Tag Archives: filmmaking

SHOT 121

Okay, here we go with my first flying scene. Degree of difficulty? Yes.

The murder hornets we met in shots 105 and 107 have gotten curious while James and Sushi try to work things out.

I went through a dozen setups for this key shot, and settled on creating a bridge from my camera table to my set table using a steel yardstick. The space between those tables is where I need to maneuver in order to animate the scene.

These hornets came with stands, and the yardstick has all the inches marked off, naturally. So the goal was to make the Boss Hornet jump off the cherry tree and fly over to the Vespa for a better look.

If you look close in the bottom right shadows, the smaller hornet is already on the patio, playing with (and wearing) the hat James threw over there previously.

Okay, so how do we pull this off? Through a process called rigging and de-rigging.

First, for every shot in the sequence we take two exposures. These get put into separate timelines by the Dragonframe animation software. You can use multiple exposures for just that — typically different F-stops. Or you can use them for creating background plates for shots like this.

A background plate is an exposure that has everything except the flying object that you’re animating.

Then you take the real shot of the flying object either held up by a stand, or hanging from a string.

And finally, in Photoshop, you erase the rigging in the top layer, thereby exposing the background within the area you erased. This must be done for every affected frame, and then the video is reconstructed in Final Cut Pro from the processed frames.

And like magic, the flying hornet’s stand disappeared from the composited clip.

So for each frame, I moved the hornet’s stand by a set number of inches, easing into it from the jump-off point, then accelerating, and then slowing for an air-brake landing with wings spread.

Yes, it’s painstaking. But so is life. And the payoff was awesome, watching my wife’s jaw drop the first time she saw a buzzing, flailing piece of plastic fly across my studio. And better yet, a friend actually asked me if that was CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery)!

When the Boss Hornet lands on the Vespa, I made sure to animate the Vespa rolling back to sell the audience on the physics of the situation. I mentioned that I own an actual Vespa, so a sound effect of something hefty (like me), jostling that real scooter with a satisfying ‘clunk-clunk’ completes the illusion.

Don’t forget the power of a good sound effect!

Oh — before we leave this shot. The green screen you can see through the open door will be filled in later with a properly angled interior shot.

SHOT 120

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.

SHOT 117

Sushi and James have both watched his hat crash into the flower pots. This is an homage to how, in the old 007 movies, James Bond always showed off his hat-throwing skills to tease Moneypenny. But now he can’t seem to hit the broad side of a minka, let alone a coat rack.

While Sushi never seems to mind that James just used her water fountain as a urinal (perhaps because this isn’t really her house), she did just notice that James’ fly is still wide open.

Now I could have shot that from her POV but we’ve already established that James has a nice dick and there’s no need to belabor that point since we have a story to tell.

Also this is our first hint that Sushi might be — could she be? Topless. Here I use another trick from Austin Powers and the old Pink Panther movies. Over the next few shots I’ll be intentionally obstructing Sushi’s amazingly perky breasts. This trope shall be known henceforth as ‘titillation.’

SHOT 116

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.

SHOT 115

In this shot, Sushi is upset at coming face-to-face with a maskless stranger, but he happens to have a mask handy at the front door for such occasions — just like my wife does.

When tossing an object from one puppet to another, you can pull the old knife-throw trick used in live action shows. Here, there’s enough stiffness in the mask’s fishing line ear straps to hold it up in the air, thereby simulating centrifugal force for the fraction of a second necessary to achieve the sleight-of-hand illusion in the next shot.

(We’ll cover actual flying animation in future scenes.)

SHOT 114

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.

SHOT 113

James is startled in mid-pee when Sushi greets him with “Konnichiwa.”

The camera angle here is intentional. James is not only physically taller than Sushi, but we perform a tilt down in the next shot to introduce the notion that James is a misogynist, conditioned to look down on women.

That watercolor wallpaper behind the rosewood screen is a placeholder. It’s a green screen shot that will be filled with an interior shot later.

Notice Sushi’s mask, and the flowers behind her — both pink. That tree is also made in Thailand from plasticine. Meanwhile, Annette Pardini (@mydollasylum on Instagram) has made quite a few custom costume pieces for POSERS, including what I affectionately call Sushi’s “face diaper” in this scene.

SHOT 112

This is basically Buddha’s reaction shot with James wondering out load, “How dew Oi flush dis ting?”

We pan up from James’ POV to spy a urine-sprayed security camera, which shows James’ transgression in its lens reflection as we see the sliding panel door opening behind him.

This is my first instance of some tricky animation being intentionally downplayed. It sends a message to the audience that this film is less about its technical execution and more about the story that’s about to spew forth.