If I could take anything away from this last 7 months in the studio it would be that I’ve learned to make pieces multiple times. This is all part of the world building for the animation. The first pieces to be en-masse were a smaller scale flying saucer for at least one scene. It sounds mad to make all that work for the minimum of one scene, however the way things are progressing I might be using more of them throughout the work.
Another big and consuming part was the frontier town. Starting as an upgrade from the VHS boxes I used for Playing with Plastic (2018) I wanted something more substantial. Using the sturdier cardboard I began to upgrade them all. It was only a few weeks ago that I was able to finish the first set. Another scene then required the same pieces in a ruined state, which meant far more detail than these loose pieces based on much earlier designs. These new pieces needed more work, first keeping the dimensions exactly the same, before drawing in where the aliens laser beam would have fired. This act reveals the wooden framework of the buildings that had to be realised. The whole process was far more intensive, which I was at first ready to undertake. With enough pieces to keep me going for a few days/weeks as they needed detail adding every so often before being completed (except for painting). Currently I now have one piece left to make, more will be made in the new year for a different set/location. The process soon became repetitive and got me down, I needed to break away from them but I realised that’s not something I wanted to do, I pushed and now have two (almost complete) towns.
What I can take away from this is that not every aspect of the making process can be enjoyed. However I have proven to myself that I can stick to a design and replicate. My making skills regarding the ruined pieces has improved, they still need some work on them to distress them further, which I’ll carry out when later on.
Today has marked my last working day in the studio, with the holidays fast approaching I have wrapped up what I’ve been doing in the studio to bring an almost full stop to my work until the start of next year. Learning from last years over-working I need to really stop for a week to enjoy the festivities more.
I began the day with the smaller pieces – the lift, which I can say it really coming along nicely. The sliding bar fits perfectly on both sides which is another leap in my making. I then made a brutal decision to rip off the wrench from the first lift and re-fix to the roof of the new lift. I was quite lucky that I had been able to cut it free with no damage to the piece, taking a few pieces from the roof instead. No loss there, moving onto trim it down before fixing in place. By the end of the day I had destroyed the first lift. On reflection it’s too heavy-looking compared to the rustic piece that I now have which is more refined.
It was the final time I worked with the base of the gold mine, inserting the barricades, with a few repairs they all now sits comfortably into the set. I have a complete set, ready to work with.
Moving on I returned to complete the small-scale external entrance to the gold mine. I knew as soon as I was setting up for the day in the studio that I had made a mistake. I needed a tunnel entrance, that in turn had to be barricaded, all at 1:72 scale. It was a pretty process making the tunnel itself was easy to make, bringing in some brown and grey paper to patch it up. I then turned to the detail – the entrance needed the wooden frame. Working at a smaller scale was starting to be a push on my skills now. I now had to make another false barricade, this time using stronger card to hold up at that scale. I then went onto add all the levels and cover in masking tape to fix. I had the confidence to apply all the layers in miniature in one round. Lastly I made up a number of smaller boulders which have all been fixed into place above the entrance.
Before I arrived at the studio I stopped off to collect some more cardboard that I knew would let me continue making some buildings which were still waiting to be made. A few months ago I was upgrading the frontier town from the VHS box format I used from my previous animation. By the time I had finished them I had exhausted the cardboard needed to continue. Now I have enough boxes to hopefully make a few more pieces on the making list. So to complete the frontier town I needed to build the livery stable, I decided to make up an old version with a door at the top to lift sacks of feed up.
Looking back at the day I’ve been working with a few different model making skills through the day, from working with balsa before scaling down to make a small replica of a larger piece before working on another sturdy upgrade. Working at two scales is again pushing me to make better work. When the new year begins I will be staying with the cardboard to make up the remaining buildings. Last night I made some revisions to the requirements list, there are 26 scenes, with a few being broken down to work out what’s needed at any one time. I’m really pleased with the days progress, tying up loose ends to pieces that have been under construction for the past week or so. I’m looking forward to the break, where I’ve only brought back my sketchbook to consider designs for my return to the studio. This way I can have a more relaxed break.
