Sunday, 17 March 2013

Episode II


I reckon it's always healthy to start a post with some holiday snaps. Although, I'm not going away for a while so the next post could include photos of me having a right ol' time wearing a Hawaiian shirt and outrageous sunglasses... in Coventry. Anyway, me and Lucy went skiing in February and did a damn good job on the snowy slopes of the Black Forests in Germany. I even managed the steeper part of a blue slope and overtook a toddler. Now, you may think that's no big feat (just realised the little joke in there!) but these little buggers can ski/snowboard with no fear whatsoever. They even sing when they breeze past you, which just feels like a mocking and a half. I have to say, one of the highlights was the glorious weather we had on Valentines Day and the opportunity I had to climb into a wilderness hut with a stick (which was actually a double barrelled shotgun). I pretended to be Elmer Fudd. Well, who wouldn't? 

There is always a moment of sheer panic when the shops erupt with pink and fluffy merchandise advertising important days of the year. Mothers Day was the most recent and I hadn't considered this whatsoever. Luckily I have a get-out-of-jail-free card... I am an artist! Sometime I do feel that it's perhaps a cop-out but people do seem to enjoy the things I draw or make for them. So I sculpted Jemima Puddle-Duck (my mum is a big fan of Beatrix Potter) and it went down rather well. 

It's all about the sculpey.

Over the past month Yamination Studio has compiled a series of lists containing the mass of props needed for the film At-issue. With such a variety to be made, it's been interesting to see what materials can be used in all their inventive glory. For example, the four corners of a plastic fruit pot became the four corners of a traffic cone. Or the plastic lid to a 'fresh breath spray' (cut in half) became the covering to a lamp post light. Yeah... who'd've thought? 
 The grocery store was always going to be a fun section to work on, especially when you get to make miniature fruit and veg. Come on, look how cute it all looks! To give you an idea of scale, the pumpkin circumference is about the size of a fifty pence piece.
  The gutter grate (with a mysterious albino character grasping for love) was made from card, sprayed with a grey primer and dry brushed. Many of these props were pretty straight forward to make, it's just a matter of putting two and two together to make a phwoar. I don't like to call myself a perfectionist but I do like attention to detail, and if I can't get it right then I become a sulky bitch, hash-tag FACT.

In need of Optimus paint Priming
(not sure that pun works)

Sarah Crombie did a fine job sanding and painting
the posts I made. Then roped them together
with some mad skills.

I get such a satisfying feeling when I find some bric-a-brac malarkey that could be used for a hinge, handle, pipe or pot. I don't know whether that's slightly odd or just the way it is. Fuck it, that's the way it is huh. The prop above the 'banister and ropes' is a cable box. These baby's go unnoticed as they perch innocently outside buildings and on the roadside, victims to graffiti and posters advertising a dodgy rave. I made mine out of energy drink aluminium, card, 5mm wire (expertly cut) for hinges and two tacks for the handles. This made me happy.
  Another thing that makes me happy is posing like a buffoon for a photograph. However, the more eloquent term chosen for the Red Nose rabble (as seen below) was 'a bunch of dweebs'. I think we look pretty cool if you ask me. Unfortunately, you can't  see the full extent of Drew's hat, as it comes equipped with a mini propeller. Bartholomew Yogart brought his own red nose (courtesy of Michael Price) and managed to stand on some Yellow Pages for the photo. 

So life goes on at the Custard Factory. Chris Gough has graced us with his presence and has done some awesometacular work on the front of the cinema set, giving me some tip top pointers on set dressing. It's a great environment we work in and with the return of Crombie this week it's all Thunderbirds are go. 

I am slowly building up the retro years. Been looking for Crash Team Racing.

The atmosphere of the Custard Factory is tremendous. It's like walking into Rivendell where no evil can pass and everything is bright, peaceful and wholesome. Don't get me wrong, it is an incredibly hard working environment but this is rewarded with great people (who will doth their cap to you) and the shop known as Retro World. This is no mere shop but a gateway into the 80's and 90's, with shelves of vintage wonder and childhood relics; thus rekindling my PlayStation One fixation. It began with Worms Armageddon, undoubtedly my favourite, closely followed by Crash Bandicoot 2 and Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2. I am currently on the hunt for South Park Rally. 

I have been asked to run a series of children's animation workshops at the Heritage Motor Centre, which would fundamentally promote the museum, but also give me some fantastic experience. When I was first approached by the museum, I was slightly dubious because I sometimes find it hard to explain the stop motion method to adults, let alone children. But the more I planned, the more I realised why wouldn't they understand? As long as I don't waffle on, then surely I could teach these younglings in the ways of stop motion (would they understand something along the lines of 'it's like a 3D flip book'?). If they can learn a second language from the age of 3, then they could certainly understand phrases such as 'no, you'll only animate 2 seconds in a day' or 'you will never see the light of day again' or 'inter-ocular distance means nothing unless you have lots of money for a tracking system'. At the end of the day I just have to keep them happy with some plasticine and card board cut outs.

The Attic Studio (pros and cons of a home grown stop motion animator).
The progress of Pablo is steady but positive. I have managed to animate snippets of the puppet upon white foam board or green screen (both chroma key options through my software) which would then be composited onto live action footage from Moor Street Station. Unfortunately, orange was not a colour key on the video editing software I have, which would have been perfect as it compliments the blue fuzz of Pablo. Now, these minor inconveniences do add up and have began to effect the 'home studio' set up I have. I wouldn't normally digress into these troubles, but I do hope that there are other stop motion animators who can relate to the pros and cons of working with limited equipment. For starters I do not have efficient lighting. My bed side lamp emits a yellow glow, which doesn't help at all because I need natural light, especially for Pablo, as he spends most of his journey outside. 

I do, however, have PMA (positive mental attitude) and have managed to edit together a couple of sequences where Pablo has been placed on the live action video. With the animation being minimalist, it is simply a case of capturing the moment with perhaps one or two expressions from Pablo and framing that moment nicely with the surroundings. I have a train journey to film, so I shall take the little scamp with me and have him gazing out of the window. I have a few tricks up my sleeve when it comes to moving Pablo (and keeping him in the 'live action' setting) so hopefully they shall work. 

This is a new addition to the blog, where I shall dedicate anything from a sentence up to 77 paragraphs upon anything involving Episode VII. Each time I post an entry (usually monthly) I shall divulge into the good, the bad and the ugly updates during the countdown towards 'the most anticipated film in the Star Wars Universe' (where have we heard that before?). My tone? I will always project a sceptical opinion in these early stages for a number of reasons:
  1. Whilst growing up, Star Wars and Disney played two completely separate roles in my life and I respected them both. I am still getting my head around the merging of the two.
  2. In the past 10 years or more we have been subjected to some incredibly poor sequels that were made decades after the original film(s), usually with dilapidated versions of the once nimble character (sorry Indiana, John McClane, I am pointing fingers). And the recent news of Carrie Fisher being on board for Episode VII gives me a worrying thought. I don't want my glorious vision of Princess Leia being tarnished when she returns as a 56 year old politician. 
  3. With episodes I, II and III being somewhat of a let down, it's hard to imagine that this 'reboot' will capture the original brilliance of the Star Wars Saga.
  4. With ROTJ ending such an epic story I can imagine that many fans (including myself) have interpreted the ongoing journey of Luke Skywalker in their own fashion, over a course of 30 years. And if Episode VII brings back anything to do with Gungans, taxation of trade routes, the excessive use of blue screen or awkward conversations about politics and sand then it may corrupt this perfect Saga forever.
For the record, I do realise that there have been thousands of Expanded Universe 'spin off' stories and published/graphic novels that follow Luke, Leia and Han (and a host of new characters) throughout many adventures (which include, in brief, alien invasions, Palpatine clones, Luke in love, Han and Leia's children and something rather tragic happening to one of the chief characters). But this is all relative. One can choose to follow these unofficial story arcs or not, but when a film is released as one of the actual Episodes then things get a little more serious. 

I promise I will not use this section purely to rant and moan. I do have some positive remarks; at least Lucas isn't directing. 

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