Thursday, December 24, 2009

A taste of things to come plus mini lighting tut

Last night I decided to put the new wall onto the set even though I have more work to do on it... I wanted to see it all together for a preview and mess around with lighting to try to find an approach to use for this film. This link should take you to Photobucket and from there you can download the full size image... it looks SO MUCH better than this little rinky-dink version!! (scroll over the picture to see the download option).

This is what the shot was looking like at first. Download this one here. Note the problems with the lighting.... very hard glaring light on the foreheads, and the faces in shadow. This is a result of the way they're sculpted. Note... I am NOT dissing Scott Radke's sculpting!!! I LOVE these heads... but because of the way they're done... eyes set so wide and facing different directions, bare foreheads with no hair covering them that face directly into the light plane, and somewhat glossy paint - it makes them very hard to light. It's a challenge (like everything about this project). And it's forcing me to dig deep and find a different way to work. Here's the solution that's working best so far...

These are my lights. I'm only using 2 for this shot, and note... they're both facing FORWARD.... rather than the more normal option of being aimed directly at the set. See the next image to understand WHY.

See the big white sheets of paper fastened to the front of the set? They're reflectors. The lights are both aimed at them, and then only reflected light is bounced back onto the set to light the puppets. {for this pic I actually had a light aimed directly at the set just to make things show up better} Reflected light has some very nice properties... it's very diffused, doesn't cast a clear shadow, and it has a lot less glare than direct light does. And because this is all fill light coming from the front, it fills in details like the eye sockets that were in deep shadow before. This kind of reflected lighting seems to be the only solution to the lighting problems posed by these heads.

But... if you compare the two shots above, even though the direct lighting causes glare and shadow problems, it has a much more dramatic look to it... creating great shadows that define the form of the heads... the fully reflected light doesn't do this. In fact, reflected light like this is often called cartoon lighting, because of the lack of drama and overall illuminated feel. I want to try to find a halfway solution... I think if I can aim a light or two directly at the set with plenty of neutral density gels (grey color filters) to dim them down while still keeping the reflected lighting I currently have, I should be able to get the best of both worlds. Time will tell.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The end is in sight

Making yet another brick wall.... why do I torture myself like this? This is the last major set piece, after this it's just a matter of putting it all together, finishing up a few loose ends, and doing final set dressing before launching into actual animation. Hard to believe... after 3 long years, this film is actually going to happen!!

It took a lot of work to turn a pice of foamcore into a brick wall... here it was at one point:

So much cutting and the hardest part was peeling off both paper facings from each brick individually (too hard to peel a large piece). But it's done now, aside from a little more painting and detailing. Soon I'll show some of the props I've been making.

I've made several brick walls before... Buster's hat tip test, Race the Wind, and my first, for the Ahab tests. when I look at that bucket of peeled bricks just above I clearly remember the History Channel show about Einstein that was on as I laboriously peeled each one. And for Race the Wind... it was a Victoria's secret Runway Show (that one was a bit distracting). I don't recall the other ones, but it's funny how certain kinds of work lend themselves to that kind of memory retention... possibly it's the tedious repetitive jobs that allow us to pay attention to something else as we work.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Motion test

Here's a motion test I shot some time ago... actually it was before I had the Lumix camera, done with my Hitachi. I think I used a big zoom lens, which probably accounts for why out-of-focus things look so weird here. I was trying to develop a certain kind of motion that I could see in my head for this film... the characters and the camera all moving in unison like an orchestrated dance.

Oh and yeah, I know... he has some kind of neck spasm there. Rotational movement is hard to keep under control... so I learned something valuable from this test! I've learned how to use a framegrabber a lot better since then, though I really haven't tried another head turn like this - something I ought to do soon.

Monday, November 16, 2009


This is amazing!! Just posted on the message board, and in production for some time already over at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design in Germany... stopmotion puppets placed in a CG environment that was created (and framegrabbing done) using Blender open source 3D software. I must say, this definitely looks like one of the coolest films I've seen being made recently... for a long time actually. I wish I had come up with this idea!!!

Check out their blog:

Apollo to the left of me, Dionysus to the right....

IN a pair of recent posts - Analyze this and the followup Analysister -I brought up the idea of some aspects of a movie (surface story) being readily discernible to the left (logical) brain and some, more subtle parts, to the right (intuitive) brain. I had never thought about this until making the Analyze this post and discussing the way Kubrick's films seem to work on a viewer. For convenience's sake I've included a table below listing the well-known attributes of these two hemispheres of the brain.

Right Brain vs. Left Brain


This theory of the structure and functions of the mind suggests that the two different sides of the brain control two different “modes” of thinking. It also suggests that each of us prefers one mode over the other.


Experimentation has shown that the two different sides, or hemispheres, of the brain are responsible for different manners of thinking. The following table illustrates the differences between left-brain and right-brain thinking:

Left BrainRight Brain






Looks at parts






Looks at wholes


It suddenly occurred to me that this division between two different ways of thinking sounds very familiar... in fact I've encountered very nearly the same division between ways of thinking - one logical and focused, the other intuitive and 'fuzzy', but in a non-scientific context:

The Apollonian/ Dionysian dichotomy

Apollonian and Dionysian are terms used by Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy to designate the two central principles in Greek culture. The Apollonian, which corresponds to Schopenhauer's principium individuationis ("principle of individuation"), is the basis of all analytic distinctions. Everything that is part of the unique individuality of man or thing is Apollonian in character; all types of form or structure are Apollonian, since form serves to define or individualize that which is formed; thus, sculpture is the most Apollonian of the arts, since it relies entirely on form for its effect. Rational thought is also Apollonian since it is structured and makes distinctions.

The Dionysian, which corresponds roughly to Schopenhauer's conception of Will, is directly opposed to the Apollonian. Drunkenness and madness are Dionysian because they break down a man's individual character; all forms of enthusiasm and ecstasy are Dionysian, for in such states man gives up his individuality and submerges himself in a greater whole: music is the most Dionysian of the arts, since it appeals directly to man's instinctive, chaotic emotions and not to his formally reasoning mind.

Nietzsche believed that both forces were present in Greek tragedy, and that the true tragedy could only be produced by the tension between them. He used the names Apollonian and Dionysian for the two forces because Apollo, as the sun-god, represents light, clarity, and form, whereas Dionysus, as the wine-god, represents drunkenness and ecstasy.


I discussed this in an old post on my original blog:

Sorry, I can't link directly to it... I used to hand-code that blog and didn't know how to separate posts, so I can only link to the entire page, but it's the second post. Just scroll down a little bit. I was profoundly taken by this idea when I first encountered it in Camille Paglia's book Sexual Personae, and she really made me aware of these two different modes of perception/cognition. These little tables I posted here and similar ones you see on the web are very brief and only cover the basics, but Paglia dissects it quite deeply. She also relates these modes of thinking to what she terms the Male principle and the Female principle... left brain/ Apollonian being the male and right brain/ Dionysian being the female. Don't oversimplify and think she's making a general division between men and women... people have some of each tendency in their makeup, just as we all use both left and right brain. Many women exhibit strong male tendencies while many men have female tendencies.

Well, when I connected these various ideas together, it became clear to me that they are very real tendencies that exist in all of us. Modern sbrain science, as it often does, is merely re-inforcing ancient wisdom. The Greeks were aware of this dichotomy centuries ago, and now it's been discovered in the very structure of the brain itself... so science has only shown us figuratively where Apollo and Dionysus live. It makes me wonder... how many of the other Olympian gods could be said to embody some part of human nature... god of war... goddess of the hunt, goddess of love.... interesting. And doubtless not new! Only something that hadn't occurred to me before.

So.... taking all this into account... the idea of a dichotomy in modes of thinking that's existed in human nature for a long time and that it's cropped up in various ways, both scientific and mythical/artistic, I began to wonder if it's reared its head in any other ways. And sure enough, a couple similar dichotomies presented themselves to my questing mind.

Dichotomy in politics

Exploring the neurobiology of politics, scientists have found that liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because of how their brains work.

In a simple experiment reported today in the journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists at New York University and UCLA show that political orientation is related to differences in how the brain processes information.

Previous psychological studies have found that conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments whereas liberals are more open to new experiences. The latest study found those traits are not confined to political situations but also influence everyday decisions.

This is just a section of an article posted here.

To condense these tendencies down to their most basic (for purposes of simplicity) we could call one Focused and the other Vague or Fuzzy. Which then led me to my next (and so far last) revelation...

Rods and Cones


Two different kinds of 'photoreceptors', or neurons, in the eye. Rods are responsible for night vision and peripheral vision... they're not as 'focused' as the cones, which see detail and color. Therefore the vision of the rods could be characterized as 'fuzzy' or vague, but in some way superior to the rod-vision. Have you ever noticed that , if you're looking up into the night sky, very dim stars or very distant galaxies (which at first look like dim stars) can't be seen by looking directly at them (cones) but only by looking a little bit away, activating the rods.

To me all these various dichotomies sound very similar. In fact I'd venture to say taken as a whole they point out the same basic division in the human being... a divergence between different modes of... is it perception, cognition, or interpretation? Hard to say. And I won't make any statements here, aside from bringing up what I think is a very interesting conundrum revealing itself to us in various ways - Mythical (a way of giving meaning to things we don't understand) Scientific (a way of studying nature) and Political -- and that might have a profound meaning as far as what it means to be human.

... And with this post, hopefully I conclude this little obsession that began just before Halloween when I happened to catch The Shining on cable TV (little realizing the bizarre series of ideas it would lead me through!) and can now get back to work on my film!!

Sunday, November 08, 2009


Ok, after making that last post I still feel the need to go deeper into the subject. That post somehow turned into a general primer about film analysis. All well and good, but I never even got to what I originally wanted to say!!! Oh, and about the name for this post.... it's based on a great album title- Nemesister by Babes in Toyland. Thought it was appropriate since this is a sister post to my last one...

Ok class... last time we covered hidden narratives buried in films by Kubrick and Lynch. One thing I'd like to point out that they both have in common - besides liking to hide secret narratives in their films - is they both make very dreamlike films. Actually that's related to the fact that they like the hidden narratives.... see, a film that reveals secret messages when analyzed is quite a bit like a dream. One major difference though.... to understand the meaning of a dream you need to know the dreamer's personal meanings for all the symbols... a very deeply individual matter fit only for a psychoanalyst (the dreamer himself probably doesn't WANT to know what all his dreams mean!)

I think it's time for me to talk a bit about dreams. I've always loved dreams (try to have them every night). I've also always loved stories and movies that are LIKE dreams... but there are definitely things that work in dreams that WON'T work in movies, and vice verse. Probably the most important difference is that dreams don't need to make sense... you're ASLEEP, so your conscious mind isn't trying to make sense of things. But a movie does need to make sense, at least to some extent. The plot can be all mixed up... as long as the movie makes sense on some level... possibly there's an EMOTIONAL throughline the viewer can follow.

Once you've established that throughline (whatever it might be) you can work in underlying hidden narratives like Kubrick or Lynch do. But unlike the completely personal language of symbols in a real dream, they use universal symbols that will be understood by everyone (everyone who notices them that is... most won't see it if it's beneath the surface). And here's what I love about this.... let's say you notice something fishy in a Kubrick film and start to research a little... or maybe you've read an analysis and decided to look deeper on your own. His messages lead you to mysteries that exist in the real world!! That's not to say that I believe all his conspiracy theories are valid... but the threads he weaves into the tapestry of his films does lead you on to theories that can be found all over the internet... googling names from his films will point out all kinds of weird things... most of which he probably intended. That fascinates me, that a mystery embedded in a fictional movie can lead to a mystery in the real world. It's as if the movie opens up a whole vista...

Also on the subject of the dreamlike nature of their films... my longtime readers (those who manage to wade all the way through these lengthy and text-dense Cinemastudies posts) might recall an article I posted some time ago about Josef Von Sternberg (click his name in Labels below if you're interested). There are several posts on my blog about him actually... I'm referring to one I didn't write but just blatantly ripped off and posted here. Sorry, too lazy at the moment to look up who did write it! But the gist of the article was that while Sternberg was working in Talkies (he did start off in silents) the dialogue was merely a smokescreen to deflect viewers from the REAL story, which was always told VISUALLY. Unlike the vast majority of modern movies, where the story is told almost exclusively through dialogue with visuals just serving as moving illustrations, Sternberg, Kubrick and Lynch tell their stories visually. They of course use dialogue and sound, but as artistic counterpoint to the visuals, to enhance them and provide subtext rather than to illustrate them. There are many people (myself among them, though I wasn't there at the time) who feel that something beautiful was lost when sound came to the movies - or rather I should say when the human voice came to the movies (When MOVIES became TALKIES).

