Animation Journal: The Room of Indefinite Holding. 

I want to share two character tests that I made for a short film called The Room of Indefinite Holding, which is based on a diorama that I made last year.

Birdbrain

The first character, who I think of as Birdbrain, is a paper skeleton on a wire armature. I’ve been exploring Birdbrain’s story in other dioramas, and it’s particularly satisfying to bring him to life.

Here is birdbrain with my hands, shown for scale. He’s taller than the previous diorama versions.

 

Beeface

As I was leaving work one day, I found three discarded wasp nests in a patch of ivy near where I park. One of the hives had bees/wasps in them. I immediately thought the hives looked like faces, so I picked them up and brought them to the studio.

Here’s the first puppet test:

Here’s a close up of Beeface, as I was assembling her.

Jim Doran in the studio

Here’s one of the sets for the room itself.

I’m moving (too) slowly on this because I don’t want to make a mistake. Yes, mistakes are essential and can be good things. I’m taking about the disastrous variety, the “WHAT IF I SPEND DAYS FILMING A THING AND IT’S ALL WRONG?” variety.

Disney did this when they first used their horizontal multi-plane camera in Fantasia. The camera that they used to shoot the footage had an incorrect lens and they didn’t noticed until after many days of filming. When they viewed the developed film, they could see not only the animation, but the room and floor, too. They had to scramble and reshoot the entire sequence, as the release date was looming within weeks.

I’ve experienced this too, though on a much smaller scale. My film wasn’t Fantasia or even for Disney and it mostly involved spoons.  But, entire days of work were lost, and the motivation to spend hours hunched over spoons, repeating myself, can be greatly diminished by such mistakes.

And yet

 

In the documentary about The Residents called The Theory of Obscurity, it is suggested that the Residents are as successful as the Beatles. Their Twitter bio reads “Formed in 1972, The Residents are an avant-garde art collective that has released over 60 albums, numerous music videos & short films, 10 DVD’s & 3 CD-ROMS.” What it doesn’t mention is the members  have remained completely anonymous. Their goal (it’s said) wasn’t to be famous, so their definition of success may actually be oranges, while the Beatles were concerned with Apples. Still, they have been highly productive and influential, and they have made a living at making their work.

I like the Residents more than the Beatles.

I’m writing about this to share something profound Penn Jillette said in The Theory of Obscurity:

“If you wait until you know understand enough to do something, you’re never gonna get it done.”

I recommend the documentary, even for non-Residents fans. And I’ll leave you with this  wonderful Jillette outtake:

Enjoy!

Eggs and Spoons

Here is a much more elaborate stop motion test, where I explored lighting and camera position. No eggs were harmed in the making of this video, and the spoons were a delight to handle! <- see what I did there?

The Virgin Toenail

Based on the idea of a Virgin Thumbnail (explored previously), I wanted to see what happens if one extends the scripture to the another appendage.

Featuring my very old Skool Vans sneaker and paper-cutouts.

 

Coo Coo Cachoo

Here is a stop motion short featuring that I made with features both hand drawn frames and object animation.

I started by drawing the actor, “Egg,” using a light table. I have a round plastic peg bar, made by Lightfoot.

joie-eggman-wip

I then photographed each drawing…

joie-eggman

And I used Dragonframe to export all the images as video.

joie-eggman-dragonframe

I’m learning a lot from this process, especially the need to pay attention to the lighting. This little clip took more hours to produce than I’d like to admit, but I can see ways to streamline the production. I was very interested to see how the line quality of Egg’s tie and jacket would present when animated. I then switched to a thicker marker as he approaches his “freeze” scene. At one point, I accidentally blew on the “Jimmies” coming from his head, which scattered them across the table. I laboriously recreated the original position of each piece. And I didn’t notice until after shooting the entire sequence that I am visible in the spoon. I left it, but that was a “mistake.”

 

Camera Test

layersFurther exploring stop motion, I made the following test, which is a reprise of an older Flash animation experiment.  This time, I moved all the layers by hand. The whole thing took a long Sunday afternoon, which entailed making the scene, boat and actor, exploring lighting and camera settings and then putting this together. Again, it’s just a test but shows great potential.

I am going to tell you the full story next.