Monday, March 19, 2007

I Can't Animate

Maybe you've heard of the Mac-only framegrabber called I Can Animate? Well I can't! Let me relate my woes....

For many months now my computer has been on the fritz. It began innocently enough, the occasional glitch and sometimes it would freeze up. Then it got more frequent and more severe, until I got used to actually spending an hour or more some days re-starting it over and over before it works, and then there's no telling how long it will last. Watching video generally kills it, though I can often get in a few minutes before things start to go wonky. So I tend to wait till I'm about done for the day before watching any clips.

Then a few months ago I tried to start up my trusty Framethief, and lo and Behold! It was unable to connect with my camera! That had never happened before! Oddly, iMovie connects to it every time without a problem. I ran my diagnostic software, which told me at this point the only thing remaining to try was a complete re-install of my operating system. Failing that the computer needs to be serviced. Well, I did a re-install - took the better part of a night, and the problems still persist! I've been putting off getting the computer serviced, partly for monetary reasons (no idea yet what it will cost) and partly while I try to decide if I should just get a new one or not instead. The new Macs are intel-based, and from what I understand there are problems getting them to play nice with some video programs. I'm sure Framethief won't run on the intel macs (and from my recent experiences, I want my Framethief back!).

I'm listing this info mostly for my own benefit, so I can always refer back to this post in the future when I need the info. Here are my experiences thus far with trying alternative mac framegrabbers:

The first one I tried was iStopmotion. To my surprise, it immediately connected with my camera (a Hitachi HV-C20 run through a Canopus ADVC-100 analog/digital converter to convert the signal to Firewire). It's not a bad program for the most part, very Framethief-like, but with limitations. The biggest problem for me (a fatal one) is that it doesn't store individual frames in a folder the way Framethief does. Instead it creates a temp folder and when you're done with your session you save the project or export it to Quicktime. What this means to me specifically is that, if (when) my computer crashes I lose everything I shot - unless I've been saving frequently, and even then I lose everything since the last save. But that's really no good unless I save after every frame shot, otherwise I'd need to somehow go back and painstakingly re-position the puppets precisely where they were at my last save.... a laborious and heartbreaking procedure that I'd rather not even mess with.

Another problem with iStopmotion is that you can accidentally mix up your frames! This is really bizarre... I don't see the benefit of it, but apparently you can grab a frame (there are little tiny thumbnails images along the timeline) and drag it to a new position! I can see where this might be neat for a beginner, or maybe a pro in extremely limited circumstances, but it's not something I'd ever use, and I wish there was a way to disable it. The problem is that the thumbnails are so close to the playback head, which I want to grab to try to scroll through my animation (another problem, that doesn't work in iStopmotion, but it's a habit from longtime FT use).

And the final iStopmotion problem that really seals the deal.... sometimes when I try to export my animation the program crashes and I lose everything I shot. No good!

So I tried I Can Animate next. It recognizes my camera. It also doesn't allow scrubbing-through by dragging the playback head across the timeline, a feature I like to use. Unlike iStopmotion however, I Can Animate doesn't have to render out a clip every time you want to play it through to see what you've got. So that's a plus. But it also doesn't save individual frames as image files, and doesn't automatically save every time you take a shot (which amounts to the same thing). AND it causes my computer to crash very quickly, just like iStopmotion. I also don't like that you can't use the space bar to take a single frame... that's pretty standard in other 'grabber's ive tried. The 1 key is hard to spot, not front and center (and BIG) like the space bar! Finally, I Can Animate also causes my computer to crash after shooting just a few frames!

So next I tried Stopmotioner. It can't find my camera, so that's that!

Sorry, I know this post doesn't mean anything to my readers.... it's just a notepad for my own use today!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Work it cap'n!!!!

Click to see the captain's first hobbling step in a few years. His old bones were pretty creaky, but I worked him over with a phillips head screwdriver. Tommorrow he'll be a lot more spry (or he walks the plank!)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Life stirs once again.....

In the realm of Darkstrider! For many months now my framegrabbing software (framethief... the best!) has been unable to connect with my camera. The horror! I tried downloading Animaide XT, that couldn't connect either. But I really wanted to join in on the Work your Walk Week fun and festivities, so i went to the ridiculous extent of trying to animate in iMovie (which for some reason can always find the camera!). Well, that was ridiculously difficult, so I just decided to download iStopmotion on the off chance that it would work.... AND IT DID!!! Too late tonight for more than a super-crappy test, but tomorrow, LIFE STIRS ONCE AGAIN IN DARKSTRIDERLAND!!!!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Work your Walk Week!!!

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Yes friends, it's time to walk the walk for stopmo!

New-ish member Federico has launched on a week long period of walk test studies (and the name is his brainchild). Here's what he wrote in his post:

"Hello everybody.