Think of it this way... visuals are processed by the right brain - the intuitive brain, while verbal language is processed in the logical and detail-oriented left brain. The right brain is the realm of dream imagery... free association and metaphor. Spoken language doesn't enter into this realm. Music does (instrumental music). Well ok, to be more accurate, some kinds of singing and spoken poetry DO access the right brain, but not general dialogue the way its spoken in movies these days. In a film by the likes of Kubrick or David Lynch, we watch the STORYLINE with the left brain while the right brain silently absorbs the symbols and metaphors underlying the surface. This means their films ARE structured like dreams... there's a Manifest content (surface story) and a Latent content (subtext). This thought really boggles my mind... I think it explains how the subliminal messages can leak through into the right brain (dreaming mind... the ancient, animal mind... the artist mind) while the left brain (logical, modern) remains unaware of them. The left brain is detail-oriented and can only concentrate on one thing at a time (works "in serial") while the right brain sees patterns and works holistically (works "in parallel). But we usually don't notice what the right brain is doing... it's very quiet while the left brian talks constantly and loud. I've heard them compared like this... think of the left brain as the sun and the right brain as the stars.... there are still stars in the sky in the daytime, but you cant see them because the sun is too bright. If you could filter it out then you could see them.

Very interesting to think of making movies that really affect us like dreams...

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Analyze this

"A real film maker, when formulating a new project, will start out with a series of conceptual messages and ideas that he/she wishes to communicate to an audience. These will be fleshed out into a fictional storyline scenario and, layer by layer, a workable script and aesthetic / technical style will be developed in accordance with those concepts. That is the artist’s approach to film.

Modern film making in Britain and America, even at the level of short film making, almost universally starts with the desire to make money … NOT ART!"

This quote comes from an essay written by Rob Ager called The great disaster of modern British/ American film. I discovered Rob's excellent website in a rather roundabout way recently... essentially because just before Halloween I happened to catch Stanley Kubrick's The Shining on cable TV, which reignited my interest in the movie and in Kubrick's films in general. I suddenly realized that, in spite of my tendency toward study and analysis I had never looked at an analysis of any of Kubrick's films. Well, this was a colossal oversight that needed to be remedied immediately! So a little Googling landed me on his website;, where he has analyses of a lot of great films including all of Kubrick's important ones. I also discovered very cogent and insightful analyses of some of my other favorites like Alien, Bladerunner, The Exorcist, and the best and most comprehensive and clear-headed analysis I've ever found on David Lynch's enigmatic Mulholland Drive - a film that's led me on a merry chase through a lot of online analyses, some of which I felt came close to the mark but all of which left big holes. Ager has filled in almost all of the holes!

The unfortunate part of this is that, since discovering Ager's incredible site, I haven't done anything on my film. But now I've waded through almost all of his articles and soon will be free of this obsession... at least until the next one pops up.

I most highly recommend reading these analyses for anyone interested in being a filmmaker of any sort, or even just to anyone who loves movies and wants to maximize their enjoyment of them. Let me begin by defining just what a film analysis is, and how it differs from a film review or film criticism.

A film review... also sometimes referred to as film criticism, is done by a film critic... someone like Roger Ebert of any of his cohorts throughout the years on his various shows. Essentially it's just a brief synopsis of whether a movie is good or not according to that reviewer's or critic's system of judgement. Usually a reviewer or critic will watch a movie twice or sometimes 3 or more times... the first time they just watch as anyone would, just to absorb the experience the movie provides. Then they'll jot down some notes and start watching it again, this time dissecting as they go and taking notes as they watch. Generally twice is enough, then they assemble their notes and tidy them up for publication. What they're basically interested in is whether the movie is enjoyable and how it stacks up against the standards in its genre.

But film analysis on the other hand is much more comprehensive and less judgmental. An analyst isn't concerned with telling a general audience what to go see this weekend -- instead an analyst is an investigator... delving deep into a film to extract what the filmmaker might have buried in it. Most films don't stand up to analysis of this sort... most Hollywood movies are simply formulaic clones (as suggested in the quote above) with little or no substance under the flashy exterior. But some directors do approach the craft of filmmaking as an art... for instance Kubrick, Lynch, and several others. Their films are made with great attention to detail and they take great care in creating meaning. Often there's a hidden subtext or even several of them. Identifying and decoding these subtexts takes time and effort and a lot of thinking. Usually a film won't be analyzed when it's first released.... it takes time to determine whether a given film might have anything under the surface worthy of the demanding process of analysis. So it's often older films which have shown themselves to have some substance beneath the surface that are candidates for this treatment.

A film analyst will begin like a critic... the first time they watch a film they're just watching it, like any audience member. But their keen moviegoing eye will notice subtle clues to the presence of hidden depth. Strange things characters might say, or weird occurrences... maybe a sign that's shown with strange wording on it. Especially important are things that are repeated. Visuals or sounds or statements... these are called motifs when they're repeated, and such repetition usually means the director put them there on purpose. Or that he just wasn't paying attention, which usually isn't the case with a director the caliber of Kubrick.

So... with the clues noted, an analyst will then watch the movie many times, and might watch certain parts of it over and over... using freeze frame and slow motion. Now certain things are more evident thanks to Blu-Ray and its greater visual clarity over regular DVDs... things can be seen much more clearly, and sometimes a particular release will have a better sound track that allows things to be heard more clearly than in other versions. Other things an analyst will pay attention to are the director's other films, anything that's known about the director such as any personal obsessions or interests he might have, news items about him, his biography... on and on. Sometimes clues can be found in advertising for the film, or in earlier versions of the screenplay or the book on which it was based.

Wow... I'm really whaffling on, aren't I? I didn't mean to go on for so long about this. My point in explaining what film analysis is all about was to educate my more 'general audience' readers about the level of depth and complexity that often exists without most people suspecting it in certain films. Most of us are only aware of the surface story in movies... and in most movies that's all there is. But in films by the likes of Kubrick or Lynch there's a lot more, and to me it's very gratifying to puzzle it out. One reason I love this process is because it gives a movie a vastly longer 'shelf life'... you can keep coming back and watching it and gain new insight into it for many years. Most decent movies are only good for 2 or 3 viewings and that's it, and even then they don't reveal anything new after the first viewing (unless you missed something). But to experience a Kubrick film with the help of good analysis like Rob Ager provides is to peel away layer after layer and reveal levels of meaning you never suspected were there... it's literally like an excavation... think of a movie as a building, and most anywhere you dig there's nothing but dirt underneath... but Kubrick builds over sites that are rich in subsurface detail. Quite literally in the case of The Shining.. the Overlook Hotel was built on top of a Native American burial ground (and so was the hidden narrative... quite to my surprise!)

Take for example The Shining. I hadn't seen it since shortly after the movie came out in 1980. Even then, much younger and uneducated about filmmaking, I was aware that something weird was going on in that movie that I wasn't understanding. Everyone was... and that's why even though the surface story itself is pretty messed up, it's always been considered one of the masterpieces of cinema. If you watch the movie, there's some really awful acting, and from great actors like Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall! Really hammy amateurish stuff... which is even weirder when you take into account the known fact of Kubrick's perfectionism and the fact that he'd often demand as many as 140 takes on even simple shots!!

Well I won't write any more. I could easily go on and on... but I'll just leave it at that. Anyone whose interest has been piqued by this blog entry please visit Rob's incredible site and read some of the analyses. Rent the films in question and watch them, with his findings in mind, and see if it doesn't enhance the experience. For me it most definitely does, though I know some people prefer to just see a movie as entertainment and leave it at that.

Ager has more on his site than just film analyses... the quote at the top of this entry actually comes from an article he wrote. Here's a page from his site collecting several of his articles, and I've enjoyed almost every one.

Happy reading!

Monday, November 02, 2009


Amazing!!!! The same guy who posted Fimfarum has now also posted Krysar in its entirety!!! I know, The Motion Brigades has all these films plus many many more posted, but unfortunately his are in low quality.... Subbedfilms has them in much higher quality. I hope he doesn't mind me posting them on my blog like this. To see his channel double-click on the video itself.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Proppin' it up

Well, apparently for some reason my blog has made it to Blogs of Note, and now my traffic has increased many times over! Kind of frustrating that it happened while the top post wasn't even my own work, but Fimfarum! So I thought I'd post my latest prop work to get it seen before the wave is over. And the price of this sudden and short-lived fame? Photobucket just emailed me to let me know I'm about to exceed my bandwidth for the month and all my photos will disappear until next month (unless I buy a Pro account, of course). Oh, plus I'm getting loads of spam now. But it's also brining lots of new viewers to my humble little stopmo blog, so it's all good. hopefully some of them will like what they see and when all the publicity blows over I'll have increased my readership.

So welcome to all new readers!!! To see examples of some of my practice animation, check my YouTube channel.

Spammers beware though... I mercilessly delete spam.

The glasses are all made from acrylic. I've learned that extruded acrylic is a lot nicer to work with than cast acrylic... less likely to break and easier to shape. Usually sites that sell acrylic tubing etc will state which type it is. I used a miter box with a hack saw to cut it as straight as possible, and I used a propane torch to heat and bend some parts and to round off the cut edges after sanding. You have to be careful though... if you heat it slightly too much it starts to bubble. I got some bubbles here and there... hopefully they won't show too much in the film. A heat gun (for paint stripping) heats it more gently and is good for heating up large areas that you want to bend or distort... but the torch was what I needed for pinpoint accuracy to bend those little handles. Then I used this excellent adhesive made for acrylic called Weld-on 16. Nothing else works anywhere near this well for acrylic. It's nice and thick, so you can use it to fill gaps and pieces don't need to fit perfectly. Oh, an for the bottoms of the mugs I poured clear resin... something called Easy Cast made by Castin' Craft. Pretty easy to use.. one-to-one mix ratio.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fimfarum - now including The Making of

Here is the Czech puppetfilm Fimfarum collected in its entirety, and with English subtitles even!!! Amazing!!! What a world we live in! I've assembled it all into a nifty playlist so it will play through uninterrupted for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy.

As an added bonus, here's The Making of Fimfarum 1 & 2... in English!! Sorry the quality doesn't match the quality of the videos above.

For lots more of this Eastern European Puppetfilm goodness, hit up the Video Clips page on my website or visit The Motion Brigades on YouTube. My site has brief teasers from a lot of Czech and Eastern European puppetfilms, the Motion Brigades has the full length films.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Care for a frosty beverage?


I've been playing with a lot of clear plastic lately... mainly acrylic tubing and rod (plus some 3mm glass balls embedded in lumps of microcrystaline wax for foam). I remember dreading doing a film set in a bar mostly for this reason... I didn't know how in the world I was going to make little bottles of all different descriptions, much less glasses and mugs, and then on top of all that animate liquids and foam! But little by little, it's all been coming together.

I still need to replace the hotglue bases of the glasses with cast clear resin duplicates to get rid of that milky white look. And add handles to the mugs. Then I MIGHT even tackle making some wine glasses... but I'm not too sure of that one!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Mummified monsters in a frosted web

Frosted web
Thought this was pretty appropriate for the beginning of Monster Month! This is what a spider web looks like after being hit with a good dose of spray adhesive. I generally don't feel the need to kill every spider in the house - I know they keep the other insect under control and all, but this time there were extenuating circumstances.... not only was there a pretty big mamma spider at the center of this web, but a cluster of about a thousand little tiny dots, all of which would have become strapping little warrior spiders soon and gone tramping all over the house.

I've heard spray adhesive is the best way to kill them, because it glues shut the breathing spiracles located on their legs (I think?) and suffocates them quick. Seems to work pretty well... she twitched for about a minute and then stopped moving, and I haven't seen any of the babies move at all.

Click on the image to see it on Flickr and you can scroll over it for notes pointing out exactly where all the still-life is located in this tangled web. Plus of course then you can click on "All Sizes" above it to see the large version in all its gory Haloweeny glory!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Dressing the set

The puppets are all dressed now and I'm starting on the set. Note the front of the bar.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Costume dept. has been working overtime

Fully Dressed Cast

They're all dressed now, aside from a few accessories here and there (plus hands and feet for the littlest one Cindy Lou). As I went they just kept getting brighter and more colorful. Shelley, you might recognize some of the fabric I used on the last 2 puppets... you sent it to me.

I'm developing puppet personalities for them, and complex relationships/dysfunctions, as well as working on a lighting technique that minimizes the slight shininess of the heads and makes the faces fully visible in spite of the extremes of light and dark on them all. Looks like my best bet will be a pretty diffused "cartoon" lighting setup, mostly reflected light.

