Friday, May 15, 2009

One Good Yank -- new clip posted (now with titles added)

This is my entry to the May challenge at StopMotionMagic (the successor to StopMoShorts). The only criteria Marc and John specified was "puppet struggles". I like it... nice and open-ended -- not too specific. Well, I was already doing exercises with Skulkin, and was preparing to try some mime stuff, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Incidentally, the contest is running till May 30th at midnight, so there's still time to get an entry in. You can use existing puppets and sets, bare armatures, anything you want. You can even enter films you've already finished. They're pretty easy over there.

This shot took me (believe it or not) 3 nights to complete... but I only worked on it for about an hour or so each night. You can easily see where I cut off between sessions by the way the background light creeps down the wall suddenly. That's the Solux Framing Art light of course.... a very frustrating little device that rather tantalizingly features a nifty little adjustable set of shutters to shape the beam easily - otherwise it would be no problem to just put it away and not use it. It didn't occur to me until I was almost finished, but I should have folded a piece of paper a few times and jammed it into the swivel joint to tighten it.

My secret weapon is Claude Kipnis' The Mime Book, which I highly recommend to all animators. Who better than mimes to teach us about movement and how to express using only the body? The main thing I concentrated on for this exercise was flexibility of the spine and beginning his movements from the torso. Kipnis says a movement that is originated from an emotion in the character will begin from the center of his torso and undulate out to the extremities. So I did this for all of Skulky's movements, ignoring it only when he's yanked off his feet by his invisible adversary, when the movement begins from the extremities (hands) and everything else follows rather reluctantly.

I was also very conscious of something from Lecoq's Le Corps Poetique (The Moving Body); "Action has no drama in it... all the drama is in the reaction". It seems to be true.... things get a lot more interesting when he starts to interact with the invisible rope and whatever is at the other end of it! It implies things you can't see... makes you wonder (mystery). And it's also conflict.

This being a single continuous shot, it's the smallest cell of drama that exists... a single cell that can accrete with others to form organs (scenes) and finally a complete organism. But a cell like this one is nearly complete in itself... it contains a complete microdrama with beginning, middle and end, so in that sense it's actually a single-celled organism... I'm trying very hard to resist the temptation to dub it a Dramamoeba. Ok, no, as well as the term fits, it just sounds stupid!!

In retrospect I wish he had found the rope lying on the floor... tripped on it and then felt it and picked it up. That would make a lot more sense than just grabbing it out of the air as if he knew it was there. I also wanted to put some more 'business' in... he could have shifted his grip on the rope, hefted it over his shoulder and turned around to pull it harder, et... but it was getting really annoying because I was whipping his torso around so much and every frame I had to go in and try to put his hands back precisely where they were before.

A couple more reasons that I feel this line of approach (mime, Lecoq etc) is perfect for me.... Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin studied mime (or if they never formally studied it, they were certainly two of its foremost practitioners!). Lecoq has his students begin their training with the Awakening exercise... pretending to come to life for the first time in this world and begin to explore it in silence. This not only reminds me of Quest, but also of just about every Harryhausen creature ever put on film!!! And in my reading on Mime, I keep running across references to the idea of the Primal -- the characters and worlds conjured by the actors should seem fresh and new, as if only just created... as if we're witnessing the birth of the world and of the creatures in it. This is very similar to my last point -- but it's important to me because it articulates something I've tried to say in the past about the films I want to make... I want to conjure this primal world.... I want the films to take place in primordial settings... no social situations, no commercial products or prefab architecture... I'm talking ancient ruins, the forest primeval, dank caverns and dark, rotting ships! (And incidentally, this also reminds me of Harryhausen.)


Lady Euphoria Deathwatch said...

Hi Dark,

I hear you, about wanting to add more. But on the other hand you did make the most of the shortest amount of time.

Small yes, but it says it all. It didn't 'need' more.

Goal accomplished!

If you can master the point of it in the shortest amount of time, You are well ahead when you get down to stringing projects together and making a longer piece.

You will less likely have a piece that is all bogged down trying to make a point. It will be able to flow into a meaningful piece of work.

Great job. Can't wait to see more.


Darkstrider said...

Thank you Lady Euphoria!

Very well said.

Mike Letendre said...

