The Crying Game


After yesterday’s time off, I knew I would have to work extra hard to catch up on today’s schedule. I did and I didn’t. What I mean is I worked hard but I only managed to get the ‘face’ scenes shot today. I put in a lot of effort and I’m quite pleased with how they turned out so I’m not too annoyed.

I had most of the set rigged from yesterday. I made a few more modifications with the lights this time. I ended up using between 2 and 3 (depending on which scene I was shooting) of the LED pen lights, a floodlight below the machine, a diffused room floodlight and a standard desk lamp reflecting off some white material just to add more overall light. I also became part of the lighting setup as the position I was standing was essential to block out some of the direct light from the ambient flood. This caused me awful back pain throughout the day as I had to be slightly bent over in the same position pretty much all day to keep the light consistent.

One of the LEDs taped to the tripod leg

Another LED

Today’s shoot was by far the most difficult. The irony is that it seemed pretty straightforward on paper – eyebrows go up, eyes move to the right, easy. After arranging the lighting I started to question the animation and how exactly I wanted it to move. I couldn’t decide and shot a few different scenarios. Silly little things like how the eyebrows moved and how long they moved for all had to be shot over and over. I try and include a buffer of a second (24 frames) each side of a major movement so I have a certain leeway when editing.


In the end I shot 16 takes which came to a total of 1,239 frames! When you include the 160 test shots of various lighting and camera positions that comes to a total of 1,399 photographs. Like I said, a busy day…

To be honest some of these takes are instant throw-aways. In some takes I would get 40 or 50 shots in and a momentary lapse in concentration would cause me to nudge the rig and knock the camera out of place. There’s so much attached to the tripod that a slight knock and it becomes impossible to put everything back in the same exact position. This happened a few times so I would have to start over again. It’s really frustrating when you have spent 30 mins or so taking these 50 frames and your sleeve catches on the rig!

Other problems I had were FIRE! Well, almost. The floodlight under the tape machine got so hot that smoke started coming from the machine. I turned it off straight away and when I reset it, I had it a bit further from the machine. You may notice in the pictures also that I put tinfoil under the machine. This is to reflect the light from this flood upwards.

While the LEDs looked quite nice. They were horrible to work with. The batteries would run out quite fast (every 30 mins or so) and in the meantime they would dim over the period of a shoot. There’s nothing I could really do about this so you will notice in the final video that certain areas of the frame may dim slightly. I’ll see what I can do in post…

Medication Time

To make the poor fella cry I used a syringe from the flat’s First Aid kit in the absence of a pipette. This allowed me to place the liquid (black food colouring and water) into its eyes drop by drop, frame by frame. I had to move the whole rig and machine up at an angle for this as I wanted the liquid to pool at the bottom of the eyes. It would look much better this way. I didn’t want the liquid spilling out into the belly of the beast so I made sure not to fill it too much. I think I got the eyes full of tears and just one drop shy of frying the circuit board.

The whole rig had to be moved to an angle which allowed the liquid to pool

I think I could only shoot these scenes at this point in the project. The rotation of the different dials all had to move at different speeds, by which my hand muscles had now learned (this might sound strange but repeating these incremental movements over and over for more than a week, I now know how much to move the parts by muscle memory) At one point of the shoot I had so much to coordinate for each frame. For example, the scene where the eyes cry involved:

  • The eyes to rotate
  • The tape reels to rotate
  • The flaps under the eyes had to move down (these were controlled by two pieces of sewing thread which I had to re-tie to a weight each frame so they wouldn’t spring back into place)
  • The centre dial had to be spun by hand just before the shot was taken
  • a drip was placed in each eye every 3 frames

When you do this set of actions 200 times in a row, you start to have a ‘what the hell am I doing?’ doubt creep into your brain.

Here’s the storyboards I was working off and the un-editied shots from today. For the eyes moving left shot I have changed it to the eyebrows simply raising as the patient is now looking upwards. The photos from the shoot may not look too different from each other but they animate in slightly different ways from each other. Something I have noticed is that they appear darker here than I actually shot them (I am shooting in RAW and JPG. These are the JPGs captured but the RAW files are brighter) The movement of the eyes to the Right was more subtle than I would have liked but I’m hoping I can cover it up with clever editing.

Face (storyboard)

Face (from shoot)

Face looks to photos (storyboard)

Face looks to photos (from shoot)


Face looks to Isopropyl Alcohol (storyboard)

Face looks to Isopropyl Alcohol (from shoot)

Face tears (storyboard)

Face tears (from shoot)



One thing I’m starting to learn is that there are certain rules for what not to include in a stop motion project. The old film adage of ‘never work with children or animals’ can translate to ‘never work with liquids or anything that is likely to move on its own’ for stop motion. Every object needs to be fully controllable in order to manipulate if frame by frame. I learned this with the crib mobile and the suspended face above the patient which moved quite a lot and I had to ‘settle’ them or, in the case of the mobile, moor them to a solid so that they would not sway so much.


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