Archive for February, 2011

Making shaking

To my horror I noticed today that the past few days I have been shooting in Medium JPG instead of RAW. This must have happened when a Dragon Stop Motion session crashed some days ago and I mustn’t have reset it to RAW. Hopefully it won’t have an impact on the editing in post production. I am annoyed I didn’t catch this and have made a large sticky note stuck to my desk reminding me to check the format I’m shooting in!

[Here’s the current lighting setup..]

I shot the most difficult scene so far today. It was the ‘tape machine convulsing’ shot from the side. There was so much going on that each shot of the 80-odd photos took some time to set up. Firstly the EKG had to have a series of sharp rapid spikes moving across the screen. I cut these out last night so I was prepared for today. Unfortunately I made too many, which could have made a difference to the 2:30am finishing time last night…

As well as the monitor I had to somehow have the tape machine having a seizure and the bed moving as a reaction. I tied various methods but the one I settled on was cutting a length of wood to equal sections. Then I made a bundle of two and a bundle of three. I used them in different combinations to prop the machine up to different heights and also to push the bed out from the wall. It got a bit complicated the order I had to use them in so I carried a little sheet around with me for the couple of hours it took to shoot.

[The patented Wood Block Prop System (WBPS)…]

There was one big problem though. Around half way through the shoot I realised that I had forgotten to turn the reel to reel machine on!! This will bug me but I can’t afford to go back over any shots if I want to catch up with the schedule. It’s not a huge deal and I doubt if anyone would even notice as the only difference that having it on makes is that the light at the front is on. From the side angle you can’t see the internal dials moving so I’ll get away with it.

I also managed to get a few more shots in. The IV drip shots and the final scene with the headphones dangling. I experimented with this one as it was a static shot and it’s the closing one to the animation. Every 4 frames I increased the shutter speed so that it eventually blows out the picture. I got the idea from this amazing video by Mogwai (from about 2:30 onwards).

Tomorrow won’t be as productive. I have class and my supervisor meeting. Then I have 2 essays to peer review. I’ll try and get some easy shots in tomorrow night just so I can feel like I’ve done something.


Patience, patient…

I started shooting today but quickly realised that I wasn’t happy with the lighting. I spent most of the day experimenting with various angles and diffusers and adding new lights. Eventually I settled with removing the ‘Chair’ light from the radiator and raising it even higher by putting it on a table. This cast an amazing light on the set and created a nice atmospheric tone. The second floodlight was really just to fill in the shadows so I put a triple layer of Nylon to diffuse it. The result is below…

I only managed to shoot one scene tonight. This is because I spent a lot of time on getting the EKG monitor animatable. I spent quite a few hours cutting out all the pieces and then trying different methods of moving the spikes across the screen. I finally settled with the simplest way, using White Tack. I only shot 158 frames which equates to about 6.5 seconds, some of which will not be used, but they took about two hours to shoot. I’m starting to feel as if I’m in some weird time capsule.

I’m a bit more than a day behind, but I reckon now that everything is set up I should start to blaze through these next few scenes. I’m not going to adjust the schedule because it’s giving me the incentive to try and speed up which is keeping the momentum going.

Intensive Care…

I left it too late to post last night so here it is. I began shooting the first hospital scenes yesterday. With the room set up I can now go for all the scenes and shots I need. I’m still a full day behind but I’m hoping to pull that back over the next few days.

I’ve got the lights set up how I wanted them, though this involved using a chair in a way it was never supposed to be used. Since the floodlight was already nailed to the chair and I needed it elevated by another foot or so, I simply jammed it into the radiator. It’s really stable and I can still angle the light. The only downside is that I never accounted for the fact that the door is right beside the light, making it a tight squeeze getting in and out of the room now.

I spoke with Daragh Muldowney, who has been a great help with all my photography-related questions, about the lighting of the set based on the reference picture I’m using. We agreed that a harsh, shaped, light from the side and a diffused light from above would come close to achieving this effect. For the shaping of my light, I housed it inside a (overly complicated) shoebox structure. This gives it the ‘letterbox’ type of light which is similar to that of the reference picture.

I finished the shots from the foot of the bed. For one of them (the opening shot) I used the glidetrack for the first time. I used the cardboard ruler I made to get perfect increments. I actually turned out quite nice although I wish the track could have been twice as long.


I also shot the scene where the machine finally runs out of tape and the red leader tape passes through the heads and collects onto the second spool. I’m trying to shoot more than I need so that in editing I will have more options. The drawback to this is that the more seconds of footage I add on the more hours it takes to shoot. I spent 3 hours last night shooting this scene and ended up with about 14 seconds. This was the most painful sequence yet as for each picture I had to walk over, adjust the tape machine, step out of the shot, shoot it and repeat. After a few hundred times I start to get a bit zoned out and making mistakes. For example, as I was moving the tape on a fraction my little finger nudged a wire beside the machine. I spent the next few minutes trying to put it back into its previous position so as not to ruin the shot. I think by the end of this project I will either be a zen master of calmness or I’ll spend the rest of my days in a padded room.

