Molly Red Ale - my first brew!

That Malty Molly

She blew into my life during Octoberfest and while our back-and-forth only lasted a month, I feel like I have known her all my life. Molly's the type of red-head that does not take things seriously, but when it comes to making beer, she believes that additives and ales don't mix.

When I think back on this full-bodied lass, all that I can say is that she was dying to get out...and I just couldn't keep her contained.

 

study 3: sound

well, i am not following my original plan at all as far as what aspects of stop-motion animation i would explore next, but i am having fun, so who cares. today i decided to try experimenting with sound in my films. specifically, i wanted to try sound effects, foley (background sound), and soundtrack music.

first stop - brickfilms.com. their 'resources' section lead me to an awesome free sound editing/mixing program called Audacity. it can do all kinds of cool stuff (most of which is way over my head), but the main thing it can do is edit and mix multiple audio tracks.

ok, next stop - findsounds.com. josh turned me on to this site where there are tons and tons of free sound effects available. but wait, what sounds do i need? hmm, i just realized i have no movie to work from, nor any idea what type of movie i will even be making. oh well, lets just get some good generic sound effects and go from there. i got a door bell, knocking on a door, a door opening, and a door closing. that should work into a plot somehow. wait, i need foley sounds. what better background sound than some birds chirping (to be specific, these were house finches, at least according to the site. i had my choice of warblers, swallows, red-throated loons, white-eyed vireos, and many more, but nothing could beat some good old-fashioned house finches).

before i even attempted to integrate any of these sounds into a movie, i fired up Audacity and played around with it. it was a little confusing at first because i didnt know how to adjust the time of the sounds, but once i found the 'Time Shift' tool, it was a piece of cake. so i put the birds chirping on a loop, added the doorbell sound, followed by the door knocking sound. a little pause, the door opens, and after a little longer pause, the door slams shut. cool. but what about the soundtrack? i opened up my folder of mp3s to look for something instrumental. none of my crappy punk music was gonna cut it, but i did find a nice christmas piece that would do the trick (Sleigh Ride by Manheim Steamroller, in case you care). i added that track to the project and now i had something to work with. except a movie...

since i already had the sounds all layed out in somewhat of a decent timing, i decided i would film my movie to the soundtrack. so i built a quick set, fired up MonkeyJam, and had a little movie in no time. i quickly realized however that my poor movie timing combined with my poor audio timing was resulting in two pieces that did not join up nicely at all. bleah. well, reshooting the movie seemed like too much work, so i decided to just adjust the soundtrack in Audacity. it couldnt have been easier. i just left my little MonkeyJam preview window open and stepped through the frames. every time a key frame came up that required synching with a sound, i made note of the frame, divided by 15 (fps) and then put my sound at that point in the mix. mental note: in the future when making real movies, shoot the movie first, then add in the sound track. (this only underscores how impressive that thriller video was to sync up all of the animation with an exisiting soundtrack).

once i had the soundtrack looking good, i exported it as a .WAV file. then i opened up Axogon Composer and added my video track and my audio track and rendered them together. i ran the output through VirtualDub to compress the whole thing, and presto! - i had my first movie with sound.

anyway, here is 'a christmas suprise' for your viewing pleasure.

 

study 2: new camera

after seeing josh's movies and making a few of my own, i am totally hooked on this stop-motion animation stuff. i decided that if i am gonna become a world-renowned lego animator, then i better improve my studio a bit. i bought a new logitech quickcam pro 4000 camera and a couple of cheap desk lamps from target (one with a fancy clip-thingy for a base). the logitech camera seems to be the camera of choice for a lot of folks on brickfilms.com, and i see why. the quaility of the picture is great, and it has built in zoom and pan functionality. (it has a built-in microphone as well, but that will have to wait for another day).

anyway, this second study was supposed to be focusing on moving multiple figures at the same time, varying their speed, working on my timing. however, i mostly just ended up playing with my camera. i made two movies during this test, the first is just a collection of random studies that i did (two people, car driving, flower growing, guy rolling on the ground, and a guy levitating); the second doesnt even have any animation, it just tests the zoomming and panning of the camera. nothing special, but notice that the image quality is getting better. i still need to work on my lighting setup (i still have hotspots and glare and some shadows), but it is an improvement.

check them out:

video one - random studies

video two - zoom/pan test

 

study 1: software test

for my first venture into stop-motion animation, i figured i would do a few simple software tests to familiarize myself with all of the tools needed to create the final product. really, i only tested the video capture software (MonkeyJam), the compositing software (Axogon Composer), and the encoding software (VirtualDub using the Xvid codec). (other software dealing with sound effects and audio will have to wait until i get to that point in my testing).

josh loaned me a couple of webcams to get me up and running, and thanks to a couple of great tutorials on brickfilms.com, i was creating my first movie in no time. this first movie consists of two parts: the first is a simple walking scene to try out the video capture, and the second is an even more simplistic scene that was filmed solely to be the base used to try out features in Axogon.

here are the results of my first ever attempt at stop-motion animation. pretty unimpressive, to be sure. but even with this simple test, i have learned several things:

  1. webcams are not the greatest cameras in the world. focusing and getting the colors right and trying not to end up with grainy images will be a challenge.

  2. lighting is *super* important. i played around with a couple of (less than optimal) set ups, including using some white paper as backgrounds. it seems like the light needs to be plentiful, but not direct. legos are suprisingly shiny and reflective.

  3. patience is a virtue. ok, so i didnt learn this tonight, but it was proven to me over and over again. in my first clip, i just wanted mr. lego to walk about five inches across the screen, but at 24 frames per second, that translates to *a lot* of frames.

  4. my timing needs work. i originally recorded the walking scene at 15fps, but the poor little lego guy was going so slow, i felt bad for him. by speeding him up to 24fps, he seemed to be moving at a realistic pace (as realistic as an inanimate lego guy trying to walk on his own can be).

  5. Axogon Composer is cool! lightsaber effects on my first day!?!? that was awesome.

  6. this hobby has the potential to be very addicting. although you are moving the pieces in such small increments and all that work translates into a few choppy seconds of video, it is suprisingly fun.

 

studies in stopmotion

upcoming studies include:

  • software test
    test the video capture ability of my camera as well as familiarize myself with the MonkeyJam software. dont expect the results of this test to be my best work.
  • multiple figure test
    test moving multiple figures at various speeds at the same time. also, practice personal interactions (handshakes, hugs, fights, dancing, etc)
  • advanced movement test
    i am gonna try to make my lego guy flip, fly, swim, and do various other cool acrobatics
  • camera angles test
    close-ups, extreme close-ups, ground-level, birds-eye views. also, zooming and panning motion shots
  • lighting test
    what is required to make the shot look the best? lights, backgrounds, etc. can i duplicate an indoor setting? outdoor? nightime? what about lights in the scene?
  • sound effect test
    add some simple sound effects that sync up with the video. also add multiple concurrent sound effects
  • soundtrack test
    practice sampling portions of songs, fading in/out, and meshing with on-screen sound
  • cgi background test
    building an entire lego world is much easier when i can do it virtually. i will attempt to digitally add backgrounds and scenery to the shot scenes to make them look like they belong somewhere
  • post-production test
    it wont quite be 'star wars', but this is where the special effects come in. laser blasts, explosions, you name it. i will also experiment with digital facial expressions
  • compression/codec test
    what codecs provide the best file size/video quality. which are most widely available to end users?

 

welcome to dangeresque.films

this is the official launch of the Dangeresque Films website. this website will document my attempt to create original stop-motion animation films. the fun part is that i have almost no idea what i am doing, so this website will chroncile my bumbling attempts as i try to learn the software involved, master the stop-motion techniques, research film-making topics such as lighting and camera angles, and finally produce my first film. the excitement is all most too much to bear.