More comedic small talk while James adjusts his “Hello Titty” mask.
Annette Pardini made this mask using a special form of papier-mâché. I chose the graphic, then she made a few prototypes until landing on a solution that would be malleable enough to animate merely by poking and prodding it with a pointed wooden stick. The only problem was the threads used for the straps tended to fray and that became visibly out-of-scale in 4K. So the solution was for me to simply replace the straps with fishing line. We could have used elastic thread, and maybe should have, but the nylon monofilament had some good properties too.
This solution made James appear to be talking and breathing along with the dialogue, without animatable mouth parts.
This was all part of my original plan to use the pandemic to my advantage. But the longer I’ve worked on POSERS, the more I came to realize it ultimately doesn’t matter. We get that these puppets are from another universe, and maybe they don’t need to communicate like humans.
We’ll learn more about their species later…
One last thought here. If you’ve ever seen Robot Chicken, you know how corny it is to slap mouth and even eye stickers on a doll to make it appear to talk. That’s certain a style, but it’s not the style I’m going for here. If I ever decide it’s important to animate their faces, I can do that digitally given enough time. My tact, instead, is to focus on communicating largely via body language from the get-go and see where that leads.
Here, James announces he’s looking for “Amanda Münschon” while unapologetically zipping up his trousers. We can start to read James’ mask. I love it when it takes a few shots to fully reveal a sight gag. It makes the audience part of the mystery.
Here’s James on the receiving end of the mask tossed by Sushi. The mask only appears to be hanging in mid air. It’s really just hooked on his lapel, leveraging your brain’s suspension of disbelief. We’ll get a better look at that custom mask in the next few shots.
Meanwhile, James puts the straps over his ears in this shot and then tosses his hat to his right. And once again, he doesn’t really throw the hat. I support the bottom of the hat just offscreen on a stack of blocks.
Always keep a stack of blocks and wedges on your animation set. They’ll come in unbelievably useful in a pinch, when some stunt begs your indulgence and you need some quick off-camera rigging.
This is just a quick reaction shot when Sushi screams at James for not wearing a mask. James is still wobbly from spinning around. And here’s where I make up for the fact that these puppets don’t have posable faces by adjusting his hat to simulate a contraction of his forehead muscles.
Also notice the nice focus blur in the background. That adds a lot of depth to an otherwise flat green screen composition. When doing this between shots that might go medium to close-up, remember to scale your background and change the amount of focus blur. That’ll trick any brain into thinking this was shot in-camera.
Here’s the reaction shot. Our first glimpse of James’ face. You can see how detailed the head sculpt is, and you can almost feel the pain in his eyes as we don’t really know if he blew his fingers off.
James shakes off the pain and slips the pistol back into his jacket pocket, minus the silencer which we hear bouncing off the pavement.
This is our first clue that these puppets have interchangeable body parts. When new, the hands are very difficult to get on and off without destroying the current pose. But over time they loosen up and I get better at applying leverage at key pressure points.
This was also my first mistake, in that James’ finger was never on the gun’s trigger. I realized later that even though the fingers on some of the hands are fused together, they can be sliced apart with an X-ACTO blade. And from there they are flexible enough to grip a whole variety of objects.
Oh well — no one would have notice this unless I had just pointed it out. But part of the motivation behind this blog is to help educate other animators who might be tackling similar projects.
Keep thinking outside that box.
We see the gun go off in James’ trembling hand. The muzzle flash is done with the PROGUN plug-in from PixelFilmStudios.com. I love the contrast of the yellow gunfire against B&W.
At 8 frames, this is probably the shortest shot in the film. That’s 1/3 of a second at 24 FPS (frames per second). But the jolting sound effect really sells the fact that James is at a minimum intoxicated and should probably be reported to HR.