Week 12: Finishing touches

as this was the final week of in-class time we hadn’t to work on the installation, we agreed upon picking and choosing bits and pieces from each iteration and work on our final piece. Chloe was set on trying to create a paper trail, comig down from the roof and attaching to the ground, so for majority of the class she was preoccupied by this. We were all a little sceptical, as we didn’t really have a reason to place upon it, but we decided to “cross that bridge when we get to it”

Sam, Chelsea and I started tidying the area, jamming with it to try and come up with a few viable ideas, Chloe still working on the flying paper, and Sonny and David worked on better videos for us to work with.

We wanted to try and give the room a more “homey feel, as one of the things that Matt said was that it just looked like wall with plinths covered in sheets, so we agreed to find more homey hardware. Sam went on a one-man mission to find some furniture, and Chelsea and I worked on the placement of the tv/photo frames. Sam came back with the white door, which had seen better days, which we instantly loved, and a small coffee table. We started using these things immediently, and Sam found a cardboard box to put on top of a plinth to try and make it look more like a bookcase, and also for a place to hide the speaker we were wanting to use.

We decided to use only photo frames to show the videos, so sent David and Sonny to work trying to make them the correct format. We also decided to have two different coloured lights on the paper, creating shadows and a colour contrast we all enjoyed. We had an red lifht coming from the side, with a yellowy white light coming from the roof, hitting the paper towards the bottom. The feedback from Jo and Matt was that this was the most conceptual idea we have had all semsester, and that we should work on it during the study break. We were told that it seems a little squished in the corner, so we could expand it out, it was getting there, but still didn’t feel like a home, and that the walls were a little bare. We talked about projecting an environment into the sheets by quickly decided that it’s wasn’t a viable option this close to the submitting date. We were praised on finally getting rid of the typewriter, as we didn’t have a purpose for it anymore, and we’re were so connected to it since the very first class, but we never got the same reaction any other week. We talked about maybe projecting a window onto the wall, which we all agreed would look good. Chloe vollenteered to take the photo, as she lives in an old terrace house in Sydney. We planned to meet up 3-4 times before the submitting, and agreed on the days, deciding we needed to finalise ideas before the day before submission. IMG_0918.JPG

Week 12: Reviewing

taking everyone’s feedback into consideration, we decide to go back to the drawing board and figure out again how we can incorporate everyone’s ideas to make a cohesive major work. We went into one of the black boxes to hash out ideas, using butchers paper to start a mind map of ideas to leap from. Sam was thinking of projecting things from two sides of a screen; with one side showing the treatment of asylum seekers, and the other side being the ‘good’ things that happen when they conform to the society they immigrated to. We decided to create two videos, using audio and visual to show the differences. We scrapped the projecting onto a screen, and chose to project the first idea onto the roof, and the second onto the ground, showing how we cant change the past, but we can influence change in the future. Chloe, Chelsea and i decided to work on the ‘utopic’ part, Sonny and David worked on the ‘distopic’ part, and Sam worked on the audio part.

Very quickly into this, Chelsea, Chloe and I discovered it was quite hard to find non-propgandic uptoic themes, as in the 2 hour time frame we gave ourselves, we only came up with around 4 different movies and tv shows to use, but we ended up giving Sam quite a few audio snippets to use (the most prominent being the court scene from the movie version of To Kill a Mockingbird

After hitting a dead end in the utopic area, while the boys were flourishing in theirs, we decided, with 30 minutes to go, we should probably set something up to present, even if we didn’t end up using the ideas (how wrong we were) We scrapped the utopic and dystopic ideas, and ran to Jo for help. She suggested covering furniture in white sheets, to imply that a house had bee left, but the occupants still wanted to return. We used digital photo frames, and showed the two videos that Sonny and David had created, with another few showing just static. He had the ever-present table and chair with the TV typewriter, and everything was covered by sheets.

 

Moving forward, with help from Jo and Nathan, it was suggested that the videos could possibly be more homey, with long, static-y pauses in them, making it look like they were flickering on and off. As a group we decided to continue with this idea going ahead into the next week,

 

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Week 11: On Jamming/Push and Pull

after missing out on the previous week, i came into the class thinking of ideas. We were told we had to ‘disagree’ with each others ideas to make a creative flow. We decided to create a ‘cubby’ of sorts out of white sheets, and making what we ended up calling the ‘rave cubby’ with the Ho Chi Minh letter being projected onto one of the sheets through some tulle to diffuse the light, a spotlight with a red gel over it, the typewriter on the floor, and a projector playing a sort of static strobe all being played in the small space. The static we wanted to create the feeling of a helicopter trying to find survivors in abandoned houses, similar to the scene in Tomorrow When The War Began.

We wanted to try and show innocence in a war zone (similar to the ‘tounge in cheek’ visualisations used the week before) by having it all above eye-line.

 

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The creation of the cubby was quite time consuming, as all the sheets were different sizes, so we had to use dressmaker pins to connect them to each other, then use bulldog clips to attach them to the poles in the roof. Chloe, Chelsea and i worked on the sheets, while Sam, Sonny and David got the visual aspects working together (finding placed to his the projectors, figuring out where to position the light etc) We were all quite happy with the final result, but again I think we were looking at the piece through rose-coloured glasses. While some of the aspects worked, them all together felt again like too much in a small space, and it was taking away from the final piece. We were all a little hardhearted by this, but determined to create a work that was visually interesting and emotionally impactful .

 

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Week 9: Gemeinschart/Iterative Process

After the great feedback we got the week before, we decided to focus on the typewriter on the TV screen, with us extending the size of the photo 4 fold by showing a quarter of the image on 4 different TV screens, making the photo bigger. We placed them on a table and played around with where the stands were, but over all we decided that bigger wasn’t always better, and we turned back to just the one TV screen. Sam suggested we place a red light above the chair to create another link to Vietnam.

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During the Q and A portion of last weeks presentation, someone suggested maybe projecting the Ho Chi Minh letter on butcher paper, to connect the typewriter to the writing in a more physical way rather than us just saying that he wrote the letter on a type writer. We got a massive piece of butcher’s paper and connected it from the roof to the table, and we decided to use two projector screens to make make-shift ‘walls’, which we thought looked great, but after talking with Jo, Mat and the class, we decided that it wasn’t telling enough of a story, and it was too crowded to be effective, which we all agreed with. We decided to keep the typewriter for the next week, and start from scratch again.

 

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Week 8: Redefining Spacetime

This week, we regrouped ourselves, and decided on what it was exactly that we wanted to get out of this major, and Sonny came up with the idea of taking a slice of everyone’s personal major ideas, and splicing them into an idea that utilised everyone’s ideas. Chelsea’s was projecting onto an existing installation, Sonny’s was exploring the Vietnam War through media, Sam’s was using broken technologies to retell stories, David’s was using clay to redefine art, Chloe’s was exploring scale, and mine was retelling stories through post production and editing. we talked about existing works that dealt with these ideas (including the Miller and Cardiff work we used as inspiration from the week before) and talked about Sam’s MEDA major from last year, and we talked about projecting a space onto white to see if it creates a different space.

 

For the work this week, we decided to use Sonny’s idea of the Vietnam War as our main focus, and how we could potentically retell the story from both sides. we wanted to project a typewriter on the ground, with the ‘Ho Chi Minh’ letter being typed projected on the wall. Sam and Sonny went to work creating he letter video, as the rest of the group decided on how to present/get the typewriter up and running. He hit quite a few snags; the projector wasn’t mounting correctly into the roof, but we got that problem sorted soon enough. The biggest issue was the QUMI projectors and our own thumb drives. They were all formatted to be used on Mac computers, but the minute we formatted them back to MS-DOS (FAT 32) they still wouldn’t work, which was frustrating and time consuming. we ended up thinking on our feet, and using TV’s instead of projectors for both, which ended up looking great. Mat and Jo both said that there was something with the TV of the typewriter that we should try and utilise more of in the coming weeks, but we decided on executing it differently, and allowing time for mishaps.

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‘Paranorman’ (2012) by LAIKA

The Feature length, stop-motion animation film ‘Paranorman’ (2012) by production and animation company LAIKA is a fine example of age old practices being manipulated and changed to better fit the ever changing artistic world. The company smoothly and efficiently cultivates the film by merging the 120 year old art form of stop-motion animation with a more 21st century digital approach, allowing the company to create one of the most technically difficult but beautiful stop motion animation films ever created.

The Oregon-based company that created all aspects of Paranorman, LAIKA was founded in 2005 as a side project by Nike founder and chairman, Phil Knight, with his son Travis Knight working as CEO and President of the company. To date, the film was created and produced a total of 4 feature length, stop-motion animated films: Coraline in 2009, Paranorman in 2012, Boxtrolls in 2014 and most recently, Kubo and the Two Strings in 2016. The company started out as just a production company, dabbling in stop motion animation when it was called upon; mostly for ad work, with the exception of working along side Tim Burton’s production Company on his film, The Corpse Bride in 2005, earning them more recognition to pursue their own, ‘in home’ produced content. In 2008, they decided to focus on just stop motion, letting go of almost half of their advertisement and computer animators in the process (Rogoway, M, 2008) as well as scrapping a CGI film, Jack and Ben’s Animated Adventure. This allowed them to concentrate all their time and efforts into producing intersting and striking stop motion content, enabling them to release Coraline in 2009, to critical and box office acclaim.

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Figure 1:”The Many Faces of Paranorman, 2012, courtesy of LAIKA Studios

Paranorman was the second stop motion film the company released, and the first to use coloured 3D printing; Coraline‘s production was able to utilise the 3D printer,but not to colour the face, as the technology wasnt there to created colour models, meaning all the faces had to be hand painted, even the titular characters plethora of freckles. (Karlin, S, 2012) This allowed for more freedom from the animators, and allowed them to be more risky with their creation of the characters.

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Figure 2: The inner workings of the Paranorman puppets, courtesy of  Cinemablend.com

Each character is made up of a mechanical, metal skeleton, which stand about 25 cm tall, with “ball and socket mechanisms that facilitates a smoother, more incremented and controllable movement.” (Karlin, S, 2012) The skeletons are placed in a mound, which is specific to each of the 150+ characters, and surrounded with a liquid silicon, and left to set. They would then trim the leftover silicon, then use an array of small scalpels to get the shape of each character just right, before placing the costumes on the characters. Norman, the titular character’s main outfit was hand sewn, with his shirt alone containing over 300 stitches, with the costume designer using a needle that has the surface area of a single hair (Moore, B, 2012)

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Figure 3: Inside the puppets, courtesy of engadget.com

It would take the 15 designers and model makers 3 to 4 months to finish just one puppet (Cinemovie, 2012) , as they wanted each of the 178 individual puppets; 61 of which were full body puppets for the main characters, and 28 just for Norman himself  (Failes, I 2012) meant that the production team was always working on a tight schedule, and many of the puppet makers were working on multiple characters at once so they could finish all the puppets needed to film. The technicality that LAIKA went into to produce all of the puppets is masterful, and a clear example as to how this film is so highly regarded. The materiality of the puppets and the very ‘retro-style’ in which they made the film is the perfect instance of how merging the age old stop-motion way of filmmaking with a more modern approach helps add another element to a film.

