattered.

Before I bought a cable remote for my camera I was using a wireless one - which turned itself off after 5 min or so. So if I wasn't ready for the pic I'd snap a disposable pic off to keep the remote working - and added extra light to the scene so picking them out and deleting later would be easy. The new cable remote is soo much less stressful!

A cut scene, as the LED streetlights failed during shooting. Would have been a focus pull of the girl walking down the street through the window of a house.

One of my exposure sheets.

Set 2 characters, fresh from the oven.

A bounce test before filming set 2.

Set 2 balls and characters pre wire and rig removal.

My main character's arm snapped off during the last shots - so I made a shoddy replacement by wrapping the armature wire around his body.

This was to get the shots from his perspective on the swing.

This was the camera rig used for his perspective view on the swing. The rotation disc is the same one used for the rotation when the kids are playing with the bin of school balls.