Saturday, October 25, 2014

It's Voodoo!

Above is a link to the astonishingly robust and mind blowing power of Rhythm & Hues proprietary software Voodoo.

So many movies owe a debt of thanks to R&H, and it's unfortunate and ironic that the same year "Life of Pi", won the Oscar in 2012, R&H shut it's doors due to bankruptcy.

Many other studios closed that year, but that's another story.  For now, watch the video on Voodoo and think about what movies would look like without computer effects.



Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Stop Motion in the Digital Age #03

The last post focused on the evolution of replacement animation and the advancement of using rapid prototyping technology to create hard copy color face replacements.

Now, CINEFEX blog has run a nice comprehensive article on LAIKA's latest film "The Boxtrolls" that explains the mixing of traditional stop-motion and computer imagery.

The piece has several examples showing the process of rig removal, integration of effects, and the additions of background characters and entire backgrounds.  

Check it out here: 

Update:   Director/Animator Jim Clark sent me this information about Laika's evolution of rapid prototyping  having originated with him.  Here is what Jim says:

This is probably the most creative, simple and best use of this technology+art I've seen in years. I was the first artist to adopt 3D printers for stop-motion - way back in 1999, so I have a special appreciation for it. Wow, the technology has come soo far and I love, love, love this piece!

In mid 1999, I printed my first 3D CG character in plaster and the use for stop-motion struck me, but it was still to early and expensive. In 2004 I convinced my then-employeer to purchase an early-model 3D plastic extrusion printer for our use in stop-motion production. We initially used it extensively on an HP Flea commercial to create all of our detailed set pieces. After, we printed the self-aligning replacement faces for an animated Anti-Smoking campaign, then we used it to create glow-in-the-dark stop-mo tracking heads for a hybrid animated commercial for Lux Soap where we replaced the practical head with a matching CG head in post. The uses go on and on.

My fabrication team eventually went to Laika, adopted the process and further refined it on Coraline. They have since perfected the methodology on Paranorman and The Box Trolls with 3D printed full-color faces. Rad!

I really enjoy seeing my original idea and influence adopted and further developed in this art form, after all these years.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Stop Motion in the Digital Age No.02

Since animation is a series of still images with slight changes made to achieve motion, the idea of replacing the object altogether came very early in stop motion history.  The process was termed 'replacement animation'.

Today, technology has allowed Laika Studios to push the bounds of rapid prototyping, 3-D-printing all of the puppets' faces in color. 

Who first used the replacement technique is lost to time but George Pal began making his “Puppetoons” series in 1932 and used a method of planning action as a traditionally drawn animation and then carving entire figures in wood which were replaced for each frame of motion based on the 2D drawings!

Here’s a lovely video that tells Pals story better than I can.

George Pal surrounded by his puppet replacements

A walk cycle from George Pal
Whole head replacements by George Pal
Later, instead of replacing the entire figure, just the faces were replacements and the bodies were the traditional ball and socket armatures still used today.  This 1935 film, “Hector the Pup” by John Burton is a fun use of mouth replacement:

Laika Studio has taken the replacements to a new level using computers to build models and printing them out in color as hard copies.  Although brittle, there is the advantage of making multiple copies for teams of animators.  They also move more smoothly than the chatter seen in older replacements.

Digital sculptures printed out in color from "Paranorman"
Check out these great expressions on a set of whole face replacements from the up and coming “Boxtrolls” soon to be released this September.
Digital sculptures printed out in color from "The Boxtrolls"
Update:  Here's a dandy article on how Laika has made stop-motion relevant today:

Tuesday, September 02, 2014


 This looks like a worthwhile project.

Update, wow:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Harry Beckhoff

 I've been over to one of my favorite sites, ILLUSTRATION ART, and came across these astounding thumbnail sketches by Harry Beckhoff who passed away in 1979.