Paranorman’, and many films that have come before it have been created using stop-motion, an artform in which still-frame cameras are used instead of video cameras. This gives the film a different kind of aesthetic, and can aid ‘normal’ movies in giving them a very different feel. Stop motion has been around since the late 1800’s, with many moviegoers thinking that the films were created via magic. Many films that aren’t stop-motion have featured scenes in them which use an element of stop-motion; Star Wars episode IV and V being among the most popular. LAIKA is a pioneering company when it comes to stop motion, being one on a few production companies that focus wholly on said genre of film making, meaning that are often the first to try out new technologies; including the use of 3D printing to aid the films production. But it wasn’t smooth sailing from the absolute beginning, the company had to go though almost 3 months of constant duds before getting the right colour tones. The ColorJet plastic printer that they used, was continuously printing out wrong faces, “The skin tones were terrible and inconsistent. What you saw on the computer was completely different to the finished product. We realised we needed to fix this fast; we were jumping head first into the filming of the movie using this process, and now we had to figure out how to make it work.” (Karlin, S, 2012) the company’s director of 3D and rapid prototyping, Brian McLean said. The process was simple; model the 360° flat face on Photoshop, then use the printer to make the face in full colour. (Heater, B, 2012)

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Figure 4: The 3D printed face and it’s Photoshop counterpart, courtesy of CGmeetup.net

The film was the first to use a 3D colour printer to create the faces of the characters, instead of relying on clay or CG to create the faces, like many other stop-motion films. It was the second to use a 3D printer, with the company’s first film, Coraline using a 3D printer, but the technology hadn’t arisen to print the faces in full colour. This process was long and tedious, and the design team worked day and night trying to get the faces just right before they started shooting the film; getting the skin tones for each character just rights, getting the facial expressions perfect for each moment of the film.“Stop motion has always had advantages of beautiful sets, atmosphere and textures, but the facial performances have always been lacking, a little limited. Now with the advancements of 3D printing, there is no more limitations. We can make them as complex or as simple without having to worry about ruining the artistic direction of the movie.” (Karlin, S, 2012) McLean also stated. For Paranorman, like any other stop-motion features, the directing team opted to use still image cameras instead of motion cameras, giving the film a very different feel to most feature films. The direction team of Paranorman opted to use 63 Canon DSLR 5D Mark II cameras with left and right sliders to capture stereo pair frames, which allows the shot to have a depth of field without having to alter it in post production, it also gave the overall film a larger aspect ratio, at 2:35/1. (Pantozzi,J, 2012) They also had 53 motion control systems and 21 motion control tracks and boom rigs to ensure that the whole process of filming went as smooth as possible; they were under some incredible time constraints.

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Figure 5: Rig set-up, courtesy of wired.com

Because each frame is being created and posed by human hands, it would take over an entire week of production to shoot just 1 minute of footage, meaning there was no room for human error. (Cinemovie, 2012) By the time the film was finished, over 20 hours of footage was filmed; having shot almost 2 million photos to complete the animation. The pre-production of this stop-motion film is a feat within itself, and is often talked about as being a technical marvel. From stop-motions humble beginnings to being made to create some spectacular animated films in the span of 130 years is incredible, and is another way to show how seamless the integration of age old ideas into modern technology can aid in the creation of new art forms.

“[We] started to realise that this was the element we had been missing. The computer could now be used as a tool to bridge the unreal with the physical world.” – Brian McLean (Heater, B, 2012)

 

Paranorman, and with that, its production company, LAIKA, has made the technically challenging and time consuming art of stop-motion animation look effortless (which isn’t always the case) and that is mainly due to the aid of the modern technology the company uses: mainly the use of the 3D printers that were used to create the faces, but the innovation that accompanied the created the faces themselves are possibly more intriguing that the faces themselves. As stated before, the faces were printed using a ColorJet printer, made out of plastic powder, with the production of the film making over 40,000 faces, all of which are now stored in LAIKA’s ‘face library’ and are stored in 1257 archive boxes. (Heater, B, 2012) The company used four 3D printers to create all the faces, and he printers were active for a combined 572 days of straight printing time. (cinemareview, 2012) The company has such attention to detail, that over 250 unique faces were created and utilised for one character to create a single shot that only lasted for 27 seconds. once printed, the faces had the consistence of chalk, and needed to be dipped in a glue-like resin and baked at a specific temperature to give each character the desired effect. These instructions had to be followed exactly, as if they modified it in any way, it could cause the faces to crack or burn, meaning that the have to create the face all over again, losing precious time (Karlin, S, 2012) The material that was used also gave the faces some translucency, making them blend in almost perfectly to the silicon-based puppets, McLean explains “the vibrancy of the face is something we took advantage of. Norman’s ears had this kind of translucency to them- like real human ears that let a lit of light shine though them. That’s a direct result of material technique and technology.” (Karlin, S, 2012)

