Another really productive day in the studio as I have made real progress with the low-fi special effect I started yesterday.
I began by adding more detail to the model miniature that will sit in front of the brown paper belt. Focusing on the bare sides which were left from last time. I have also closed in and made the frames on the other sides flush. Before moving on I added the framework for the rope/string to be tied to. I just need to wait for these additions to fix before I go any further.
Freeing the rest of the day to focus on the brown paper belt which I had achieved yesterday. Now I have a working piece I had to build on it so it was substantial and produce a more effecting visual. First raising it up onto a stand to match that used for the lift itself. I then went onto work in-front of it to construct a shaft with a frame for the belt. I wrapped up the interior. Now I’m getting really close to having a completed visual effect that I control and capture, with only the need to minimally edit the raw-footage. In terms of making I need to add a bar to loosely tie the string/rope to.
Again I must say how pleased I am to have achieved this much in a short space of time. I do know that I will have to consider building a new shaft (or sections of) for the lift to work with (due to the extra detail I’m adding). I’m starting to build up a better understanding of set construction, how portions of a larger piece are broken up and move around to build up a larger image. With the entrance that I will have to eventually make I’ll make it so deep to hold up the lift and the shaft so wide to hold it. All these considerations that come with pre-production that I now need to re-evaluate my making list.
It’s been a really good day in the studio, with its own share of drama. Beginning calmly enough with two gap filling pieces for the rock formation which I now feel is complete allowing me to move back to the list and see what needs making.
I turned to a lift for the gold mine, which I want to work in two ways. One – that can hold a stagecoach and fit down the shaft of the final test piece I made a few months ago. Two – can be used with a mechanism that suggests that it’s traveling down the shaft. I have an idea for this which involves creating a long sheet of brown-paper which will run continuously when manually turned on a piece I’ll construct. I’ll then film the result that will suggest motion. I’m hoping to use the finished carriage – the lift will be used in both pieces so once made I can switch between the two.
Today I’ve made a solid start with one major blip along the way. I believed I had measurements for the basic form, even working out how to add the balsa wood, which I even began fixing into place. With 4 sides of the interior done I thought I was getting somewhere fast. With sometime to spare I made a start on the roof. Feeling pleased with myself I wanted to see the piece on situ – the shaft, only to discover that I had the right dimension, however I had misinterpreted them when I came to add swing doors (which maybe changed) on the wrong sides. Meaning that I had to reduce the size of the piece by 3cm to fit how I now had it. I could have made a fresh piece, but I felt that would be throwing away a days work. Instead after marking up where the cuts where to be made I began to carefully cut a section of that width out of the main body. This was before I had fully worked out how to resolve the issue. Then I turned to my trusted glue gun to re-fix the two separated halves of a once whole piece. I was then left with the clean-up operation. During the cutting process a number of balsa strips had been badly cut into. A lot of pieces on the shorter side had to be replaced completely, running over the join which I knew had to be covered in order to appear natural. This was on the floor and roof that received this treatment. The pieces that I cut and fixed in place created beams and stops in the piece, ultimately more authentic.
The accident with the measurements and drawing up the piece during the initial building ultimately turned out for the best, pushing me to make quick decisions that made a better piece. It still has a long way to go, but from here on out it’s going to be better for sure.
What I thought would take a good few days has only taken two to complete. With half still to do when I came back into the studio. Of course of varying sizes, luckily having some of the first brown paper that was found at the end of yesterday I was able to carry on the language that was made out of making do became a part of the overall look of the work. Using the technique for 3 pieces before I moved onto the final piece that was completely wrapped in the grey toned paper.
Looking at the complete set it just about works. I might add some more of the grey tone across the whole piece. I also need to make up some smaller rocks that will go in front of the gaps I have. Then I can move onto something else on my making list.
Today I’ve made some real progress with the rock formation. Beginning the day by completing the work to flesh out each of the sections and going back around them so they are flush at the bases, I don’t want any gaps.
