Friday, July 14, 2006

Kung fu - Cro Magnan style

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Interesting premise, huh? What the heck could it mean, you ask? And you say you've never seen that Frazetta painting before? Neither have I until I did a web search for Cro Magnon, but that's beside the point. The point is, what Im talking about today is movement. Well, and thought. Ok, it's going to be a bit of a ramble... been a while since I did one of those. So settle in and enjoy the ride, and maybe it'll spark off some ideas.

I want to start with a story from high school. It didn't happen to me, it was a friend of a friend, a guy named Joe. Joe knew karate... he was a black belt in fact, and a really nice, friendly guy. He was one of these guys that's like an ambassador..... totally cool to everybody he meets, and you just knew he was going places. Anyway, I heard that one day a bunch of guys were messing with him at school... you know, shoving him around, getting him riled, your basic garden variety bullying to get a fight started. The usual crowd gathered around, kids clamoring to see blood and hopefully some teeth flying. And these clowns were beating the crap out of Joe. Until somebody in the crowd shouted "Use your karate Joe!"... then it was all over in a few seconds, with predictable results. He pretty much mopped the floor with those neanderthal scumbuckets.

The point I get out of the story is that, even if they have a skill or some special knowledge, people don't always use it unless they're prompted. And sometimes even then. It takes a special effort to access the higher thinking center of the brain... left to its own devices the brain is pretty plodding and lazy. It's actually hard to believe how relatively rarely most people make that effort and get the wheels turning. I work at a restaraunt with a mix of people... some are high school kids, one is a senior citizen, and there are a few other adults like me - and age has nothing to do with it. Most of the time, most of these people just go about their routine without any creative thinking at all.... making stupid mistakes - the same ones over and over generally. And for most of them, if you point out the mistakes, they don't take the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and advance themselves, they'll just get mad and start spouting off a lot of F-bombs and threats... you know, "You don't know who you're f'ing with... you don't wanta f with me mother f'er! I'll f you up!" That kind of stuff... arrogance that they mistake for pride. It's rampant in today's society, especially among the young teenagers. It could be mostly just the area I live in though. On the other hand, if somebody points out something I did stupidly (or a few others in the place are the same way) I'll generally (not always... depends on my mood and the way they do it) thank them for helping me improve my performance. Heh... the other day I saw the stupid way somebody had laid all the sauce pouches on their sides stacked on top of each other so they all leaked out all over each other, and I turned to the guy next to me and said "This is the kind of thinking that wiped out the Neanderthals!"

It's like the conscious particles of dark matter in the His Dark Materials books that I raved about on the old blog.... you have to want to see them, or you won't.

And what is it I want to see now? It's a certain kind of movement, which was brought to my attention a few days ago by that awesome Bumble clip by Justin Rasch. Oh by the way, I uploaded another one by him to StopMoShorts: Chew Em Up. Not quite as coo as a rampaging cartoon monster shredding air with his claws, but the movement is just as breathtaking. I mentioned a certain acting exercise in that post where you ewnvision semi-visible trails being left behind every part of your body as you move through the space around you, making a sort of static kinetic image, like a long exposure photograph only 3 dimensional. It seems like that's the way Justin thinks. He said he "designed" the motion for that Bumble clip, which is a very revealing choice of words. You don't often hear people say that in stopmo, at least I haven't... I think it's more common among CGI or 2d animators, and it implies a planning out of how to combine movements into something aesthetically pleasing.

Let's say you have a puppet who has to perform some series of tasks.... maybe he walks in a room, sets down his briefcase, shrugs off his coat and then turns to answer the phone. It could be done as a bunch of separate moves, all unrelated - or you could combine them all into one smooth motion the way a dancer would do it. And in so doing, you could envision the arcs the various body parts will make through space. Rather than turn the torso and then lift the arm, he could do both at once, ad it would look better, assuming it's done smoothly and with decent arcs.

I suppose it's sort of like what Jackie Chan does... he's known for the way he moves, and not just athletically like David Belle and the Yamakasi... they ration every move down to it's essence so as not to waste any energy, portion it out and every ounce of energy is directed towards making the jump and planting the landing. On some moves there's an aesthetic element, but generally the reason we admire them is because of the sheer athleticism and the fact that they use the urban landscape as a playground, something we'd all love to do as we trudge through the turnstiles they leap over. But in the case of jackie Chan, he does it all with style and makes it look good, adding a comedic element and doing facial expressions along the way. But all that is sort of the frosting on the cake... mostly what he does (as far as I'm interested today) is design his actions so they work together and look good.

Ok, well I think I've said what I set out to say. I plan to start doing some animation and try to design this kind of motion, inspired by Justin's beautiful work.

21 comments:

herself said...

I see what you are saying, Mike. (Brilliantly as usual)

I hate to hear that you are in anything less than a supportive environment at work but I know that you bring yourself into everything and therefore derive great value out of anything. And you've also got us to share your crazy thoughts with.

Designing movements for stop motion performance, interesting. I also very much like Barry Purves emphasis on the puppet's "natural" intention for any action. If he takes off that coat is it done hurriedly or meticulously. Like any human actor; "What's his motivation?"

Darkstrider said...

Yeah, it kinda sucks the way the whole environment around that place has changed recently. And it's a sea change... everything from the top on down has shifted toward idiocy and foolishness. Motivated hardworking people who take pride in their work used to be the norm, but today they;re very rare exceptions.