A fuller article about Harry can be found at my other favorite site, TODAY'S INSPIRATION:

Beckhoff's sketches weren't much bigger than a penny, but they are marvelous little jewels.  They served as comprehensive blueprints for  finished illustrations that were ten times larger.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cintiq vs the Other Guys

There are other posts on this site about my hunt for a good drawing tablet that would be an alternative to the expensive Cintiq.  Well, it's finally happened, I was forced to make a decision.  I had a job that required detailed drawing and clean up, and needed something fast.  I was playing with the idea of a Chinese model or one from Africa, of all places, but the reviews were really fixed and it sounded like for every happy camper there were more people having regrets.  I had even considered something like a Surface Pro laptop but the drawing space would have been too small and the menus unreadable, although I loved the idea of having another system and not just a drawing device.  After a lot of online digging, I decided on a 13"HD Cintiq.  Now wouldn't that limit my drawing size, you may ask?  The beauty of it is I can use a second monitor and drag all my menus, graphs, tools and reference onto it freeing up my Cintiq just for drawing.  Being HD I can zoom in tight and scroll around for details.  Being so small allows me to pick it up and rotate it around on my lap, which I could never do with a 24".  I think I made a good choice and it does
Cintiq turned on it's side with palettes and graphs on second monitor.
the job!

Friday, August 01, 2014

Stoffel Brinkerhoff, The Breaker of Heads

“The Triumph of Stoffel Brinkerhoff, on His Return from His Conquests in the East” painted by John Gadsby Chapman in 1835
My father once told me a tale about our relative Stoffel Brinkerhoff called the Head-Breaker who supposedly instigated a riot against the Red Coats as they invaded the New York harbor.  According to dad, once the fighting began, Stoffel hid away in a tavern and drank while the fighting raged on.
I lived with this story for years thinking it was true and then ran across two articles that changed my perception.  One was a painting called “The Triumph of Stoffel Brinkerhoff, on His Return from His Conquests in the East” painted by John Gadsby Chapman in 1835.  The other was an article online about an oyster war fought in New Amsterdam written by Washington Irving.

This was the true story of Stoffel Brinkerhoff who was famous throughout the province for strength of arm and skill at quarter-staff, and hence was named Stoffel Brinkerhoff; or rather, Brinkerhoofd; that is to say, Stoffel the Head-breaker.  Apparently he put down a group of men who had laid claim to the local oyster beds, thus allowing everyone to enjoy the delicious seafood once again.

Not quite the story I grew up with but the colorful wording and outrageous names made this a delightful alternative. This snippet tells a part of the triumphant victory as told by Irving.

Here he was encountered by a host of Yankee warriors, headed by Preserved Fish, and Habakkuk Nutter, and Return Strong, and Zerubbabel Fisk, and Determined Cock! at the sound of whose names Stoffel Brinkerhoff verily believed the whole parliament of Praise-God Barebones had been let loose upon him. He soon found, however, that they were merely the "select men" of the settlement, armed with no weapon but the tongue, and disposed only to meet him on the field of argument. Stoffel had but one mode of arguing--that was with the cudgel; but he used it with such effect that he routed his antagonists, broke up the settlement, and would have driven the inhabitants into the sea, if they had not managed to escape across the Sound to the mainland by the Devil's Stepping-stones, which remain to this day monuments of this great Dutch victory over the Yankees.
Stoffel Brinkerhoff made great spoil of oysters and clams, coined and uncoined, and then set out on his return to the Manhattoes. A grand triumph, after the manner of the ancients, was prepared for him by William the Testy. He entered New Amsterdam as a conqueror, mounted on a Narraganset pacer. Five dried codfish on poles, standards taken from the enemy, were borne before him; and an immense store of oysters and clams, Weathersfield onions, and Yankee "notions" formed the spolia opima; while several coiners of oyster-shells were led captive to grace the hero's triumph.
The procession was accompanied by a full band of boys and negroes, performing on the popular instruments of rattle-bones and clam-shells, while Anthony Van Corlear sounded his trumpet from the ramparts.
 It is moreover said that the governor, calling to mind the practice among the ancients to honor their victorious generals with public statues, passed a magnanimous decree, by which every tavern-keeper was permitted to paint the head of Stoffel Brinkerhoff upon his sign!

I kind of liked my fathers’ version better, but if you feel inclined you can read the rest here: