Digital puppetry

In previous years, our 48 hours team has experimented with paper puppetry shot on green screen. While I love the aesthetic that can be achieved with paper puppets in digital paper environments, the quality of animation has always been less than desirable. The benefit of being able to shoot the script early in the weekend in near real-time, is also often offset by the cost of wrangling a large amount of vfx shots through the edit, out to artists and back into the edit.

So going fully digital seemed like a great way of cutting down on the time required for post-production. Only, keyframe animation is time consuming. The main appeal of puppetry in a fast deadline environment is that it required almost zero keyframe animation. Using a simple expression for each character to convert audio amplitude into upper and lower bounds of jaw animation, we were able to animate dialogue very rapidly. It is essentially a digital version of the same technique used for Thunderbirds, where the puppets had solenoids to animate their mouths driven by current from a tape player. It leaves the puppeteers (or animators) free to concentrate on movement. Check out the results below!


Visualising 50 years of spaceflight in 50 seconds

April the 12th 2011 marked the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's first orbit in the vostok capsule and the first human spaceflight. To celebrate, I made a video of all human spaceflights over the last 50 years in the space of 50 seconds.

Also, I found there was a contest for this sort of thing, so I added their logo and released it under creative commons. Enjoy!


Facts about the Supermoon

Last weekend this thing happened where the Moon passed closer to the Earth than it has since 1993. In the context of recent tragic disasters, a lot of people were talking about a lot of non-factual things it may cause. This inspired me to make a video about facts.


Play old games (and my new showreel!)

While putting together my new reel, I came across this little animation I made for Amazing Extraordinary Friends. The idea was to create a bunch of looped animated graphs/hieroglyphics/text screens that could be played through background monitors on set to avoid the need for vfx shots every time an evil supervillian stares at a massive bank of unimportant screens (this happened a lot). It made sense that a few evil minions would be goofing off at work, so I also put together this little hand-keyed gem:

Speaking of old games, it's almost been a year since the last V48 hours and associated V48 seconds competition. This can only mean one thing. It's time to remake a popular video game related blockbuster from last year, only with luminous green tints and a slightly more thirst-quenchingly liquid aesthetic. Sneak preview below!


You can make anything with fractal noise and vector blur

I've always said that you can make just about anything with fractal noise and vector blur. This is especially true if, like I do, you want to make the gas giant Jupiter.

Io's texture uses two different scales of fractal noise, and polar coordinates to make a spherical map all within AE. Jupiter was made using nature's own fractal noise - a water ripple stock image, and of course vector blur. Gradient mapping is then used to quickly get a variety of jupitery hues at different brightness levels, with again some fractal noise bringing in some more organic variation by acting as a mask on another hue correction. Instant fully customisable and animatable Jupiter.

The lower image uses more aerial stock footage of clouds, with again some vector blur and similar colour correction techniques. The halo around the sun is due to octahedral ammonia ice crystals, which create totally different halos to those we see on earth caused by water ice. Special thanks to http://www.atoptics.co.uk for the halo info, I can't recommend them highly enough for all your atmospheric optics needs.

Edit: Writing today's post got me in the mood to have a go at another one, so here's a planet formation image I threw together in After Effects. Working on a documentary about this sort of thing would be fantastic.



Never work with children or animatronics

They say never work with children or animals, and in this latest experiment of mine, I think that applies to animatronics too. I've always been interested in animatronics, and thought it'd be fun to rig up an old puppet I made with a rudimentary Lego Mindstorms skeleton.

Bearing in mind that most animatronics are remote controlled by skilled artists, and that Mindstorms allows for full automation of movement based on a few simple inputs, I decided to make something that can just sit in a corner until unsuspecting people come near and then start responding to them as best it can. This is how Steve the Seamonster behaved:

Probably with a bit of tweaking he'll become an obedient little puppet, but I kind of feel sorry for having to alter his personality in order to "fix" him. He's so cute when he's badly behaved.


The Runner: now on 20% more facebook

I did a bunch of wire removals and a cool slowmo bullet shot for this wee indy short, which has a promo page on facebook right here. There's a teaser trailer up there as well as some stills and a full version the wonderful poster pictured below. Playing in a festival near you sometime soon! If you live in NZ!



Red Mars, Green Screen

I'm comping a few shots for a beautiful little sci-fi film set on Mars, and made right here in little old NZ! The loctation shooting is just amazing, and my task is to match that amazingness in the greenscreen closeups. No sweat.

Check out the production blog for more news and more amazing location shots like this one.