With that out of the way I finally got the wrapping underway, breaking out some brown paper that I found in a previous jog. I was able to wrap up 3 1/2 pieces before it ran out. (I later found 2 more sheets under my workstation). I moved onto another tone of brown paper on top so that it appears more natural. After finding the extra sheets at the end of the day, I can carry on this look with the next piece.
I noticed as I pieced them all together that the act of wrapping up the sections the overall shape has changed slightly, every change that has been made to these pieces has an effect on the final form. Some sections may need extra work before they are finished. Otherwise I should be able to wrap up the rest of the sections pretty quickly now before moving onto something else on the long making list.
A few weeks ago I began following Damien Webb on Instagram. His work is far more detailed than the loose language that I employ in my work. I really admire his workmanship and the varied output. Looking through his feed I can see he’s continually pushing himself to produce different work, usually determined by commission it allows him to discover and learn new techniques. We both share a real passion for working in miniature. The podcast below shares a theme that is very current in visual effects, the employment of model miniatures in film with the increased and regular use of CGI. It reminded me of my dissertation that I wrote in my final year at art school, which I’m hoping to share that with you over the coming days. For now I’d like to share a podcast – Flaw in the Iris: The Film Podcast that Damien was invited to contribute too.
The focus of the day has been to put in place the framework for the rock formation that I made a good start on last time. Using strips of cardboard at two widths to create more shape and also allow animation to be carried out later on. I’ve made a solid start today, working on 7 out of 8 sections using the strips not also to create more shape, but also to fill in any gaps that are showing when the sections are positioned together.
I’m pleased with the progress, I know I’ve got a long way to go with these and I know that the wrapping process wont be easy. I’m not pushing to get this piece completed just yet as I have no idea how long it takes to wrap one of these sections. Not all sides will be covered up, however some pieces for photography and script purposes will be. I’m looking forward to see how this collection of boxes will be transformed into something more interesting.
Today I can finally tick off the upgrades of the town and move onto other aspects of this very ambitious work. I began the day by finishing off the jail/sheriffs office which needed both a jail on one side and the stairs on the other. Pretty straight forward additions that allowed me to move on pretty swiftly.
The final model was in fact a general store, not as I had thought to be a bank. I went for a reduced height whilst adding a raised sign at the front. It was another straight forward make for me. I guess part of me wanted to move onto something else. I’ll be returning to these pieces for more detail but I break’s needed from them.
Moving on to something more ambitious and large-scale – rocks. For the past few months I have been collecting boxes at work for just such a task. Not really knowing how many were really needed. I broke them all out and made a start arranging them on the floor around the tepees which I also arranged to ensure I got a decent shape. Now that was the easy part, just arranging them, keeping that arrangement is another matter. Drawing an outline around the boxes to ensure I knew where to fix them was the plan. Once removed from the arrangement – even when photographed was not always going to do it. I did my best and had to play it by ear at times. I had made 7 piles that wrapped around, I ended up with 8 which was probably better.
It looks almost like the original set-up, however I know I need to added a few pieces to ensure that when I wrap the brown paper that I have no or little gaps when they come together. I also want to add in a few places where the Native American figures can be animated, which means constructing pathways that wont be lost in the wrapping process. it’s all new to me, not so much the wrapping, I’m applying the technique to a whole new approach that has production requirements of a script.
I’m happy to report I’ve received more cardboard and word that I might have more next month too, it can’t get better than that. Armed with my new supplies I took on another day long piece – this time the hotel, which is based on the saloon. However having learned from the construction of the saloon, which was admittedly all over the place. With that piece I constructed the balcony before I even thought about the saloon swing doors, which I had now got restricted access to that area. I did however somehow achieve the doors with a false entrance too. It was a struggle.
Now with that knowledge I began by work on that element as soon as the front wall went up, the false entrance first for support before going onto add the swing doors and the door frame around them. Then I got on with the balcony which this time was done in sections for each side. Previously all of my hotels and saloons have had one piece that I hoped to fit around all built sides. I didn’t want that trouble again, a few measurement later and I was underway.
