Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tech Geek Out

Just in case any of our blog followers are tech-heads, here are some juicy photos of our camera set-up.
We are using a Nikon D-90 connected to a Kuper motion control system which was built and re-rigged for us by Tim Taylor.

Here is a close-up of the camera plus all the gearings needed to control the zoom and focus.

And here is the camera ready to shoot approx 200 frames for an 8 second tracking shot through the front door of the cabin.

If the shot works when we shoot it on Thursday, we'll post the results here.

Clear skies!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

motion control test today lighting too!

We acquainted ourselves with the motion control camera and tested some lighting tonight. the test came out really great. I had a lot of fun trying to keep the prototype flea from falling apart.

Here is the shot I took of our lighting setup.

Hopefully Jon will have the test up later.

Can't wait to get my hands on those new puppets. I'll be gentle Neil.

Second test lighting night shot


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cabin raising

Things are moving along nicely and we are almost ready for our first camera test.

As you can see, the louse and a couple of fleas are in production and will be ready soon, but more impressive is the progress made on the cabin. Thanks to George, Phil and Jon for their hard work on this little set.

Naturally the following pictures are not properly lit nor staged, but they give a you an idea of what the set will look like. Note the intrusion of the louse's chair in the final shot!

Cheers, Neil.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Where we at?

Greetings all,

Time for a quick update regarding the film.

Due to scheduling conflicts and other work issues, progress has limped along - but finally there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The camera has been rebuilt and Jon and I had a comprehensive chat with Tim Taylor about the running of said beast. If nothing else, this film is going to look amazing.

The puppet building is progressing despite a couple of hiccups along the way - hopefully we will have a whole team of these bugs before too long.

If we were making the whole film out of paper and card we would be laughing right now...

As it is, we are making headway with the props for George's marvellous cabin, sculpting everything from high density styrofoam and then sealing them before the paint jobs to come.

I recently did a complete timing of the film as it stands (on paper) and the running time comes to 5 mins 5 secs without credits.
I'll be sending you all a breakdown of the script and timing very soon.

Thanks, y'all.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Quick Flea Test

Jon and I shot a quick test to see if we could animate using a still camera, capturing JPEGs at a high resolution. We actually shot this as a 2K test which is rather extreme, but fun. The result was sharp and lovely, but obviously impractical for compositing (loads of memory needed).

This video is the compressed version, so the quality isn't as shiny. The puppet looks nice under the camera, but I don't like the range of movement in this 'proto-flea', so he will become the flea that ends up bridging the crevice. I'm working on giving the others more mobility.


Designing the cabin

Using Phil's initial concept art as a guideline, George stepped up and offered to build the cabin for a series of key scenes in the middle of the film.

He began by building a basic model of the dimesions using CG, and then after my approval, he put together a more finished version. This is instrumental in helping figure out how the actual cabin is going to look on set. The following video is made up from a series of his images.

The next stage is a cardboard mock-up. This will help me place it on the set, and figure out the best angles to shoot it at and how well the dimensions will work with the puppets - once all this is finalized, George will go ahead and build the final, wooden version.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Hello all,

Things slowed down briefly while I tried to complete some other projects - but now we can ramp up again.

I have placed an album over on FaceBook showing the progression of the mountain and fleas - figured that was a good way to get some immediate feedback.

George is making headway with the cabin, and Jon and I are about to run some tests with the camera - come and join us if you are free.

More updates as they happen,

cheers, Neil.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

ruff fog pass test

Hey every one
thought id post an environmental fog pass that i was working on today, if you have any comments, ideas, and/or a way you think the fog should look please do share.

More marvellous mountain.

Here are some shots of the mountain set in its semi-finished state. Just needs a coat of titanium white to get it looking crispy.

Jon diligently adds snow as a flea begins an impromptu ascent.

The final peak.

We had a great session with Tim Taylor (motion control guru from 'Coraline') on Saturday who taught us all we needed to know to get the camera up and running. We are going to shoot some test footage soon which I may actually cut into a rough version for timing purposes. We are also looking into replacing the current camera with a Nikon D90 with an 18-200 mm lens for a beautiful HD picture.

My next priority is to get the proto-fleas finished so that we can test them - and then I'll be calling for prop-makers once we have their scale nailed down.

Thanks everyone!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Creating a rough prototype--wind sounds, part 2

So I've edited a few tastes of the rough sketch for the particle sounds. There's a lot of background noise because it's a nice day outside, and I wanted to test the first run outside where I can let the particles scatter all over and make a nice mess for the squirrels to clean up!

Now that I've narrowed down possibilities, I can do some re-takes in a quieter environment.

Here's a few compressed samples:

Flax seed on cardboard with the U87 & 702T
Flax seed on tent with the H4 stereo mic/recorder
Sesame seed on tent with the H4 stereo mic/recorder
Sesame seed on cardboard with the U87 & 702T

Have a listen-- You'll have to imagine the results of an indoor session when the mic can be a little farther back from the surface.

I also still have to figure out a way to have a somewhat regular dispersal of the material onto the surface--dropping it from my hand is too irregular and risks clumping sounds. Any ideas? Unfortunately a fan makes too much noise. I'm thinking a funnel might work....

Creating the wind sounds

I've been working on the prototypes for the wind sound. I've got some straight samples of standard wind noises, but I wanted some detail particle sounds for snow/ice hitting the hikers. I think of the wind as broad brush strokes, and the particles as the details.

