A note on size…

…Apparently, it maters! One of the first missteps I made in my stop motion endeavors was jumping in and building a set without thinking about scale.
It was a sunny late summer day and I had just knocked a bunch of moss pieces off my roof. I was noting how they all looked like little grassy hills, became very excited, and started collecting them all up.I ran to the model train shop and bought a million little trees…and before you knew it,I had my movie set!

I started taking some test shots of my set when I realized…these trees are like 3 inches tall, meaning my puppets would have to be like 1 inch tall…and I ain’t no Bruce Bickford! …yes smaller conserves resources, but it also constricts movement.

In this video, shot with the original set i made,  Mr. Rabbit illustrates the importance of size:

As you can see, Bunnies should really not be bigger than trees because it angers them quite a bit, but i’m still glad I jumped in and started building this Set. partially because I tend to over analyze and end up getting nothing done, and also because it got me to think more realistically about what I wanted to accomplish and how to accomplish it. Oh…and also those tiny trees are made out of small, durable wire which can be used to make fingers for puppets! and you can glue them together to make a super tree too!!!

Super Tree
Super Tree

That’s Better! eh, Mr. Rabbit?

Concept art and asthetic

I wanted to keep it simple for a few reasons.this being my first major jaunt into stop-mo, I didn’t want too many elements to keep track of to begin with. Having 3 characters who are rather distinct from each other, I figured I can focus my attention on each one without worrying about the actions of the others. hence,I can do more cut scenes of the characters reactions and expressions to convey the total impact of what is happening…that is until the curse enters the picture, and the 3 elements become interlocked.

Another reason for simplicity is sheer work.at first I was thinking about building several life like shadow hand puppets and a bunch of crowd puppets, but then realized how many armatures and movable parts I would need to construct…and was like F that! Let me just start with 2 main puppets.

Below is the concept art for the kid puppet and the zoom in on the witch burning.

Zoom In
Zoom In
The Kid
The Kid

Story Boards and Characters

To begin with, I sketched out a rough draft of some story boards from the notes I took the night that the Story came to me. The initial notes were absolute chaotic, almost incomprehensible scribblings in red sharpy on the front…and back…of a peice of notebook paper, and as we all know, sharpies leak pretty massively through paper, especially a thin piece of notebook paper(maybe i’ll post a shot of it later!). So it took me a bit of time to decipher my initial intent, but here’s the first story board:

Story Board
Story Board

There are 3 main characters:

-The Kid: A country bumpkin, enamored by the fire and burning.

-The Witch: Calm among the flames, accepting of her fate…until she sees the kid.

-The Curse: manifested as an army of Shadow Hands emerging from the flame and from the Witch.

Right then! lets get this started, shall we?

Why I’m here? I’m here to blog about my journeys into Film and music…specifically stop motion animation. I am a new comer to the field of stop motion, but I’ve been making flip books and sketching sketchy pictures all my life. I’ll be posting pictures and videos of my progress and showing the techniques I’m using in the hopes that it helps others interested in making their own animations.

To Start, I’d like to thank Sussanah Shaw, who wrote a book about this craft that has really helped me to conceptualize various technical aspects of puppet making and animating. Stop Motion: Craft Skills for Model Animation, is a great place to start wrapping your head around this whole shit storm and figure out where your jumping off point is going to be.

For me, I was inspired by a song by a band I have worked with as an engineer/producer. The band, Towers, from Portland, OR had a song about a witch burning, and listening to the track late one night in the studio….the gears started turning as I pictured the scene. A story started to form about a young kid witnessing thiscarnage and I decided to set out to make my vision manifest through stop motion.

This is that story, unabridged.

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