Always trying to learn how to move my wires and give'em some life. This is my first time doing it with a framegrabber, and to celebrate I decided to make a daily walking practice, from monday to friday; so this newbie is going to sweat, oh yes ...

I'll post the results at the end of each day, all your critics and comments will be very welcome and appreciated (as I know nothing, everything helps!); and if somebody wants to join me in the adventure, please, be my guest...

// Federico //"

You can see the entire thread here if you're interested in participating.

Here is Federico's first test

And here's Nick's response

I tried to get involved, but due to ongoing computer problems I still can't get Framethief or Anmimaide XT to connect with my camera!

If you're interested in joining the fun, you can upload your walk tests to StopMoShorts. Please select the Animation Tests section when you upload. This is a great opportunity to get some animatin' experience.... wish I could participate! Hopefully soon......

Monday, March 12, 2007

2 good reasons....

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To get yourself an all-regions DVD player from In the US Piano Tuner won't be released until April 24th. I'm not sure about the release date for Pan's, but it won't be for a while (like maybe August, I think?). I've already ordered both these items, expecting them in anyday now.

An all-regions player doesn't cost any more than a regular DVD player these days... I got mine for $79.99! Basically it's just a "normal" DVD player without the code that blocks discs from other regions (which is written into your basic American DVD players). So maybe next time you're looking to get a player, think about one of these babies - open up your horizons!

I also just discovered that world-import does video conversion services.... if you have a DVD from any other region, or a PAL tape or a Secam tape, or even if you have something recored on Hi-8 - send it in and they can convert it to a convenient format that you can easily watch.

I need to add this last bit of info to my site. I recently updated the Masters page, where I have info on collecting DVDs from around the world (well, at least Czech and Eastern European puppetfilm in particular!). Deleted all the broken links and dropped in some shiny new ones, plus I added some more info about where and how to go about buying them. It's getting easier folks.... HMV Japan is a really great site that has just about everything from my site, and it's got an english version where everything is in english! Unlike Amazon Japan, where maybe one word in a dozen is in english. Here's their incredibly cool International Stopmotion & Puppetfilm Bestsellers section!!!

Monday, March 05, 2007

At last, the newly-refurbshed Quay set comes to Region 1!!!

Phantom Museums - Short Films of the Brothers Quay

I just happened across this exciting link tonight while on another errand. This must be the American version of the fantastic DVD set Michael Brooker authored for European release (that I discussed a while back).

There are no real details listed yet, but here are the juicy details of the PAL set (no guarantee this one will be identical, but I suspect it will be extremely close):


Twelve restored and remastered short films in Quay-supervised and approved native PAL transfers. All aspect ratios are as specified by the Quays, with anamorphic enhancement where necessary. This really will be as good as they've ever looked on a domestic format.

- The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer (1984)
- This Unnameable Little Broom (1985)
- Street of Crocodiles (1986)
- Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies (1988)
- Stille Nacht I: Dramolet (1988)
- The Comb (1990)
- Anamorphosis (1991)
- Stille Nacht II: Are We Still Married? (1992)
- Stille Nacht III: Tales From Vienna Woods (1992)
- Stille Nacht IV: Can't Go Wrong Without You (1993)
- In Absentia (2000)
- The Phantom Museum (2003)

- Quay commentaries on This Unnameable Little Broom, Street of Crocodiles, Stille Nacht I, II and III, and In Absentia;
- Optional subtitles on commentaries and Anamorphosis


Around two hours of extras, including more shorts:

- 1990s BFI Distribution ident (designed by the Quays)
- Video introduction by the Quays (20 mins, recorded in May 2006 and copiously illustrated with clips and stills)
- Nocturna Artificialia (1979 - their debut film)
- The Calligrapher (1991 - unbroadcast BBC2 ident)
- The Summit (1995 - previously unreleased/unbroadcast live-action short)
- excerpt from Peter Greenaway's The Falls (1980) featuring the Quays
- archive interview (29 mins, recorded in February 2000 at the Paris Doll Museum)
- anamorphic 2.35:1 versions of Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies and In Absentia
optional HOH subtitles wherever necessary

Accompanying booklet features:
- Facsimile of original eight-page illustrated treatment for Street of Crocodiles (this accompanied their original funding application, and it's fascinating to compare it with the final film);
- A Quay Brothers Dictionary of people, places, themes and motifs (containing nearly sixty entries).


Sunday, March 04, 2007

New stopmo blogger hits the scene!!!

Let's stop by and give Willem a warm welcome folks: HeroesForGhosts. He's brand new to the blogging scene and it looks like he's got a fantastic project underway. Oh, and he says he needs lots of feedback!

Stripped down

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