I’m finally reaching the end of what I feel has been going on longer than it actually has. If I’m honest I’m glad it’s coming to an end. It’s the repetition of the process, combined with life outside the studio at the moment. This is my escape from the world into something that is truly my own. Today it was something that I felt had to be done to get it out of the way. That’s not what I want to bring to my time there. I now have the final three under construction, which I know can be finished in a few more visits for sure.
The first being the general store which has hopefully the final pieces of detail now. I can see a few more pieces that are needed but they are minor now.
The next piece really slowed me down. I noticed on the blacksmiths my work from the previous visit had to be redone. One of the door frames had to be completely remade, two new pieces cut to size and re-positioned. Not what I wanted to happen, still it ensures that the piece works in the long one. I then went onto apply the majority of the detail. I still have a way to go before I can leave this piece now.
Finally the stage depot was underway, similar shape to the land office so I knew what I was working with in terms of the internal structure that I was working with. There are some of the longest lengths of balsa used for these pieces here. Again I have a way to go with this one, possibly one of two more visits.
With the end in sight for these (Yay) I have begun to really think about the base of the gold mine. My initial idea was to have camera access all around the base, which wont help in terms of creating darkness. So I started again, thinking about having a number of entrances to other tunnels that can be constructed. With that in mind I made a few sketches, which lead to a design being finalised and ready to begin construction next time. Currently I’ll have 5 false entrances to tunnels, some I’ll block off (using the false pieces I made) with the lift being roughly in the middle. I’ll add a roof piece and a section of shaft to complete the illusion. So I’ll be able to shoot from the from with a decent range to maneuver the camera. I’m looking forward to making a one off piece that will take sometime yet wont be as repetitive. I’ll be employing techniques from the tunnel entrances (internal) for this piece. I’ll also use two tones of brown paper, one being a grey tone. I’m also seriously considering making a second lift (same dimensions) with a different design, to give me a different option to work with. With the new piece ready to begin next time I know that I can start to enjoy the making process more, breaking the routine I’ve had for the past few weeks.
The end is in sight for these pieces, in terms of the construction of the ruined versions of the cardboard town, making a start on the penultimate piece before I left for the day, one that began by finding I had completed another 3 pieces which have now been shelved ready for the next stage. That wasn’t before adding a few more cracks to a few pieces. I’m really getting into the aesthetic now. I just forget to add the detail before moving on.
Moving onto the jail, which has had minor detail added to the jail cell extension. Bringing this piece to a close. I then moved onto piece I began last time, adding the remains of the stairway and balcony. Balsa detail was added next, which I feel is all that this piece needs.
Moving onto make a start on two new pieces, the general store and the blacksmiths. The general store was then covered in balsa detail, most of which is now complete. Another round and then I feel it will be finished. The Blacksmiths being a completely different shape took slightly longer. First I made the mistake of drawing the line (where the laser hits) over the two doorways, meaning that the piece was essentially falling apart. I had to construct what I could and come up with a solution. I’d been holding the front door together with a piece of tape, the side I hadn’t completely cut into. Not wanting to leave it for another visit I constructed two door frames which will sit over the cracks, revealing the door frame, adding to the wooden frame that would be on show. It’s not something I’m going to retrofit to other pieces, this is a one off adaptation due to a mistake which I have embraced.
Next time I can concentrate on finishing the few pieces I have left and turn my attention to the gold mine base. I’ve been considering having false tunnels leading off and sections of the wall that can be removed. It’s still very much all in my head and needs to be sketched out to understand the idea more clearly.
Admittedly a day late than I would have wanted to share with you all. I had a busy weekend outside of the studio, resulting in events inside being put to one side.
Saturday began by working on 5 that had already been started. First up was the barbers which had some finishing touches. The sign really didn’t look distressed enough, too angular, so I cut in a more torn up line, which I’m happier with. Before adding a little more balsa to the roof at the back. The stores also had some minor additions, not as much as I was thinking. I’m finding that I’m adding more detailing on the first round at the moment, considering more where I place the balsa, how that would effect where pieces of balsa are added and when. The third piece again had very little detail to be added, I think that’s down to the design of the piece, restricting how much more I can physically add to it.
