Tuesday, 14 April 2009

storing zeds for future use

By now I hoped to have at least 15 seconds filmed.

I have 0 seconds.

I had the studio booked last week from Monday to Thursday, 10am-5pm, before uni shut for Easter, and I managed to film 10 seconds of test animation. Monday I was completely confident but I hadn't had the chance to test the puppets out fully before starting, so Monday was for doing that and setting up the lighting. Lights about 2 hours to do leaving me all afternoon for testing. I did about 12 frames before both of their heads fell off. The problem was that the polystyrene wasn't solid enough to support the glued in pieces of K&S, so as I turned the heads the polystyrene was breaking away. I went home about 3pm, optimistic about the next day when I would've fixed the heads and could start filming.

I unpicked the stitching of the necks and performed what felt like keyhole surgery on the heads. I used Milliput, an epoxy putty, to cement the K&S into the polystyrene and left it over night. In the morning I was pleased to find that it had worked, the heads turned well, but I decided to perform thorough tests before sewing the puppets back together.

I thought about putting them through extreme conditions just to make sure. Giving them to my dog to play with? Strapping them to the roof of my car (in a seated position) and doing a few miles on the motorway? Putting them in the tumble dryer (with a sheet of Bounce to mask the perfume smell while I'm at it)? As I thought about it I twisted and turned Righty's head which proceeded to come loose. That meant my Tuesday would not be spent filming but attempting to make the heads secure. In hindsight I should've left the Milliput longer to dry, the instructions say 24 hours to be completely dry, and I gave it about 16 hours. I did still believe that the Milliput would work so I spent the morning digging out polystyrene and squishing in Milliput.

They were done by noon so that I could give them 24 hours to dry and still have a few hours the next day to get animating. I was starting to feel less optimistic about what I could get done in a day and a half. This also tied in to the doubts I had about the background I was using. It wasn't working as I thought it would and it would have been difficult to match up for the next filming session in 2 weeks time. I decided it best to use the day and a half filming for testing, using a very simple background, to see how much I could get done in the time I had left and get an indication of how long the shoot would take. I would then work out how much sleep I would be losing and start storing it up in preparation.
So this is how I ended Wednesday. I managed 3 seconds in 4 hours. The heads were functioning well. Problems were with tie downs. I had magnets which I tried first, just because they saved a little time and also meant less post-production without holes in the set. I think the wool was too thick for them to function properly and the feet tended to swivel too much. So I switched to threaded rods, which worked great but were hard to fix to the feet through the wool soles.

The idea of moving the eyes around the face was working. I was using plasticine to make eyelids when I needed them but it left a residue on the enamel of the eye and so they became less shiny. I'm going to see about making replacement eyes if the shop has enough of the buttons left. If not I'll try making replacement eyelids. Putting screws on the back made the eyes quite secure but when I unscrewed them the screws caught in the wool and pulled it a bit. I'm considering switching to pins or small nails instead.
Thursday I managed 7 seconds. It wasn't great animation but I got a feel for the limitations of the puppets. One of Lefty's hips became loose and refused to tighten, which is why she has all her weight on one hip in the picture above. Righty's head became loose again too so he'll need another operation soon. Other than that it was great to get in to a studio again and just get lost in animating. I look forward to starting properly in 2 weeks.

For the testing I averaged 1 second of animation an hour so it follows that I'll be able to shoot the film in 90 hours. However, once the string shows up each frame will take longer and I want to have better quality performance than achieved in the test so I'll double that to 180 hours. That's 1 frame every 5 minutes which is plenty as I'm working on 2's (2 frames for 1 picture), so it's really 10 minutes per movement. I have the studio booked for 18 days, including the weekends so that's 10 hours of animation per day, which is quite reasonable and doesn't cost me any sleep.

But, I left booking the studio until the last minute so officially I have 8 days before the project deadline, which works out to 22.5 hours animating per day and 1.5 hours sleep. That would involve storing 48 hours worth of zzZZs over the next 2 weeks.

Hmm...the film won't be finished for the deadline but it will definitely be finished before my studio time runs out. Who'd have thought maths could be comforting?