Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Foundations of a Great Animation pt. 2

Thank you for checking back, in this post I will finish talking about making a great animation table and let you see some pics of ours.

In the last post I talked about the weight of the table, I feel this is the most important aspect. And if weight is the most important it is only by a little because the second most important is accessibility. The perfect weight will not mean much if the animator can not access it properly. Make sure there is enough room underneath and there is a way to get there. This brings up an important note, if you are building a big table like we are, you must take into the account of the weight of the set and support the middle properly. This will vary from table to table, I personally prefer to make the board that will go into the table as rigid as possible and prefer less on another extra support that will no doubt get in the way of the animator.

At this point I should point out that this information is for freestanding animation tables, not small scenes that rest on counter tops. That is for another post entirely.

Now when you are done so far, you should have a box frame with no table top that does not move very far and has a way for the animator to get underneath the table top with it is in place. Next comes the table top and there are two main ways to go about it.

If you only need the table for one set, then just screw, bolt, nail, glue, or bubble gum the boards on top directly to the box frame, you should be fine. But I like to be a versatile as possible, so I like hollow tables where you can set different sets on/or in them. The only major problem this represents is that you need more than one scene that can use the size of table you're building. This is where planning very crucial. If you are planning to have multiple sets in one table, simply install wooden braces on the inside of the box frame, 1/4in. from the top along the entire interior. once again, watch those supports for the center!

Well, those are the major brush strokes of how to build a table. They can be made out of almost any wood, here as you can see we reused free pallets and lumber. Besides the added benefit of being free, using scrap wood is that much harder. If you can build one with scrap wood, you can build anything.

Here is our table almost complete. This will be the main access point for our animator.

Here are a couple views of the dry run with the first table top that will be going in. The sides have not been cut down to size yet, but this gives an idea of what it will be like. Also, if you look carefully at the back of the table, there is a chair. Could this be the one going to be used in the film? Who is John Galt?
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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Foundations of a Great Animation

Today I will go over some points and tips on how to build a great animation. In animation you will need a table from which to animate. Sounds pretty simple right?

Animation tables come in all different sizes, shapes, and with different functions. There are some attributes that are generally common to all tables. Usually, you will start out with a idea or drawing similar to the blueprint above. Always draw your plan out ahead of time! I can't stress that enough. Unless you are a master carpenter with a steel trap for memory, always sketch it out. If you have a animator, now is a good time to get with them and go over the details. You will need to take into account how the animator is going to use it, need access to the underside, etc. If you are the animator and set designer, think ahead about these same things. The last thing you want is to put a support beam right where your animator (or you) need to get to.

It needs to be heavy. Now you may ask, how heavy? That's a great question, thanks for asking. It needs to be light enough for you to move if necessary, but heavy enough to where a casual bump won't budge it. If you ever run into an animator, ask them if they have ever bumped a set that was too light. Most of the time you will hear a war story about how hours of work were lost because of this.

Tomorrow I will have more plus photos of our set being constructed. Till then!
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Saturday, June 27, 2009

People mover!

Our resident machinist Scott Petrie (my dad) has just finished one of the coolest production pieces yet for Moving Day.
Introducing the "People Mover"!

If you've been following this blog for any length of time, you have probably heard me reiterate again and again the importance for having complete control over your character's movements. This typically means always having your character bolted to the ground to prevent any unintended movements.

"Ok," you might say. "That makes sense." But the first thing everyone wonders when they sit and think about animation for any period of time is, "Well wait a minute, what about when someone jumps in the air? How do you bolt them to thin air??"

Hmm, good question! Back in ye olde days of stop motion animation, characters were suspended in mid-air with very tiny fishing line. This is still used today in some animations, but most of the time the character is held up by something that is later photoshopped out. Often times this is called a "flying rig." We have called ours the People Mover and somehow the name just stuck:

Look ma, no ground contact!

This partially-finished armature was constructed with 1/4"-20 nuts in his upper back, lower back, and bottom of his butt. I can attach him to the People Mover in any of these locations and have him held 100% securely in place! Later on, after the animation is filmed, we will go back and edit out the bar so it looks like he is suspended in mid-air.

The ingenious design of this rig is of the first to come out of our armature / rigging machine shop run by none other than my father Scott Petrie. There was another famous team of father-son stop motion animators that made a pretty big impression on quite a few people... ever heard of a little guy by the name of Ray Harryhausen? If you don't think you have... you have, you just don't know it yet. Google it up.

Ray's dad was an accomplished machinist and designed a lot (if not all) of his armatures which Ray later animated and inspired nearly every special effects guru of our day. In the same way, my dad is currently building - well, that's a different story :-)

For now, take a look at these pictures of our awesome People Mover:

You can turn the crank for very precise movements along this plane:

This one is nice and long. Others may be shorter if the space is limited.

Notice the ball and socket joints. The sockets are designed to be the exact radius of the ball, providing maximum coverage for the most resistance with the smoothest movement. In other words, they aren't going to wear out for a long time and they will hold their tension very well.

There is a different type of joint for where the armature attaches to the arm, which makes it a breeze to attach this to a character.

Well, back to the shop to keep production rolling! It's a big set-design construction day over here. More to come soon.