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Figure 6: a designer making sure the faces will fit the puppets, courtesy of collect3d.com

with a small seam that was left being removed in post-production. Norman himself had over 8800 faces created specifically for him, with several different eyebrow and mouth combinations printed to allow for over 1.5 million expressions throughout the film, which took up a 1/3 of the creation time of the faces just for the titular character (Weintraub, S, 2012) The faces were pliable enough that they could click rather easily into the silicon and metal of their puppets, which allowed for easy and quick attachment and removal (Failes, I, 2012) The sheer amount of materials used to create the faces was massive: 3768 kg of printer powder, 855 L of ink, 291 L of super glue, 1867 disposable printer heads, 66,432 rare earth magnets (used to create the skeleton of the puppets), 729 sheets of sandpaper, 5000 X-Acto blades (used to shape and carve), 2430 cans of crystal clear spray and over 35,000 pairs of rubber gloves all to create the 40,000 faces (Scott, M, 2013)  The sheer amount of materials, man hours, and technology that was used to create this stop motion animation is a feat within itself, and is the largest scale stop motion animation production ever created to date (cinemovie, 2012) The CEO of LAIKA, Travis Knight has stated on multiple times “We’re constantly using technology to solve problems.” (Karlin, S, 2012) The company was a pioneer in breaking away from the ‘well-worn’ techniques of stop motion, and in doing so created in image for their film and the company which no other company had attempted before, garnering them attention and notoriety for paving the way for the 21st Century’s way of stop-motion animation. The faces of Paranorman, and the technical advancements the company experimented with for the film were astronimical in size (and expendicure) but aided the aesthetic incredibly, and also showed  the merging of 21st century methods, with 19th century tectics.

The film Paranormanand its Oregon-based production company had showed just how materialising the digital can aid a movie production (or production on an artwork in any form) but also shows that the use of well used and know techniques, like stop motion animation can have an incredible effect on the overall outcome, ambience, and content; either restricted or otherwise, of a film. LAIKA seamlessly combined all of these aspects to create a visually stunning, incredibly technical and well- thought out piece of film, that will be drawn upon for inspiration for many years to come.

References:

  1. Rogoway, M 2008, Laika lays of 65, shelves CG film, viewed 20th April 2017, http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2008/12/laika_lays_off_75_shelves_cg_f.html
  2. Karlin, S 2012, The Technical Triumph and Torment of Paranorman’s 3d Printing Driven Animation Process, vieded 19th April 2017,
    https://www.fastcompany.com/1681447/the-technical-triumph-and-torment-of-paranormans-3-d-printing-driven-animation-process
  3. Moore, B, 2012, Paranorman costume Designs no small effort, viewed 20th April, 2017http://articles.latimes.com/2012/aug/19/image/la-ig-paranorman-20120818
  4. Cinemovie, 2012, Paranorman filmmakers on Tedious Process of Stop-Motion Animation, viewed 19th April, 2017, http://www.cinemovie.tv/interviews/paranorman-filmmakers-on-choosing-long-process-of-stop-motion-animation
  5. Failes, I, 2012 The Tech Behind Paranorman, viewed 19th April, 2017, http://www.fxguide.com/quicktakes/the-tech-behind-paranorman
  6. Heater, B, 2012, How 3D printing changed Paranorman, viewed 19th April 2017, https://www.engadget.com/2012/08/17/how-3d-printing-changed-the-face-of-
  7. Pantozzi, J, 2012, Performing the pain-staking Production that is Paranorman, viewed 21st April 2017, https://www.themarysue.com/paranorman-production/ 
  8. Cinemareview, 2012, Paranorman Production Notes, viewed 21st April 2017, https://www.cinemareview.com/production.asp?prodid=8127
  9. Weintraub, S, 2012, 35 Things to know About Paranorman from our Set Visit, viewed 28 April 2017, http://collider.com/paranorman-set-visit-laika-studios/
  10. Scott, M, 2013, ‘ParaNorman’ review: Stop-motion animated gem is cool, creepy — and meaningful, viewed 28 April 2017, http://www.nola.com/movies/index.ssf/2012/08/paranorman_review_stop-motion.html
  11. Macquarie, J, 2012, What Parents Should Know about Paranorman, viewed 30th April 2017, https://www.wired.com/2012/08/10-things-paranorman/ 
  12. Roper, C, 2012, 3D Printing goes Hollywood with Stop-Motion Animated Feature Paranorman, viewed 30th April 2017, https://www.wired.com/2012/07/paranorman-3d-printing/
  13. Collect3D, 2012, The Faces of Paranorman, viewed 30th April 2017, http://collect3d.com/features/faces-paranorman/
  14. Sciretta, P, 2012, How Laika Used 3D Color Printers To Create The Stop-Motion Animated Movie ‘Paranorman’ and 50 Other Things We Learned On The Set, viewed 30th April 2017, http://www.slashfilm.com/laika-3d-color-printers-create-stopmotion-animated-movie-paranorman-50-learned-set/
  15. Dailydead, 2012, Character Model and Set Photos from ParaNorman, viewed 30th April 2017, https://dailydead.com/character-model-and-set-photos-from-paranorman/

Week 7: Reconfiguring Spacetime

This week we started discussing our major projects for this semester. We were split up into groups, based on what main idea we wanted to discuss; the category i chose was reconfiguring space time: storytelling through sounds, image and interaction.  This topic looks at:

  • Reconfiguring space time through sound, image and interaction to tell stories has been the domain of cinema.
  • How can we re-configure space time to create layered experiences or narratives in other ways?
  • How do we create new space time through the use of sound and image?
  • How do we open up story-telling as an activity by configuring human senses through the media of sound and image?
  • What kind of stories can be told? What kind of stories should be told?

The group that i was split up into has me, Chelsea, Sonny, Sam and David (later Chloe). we dicided to recreate Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s The Dark Pool (1995). The work is like a curiosity cabinet, filled with things, linking to an historical murder and when you walk past certain things different sounds started to play.

We started by discussing what we each thought of the piece, adding different ideas (Sam liked the idea to make the piece as immersive as possible, likening it to a realistic VR experience) and how we think we could pull a similar piece off  with the 2 hour time constraint. We landed on the idea of picking a theme and basing it all off that. The idea fell flat before Jo came over and told us the discuss our proposed ideas for the first assignment. Everyones ideas were interesting and intriguing, and from there we found a great medium of all of our ideas put together as well as incorporating Cardiff and Miller’s piece.

We settled on the idea of loss, with different sound grabs from tv shows, movies etc that dealt with loss, hanging up rings (things that are easily lost) the sound grabs we had were from 13 Reasons Why (dealing with the suicide and loss of a loved one) the theme to Lost (dealing with the loss of a great deal of people) and Golum from Lord of the Rings talking about losing the ring (again, loss)

the execution was poor, as we didnt have enough rings to skillfully showcase the idea we wanted to show, but the main idea was there, which i think could be seen.

 

 

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Our groups recreation

The way we can move past this and work from our ideas is to make sure that the finish product is good enough to push the point of the original work across, but its original enough that our work isnt just copying exactly what the original artwork intended. I think we got incredibly lucky with our group, we all work well together, enjoying each others ideas and aiding each other with out ideas. I feel that we will have a really great group assignment at the end of the semester.