THE SMA FORUM ARCHIVE
Posted by Nofare, on 2001-12-22 13:35:24
I'm doing a short in which there is a stop motion sequence: it is a point of view shot of a camera entering a tunnel. It supposed to look like we are flying in a tunnel or long intestine to arrive in a large black space.
That flying part is going to be done in stop-motion. I will shoot with a Super8 camera, frame by frame. The tunnel should not be straight but full of turns to the sides and up and down--to give the entire flight this kind of 'roller coaster ride' feel.
How should I go about making this sequence happen?
- What should the tunnel be made of? (should look like adobe or rock) How should I build the armature? Will I need to build one actually?
- How to shoot the damn thing: where should I position the camera? Should the camera move or should the tunnel move to give us the impression that it is us who are 'flying' in the tunnel?
- Where should the lights be positioned to get the best effect? The rest of the film will be quite contrasted.
Thanks for any info.
Posted by Strider, on 2001-12-23 03:48:03
This sounds extremely difficult to do as you have stated it. It might help if we knew exactly what the camera represents (what sort of creature/character) and what the tunnel is. You mentioned a large intestine... is that what it is supposed to be, or just an idea of how it looks?
If I were tackling a problem like this, I would start to think of alternate solutions. Technically, if you flew into a tunnel like that, of course, unless there were lights installed or openings, there would be no light. But that sort of defeats the purpose of the whole thing. I don't know if this is a comical film (assuming it is, or at least a flight of fantasy) but I would probably try something like this;
Fly the camera into the end of the tunnel, until it gets completely black, and use a sort of echoey tunnel sound effect that continues throughout the rest of the shot. Then cut to a side view of the tunnel system, sort of panning the camera along beside the twisting tunnel and moving up and down etc, to show where the character is inside. Then you might do a shot similar to the entry but the other way around for the exit (if there is one).
Or, if you need to do it from inside the tunnel, as you have suggested, you would need to build the tunnel modularly, and large enough of course to get your camera inside. You would need to rig up something like a stick to mount the camera on, or maybe a tripod folded flat and clamped to a table or something. You would only need to build each segment of tunnel to just beyond the first bend, and you could have light shine in around that. Then when you get there, execute your turn and connect the next segment. Push the camera on inside, and break away the first segment. They could be made in two halves that are clamped together. I don't know if I am explaining this very well, but maybe you are getting the general idea. It might be better to actually move the tunnel segments than the camera. Of course, all this is just conjecture. Maybe somebody has something better...
Posted by ThomasArts, on 2001-12-23 04:14:47
What I'd recommend you to do can be read in the following lines . I divided it into three major parts . You'll see where the difference lies .
Solution #1 : You mount your Super8 camera on dolly which can roll on toy trains' trails . And then you let it drive through the tunnel , where you have positioned the trails . And then , you move it frame by frame . You'd have to take care that the wagon on which the camera is mounted is high enough so that the camera looks down a little bit .
This would be the simple solution .
Advantages : Cheap , quickly done , small , handy .
Disadvantages : The camera itself does not move . Hardly accessible object in the tunnel ( You'd have to build the tunnel in a way that one half can be taken away ) .
Solution #2 : You make the whole thing much bigger and build a camera dolly in which a movable head of a tripod is included . The rest stays the same . Only that everything is bigger and more professional .
This is the not-so-very-simple solution .
Advantage : Very big range of camera movement .
Disadvantages : High costs , high skills needed , bigger size , long lasting production .
Solution #3 : And here comes the third solution which is my personal favourite . You leave the bottom of the tunnel open . Now , you build a dolly which is very robust , big and stabile . You mount a rod on it which is connected with the camera . The rod itself should be mounted at the dolly using a very strong swivle-/hinge-combination . Midst in the rod , there is again such a combination . I hope , you understand what I'm talking about . The dolly itselfs runs on trails .
Advantage : Full range of any camera movement you can ever think of .
Disadvantage : Very high costs , extremely high skills needed , problems with hiding the open bottom of the tunnel ( but this could be done with cleverly chosen perspective , proper lighting and well chosen exposure , making it an advantage to you that the tunnel is barely lit and accordingly very dark ) , extremely long lasting production .
For this last solution , you'll definetly need someone ingenious to give you technical support and advice . But , well , the results will definetly be far superior to the other solutions . While the first 2 ways will always have the impression of a driving camera ( the first much more than the second ) , the last one will produce the effect of a really aerial perspective flight . You could dive up and down , tilt , pan and everything you want . This really depends on your budget and your schedule . But , you'll achieve the best effect with the 3rd way .
Posted by JohnL, on 2001-12-23 09:06:28
i hate to be the one to say it as i love stop motion.. but ive done a shot like this in about 3mins using the computer. do you have 3d max, cos itll be really easy.
Posted by Nofare, on 2001-12-23 12:16:19
Thank you all for your answers:
#1 – To have the thing done on computer would of course be quite easy but I really dislike computer animation at this point. I want the organic, ‘real,’ raw look that stop motion animation has. So I’d rather not go for the computer just yet. Thanks for the suggestion though: now I know what software to get.
#2 – The look of the thing is we are ‘flying’ within the tunnel (in the middle of it). The tunnel is made out of adobe like material (with an irregular/wobbly smooth surface if that makes sense). A rock look would also be welcome. The p.o.v. does not represent the view of any particular creature: just kind of the view of an inquisitive camera (like at the beginning of ‘Citizen Kane’ when the camera flies above the walls of the Kane mansion to finally arrive in the bedroom where the title character is dying).
#3 – ThomasArts and Strider: thanks for the detailed descriptions. I find ThomasArts’ first solution (with the train rails) quite ingenious actually. True, the whole thing would be quite static but that could be something to think about. About your third way: I have a few questions. Here is what I understand: the camera is mounted on an articulated rod, which is itself mounted on a dolly like system (?). So the tunnel itself is static, right, i.e. the dolly mounted, rod-mounted camera is pushed frame by frame within the tunnel (?).Also, the articulated rod allows the camera to do pans and tilts, right? Is the tunnel you have in mind for this third solution similar to the one Strider describes in his answer--one constructed in modules? What is that tunnel made of: what kind of armature? What about creating the rock look (in a cheap way)? I guess that I would have to use play Dow to create the adobe look. Anything else though, besides play Dow?
Posted by MovieStuff, on 2001-12-23 16:05:53
I would do this totally different. First, I would invert everything.
Make the walls of the tunnel out of aluminum foil and paint them sandy brown and grey, like rock. Foil is cheap and once you crinkle it slightly, makes great rock formations that you can shape any way you want. Ultimately, since everything is upside down, you will be making a "valley" out of the foil that is open on top (which is really the floor). The camera is turned upside down and the "floor" of the tunnel is made up of removable overlapping sections, each of which only extends about 3 inches away from the camera. These sections are laid gently on the top of the structure and can easily be removed as the camera makes its way down the tunnel one frame at a time. Because the sections are only 3 inches, they'll be out of sight of the camera when you remove them because they'll tuck up under the lens. Just remove them right before the camera body touches.
Hang the camera upside down using a simple wooden track that you can move the camera support along. This track can be cut out of plywood in what every pattern you want. Curves and straight aways can me made with ease. You do NOT need wheels since you aren't moving in real time. Create your track first and build your tunnel to match. That will be easier.
When you make your tunnel, you should create recesses in the wall that face away from you so that you can make small holes in for lighting. These will be hidden from the camera view. Remember to slowly bring these lights down on dimmers as the camera passes so that it doesn't create a shadow.
Posted by ThomasArts, on 2001-12-24 05:02:44
Well , Rogers ideas are indeed much more practical than what I suggested . What I originally intended with the first solution was that you could actually see trails . But of course , you could also do that using Roger's way . Just to get back quickly to my 3rd idea , as you asked . You got it quite right what was my idea . I thought of a articulated rod , on which the camera is mounted , and which is mounted on a dolly . So the dolly is moved in the direction of the tunnel , the rod moves of course as well and then , you can also move the rod for diving up and down and using the hinges and swivles , you can also pan and tilt . The tunnel remains motionless .
You won't need a real StopMotion armature for the tunnel . You could carve out the basic sturcture out of blocks of Styrofoam . And then you apply inside the material you want to use for your rock-like surface . PlayDo(ugh) would be extremely heavy and fall and brittle apart after some time . I'd not recommend you to use that . Paper Maché is maybe a very good solution . There is some material , I think , it is called Water Putty ( like Mike described it ) , which is available at usual Hobby stores . If you coat your tunnel inside with that , it will look very rock-like . It looks extremely real and is extraodinaryly cheap . If you can't get it , you could also use a very thin layer of a strong plaster . But an extra portion of care would be needed then , as plaster can be very fragile . Maybe you could take UltraCal 30 instead . But usually it is available .
Merry Christmas !
Thomas A. Heiss
Posted by Nofare, on 2001-12-23 20:35:43
Thank you for the very clever idea.
A few questions though, just to clarify certain things:
#1 – The “floor” of the tunnel that’s made of removable overlapping sections. Each section is 3 inches wide (right?), which basically looks like pieces of a roof tile segmented vertically every 3 inches? Well I’m afraid that on screen it’s going to look like the “floor” is made of short sections. The audience might see the end of a section coming up as the camera flies forward. Also, if the sections are laid on top of the “valley”, there will be an “overlap”: viewed from outside the tunnel the sections of "floor" will overlap the walls of the valley, which viewed from inside will look like some kind of weird edge. Won’t this "edge" be visible to the audience? (I wish I could post a diagram to clarify what I'm writing).
#2 - Also, how high do the walls of the valley go? Higher than the middle of the circular tunnel? Lower? Equal? Just enough to give room to the camera?
#3 – I don’t understand how you would build the “track”: out of plywood? Will the curves and turns be supported by stilts with the plywood “track” on top and the camera hanging from there? And what about the tunnel: if it matches the track on stilts, will it also have stilts to hold it above ground (just to give it enough space to have turns and curves)?
#4 – For the lights: why would there be a camera shadow if the lights come from the side? And what do you mean by having recesses in the wall *that faces away from me*: do you mean away from the camera? But there's nothing in front of the camera: just the receding tunnel (!?).
Posted by e_rex, on 2002-01-07 08:47:50
It's interesting you mentioned foil. I once visited Gene Warren Sr. at Excelsior in the 70's while he was doing the MAN FROM ATLANTIS series. That's the method he used for underwater shots of the sub: colored foil in a smoked up room.
Posted by MovieStuff, on 2001-12-23 22:56:45
The floor sections are the same width as the tunnel and span the distance from right to left but are only three inches front to back. They could be longer if your lens is physically longer but I know most super 8 cameras have a zoom lens that is about 3-4 inches in length. The over lapping can be a variety of methods with a little imagination; clay blended over the edges, wax, vinyl paste, etc. They could even be one continuous piece of foil that looks like rock and you tear off what you don't need or split as the leading edges dissapears underneath the camera. The principal is the same. You remove what you don't need as it goes out view of the camera.
The recessed areas work like this: Let's say you have a wall that is to your right and you want to make a hole in it so that you can light the wall on the left. If you just make a hole, it will be visible. But if that hole were actually on a section of the wall that was 90 degrees facing away from the camera, such as an area where the tunnel widened for a few inches then tapered back in, then that hole would be hidden from view. It would be like walking up to an alley way on your right that ended in a dead end within only a foot or two. There would be a section of wall on the right hand side of the alley way that was out of sight as you approached because it faces away from you 90 degrees from the sidewalk. If this doesn't make sense, I'll upload a diagram. Remember, cave walls aren't perfect. There are lots of indentions and depressions to hide lights.
The reason you would want to dim the lights as the camera passed is any light behind the camera is going to create a camera shadow down the tunnel. Remember, for the lights to be invisible, they will be facing away from the camera on approach and behind the camera once it passes.
The tunnel "height" is how ever high you need the walls to be if the camera were to really fly though it. That doesn't change just because it's upside down. The tunnel could be constructed on the floor with the edges (where the tunnel floor meets the walls) supported by foam core or 1x2 moulding. Foil doesn't need much support. How the foil meets the inverted floor is a matter of taste and your own artistic ingenuity. If you don't want a seam, then use clay or wax or other mallable substance that can be smoothed over for the blend.
The overhead track can be a simple 2 inch or 4 inch wide "snake" that follows the path you want the camera to follow. Think of it as a walkway in the air and marked off in increments. It can be supported from over head by all-thread that goes up to a simple temp frame with 2x4's laid across like bed slats. The camera can be attached to the "walkway" using a C-clamp or you could invert a tripod columb so that you could raise or lower the camera in increments easily. Again, I'm explaining the principle mostly. The actual construction you will have iron out, but I've done tons of inverted shots and it really makes life much simpler.
If room is an issue, then keep the camera upside down and stationary and move the tunnel past in the same fashion, complete with the removable floor, etc. Just keep constructing more tunnel as the camera comes around a bend. This would take up very little room as the entire tunnel doesn't have to be laid out; only as far as the camera can see.
Posted by Nofare, on 2001-12-24 01:47:35
Very thorough explanation. Thank you very much.
I’m still a few months away from actually shooting the thing but I needed some reassurance as to the feasibility of the shot. Thanks to your explanation I now know that I can make this work. I think that I will move the tunnel pass the camera actually. Much easier for me at this point. And the positioning of the lights makes complete sense of course: I thought of it after I had posted my last note. I’m still not certain on how to hide the seams though. But with some experimentation …
By the way, and this has nothing to do with stop motion but since you seem to have quite a bit of experience, in the other part of the short film I’m creating a man-size room in which performers are going to move around. The walls of that room have to look like they’re made out of adobe or clay. Any idea on how to get that look cheaply? Of course the “room” or set will have at least one (hopefully more) removable wall so as to facilitate camera moves and lighting set ups. For that reason the material I use to create that “adobe look” should not be too heavy once applied.