The main differences between the saloon and hotel is the front and the side that I positioned the stairway so they look different enough. Essentially they are the same model miniature with a few visual differences, it’s the process and decisions that make the hotel superior in terms of production.
With some time left in the studio I decided to make a start on another piece – the Jail/Sheriffs office, this time I wanted something different from the old brick building that I had made for the animation. After carrying out some research and looking at the jail in Lincoln County, New Mexico, which once held Billy the Kid, I went to work. Combing elements of a taller 1 floor building with the cells which will go on the side and another stairway. That’s probably a recurring feature in these pieces, which I’ve tended to avoid at large scale, again it’s more difficult and time consuming to produce, not impossible but takes a long time to make individual steps.
When I return to the studio I’ll be finishing what is the penultimate piece of the cardboard town, before turning to what I believe is the Bank. I’ll decide where I turn to next, I feel a return to the brown paper could be coming up soon.
My first studio update of the month and a long time coming too. I’ve decided to take a holiday from the day job to allow my batteries for a week. I’ll be taking it easy, part of that time will of course be spent in the studio. Starting today after easing my self into the extended break I have exhausted my current supply of cardboard for the upgraded town pieces. I should have a fresh supply tomorrow that will allow me to make the final 3 pieces and also the Army fort which I also want to upgrade.
With only one box of the old cardboard supply left I used it to make the Land Office which popped up pretty fast before lunch too, which is always a bonus. I;m not sure where any extra detail will go for this one, I may added some posts above the extruded first floor.
Moving onto make a final decision on the slaughterhouse which I have been taking my time on. Weighing up the pros and cons of them both I went for the smaller piece. It rightly suggests a network of the buildings, not just having a the main one which gives it more importance than it really needs. Being a substation or just another base works better. I had only to make a small modification, extending the side so I can get and easily animate the refrigerated wagons, that was the only con. Being smaller too I have slightly more storage which is now in short supply.
Lastly I decided to something that would be a quick make – the small fleet of flying saucers which are used for one shot to suggest more from a distance. Playing mainly with the scale to achieve this effect I picked up some smaller paper bowls a few months ago for just the job. The making process was pretty straight-forward. All I have to make for the scene is a number of buttes and a raised piece that will act as a platform for a larger butte for a few Native Americans to sit upon for the shot.
Moving on I hope I’ll be able to carry on and complete the town upgrade, before moving onto the fort. Before leaving the studio for the day I was clearing up all my off-cuts, to find some of the packaging which I might use for exclusively for the piece. If I get more I’ll have more to work with. I’ll be using playset’s of Fort to inform this new piece which I hope will be in less pieces and might even be smaller than the huge one I had for my previous animation. I might even take a break before the fort to make some of the loser pieces such as the rock formations after amassing quite a few boxes which I’ll use to build up some rocks and buttes that will be covered in brown paper again.
I was hoping for a full weekend in the studio after what feels like I’m spending less and less time of late. I think my wish to do 2 days might not happen, due to my needing to take a mental break from things, taking it easier for a time. I’ll see how I feel tomorrow and go from there.
On a better note I’ve finally upgraded the saloon. I find that the buildings with balcony’s are always the most complicated to make. Usually at a larger scale taking a few days to complete. I knew that this upgrade would face some of the same challenges, the only difference being the scale. Once I had the dimensions – here the front is slightly shorter in length, this was compensated by the 3 sided walk-way.
I made the mistake of adding the balcony before the classic saloon doors were added, meaning I struggled to get it complete for a time. My access to the bottom half was restricted, meaning I had to draw some of the measurements from guess work or carefully aligning rulers to get the dimensions before cutting. I added a false entrance so that a figure can be placed inside.
Once the door was finally under way I returned to the balcony and the external stairway at the rear. I decided not to detail the stairs so I have a smooth incline not the steps that usually are one of the hardest pieces to achieve, even harder at this scale. Maybe a future model miniature at this scale might get more attention in terms of that level of detail, for now I want to keep the gestures lose.
Looking back on this model I’m glad I focused on it for the whole day, it really needed that time. I want to get back in the studio, ultimately it’s down to how I feel tomorrow.