... Here's a pictorial tutorial on how I've been making the clothes lately....
First I cut the cloth to size and tape it to something for spray adhesive treatment. Note the blue Nitrile glove. Give it a pretty heavy coat of spray adhesive. I do this part outside.

Here I'm pressing Cindy Lou against the back part of her costume.

And pressing the front part into place. Care is essential. I press tightly all around the puppet, trying to get the seam line as tight as possible. I do this for a while, hoping the adhesive will do its work well. If anything comes apart later I can always fix it up with some Fabri-Tac though.

Here she is well into the trimming process. I found this velvet stuff very hard to cut. It also doesn't stretch, so it's pretty unforgiving stuff to work with. Note how I handled the collar... I made sure to put a wrinkle in the right place so it ended up looking like a mock turtleneck. It still needs more trimming though, and I'm not sure I can get as close as I want to. Maybe the dremel with a sanding drum.... ?

Cindy Lou is a little older than in her former star turn (in How the Grinch Stole Christmas)... she's turned in her pink sleeper for a red jumper and gone Goth.

What I'm learning is that puppet clothes don't need to look realistic... in fact it's best if they're not. Stylization suits them well.

Monday, September 21, 2009

5 of 8

5 of 8

5 of my 8 actors now dressed to kill.


Getting ready for his pants.

Tom is a Rocker

Tom is a rocker. He still just needs his wristbands. I've coated all the formerly sticky rubber arms with a clear coat of the new No-Tac Acrylic Adhesive from Monstermakers (well... new to me, not new to Monstermakers). It'll be nice when they no longer stick to each other and pull chunks of paint off when I pry them apart.

Oh, I should mention... one little trick I figured out... when you get gobs of glue spreading out all over a jacket or something you can scrape it off after it's dried with an X-Acto knife. If you kind of try scraping in different directions you'll suddenly find the right one and it will almost magically lift off. The scraping can also put some nice wear on the cloth... I don't like that bright, too-clean kind of thing - I want some clothes that look like old favorites.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hemmed, Cuffed and Drawstrung

Hemmed, Cuffed and Drawstrung

It's kind of weird how this is working out... I now have a buildup puppet with visible seams down the sides like a foam latex puppet!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Happily, Hoppy Has His Hoodie

pants are a breeze...
Trying something new. I just hit one side of the fabric sheet with some spray adhesive and let it tack up for a while, then wrapped it around Hoppy all nice and snug. Made sure to pinch it tight in the space between his legs so it gets good adhesion along the seam lines.
Excess cloth trimmed off
Trimmed away the excess fabric.
Hoppy has pants
This worked extremely well!! It's great for cartoonish puppets. Just make sure to use STREEEEETCH fabric!
Made his hoodie the same way as the pants. I screwed up and got weird wrinkles in the sleeves, but then decided it looks good. Too bad I didn't think to do it on purpose... next time I'll allow for it from the get-go.

Puppet clothes were never simpler to make!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tonic finished!!!

Tonic finished

Another puppet dressed and DONE!!!!

Don't dip it, drip it!

I've found there's no need to fill a tall jar with latex and dip hands/arms or whatever.... I bought this Latex Paint Base from with handy dandy applicator tip... turns out Latex Paint Base is actually just very thin liquid latex with no added filler... same as Balloon Rubber. Just the stuff for putting 6 or 7 coats on for puppetskin. Also, doing it this way you don't get as much of the webbing between the fingers that needs to be constantly poked away. Just gotta watch those fingertip drips and shake them off or touch them with something to make the drips fall away before they dry.


Sorry this is a bit out of focus. But you can see I've added drops of latex for knuckles. I only have very thin runny latex (Latex Paint Base from Monstermakers) and really thick latex (Foam Latex base), and neither was suitable for this - so I mixed them together. The mellow blend worked beautifully!!

More knuckles

I've added more detailing.... tiny knuckles on the fingers, plus tendons drawn over the backs of the handses.

Tonic Hands Painted

PAX painted using Monstermaker's No-Tac acrylic adhesive (hey Monstermakers, when does my check get here?) mixed with acrylic paint. An undercoat of raw umber followed by a mix of raw umber and white stippled on with a bit of paper towel, finally followed by a thin glaze of more raw umber. Then powdered with some corn starch to kill the (supposedly non-existant) tack and shine. It comes pretty close to matching the paint job on the head I think.

Looking at it now, most of the knuckles are too subtle... only the pinky knuckle on his right hand is big enough (and I thought that one was too big!). Those nasty gnarly arms will luckily be hidden under the sleeves.


Just wanted to add a note here for future reference.... after a day or so the No-Tac adhesive dried with NO TAC!!! My other puppets' arms have a tendency to stick to anything they touch... ESPECIALLY each other!!! With the result that, when I detach them, sometimes big chunks of painted skin come off... not good!!! Plus dirt likes to stick to them. But the hands I made for Tonic (first time I've used the no-tac adhesive) don't feel AT ALL sticky! I wonder if that means I don't even need to powder the anymore? Need to do a test....

Monday, September 07, 2009

Getting dressed for the show

Tonic half dressed
Click the pic to get to Flickr, then click on All Sizes above it to see it bigger

Finally Tonic has some clothes!!! I know it's been a long time... you might have forgotten who Tonic is... or my newer readers probably have never even seen him naked! To refresh the memory, the name is short for his full name Catatonic Drunk (working name only... not the character's actual name in the film). This is one of the heads Scott Radke sculpted for me long ago, that I promised to grow little homunculus bodies under and bring to life... the stuff we animators do, right? I made the bodes some time ago but hadn't made clothes for most of them yet. Now it's time.

So far everything is just cut and wrapped around Tonic and held in place using Fabri-Tac glue. It's working quite nicely I must say. I always try to use stretch fabric for puppet clothes when I can... it can help them stretch into those awkward poses they otherwise couldn't reach. Where edges of cut fabric will show, like the tie, I strengthened it first with some Elmer's glue so it wouldn't fray. Also, having recently learned on the message board that it's common practice to never use white I washed over anything white or close to it with a brown acrylic wash - same thing I did for the bottle labels and the posters recently. I think I need to find some kind of dye for fabric though, or something that doesn't stiffen it as much as acrylic paint does. There are times when you want to stiffen the cloth, but for a shirt or something you want it flexible. And stretchy.

