7.01.2012

Seminar #1: Smoke and Mirrors (final TBW installment!)

Annnd... WE'RE OFF!!!
This final installment of This Big World takes a look at live action puppetfilms that might incorporate different types of effects, from green screen and compositing tricks to analogue, on-set effects such as smoke, image distortion, or puppets blowing bubbles!

Effects can be as simple or as technically complicated as you want to get yourself into. In the 'simple' category, here is an example of a rain-effects test I did early on with a very rudimentary Clint Eastwood cut-out, some strands of fishline, and a couple of flashlights. It's not perfect, but has potential!

'Rain Test with Clint'
video
Fun with fishline, flashlights, and The Man With No Name

Here is a clip from a fairly bad Industrial spot I made in 1990 for California's AT&T Phone book. One of the challenges I faced was making the dragon puppet blow smoke. A length of surgical tubing and a cigar (cough, cough) offscreen did the trick:

Video of smoking dragon puppet coming soon!!

While some puppet tricks may seem to be high-tech, many analogue effects can be achieved for relatively little money, with a little ingenuity and materials from the local hardware store. This is one of a number of Nike commercials I worked on back in California in the 1990s starring Lil Penny (voiced by Chris Rock). At 00:15 the puppet blows a bubble with actual bubble gum, which I had pre-chewed. Kinda gross, but if you need a puppet to blow a bubble, let me know! For this I used Bubblicious gum, a length of surgical tubing, and an air compressor:



In an entirely different vein, Berny Hi has explored a variety of analogue effects using projections that can be integrated during the shooting, such as some cool shadow tests, and has discovered a number of really amazing ways of distorting projection using mirrors, prisms, crystals, and warped glass, such as wine bottles or glasses.

Video of Berny's experiments coming soon!!

Here is an example of a very simple film created using a couple of puppets shot on green screen and composited over a background of moving image footage. Based on Goethe's poem Der Erlkönig. Thanks for this link, Sylvia Zieman!


This is not a difficult process, and opens up a lot of possibilities if your puppet film needs more going on than you can create while shooting.

If you are really ambitious there is no end to what you can create with a combination of compositing and live-action puppetry. Check out this amazing example by Andrew Huang, Solopsist:



There is room for all kinds of special effects! Let your imagination fly!

*********
SMOKE AND MIRRORS: SEMINAR ONE
Preproduction for Live Action Puppetfilms that use SPECIAL EFFECTS!!
Wednesday July 4, 2012, 7:00 - 10:00 p.m.

********
Over the next few weeks the focus will be on PRE-PRODUCTION!!!


1. STORY/SCRIPT
Story
 - pick a simple, visual story that would be difficult to execute otherwise
 - three minutes or less is plenty long enough

Script
 - draft a script around the story
 - envision the puppetfilm as you write the script - remember, it can be a silent film!
 - aim for a film that is under three minutes long, to keep you sane


2. VISUAL RESEARCH
Throughout your process, it is extremely helpful to collect images, ideas, colours, patterns, and any other elements that give you the feeling you are looking for with your project.

Right away: start compiling at least one of the following, if not all three:
 - production journal: a physical scrapbook/notebook
 - dream box: a container to hold images and items for inspiration or fabrication
 - concept blog: a digital scrapbook for links and uploading digital media

Identify images that will inform and enhance the visual approach to your story
 - textures, patterns, motifs, and tactile finishes that speak to your project
 - style, palette, feeling, shadows, etc.
 - identify the mood and feeling that best serves the story

Character and set design
 - be inventive and take some risks!
 - utilize the medium!
 - why puppets, why not actors? you have control over the look of everything!


3. SHOT PLANNING
Visual Storytelling
 - consider line, tone, shape, color, camera, etc

Storyboards: much more important in puppetfilms than regular filmmaking
 - they dictate HOW you build your sets, puppets, etc.
 - they dictate scale and functionality, character and set gimmicks, etc
 - they dictate what kinds of camera tricks, tracks, cranes, etc. you’ll need

** storyboards are essential!!! before you build your puppets/sets, you MUST have your shots figured out. Otherwise you will either waste a lot of fabrication time and build things multiple times, and/or have a frustrating time shooting **

YOUR FIRST ASSIGNMENT, SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT: 

Build A Preproduction Package!! (July 4 to July 18-ish)
 - script: a very short script
 - it can be a silent film - keep it under 3 minutes!
 - style: what is the LOOK and FEEL of your project? explore/identify
 - palette: limit your palette and choose colours for a reason
 - set design: the more concise your design, the easier your build will be
 - character/puppet design: ideas about what your puppets will look like
 - storyboards: storyboards are essential!!!
 - inspiration collection(s): the more you have, the richer your film will be
 - anything else: any other visual concepts: mechanics, tests, etc.

Feel free to come down to the Underground Puppetfilm Works to focus on your preproduction and brainstorm with other Puppetientists!

puppetz rule!

1.16.2012

Seminar #1: 3D PuppetFilms - Preproduction!!

Preproduction for Live Action 3D Puppetfilms
Monday January 16, 2012, 6:50 - 10:00 p.m.


Over the next three weeks the focus will be on PREPRODUCTION!!!

1. STORY AND VISUAL CONCEPTS

Story
- pick a simple, visual story that would be difficult to execute otherwise
- three minutes or less is plenty long enough
Visual Research
- look for images that will inform and enhance the visual approach to your story
- find textures, patterns, motifs, and tactile finishes that speak to your project
Images
- style, palette, feeling, shadows, etc.
- identify the mood and feeling that best serves the story
Character and set design
- be inventive and take some risks!
- utilize the medium!
- why puppets, why not actors? you have control over the look of everything!  