But, that said, I actually do like everybody there, and we have a lot of fun together. It's possible to really like somebody even if you disapprove of them in some way. Hell... some of my best friends have been reprobates!

sven said...

[Ramble follows.]

Quality of motion has been on my mind lately, too.

When I watch the bumble clip, it reminds me of Misha's "hall" clip. That, and a clip from Robot Chicken I just saw recently (I've seen almost none of that series -- just picked up the dvds so I can catch up on the phenomenon).

...It feels like Misha's motion and the Bumble's motion are both built out of strong poses -- and motion that almost pops the puppet from one pose to the next.

I've been thinking about how one could design motion based around such freeze-frames... You could use a still camera as a an aid -- just to play with capturing different ideas for poses.

Rhen you have the motions that get you *to* those poses. Pose, motion, pose, motion...

Y'know that penny exercise in Animator's Survival Guide? The one where you have the penny go across the screen several times using the same number of frames, but with different spacing? I've been thinking about doing that same exercise with a puppet... Like seeing how many different ways I could have Percy slam his hand down on a table.

Then, in addition to poses and quality-of-motion, add two more concepts, and I think things might start coming together...

How does the puppet hold itself in a relaxed state? Like how a football player holds themselves, versus how a ballerina does. That's your starting place for any outward action.

And then tics. Little behaviors that help make a character unique -- like how Uncle Ray made Mighty Joe Young pound his fist on the ground whenever he got mad.

So, it's an untested strategy for me at this point. But, y'know, any analysis and system of thought is probably a better starting point than just "animate forward".

Thesis: You can create dynamic animation by focusing on the following four areas...

(1) Poses. (2) Quality of motion that gets you from one pose to the next. (3) How the puppet holds themselves in a resting state. (4) Uniquifying tics / mannerisms.

Darkstrider said...

Sven...

Sounds sound to me. I hope to see any tests you do with Percy or anybody else. I'll bet you can find Robot Chicken episodes on Youtube.

Darkstrider said...

Yep, tons of em. I just checked. No Moral Orel yet though. Give it a month or two.

sven said...

Is that "Sven..." in the same tone of voice you used when I wrote a huge post about all my questions regarding aluminum wire?

The "Sven... You're making the simplest things complicated" voice?

;-)

(Thanks for the pointer to Youtube, btw. I've seen "dog" before... Unforgettable. I think if you open up my head, you can see the spot it cauterized!)

Ubatuber said...

Well unless its Strider's House of Beefaroni, lets hope you're not a cook :) I've put in 12 years in the restaurant biz so believe me I know how it is...and I've vowed never to return...
As far as the pose-to-pose stuff, I plan on putting together a sort of rough draft of the film using still shots similar to the Bait Series, telling the whole story in a sort of slideshow storyboard, and then figuring out the details from there...

Darkstrider said...

"Is that "Sven..." in the same tone of voice you used when I wrote a huge post about all my questions regarding aluminum wire?

The "Sven... You're making the simplest things complicated" voice?"


No, not at all! Sorry, I just like to use the three periods too much, sometimes it comes across more intensely than I planned.

Darkstrider said...

"Well unless its Strider's House of Beefaroni, lets hope you're not a cook :)"

Well, I just assemble sandwiches, no cooking involved really. It's a sort of deli-type place.

Sounds like you're almost talking about pop-throughs. That's something Sven might want to think about as well. It's like a rough run-through shot on 10's, just to get a sense for the movement and the scene changes etc.

sven said...

Sorry Mike... :-( My intended playful / impish quasi-self-mocking tone didn't convey via text alone.

Thanks for the pop-through idea. I'd heard of pop-throughs before, but had never thought of shooting on 10's / 3fps.

...

And because I don't think I've said it recently: thank you again for being such a fount of wisdom to us all. Your sharing your research and experience and enthusiasm is so enormously helpful!

herself said...

I find the whole thing very relevant and helpful, both the Mikeness and the group collaboration towards our films. Bravo to the ----society.

Darkstrider said...

Hey, I'm glad to share whatever knowledge i can with you all! This is totally cool.... it's hard to believe that all of a sudden I have this close friendship with this tight-knit group of artists who are all motivated and seem to share a certain vision. For 5 years this is what I was hoping would happen on the message board... strangely ironic that instead it happens through our blogs.

I was thinking today about my future project that I think is going to be the big one for me... a film I haven't talked much about dealing with a witch and a litle girl... it shares certain elements in common with Halfland and Jenny G - namely there's a treehouse similar to Shelley's (but I think mine will be more tree than house) and it has an old crone and a little girl like Jeffrey's project. Not sure what that has to do with anything, but I just wanted to share.

herself said...

Neato. I agree. And am glad to hear someelse say it outloud.

Oooo, the big one, eh? How interesting that it shares elements with other "fellowship" deeply felt films. Either we are all making/seeing the same thing in our mind's eye, like the mashed potato replica of Devil's Tower in Close Encounters, or dipping our toes into the same pool of symbolic archetypes.

Da Weave said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Da Weave said...

Great post, thought-provoking as always. Minor note, the illo is by Boris, note his signature lower left.

Keep up the good work. You are an inspiration

Darkstrider said...

Whoah... sure enough! It's a Boris. D-oh! Thanks for the heads up.

Darkstrider said...

Looked like a pretty weak Frazetta anyway.

Da Weave said...

Maybe it's an early Boris when he was still emulating his hero? :)

Darkstrider said...

Yeah, definitely!

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