TonichandDon't make me repeat what I wrote under the other pic!

Here's a closeup of one of his hands. This time I decided to wrap the fingers all the way to the wrist before creating the palm part. I used Fabri-Tac again, wrapped two layers of cotton string on each finger, and then made little tiny epoxy putty wedges for in between the fingers... then I covered the palm section with fabri-tac and wrapped more string around it all to hold everything together. Over it all I wrapped a little of the infamous athletic underwrap. After dipping several times in latex and painting the hands up I'll just have to make him a jacket and he'll be done. But geeze Louise!!! This is taking so freaking LOOOONG!!!! Mostly waiting for things to dry. I think for the rest of the puppets I need to get an assembly line method going.

More to come.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Working on the wrong movie - and drawing random caves

Click the image to see it bigger on Flickr, then click on "All Sizes" above it

I am getting some work done on my film, but I've actually been spending a lot more time working up the scenario for my next one. I'll have some images to post soon for the bar flick though, promise! (And no, the image above is NOT from that other film, it's just a random drawing I did to play round with my new charcoal and carbon drawing kit!)

Meanwhile, I've also been drawing! I recently read The Art of Ray Harryhausen and discovered he did his key drawings using charcoal powder, compressed charcoal and carbon pencils with highlights pulled with various types of erasers, and decided I had to try it. Hard to believe, but this is actually the first time I've rendered a complete environment with full-on lighting/shading effects. Feels like the beginning of a new era.

This began as just random marks on paper... when my new materials came in as usual I was too excited to actually plan out a drawing, I just started smearing things around on a piece of paper... but what I've discovered (as I had hoped) was that this method allows almost unlimited redos... if you don't like something just erase it and rework. It doesn't feel quite finished yet, but I decided it was time to scan it in case I completely screw it up after this.

Here are a few fun links to tutorials on drawing with charcoal and carbon pencils... this is some awesome stuff:

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Quakehold! Museum Gel for animating water, and a fix for the Solux Framing Art Light

Gel spill
(Click image to see it at Flickr, then click on All Sizes above the pic to see a bigger version)

Hmm... wow that pic is UGLY!!! Amazing how using the flash makes every speck of dust glare impossibly bright! And I didn't even know I had a little arachnid friend living on the set till I saw him larger than life in closeup. Egad!! Try to ignore the nastiness and concentrate instead on the beerspill effect (even though it's clear rather than beer colored). Hey, this whole shot would look a lot better through beer goggles!!

Anyway, the (1st) point of this post is to tout my discovery for water (or any liquid) animation... Quakehold! Museum Gel. Crystal clear, non-toxic, and easy to form into spills or drips that hold their shape for a long time. It will sag over time, but it takes a few hours for a ball to revert to a puddle. Easily enough time for animation. It can also be tinted by adding probably any kind of transparent tint. I tried it with some of the resin tints I used for the bottles and it works great.

Quakehold! also makes a Museum Wax that's just microcrystalline wax... a very sticky yellowish translucent wax that's perfect for sticking props to sets or even to puppets hands. It's a good deal stickier than the so-called Stikky-Wax I bought some time ago. I consider it an essential for any stopmoe to have on hand.

One thing I discovered quite by accident that needs further testing.... I had a blob of the gel sitting on a paper envelope for a long time.... probably a week and a half or so, and noticed a big clear stain spreading around it... like an oil stain. I peeled the gel off the paper and it seemed like it was a good deal stiffer than it normally is... to the point that you could maybe sculpt forms from it and they'd hold their shape long enough for animation. Not sure on that one... I decided to put it to the test and placed a larger glob on a piece of paper last night, but so far it hasn't leached very much, just the beginning of a spreading stain. It must take longer than overnight. But Im not sure if it was really much stiffer than the regular stuff.... more experimentation is needed. I'm also not sure why you'd need it any stiffer.... this stuff is perfect for animating spills or drips or pours just as it is. Seemed kinda neat is all.

Also, at just about the same time as I made that accidental discovery last night, I made another one.

This is my Solux Framing Art Light, a great little device that casts a very controllable spotlight effect. The only problem I had with it is that it was rather... well - droopy. In fact I used to say it was built like a Dr Seuss telescope. Kind of tricky to get it aimed exactly where you want. I was looking at it last night thinking I ought to find some way to secure it better, and I had an idea about bending a couple of strips of metal to use as clips. I started looking around the basement to find some suitable metal, when I ran across the rotisserie attachment from my convection oven... basically a useless chunk of metal that I had kept around in case I ever found a use for it! Hah! In a few minutes I had bent the pointy tines (prongs... whatever they are) into suitable positions and found that it's just what the doctor ordered!!! The steel has just the right amount of spring to it too... by tightening it a little too much I get some good tension on it. Now the Dr Seuss telescope is more like an arrow-straight ramrod!! And just incidentally, I found the steel rod is also a great handle for adjusting the light... I used to burn my hands on it all the time!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Coming along


Just a quick teaser pic to show how the bar is looking these days. Printed up loads of tiny little labels and pasted them onto bottles, made posters, even put together a miniature magazine.

Click here to see it much larger on Flickr. Once there, click on ALL SIZES above the pic.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Back in (pre)production....


Yes, once again, I'm printing out tiny little labels, all stolen shamelessly from the intrawub---- well, some with extensive modification.

Can't really do much with them though till Im done animating my current scene... it wouldn't do to have bottles disappearing and jumping around randomly! I actually did grab one bottle on the set before I realized what I was doing... need to try to get it back in place via Framethief. And I even had it hotglued down... my heart sank when I felt that glue bond snap suddenly! But at least it was only ONE bottle... and I ended up taking a few from the far end that are off camera for measuring.

Just wanted to post this to show I am back to work on my film now... Prammaven, call off the claydogs!!

This film has seen me through a lot of growth so far, and some serious upgrades of studio equipment and animation skillz. But it's time I get it done. Long-term goal is by the end of the year, but I hope to finish it before winter sets in and free myself up to start in on something else.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Push comes to Shove - my entry for StopMotionMagic's June contest

Unfinished, but the deadline crept up on me so I posted what I have. This is actually just the live feed from the Lumix, complete with Antishake icon up in the left corner and low res artifacts galore. After I get the scene finished I'll post the high res version, now locked firmly in the innards of the camera until I can wrestle it out. This is my first time animating 2 puppets interacting, and it's a lot of fun. Oh and on deadline night after hours of animating and encoding and uploading, I forgot to edit out my false starts on the beginning, so just ignore the first 2 blips. Heh.. yeah, I was gonna have bartender Ahab in there, but took him out when the deadline loomed too close and I decided to go with 2 characters rather than 3.