Posted by Strider, on 2001-12-24 04:11:05
I think your best bet is paper mache. I have gotten really good results in the past using a thick paper like craft paper, or just use some paper shopping bags, and soak it in a mixture of Elmer's glue and water. I have also used Durham's water putty (a lot like plaster) to soak the paper, but this gets pretty heavy and a little brittle. So I would say go with glue. Maybe carpenter's wood glue, which is stronger than normal Elmer's. You can use good sized sheets of paper, pre-crumpled (if you want it to look rough). Or, rather than crumpling, if you just want a little texture, I have heard somewhere on this site that tile adhesive is good for that. It's flexible and lightweight, and I believe can be painted over. By the way, I would suggest using the same material (paper mache) for the tunnel. It is a lot easier to paint than foil, and takes abuse a lot better. My concern with foil is that, if anything touches it during your shoot, it will change shape permanently.
I have thought of another possible solution to the tunnel problem (this is really making a lot of us think out here): rather than actually make a tunnel, it would work rather well to make a series of wooden 'frames', like picture frames, onto which you could build shapes with paper mache. I once did a movie that took place in a cave, and I found that a few of these set up one behind the other looks really good, and allows for much better lighting and replacement of sections as the camera moves through. Actually, I didn't do a shot where the camera floated right through, though, so I don't know how well the 'illusion' would hold up.
How about this as another possibility... the camera doesn't always need to be pointing ahead. If it would tilt a bit to one side or the other, this would allow you to make the tunnel with one side open, creating obvious advantages.
I would say just start experimenting. Crumple some paper (without gluing it yet) and make some tunnel shapes, then make practice runs with the camera. Or better yet, if you have a camcorder, run that through, just to figgure out what works and what doesn't. Whatever you do, though, let us know how it works out.
Posted by goriddle, on 2004-03-22 19:17:39
I would use celluclay or polyuerathane spray foam for the tunnel, both are fairly cheap and easy to find. I would also keep the bottom of the tunnel open. If you did it right you could use that split screen video effect to mirror the top of the tunnel to the bottom.
Posted by goriddle, on 2004-03-26 11:18:48
depending on the type of camera you could even just build the tunnel and then drag it with a piece of monofilament. Kind of like the 'vas-o-cam' as used in evil dead... or maybe you could try putting a tiny slit along the entire length of the top of the tunnel, then tie pieces of monofilament to from front and back of the camera to a board that you could manipulate like a marionette just above the tunnel. Does any of this make sense? If the camera was fitted with a backlight it might work.
Posted by Nofare, on 2001-12-24 08:42:20
Again, thanks very much to all.
With all that info I'll able to put something together. I've worked with Papier Maché before and it indeed looks like real rock when dry. I also thought of the 'frame' idea from Strider: if time runs out I could try that. It would look less 'realistic' but since nothing in the short is realistic ! It would look like the opening sequence of that Polanski film 'The Ninth Gate'--although it was done on computer for that film.
I'll let you all know how the thing goes. Won't be for a while though, as I have other things to think about and prep.
Glad I found this site. Really helpful.
Posted by Strider, on 2001-12-24 23:54:52
A few more thoughts..
Whether you go with an actual tunnel or a series of frames, you might consider a sort of light/dark thing, with the camera passing through a lighted area, then into darkness momentarily, and again into light. This could be accompanied by a sort of 'whoosh, whoosh' sound effect, to create a surreal effect, and incidentally allow you to switch to the next segment. It would also neatly solve a lot of the problems relating to lighting, etc. You could probably re-use a few segments by turning them around/upside down or whatever, and patching up whatever you have to (opening along bottom edge or wherever the camera moves).
For texturing your adobe surface, you could use some acrylic modeling paste or go to the hardware store and get some texturing sand. They make various grades to mix into your paint for such effects, or to add grip on floor surfaces. You could probably use regular sand, or sawdust or something as well.
Posted by Nofare, on 2001-12-25 01:33:11
Yeah I also got the idea of shooting the same 'tube'/'tunnel' twice from two different directions. I will definitely do that actually: it'll allow me to get a sequence that lasts twice as long with half the construction work.
As for the sounds, don't worry, I have a few things planned out that I'd like to try. But that will be much later in the process, next summer according to my schedule.
As for the adobe wall: I'm not sure about acrylic modeling paste. Could definitely work for a small room, but for the man-size one I plan on building it might be difficult to use. I still have to investigate. I'm gonna contact semi-professional and/or professional set designers here in L.A. to get their view on the problem.
Posted by Nick H, on 2002-01-06 23:05:21
There are companies that come and spray polyurethane foam onto wall shapes that you have made, which works very well for large scale rockwork like caves etc. I've also heard of a kit that you buy and use to spray it yourself, in maybe 5 or 10 gallon type sizes.