/me *mike stores this away in his favorites to study later.*

Truly amazing exercise!

rich johnson said...

the animation is stellar. love your work.

Nick H said...

Very well done! The puppet's actions really make me see the rope, and feel the resistance.
It's not easy maintaining hand position when there's nothing to anchor them to, but it worked for me.

I really like the idea of a single cell of drama that can exist independently as a viable organism, or build into a more complex piece.
As a single celled entity this works well. It feels complete, despite the other bits of business you coulda done. It says what it had to say.

"Dramamoeba" isn't working for me either....
how about "Acteria"? - I guess that should be acterium, singular. Although that applies more to the single-celled organism, not so much to the component of a multi-celled creation.

jriggity said...

GREAT job Darkstrider...this looks definately like your best work yet.

Im gona have to do a test now.....Inspired.


Darkstrider said...

Thanks guys!!

Nick... Acterium.... better than Dramamoeba, but it sounds too much like a disease! Something tells me we won't be finding an appropriate term.

Justin... wow.... high praise!! If an animator can inspire you, he knows he's accomplished something!!

Shelley Noble said...

LOVE IT! The timing of the fall and sound effects was hilariously right on, made me laugh! Great job!

How about "Scene Cell"?

Love your in depth exploration of mime as basis for puppet performance. Clearly it's working.

My master ballet teacher said recently, in one of his regular patented moments of brilliance, "There is no art without storytelling." He was referring to dance/movement trying to get the class to use their bodies to tell a story, or not to bother moving at all.

He also said that in dance there are Actions, Reactions, and Statements, as he demonstrated all three types of movements. It was completely fascinating to watch!

Your discussion of primal characters made me think of Julie's silent Tempest character

Is that what's interesting you, this sort of rawness of puppet actor?

Darkstrider said...

Wow Shelley,

That's pretty primal alright! Probably a bit more minimalist than I'd normally want to go... I definitely want sets and somewhat more detailed puppets. I do love that kind of stuff though, but for my own work I want a bit more to sink my teeth into.

people in gorillasuits said...

Still impressed - wathced it a few time, but (sorry ?) I din't see the rope. I saw a guy, uncertain of his stance, then trying to run away, but still being kept at the place - like in a seriously inbad situation that becomes worse every second but the worst thing he might do now might be escaping the siuaation with a big leap and a long run... and the sound of him hitting the ground is THAT well chosen and set. Not just: 'bonK' - the sound of parts being connected with each ohter and hitting the ground not at one moment but shortly after each other !

Great stuff !

Darkstrider said...

Ok, that's a completely fair interpretation.

I watched a few times, and I can see it that way. Though if that were the case, it is a bit distracting that he keeps his hands fixed in place for so long.

That's why I said I wish I had begun with his tripping on the rope and then bending down to feel it, examine it, and pick it up. Then the rope is made real... this is the central concept of mime, to make the invisible seem completely real for the audience. And in that respect I failed. But it was still a great exercise, and it's okay to fail.... you actually learn more by failing and then reviewing your work than you do by getting it right the first time.

I'll be continuing my exercises... not sure if I'll do more mime or not though (its a good possibility that I will). But if I do, I assure you, I'll keep your critique firmly in mind. Thanks for being completely honest!

Darkstrider said...

Oh, and I can't claim any opart of the sound effect other than its placement and choice.... I bought it from! ;)

people in gorillasuits said...

Fail ? Where ?!

One person sees blotches of paint, the other one sees a painting... point of view stuff and so on...
I see the getting 'dragged away' part in your realization and in my comment: You tried showed a guy being pulled away by a rope, I saw a guy getting pulled away from a situation he didn't like to be in - I see both in same, but in your case an 'invisible' rope, in my acase a metaphorical rope...

And fail ? Still I don't see one. I understood what you meant, but I didn't see the rope; the effect was the same (rope, not fishing line ! etx. etc...) I think I got you... or didn'T I ... ?

people in gorillasuits said...

And about sound effects - you chose the right one... I guess: You had somehow a 'picture' in mind and an idea, what sounds right and waht not, and didn't google: 'smack face sound' and used the first one you found without thinking of what you arre doing... no... doesn't sound very striderish...

Darkstrider said...