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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Set design update

I was going to post a tutorial here, but due to technical difficulties (my camera ran out of juice) I would have to pull pictures from the Internet. I like my money and don't like getting sued so I decided against that.

Whew! Things have been very busy lately. Chairs are getting finished, props are being built, big plans are in the mix, etc. Unfortunately due to some technical difficulties pictures are not currently available. But fear not! Next week we should have an update on the set posted here. Read more!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Have a Seat, part three

The chair is finished!

You are going to have to forgive me for being a little sparse on details... First I was out of town for almost a week and then I was sick for even longer - so this post is a long time coming! I didn't take a lot of production pics because I just wanted to get it finished ASAP.

For those of you who enjoyed all the details, here is a quick rundown of what has happened since the last post.
  • Used epoxy putty on the feet to sculpt the shape and also affix a bolt to the bottom of the feet for attaching the chair securely to the set (see pic below)
  • Used "Goop" to glue the threading all over the chair. Yea, that's real threading from a fabric store.
  • Cut out balsa wood panels for the front of the arms. Stained them with walnut-covered wood stain.
  • Painted the feet with the same wood stain.
After that, the chair was finished!

And here is where the story gets a little sad, well for me anyway. This chair is supposed to look old and beat-up. Only problem is, it looks brand new. So, after having just made the chair perfect and beautiful, I went to town making it look "old" with the help of my sanding dremel and wood stain.
What do you think?


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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Directors Journal #4

Wow! Talk about busy!

Everyone is working so hard to not only get this thing in the can but to make it ooze with greatness! I am always amazed at the detail that the team takes on this project. It makes the overall finished product even that much more enjoyable and entertaining.

Everything has a story. From the small stain on the couch to the deteriorated wall on the inside of the house. I can't wait to share more with all of you!

Right now we have Duane making the finishing touches on the chair and the main character Chris while Brian slaves away at finishing the set before we move into production. We're really excited to start shooting while still making preperations for production on the rest of the film.

We decided to outsource a few things such as props, furniture, etc to some good friends in California and we'll encourage Jared to make some posts on that soon.

I decided that as soon as we're ready, we'll throw up some concept art of the inside of the house (where the action is) to give you a guys an idea of the look and tone of the film. More of that soon to come!

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Have a Seat, part two

Chris's chair is almost finished now!

If you were to ask me what I liked better, sculpting or upholstering, you know what I would say? ...Probably nothing, because I would still be out in the workshop upholstering THIS CHAIR. In other words, UPHOLSTERY IS A MAJOR PAIN IN THE NECK! .... that being said, it's finally almost finished now :-)

By the end of last week's post, the chair looked like this:

After having a slight character modification, it turns out the back of the chair is going to be way taller than it needs to be. This calls for some major changes to the chair...
Now when something like this happens, it is easy to get frustrated. But it is also easy to realize that, in these instances, backtracking is actually moving forward and making progress.

Here I carefully cut and peeled away quite a bit of stuffing. After measuring and marking exactly where the new back should be, I very delicately cut the back with a small hand saw. Here is the new back height:

To make the arms rounded, I carved them out of styrofoam with my handy-dandy styrofoam cutter. If you like using the wire styrofoam cutters, more power to you - I cannot stand those things!

There is a special type of styrofoam glue I like to use. Lots of glues (and almost anything in an aerosol can) will melt styrofoam. I have read from our buddies Justin and Shel (they post comments as "Jriggity") that liquid nails works pretty well too. Here is the stuff I used:

It works unbelievably well sticking styrofoam to styrofoam, but it really doesn't work that well on anything else.

And now comes the fun part.... the upholstering!! I couldn't tell you how many glue sticks I went through attaching all this fabric, but the burns on my fingers can attest to the fact that I was using the glue gun like a madman on this thing. I love the character on these arms! I can see the wood needs to have quite a darker stain though...

What you can't see on the following picture is that both sides of the chair are actually one piece of fabric, connected by the small strip at the bottom on the front of the chair. I had to make it all one piece or the seam would seem out of place. Not easy, let me tell you!

I used a product called "Nufoam" to shape the front mattress. You can cut it easily with a big pair of scissors.

Wrapping up the foam...

After experimenting with a few things, I decided to go with a sharp edge for the side of the mattress. It will look a little funny until the trim pieces are added, but once they are it is really going to 'pop'.

Over the past few weeks, I have been keeping my eyes peeled for some gold studs everytime I walked through an arts store. Well, the other day I came across the perfect find! These studs were on clearance for a couple bucks and are supposed to fit with some little girl's clothing stud machine. Don't ask me.... but they are the pefect size.

Only problem: they look brand new. This chair is going to be very aged by the end of this process, and bright shiny gold studding would look very out-of-place.

So I painted them, one at a time, with a rusty metalic paint. Then I went back over and scratched them with a razor blade so a little bit of the original gold would show through. My cell phone camera is always out of focus, but you can get an idea of the difference from this shot:

And after adding the studs.....

And that's all for Part Two! It might not have seemed like much of a difference, but it was a lot of work!! Stay tuned for Part Three. There still needs to be a thick trim around the seams and the feet need to be sculpted. Then the entire thing needs to be aged. Here is a sample pic of what the trim will look like (this was edited in Microsoft Paint):


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