2. INSPIRATION
Inspiration Collection: throughout your process, it is extremely helpful to collect images, ideas, colours, patterns, and any other elements that give you the feeling you are looking for with your project. It will help immensely. You should immediately start compiling at least one of the following, if not all three:
- production journal: a physical scrapbook/notebook
- dream box: a container to hold images and items for inspiration or fabrication
- concept blog: a digital scrapbook for links and uploading digital media  

3. SHOT PLANNING
Visual Storytelling
- consider line, tone, shape, color, camera, etc.
Storyboards: much more important in puppetfilms than regular filmmaking
- they dictate HOW you build your sets, puppets, etc.
- they dictate scale and functionality, character and set gimmicks, etc
- they dictate what kinds of camera tricks, tracks, cranes, etc. you’ll need
** storyboards are essential!!! before you build your puppets/sets, you MUST have your shots figured out. Otherwise you will either waste a lot of fabrication time and build things multiple times, and/or have a frustrating time shooting **
YOUR FIRST ASSIGNMENT, SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT: 
Build A Preproduction Package (Jan. 16 - Feb. 6)

At the very least, this should include:
- script: a very short script - it can be a silent film, remember - keep it under 3 minutes!
- style: what is the LOOK and FEEL of your project? explore/identify
- palette: a nice limited palette -- not too many colours, and all chosen for a reason
- set design: as many designs as you can collect so that building goes smoothly
- character/puppet design: any hits you might have on how to put your puppets together
- storyboards: storyboards are essential!!!
- inspiration collection(s): the more of this stuff you have, the richer your film will be
- anything else: any other visual concepts: mechanics, tests, etc.


Feel free to come down to the Works to focus on your preproduction and brainstorm with other Puppetientists 


(note: Chrystene will be out of town Jan 18-25, but you can get into the studio by co-ordinating with the Filmpool). See you for the FABRICATION SEMINAR, 7-10pm, February 6th, at the Underground PuppetFilm Works!
puppetz rule!

12.31.2011

Fabrication 02 - 2D puppetz at the Works!

Check out the fabrication party that swung the Works over the holidays! I'm a little behind on the blog, but that doesn't mean things haven't been crazy down at the Underground PuppetFilm Works...


Berny Hi: George Bassler's Perpetual Motion Machine

Berny came down the day after he slipped on the ice and cracked his head and got a concussion. His excuse for working on the world's tiniest shadow puppet test was that the doctor told him to do precision work that required spacial thinking and small motor movements.
I for one love the way this shadow test turned out... but apparently it's not supposed to be a baby swimming next to a cabin; it's supposed to be a boy fatally shot in a gun misfire accident from across the field (some of these prairie stories are a little tragic...). 

video

that's why we do tests!


Tyler Banadyga: Title TBA (something unexpected is discovered during the digging of the basement on the family farm)
And Tyler has been true to his word: once he decided on his story and approach, he became a puppet fabrication machine!! His story is awesome, and based on something that happened when his family was digging the basement for their new frame home while still living in the sod hut. He churned out a whole family and a homestead over the holidays.


video
digging puppet test!

I just love the orderly way Tyler lays everything out.

great down-shot of the guys lifting the rocks out of the new basement. 
Just before Christmas Tyler set up a mock-up test of his characters and the sod house, to get an idea of the size of the sky, foreground grass, and other elements he'll need to complete before shooting. It looked amazing through the camera, and what really blew me away was the complete success of his sod house. It's just ink and watercolor on paper, but it totally looks 3D through the lens.
Yep, it's really 2D!!
 
Awesome work, Tyler!

11.14.2011

Fabrication 01!!

Things are hopping down at the Filmpool's Underground PuppetFilm Works! Scroll down to check out some of the cool stuff being done by the Paper and Shadows puppetfilm artists!

Kat has been working on a car for her opening shot. After a couple of iterations and tests for a really janky, rattle-y car, she is happy with her last prototype, and is off to the races! This is a cardboard mock-up; she is planning to build her hero car out of very thin sheet metal, sewn together with wire... Awesome to see you so often down at the 'Works, Kat!

Kat demonstrating that old model shop adage:
'Always use the right tool for the job.'
In this case, a sharpened screwdriver for poking holes in paper. Perfect! :]

Kat's Car prototype #2: now it's on to sheet metal
(because she's nutz)

video
Kat's first prototype looks janky and rattle-y -- SUCCESS!!
Ultimately of course the operator's hands will be replaced by rods,
but the movement is great!


Amber has been playing with ways of making characters using printouts of various images. Her first mockups are looking sweet and pretty funny...!

Amber's work area always looks great...

... she knows that the best way to make a puppet...

is to have a little bit of everything within arm's reach...

 
... et voila!

10.16.2011

This Big World

workshop 1 of 3: Paper & Shadows
oct.17/ '11~jan.16/ '12

This 3-month workshop focuses on creating puppetfilms using 2D formats such as paper puppets and shadowplay in the Filmpool's brand new Underground PuppetFilm Works miniatures fabrication and shoot studio! Chrystene will hold four seminars as part of this workshop, which correspond to four imperative aspects of the production pipeline, particularly as they relate to planning and successfully shooting live action analog puppetfilms. After each seminar, the links below will be live, and clicking on them will take you to the post outlining the topics discussed during that seminar.

- story, vision/design, storyboarding, visual storytelling
Fabrication (Oct. 31)
  - building puppets and miniature sets with YOUR story in mind
Production (Nov. 21)
  - puppetry and puppet performance, lighting and staging using miniatures
Post production (Jan. 9)
- digitally capturing and editing footage and audio
In addition, there will be scheduled open studio hours throughout the workshop, during which artist participants may come to the Underground Puppetfilm Works to brainstorm, meet with Chrystene or other artists, or work on their projects.


puppetz rule!