Well, I just mean that I failed to create a believable illusion of a rope, which is really the point of mime. Creating that illusion through their actions. With more planning I could have made that rope seem completely tangible.

Point of view... I think a mime would HOPE that the entire audience gets the view that he wants them to... sees the illusion he was attempting to create.

For me on this exercise though, I wasn't really thinking about all that... I was more interested in the way the puppet leads his actions with his torso, and in fluidity of movement. So no, I didn't fail in what I was trying to do, only in being a good mime (which wasn't really my goal anyway).

And you;re definitely right.. I did preview (pre-listen?) quite a few sound effects before finding just the right one.

Darkstrider said...

And I'd like to add -- I discovered that if I placed the sound effect "correctly" (ie just when it seems his body actually hits the floor) it didn't work very well... it actually works better if it comes just a few frames after that. Strange. But that's the film biz for ya....

bRYEnd_of_the_schtick said...

(^ watch this: I'm about to be glib.
(^ short winded.

(^ scene1: skullkin:(shot)
> character A awareness of skull B.

scene one aye( not shot yet:)
skullB awareness of characterA

mixed shot 1AB:

skull on ground spits its psychic tether tongue out at mumnified busted ankled 1:
an invisable jab: like a frog or perhaps a chamelian's rubbery stickum of a grabbing distracted attention :

scene thrice:
(implied not shot yet)
mummi "see"s the wad of goo : blocks shot with hands:
gets em wrapped up in and strung out on inviable tongue:

"scene four:(for struggle)
"one good yank" .. shot.

(^ see? it's as if the last two takes are key frames: but have some inbetweens to pull:

(^ and the teeth yanked shot comes later:

(^ a shot of skull with missing molar:
grinning wide in thanks for the help getting rid of a jawbone ache without need of string nor slammed door.

(^ tsk.. looks like I got some postal gift boxes to get addresses for.

StopmoNick said...

Well, I saw the rope before. So this time I tried NOT to see a rope, but clearly there was an outside force acting on Skulkin - something he was pulling against, otherwise he would have fallen over backwards; Something pulling him over to the left. Perhaps the rope could have had more resistance when he first encounters it, but it is clearly there.
Like an astronomer, I can deduce it's presence by its effect on other bodies around it, even though I can't see it.
So, as mime, room for improvement, but not a failure.
Looking forward to the next installment!

Fun idea of Bryend's, with an interaction beween 2 characters, joined by the invisible string.

Darkstrider said...

Yeah, definitely a cool idea bRYEnd!!

And Nick, thanks for the astronomy analogy! Deducing the ropes presence is good. In the future though, I'll shoot for actually creating a palpable 'reality' in my mime exercises. Then no deduction necessary.

Anonymous said...

That is REALLY GREAT, and I'm not just blowing smoke! You've got what makes an animator's work intriguing. I can't wait to see a whole short with this quality of work put into it. :)

Me and Em are playing off of eachother as far as progress goes on our films- would you like to join? I think it can be inspirational to see what your friends are doing while you work on your own project- that definitely gets me in the mood.

Darkstrider said...

Wow, thanks Don! That means a lot coming from you. I've always admired your work, not just the good smooth animation, but the creativity and the juicy colors and shapes.

I'm finally doing what I've been wanting to do for a long time now... i a sense the same thing you were doing that got you where you are now -- just making a puppet with no particular end result in mind and then playing in front of the camera. The pressure is off... there's no need to get specific results, because you're not making a film.. just messing around.

And now I feel like a recently-born foal, finally standing and beginning to walk with more confidence... no longer shaking and falling down every 12 seconds, but still not fully coordinated. I can handle simple moves (like bowing, bouncing a ball) with no problems, but the more complex moves are difficult. The mime routine was fairly simple really... it's already been done a million times and all I had to do was mim(ic) what I've seen REAL mimes do... not much invention on my part. That's what I'm moving toward now... being able to walk and run with full coordination and invent complex moves without falling on my face.

Oh, sorry, did I go off on a tangent?? ;)

You know... I just might join in the production marathon (or whatever you're calling it). I do feel like it's time to get back into production.

people in gorillasuits said...

Talking about mimes - this video might be interesting for you...

Shelley Noble said...

I laugh at the fall every time, man. These clips are great! Love them.