I moved onto the hotel/saloon and jail which both have external stairways (before the aliens attacked). Again not much more to add. I’m finding that the more consideration that goes into the application of the balsa determines what I have/can do on the next round.
Lastly for Saturday I made a solid start on a new piece – the Land Office which has a first floor that reaches over the porch, meaning construction with the balsa would change slightly to reflect the shape of the building. Again I could only do so much, which was still making a lot of progress. I finished the day by adding more distress cracks to some of the pieces, wanting to push them further aesthetically.
Moving onto Sunday, with less than 3 hours in the studio, I wanted to make the most of my time wisely before leaving. I came back to find that 3 pieces had now been completed, I knew I couldn’t really get 2 more pieces underway. Instead I chose to focus on what I could do.
The Land Office and Jail now have slightly more detail than before, hopefully next time they can be stored away for the next phase of the work. Before making a start on the shell of a new piece another saloon/hotel, so far the main body has been fleshed out, with the stairway and balcony (what remains of them) to be added next time.
I’m building up quite the collection now, they are sitting on the top of a set of shelves right now, ready to be seen to for more distressing. Also I have been considering another item on my list to construct, the base of the gold mine. So far I’ve made a few sketches, taking cues from one of earlier test pieces. So far I know that a section of shaft will be needed as the lift reaches the bottom. However for more it’s maintaining the darkness, whilst still being able to animate, get the camera in there with ease. I know false walls will be needed to shoot at different angles. The roof will supported with some kind of pillars/posts in places. I’m also looking at adding the buttresses where the network of tunnels are. It’s going to be a complex build that needs some serious consideration.
As I finished in the studio earlier today, I did a quick count, 5 pieces completed, with another 5 now under construction, I’m probably half way through the whole collection for the town, which is faster than I expected. It come down to where I draw those guidelines on the complete pieces, ready to be remade.
Today I place 3 more on the shelve before making a start on adding more detail the 3rd round for the barbers and the 2nd for the stores. I’ve made the decision to add more detail to the signage with the barbers as it was looking a little flimsy, so I needed to strengthen it before moving forward, whilst trying to make it looked ruined still, that still needs some work on it. Whilst the stores just received more detailing and some cracks/tears in the walls.
The next piece was the bank, which I know that the more detail that’s added it’s going to be harder to keep reaching in to work on it, so I’m having to add detail strategically before my hands are trapped.
The next two are new pieces, the jail and saloon, which both have external stairs. I really went to town with how much was burnt away, leaving elements on all sides show. It was really fun to plan and construct these pieces. With the saloon I’ve had to add the posts under the balcony (that’s still intact). There’s a pattern with the balsa detail to suggest two floors. I want to replicate that with the jail to a certain extent. I got so carried away with the saloon, that I ran out of time to add any balsa to the jail, meaning that it will potentially take 4 rounds/days to completed. It’s not a big deal but shows that if you get carried away with yourself in the design that you can lose time.
I’m surprised with how many I’ve done to date, the system works, I know that where I plan determines how much balsa will be added. It’s an enjoyable process. I should be starting 2 more next time, that’s after making a start on the jail.
I’ve entered a state of mass production again with the cardboard down that I have returned to over the weekend. I have now got a total of fives pieces under construction. I’ll probably have more soon too.
I began by adding extra detail to the balsa to the church and other buildings. Again I’m limited as to how much for now due to the masking tape holding the pieces in place.
Before making a start on two more pieces, which are at the same point as the first two yesterday, however with a few major differences. First because more of the buildings are exposed I’ve been fitting out more of the framework, which ultimately means more work. I’ve also grown in confidence as to where I make the cuts, having a few jagged holes in walls, not just whole blasted out sections. This way I can reveal more of the framework, and create new viewpoints to work with.
I finished the day by making a start on a 5th piece, which I left at just the cardboard element. I must try to be more daring and remove more of the fronts in future designs too. Also I’m aware that the broken framework has clean edges at the moment, I’ll try to rectify that with my knife, working into them once finished. At one point I will potentially have many pieces on the go at once as they all slowly get brought up to a finished standard, with at least 3-4 days work on each, whilst making a start on 2-3 each time too. It’s a lot of work which with each piece gets better as I go.