Marc and John provided the prompt "Puppet Needs a Drink" - and I wanted to also get in some more Physical Theatre exercises along the way, so I came up with a scenario to explore the idea that physical interaction between 2 characters can be broken down into variations of pushing and pulling.

There was quite a flurry of activity on the contest this month, including an incredible entry by Nick Hilligoss. Check the thread if you're interested. The link goes right to the top of page 11, where John compiled all the links... that's the place to check unless you want to read a long and rambling thread with clips interspersed randomly throughout.

Friday, June 26, 2009

2 fixes for the Lumix FZ50

2 problems have come up that can affect the FZ50, and there are simple solutions for both. I just wanna get these posted in one place so I can always find it when I need it. The blog makes a great interactive notebook for that kind of info.

  • Live View only in Preview Mode

  • This only affects some FZ50s... so far only European models, which have an E at the end of the model number. The problem is this.... there's no continuous live view, it only works in Preview Mode, and you have to switch to a different mode before you can shoot a picture. Obviously this is useless for stopmotion purposes. On these cameras, it states clearly in the manual that live view is only provided in Preview mode. My camera is a US model, and it doesn't say that in the manual (the live view just works all the time, no matter what mode it's set to).

    The fix -
    Hold down the delete key for 5 seconds in record mode

    There is an undocumented function in the fz50: if you hold down the delete key for 5 seconds in record mode then you get an ntsc live video feed. Important... this is only an NTSC feed... you need to make sure your computer or framegrabber is set to accept an NTSC feed (if you're in the US or Canada then it is already set to NTSC). My theory is that it's the European models that need this fix, so generally speaking, you'll need to switch your computer or framegrabber to NTSC mode in order to make this work. You might have to do this several times, but once it "takes", Live View remains on indefinitely.

  • Can't shut off Burst Mode

  • This is a problem with all the FZ50s, and in fact with apparently all Lumix cameras. Once Burst Mode has been turned on, it can't be turned off!! Well, it can in certain modes, but not in Manual mode, which is the mode we need. For stopmotion of course, you wouldn't use Burst Mode... if you did you'd end up with three to five frames every time you try to take one. That would be - counterproductive to say the least! But some people will be using the Lumix for still photography as well as animation, or might just mess around with settings while learning how to set it up properly - or, since we have to buy the FZ50 used (it's no longer being manufactured) it's possible the former owner had used Burst Mode and it's already stuck there. Heck, maybe thats why they're selling it cheap!!

    The fix -
    Reset the record settings in the main menu

    Check your manual on how to perform a reset of the camera. That will turn it off. It should be in the setup menu.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dream a little dream with me....
The fantasy element in late 80s and 90s stopmotion/gomotion

"Fantasy is essentially the dream world; an imaginative world, and I don't think you want it quite real. You want an interpretation, and stopmotion to me gives that added value of a dream world that you can't catch if you try to make it too real"

.... Harryhausen from the documentary Ray Harryhausen Chronicles.

This will be the subject of today's blog, and take notes, there may be a pop quiz on Friday!

Lately I've been buying a lot of stopmotion on DVD, with an emphasis on the movies from the 80s and 90s, such as Dragonslayer, The Gate (and its sequel), I Madman, Howard the Duck etc. Phil Tippett, Randall William Cook, and their contemporaries... these are the progeny of Harryhausen -- his offspring in the world of stop motion animation. Generally speaking, the animation looked smoother than most of Uncle Ray's work, and the designs were more wildly creative - sometimes to good effect, sometimes not so much.

As the animation itself got smoother, and especially with the advent of Tippett's Go-Motion process, which eliminated the strobing effect that gave stopmotion its characteristic hard-edged, slightly stuttery feel, things began to look increasingly real. The compositing work improved greatly as well, so that now the creatures actually seem to occupy the same world as the people, and to actually be there right next to them. For my money, the most realistically animated go-motion creature (that I'm aware of) is the whimsical Ebersisk from the movie Willow. I believe this was a refinement of the already awe-inspiring technique as used in Dragonslayer. I've posted a clip above. Watch it now class, I'll wait.

It might not be apparent on a first viewing, as you're doubtless busy drooling over the beauty of it all, but there is just the tiniest bit of flutter in that animation. Now compare with the Ebersisk (two-headed dragonthing named for Siskel and Ebert):

It looks absolutely real, in spite of its somewhat ludicrous design and comical aspect. It seems to actually be right there... as if the actors could reach out and touch its horny hide. But it completely lacks the sense of fantasy Vermithrax has. I believe it's because of the complete smoothness of the animation, the absolute lack of any slight flutter (well ok, the near lack... there is a little bit, but just the teensiest little bit.... ). In this sense, toward the 90's stopmotion (and go-motion) were moving closer to the sensibilities now associated with high-end, hyperrealistic CGI. People love to throw around the line from Jurrassic Park (actually originally said by Tippet when told that his go-motion dinosaurs would be replaced with computer generated ones) "I've become extinct!" -- but there was another line, spoken by Jeff Goldblum in the movie, that fits equally well for late-period stop/go motion animation as well as CGI.... "You were so busy trying to find out if you could... you never stopped to ask if you should" (paraphrasing here... not sure I've got it completely right).

I'm not sure this applies equally to pure puppet animation, with no live action component.... haven't really studied the effect in that realm. There was something a bit offputting about Corpse Bride that many people attributed to too much smoothness in the animation, but I suspect it had a lot to do with the slick silicone puppets and the painting of them that accentuated their smoothness. Coraline's animation is incredibly smooth (the bodies anyway, the faces don't move as smoothy because they aren't animated on ones... it would have required entirely too many replacement face parts to be made)... and when I concentrate on the bodies (anything but the faces really) it doesn't feel too smooth or slick to me. The fantasy element seems to be there. But looking at the machine-made faces, so smoothly finished and slickly painted, I can see why some people feel it's sterile and doesn't have the handmade look of something like Nightmare Before Christmas.