I set up my mics (see image 1). For this prototype run, I've got a Neumann U87, a Rode stereo mic (the NT4), an EV (RE50), an AKG perception 100, and a Sennheiser MD 421. And my built-in stereo mics on the Zoom H4, an amazing little portable recorder. I've got a few shockmounts, my recorders (the H4 and a Sound Devices 702T), my DPA windpac, and a few different pre-amps.

Phew! So then I set up my "foley pit" in my backyard. I've got some ideas of what to use for the sound, so I've got some surfaces (see image 2): glass, metal, wood, cardboard, a vinyl mat and a tent surface.

I've got a number of different "particles" to try: salt, large-grain sugar, ground flax seed and sesame seeds.

Stay tuned for the results! Once I get a good demo sound, I'll re-record in a quieter setting (dang squirrels, birds, and construction!)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Welcome to The Rock

I started laying the snow on today - a mixture of water, glue and baking soda.
Here is one of the rocks from the opening scene with a sky comped in for fun.
I wanted to show the potential of this set (bear in mind this is under VERY flat lighting).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Tension is Mountain

Well, the clay is all on - just needs a bit of smoothing - and I am now experimenting with different snow pastes to use for a final covering.

Below is the mountain almost finished - the brown paths are the routes that the characters will take, and therefore more clay will be put there to add stabilization and create footprints.

I performed a couple of quick snow tests - the top one is stevia (sugar substitute) and the bottom is salt - neither will work as there is a dissolving issue at hand. I have decided to go with either marble dust or ground glass.

Despite my lack of tripod (I'll take a better picture soon) I just wanted to get a sense of the shadows that are possible - this looks pretty dynamic I think.

Finally, here is the fully coated mountain shot under a blue gel. Interesting effect eh? I'm looking forward to doing some lighting tests once the sparkly snow is in place.

Onwards and upwards!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mountain Men

We are making steady progress on the first mountain set.
Here is a selection of images from the first week's building. It included another layer of paper, rock painting and application of white clay.
Once the mountain is covered, it will be smoothed (hairdrier on clay) and then the texture will be added (salt, stevia).

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Some concept art for the Cabin

Here are some ideas sketches for the Louse's cabin.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Here are some photos of Neil, Jon and I putting on a second layer of paper over the mountain, now named, "Nevercrest".

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A tangled web of metal and glue

Neil, Jon and I got to work building Mt. *INSERT NAME HERE* today. Apart from a few head-scratching situations (getting a massive set through a tiny door, using goopy paper mache on a set that's supposed to be in the motion-rig cage, etc) things went pretty well. The framework is there, and we'll continue to add mache layers and definition to different portions to the set in the coming days. As it sits now, there is wood framework, chicken wire for bulk, and paper mache over that (still drying).

Sample some cell-phone pictographs of our radical handiwork.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

End of Quarter Review

Greetings all,

Firstly, my apologies for the recent slow down in activity, but the pressing needs to pass algebra and find a way to stay in the country have diverted my attention.
All being well, we should be able to get up and running fairly soon.
I want to take this opportunity to welcome Karen into the fold - Karen might be able to work on the sound design for the film, which would be an enormous boost to its production value.
If any of you are thinking about game development for a future career, you might want to check out Karen's new book, Game Sound, which is on sale now.

Our tentative crew as it stands right now is myself (director), Keenan, Jake, Robinson (animators), Jon (compositor), Phil (concept design) and Karen (sound design). Obviously there will be some cross-pollination too :-)
Marty is still enthused about stationing us in the motion control camera cage for the rest of the year, and will be inviting us in to discuss the running of the equipment soon.

I'll keep you all updated with emails and on this site as the work progresses, but until then, thanks again for coming onboard - and here's to big festival wins!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Here is a front and side view of the Louse...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The first 45 seconds in storyboard form

SHOT 1 - The wind howls across a bare mountain side, sending flurries of fresh snow into the air. A boot crashes down, swiftly followed by four more. We pull back and around as the owner of the boots (a flea) leaps out of frame, closely followed by another flea. We continue to pull out and the whole party is revealed, ascending the mountain in their haphazard jumping manner. Fresh swirls of snow blow in, obscuring our view of the climbers.

SHOT 2 - The Louse pauses, looking at his surroundings with indifference. We crane down his bloated body as he removes his pipe from his mouth and taps it on his cane. We continue to crane down, following the detritus from the pipe as it soils the virgin snow.

SHOT 3 - The Louse pulls sharply on the guide line.

SHOT 4 - The flea ahead of him is yanked back and stands still.

SHOT 5 - The Louse packs a fresh wad of tobacco into his pipe with one arm as he retrieves his telescope with another arm. He holds the scope to his eye.

SHOT 6 - Louse POV - he scans the mountain face until he sees a tiny wooden cabin - his refuge for the night.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Concept Art. Thanks everyone for your encouragement in Neil's Message! Here is a couple more sketches and I'm planning on a Turnaround for the Louse and the Flea's backside. I'd also like to do some color sketches if time allows.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reference Video

I'll be adding more as I find them.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hello All!
I rendered some concept sketches for "Small Sacrifices" based off of Neil’s original sketches. I’ll try to post new images as regularly as ideas develop. I don’t think anything is set in concrete yet, so please give us your thoughts and ideas. Thanks.