Ready, Set, (almost ready to) Go!

The set is nearly ready. Tomorrow morning I will work on the lighting and begin shooting. The other little things I will work on are IV drip the EKG monitor. I’ve been thinking about how to get the green ‘blip’ to move across the screen and I think I’m nearly there. I’ll use pieces of coloured card to represent the blips and hopefully it won’t look too tacky! Been a long day today so I’m keeping this one short. Here’s a few pics of how things are looking…

I managed to finish the flashback scenes today, apart from the ‘Church’ scene which will really be a photograph or two rather than an animation. I’m leaving that until the end so I can scout am appropriate location in between. The most difficult, and time consuming part so far has been the lighting of the sets. I had naively assumed that most of my time would be spent taking photographs. It’s true that I can spend an hour or two taking the pictures, but the staging of the set can take all day. I use the Live View mode on the camera which is being fed into the laptop to check how the scene will look. This ultimately wears down the battery so when it comes time to shoot I then need to spend time recharging it back up again.

Rig to suspend the baby's mobile (note the piece thread stopping it from rotating)

I needed a small diffuser for one of the lights today. I used a shoebox and some of the Ripstop Nylon to make it. That’s the easy part. The difficult part is mounting these creations. I ended up screwing the contraption to the back of one of the dining chairs. I really hope the landlord doesn’t show up unannounced…


The first scenes I shot a few days ago called for low, interesting lighting. These new scenes need more light so I have been using both floodlights. This is the monster that is watching over all of us…

The 50mm doesn't capture the full magnitude of this fella


That is it for today. I’m just about a day behind schedule. I’ve tried to get a jump on tomorrow (which is now the Build Day) by moving everything around and giving the room a general clean and return to order. I hope to build the hospital set, light it and get a few shots in tomorrow. It’ll be a busy day but I have no choice as the schedule cannot be exceeded by even one day.

Not enough hours…

There comes a certain point where you have to call it a night and that’s what I’m doing now. Unfortunately I’m behind on the schedule, but not for the lack of trying. I got off to a good start, up at 6:30am and I finished off the Alcoholic flashback scenes, including the ‘crib’ part for which I built a funny little mobile.

The rest of the afternoon I’ve been trying to set up this really cool shot that pans and rotates at the same time. I’ve been trying it for a few hours now and it’s just not working. I am wrecked again so I’m going to hit the hay and attempt to get this scene done by lunch tomorrow. In hindsight I should have gone with a much simpler shot and moved on but this project is not about ticking the boxes and making something sufficient. I’m trying to push myself and produce something which I’ll look back on and be proud of. Of course, the risk of this is failure to finish in time which may seriously affect my grade.


Tomorrow is my Build Day, whereby I’m going to construct the set for the hospital. I think I have everything I need but it’ll require a lot of drilling. I managed to borrow a masonry drill from a friend but he warned me that it’s not great and the battery will take some serious charging every go or two. To be honest, it’s the day I’ve been dreading the most out of the shooting schedule, and now it’s become worse because I have to try and include today’s overflow too. Aaaaaghhhh!

Making a baby…

My concept of time is starting to become distorted. Sitting in a room with blacked-out windows and spending hours to produce seconds of footage is taking its toll on me.  At least that’s what I’m telling myself for not accomplishing everything I needed to have done today. That, and the fact that half my Tuesdays are devoted to another module I’m taking.

I did manage to finish off the ‘Alcoholic Flashback’ scene. I’m not terribly happy with it because it’s a bit jerky and quite amateurish but it was probably the best scene to cut my teeth on because I can use exploit that lack of quality in After Effects and hopefully use it to my advantage given the nature of the scene.

I have been kindly loaned a Manfrotto 501HDV head and glidetrack by John Morrison and this should help me achieve the panning shots I want to do. The tilt on the head is really smooth – much better than my cheap tripod -but the movement of the glidetrack itself is a bit stiff. I will grease it up tomorrow and see if that helps. I’ve been playing about with it this afternoon and made some additions. Mainly I marked out increments on a piece of cardboard which should help greatly with consistency. It’ll be quite easy to figure out how many to move as well as if I’m shooting in 24fps, then moving 24 notches will be one second. Easy!


101 uses for a toothpick

I’m preparing for tomorrow’s ‘crib’ scene. That means I’ve been making a baby all afternoon. It’s working out quite well. Luckily, my hard drive was delivered yesterday with the perfect size box with amazing packaging that looks great for the prop. I’m thinking of adding a mobile onto it to really hit home the fact that it’s a baby. I’m shattered for the day and plan on getting up early tomorrow morning to start working on it so that’s me for today.

baby boxing