Obviously that elusive "sense of fantasy" Uncle Ray was talking about comes from many factors combined - production design and cinematography being key, but I feel the slight stutter is an important one, especially when stopmotion creatures are combined with live action. I think you have a somewhat different sensibility when the world of the film is a normal human one and the fantasy comes strictly from the creatures - their design and the way they move. Also - and this is one factor that makes Dragonslayer a close counterpart to its earlier Harryhausen ancestry -- Vermithrax is the true center of the film. Everything builds up to her appearance, which does not disappoint, and her death is the resolution of the tension in the film. So often in the 80s and 90s flicks the creatures are basically little throwaway parts that aren't essential to the movie.

Ok class, today's lesson is complete... now go outside and play!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

New additions to the lighting grid -- fine tuning the Movie Making Machine


I've been running into some frustrating limitations in my lighting grid.... lights can only be directly over the table or a couple of feet in front of it. I wanted to be able to get lights lower, and to position them farther from the table in any direction. So I got a few accessories from the hardware store and rigged up a pair of these nifty ceiling-mounted light posts.

A 4 foot length of hardwood dowel, a couple of pipe clips, and some big hefty C clamps is all it took. I can clamp the posts wherever I want to the ceiling joists (incidentally, the clamps ensure that I don't permanently mar the joists). I always have to laugh at sizing conventions in the hardware world... a 1" diameter dowel fits into a 1" diameter hose clip with about 1/4" of clearance all the way around. I had to jam pieces of wood into the gap and fill the chinks with hotglue. But I guess the pipe clips weren't made to fit real snug anyway. Oh well, it works.

The other day as I was setting up for one of the Skulkin animation sessions I was struck by a thought....

The stopmotion studio is all one machine. All of it... every part.... the table with the holes drilled in it, the little puppets that can be secured to it, the lighting grid, the camera positioning apparatus, the camera and the capture device (computer, software). It's all made to work together in perfect harmony, like clockwork with you as the operator - nothing moving or changing until you want it to.

The really cool part is when I get the puppets set up and get ready to do a shot.... I position and plug in the set lights I'll be using one by one, and then switch off the normal overhead light. This process is a gradual transition from the ordinary basement surroundings into the Stopmotion World. Now only the set is lit, and it takes on a special look... far more attractive than under ordinary household lighting. The mess that is the rest of my basement fades into darkness behind me, and now my attention is focused completely on those little puppets that I labored so hard to make, and will now labor to bring to life.

Welcome to the Stopmotion World!!!

In fact, now that I think about it, you could extend the machine metaphor to include the shelves full of books that feed my knowledgebase... the DVDs and tapes that provide invaluable inspiration... even the computer that connects me to the internet... to other animators and friends all around the world. Wow... it means my machine is connected to Shelleys, and Svens, and Jeffreys... and to YOURS if you're a stopmoe!!! Insprirational!!!! 

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Commedia Dell'Arte
(more esoteric theory to keep me from
actually accomplishing anything)


I was amazed when I started delving into the world of Commedia. (I know, commedia is just Italian for comedy, but Ill be using it as an abbreviation for the full term, which is a bit long to type out over and over. Sue me.... )

The thing that really blows my mind about it is just how many of today's familiar characters have filtered down from it. Harlequins painted by Picasso, Cezanne, and many other artists, extended all the way to the Joker's sidekick Harley Quinn. Oh, and the Joker himself looks an awful lot like a Zanni mask with that long nose and long pointed chin.... rather similar to Paul Berry's Sandman puppet. Lots of examples throughout history, from Cyrano to (I suspect) Don Quixote and possibly even Quasimodo (his renaissance garb coupled with his acrobatic capering suggest Commedia to me). I'm sure there are countless others.


As a theatrical form, Commedia was very physical -- involving mime, clowning, acrobatics, and improvisation in addition to voice acting and often singing, or grammelot -- invented gobbledygook -- gibberish language made to sound like some language or dialect and including occasional words... it was designed to get the meaning across even though most of it was nonsense. There's more to grammelot than just made up gibberish... you can find a great description of it in Dario Fo's Nobel prize winning book Tricks of the Trade (along with excellent descriptions of techniques for various mime techniques and other physical acting methods).


Mister Punch is the direct descendant of Pulcinella (meaning Little Chicken), who walked like a chicken and beat everybody with his slapstick. Many commedia characters are modeled after animals... birds, monkeys, etc. Commedia is the theatre of TYPES.... characters aren't individuals with psychological depth but the masks and characteristic walks represent types -- The Old Skinflint (Pantalone), The Clown (Harlequin, or earlier Arlecchino), The Cowardly Braggart (Il Capitano, or The Captain), The Self-Important Windbag (Il Dottore - The Doctor) and others.


It was all set up within the framework of classes.... basically most of the characters were servants on different levels of the hierarchy.. with Pantalone and Il Dottore being the homeowners and their sons and daughters being The Lovers (who wore no masks and were completely self-absorbed, in love with the idea of being in love, but so narcissistic that they hardly noticed each other). These Lovers feature frequently in some of the films derived from Commedia... in particular the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges. Chaplin, Keaton, and other silent clowns are direct descendants as well.


The Zanni are the lowest class... always at everyone else's mercy, but the most mischievous and clownish of the bunch. Zanni is a generic term (not sure exactly what it means) which eventually translated into Zany. As many of the characters did, they would often stand and walk in first or fourth position (ballet terms), lending them an exaggerated grace.

Here are some great YouTube vids on the subject of Commedia Dell'Arte:

Commedia Dell'Arte playlist on YouTube Some are good, some not so much. I offer the entire playlist, feel free to skip around it. Below are some individual clips I find excellent.

The Masks of Arnold Sandhaus
Commedia Dell'arte at Brennan High School
Commedia dell'Arte
Workshop de Commedia Dell' Arte com Antonio Fava (part 1)
Workshop de Commedia Dell' Arte com Antonio Fava (part 2) This girl does the best Zanni I've ever seen!!! This is the way Commedia characters are supposed to be.... acrobatic, walking with balletic grace and poise, speaking in unnatural voices... incredible!!!

And the books I've got (browse suggestions for many others):

Commedia Dell'Arte: An Actor's Handbook by John Rudlin
The Moving Body: Teaching Creative Theatre by Jaques Lecoq
The Mime Book by Claude Kipnis
The Art of Pantomime by Charles Aubert (available for free online download)
The Tricks of the Trade by Dario Fo
Mask Characterization: An Acting Process by Libby Appel
All highly recommended, especially when taken as a group... they feed into each other perfectly.