Stop Motion Animation Forum Archive











Posted by Nick H, on 2004-02-02 23:54:08

CGI stop motion sets

It's probably sacrilege to post this here, but I've been trying out the idea of building some cgi sets for wideshots, and then putting stopmotion puppets in. This comes about because I don't have a budget for materials, or space to store the sets in. I often use 1:24 scale sets for wide shots, then cut in close to the 1:6 sets with puppets. The idea is that these might take the place of the 1:24 sets. This is the river bend in it's natural state. Being cgi, it's still rather less natural than I would like. this is a wide shot of the city that is built on the riverbend. Cgi lets me use computer water for the river and smoke from chimneys. In this closer shot of the city square, the car and passengers are cgi objects that look ok at this distance. They need to be fully 3d because the car moves and turns around in the shot. The standing figures are rough painted still images mapped onto flat rectangles, standing in for animated image sequences to be photographed from latex puppets. It's kind of like Obie's miniature rear projection screens built into the miniature sets, only I'm putting in puppets, not live actors. I'm looking at building larger scale partial sets for closer shots in real materials, and importing some of the real textures to use on the cgi sets. There are still too many dead straight, sharp edges. I may end up abandoning this approach, but maybe I can do animatics. At least it helps me plan out the sets. I re-used the real waterfall image from the first pic as part of the fountain in the last one. The forest people living by the waterfall get replaced by the colonialists dining in the cafes by the fountain, while the original forest folk live in shanties near the sewage outlet. (I haven't added the shanties to the city wideshot yet.)

Posted by David Rosler, on 2004-02-03 00:38:09

It all depends on how the figures look when they're matted in. What I'd do in your case is make sets for the medium and close shots and augment those with digital matte paintings for the wider shots. Otherwise, you may be mistaken as just "another CGI guy" and lose the special, unique quality of the medium.

Posted by AngryPuppet_, on 2004-02-03 11:36:09

Hi Nick! First of all, I can totally understand why you would be taking this approach. It is hard to find the space for the bigger sets and the money and time involved in building them is tough. But as a fan of your work I really hope you don't abandon your large 1:24 scale sets. They are simply wonderful and to me they are part of the signature of your stopmo style! I've taken a lot of inspiration from your sets and would hope that you can find a way to keep building them. I think the computer is a great tool to add little touches to stopmo shots (the smoke, water, fire, etc...) and for compositing or painting out rigs. But I think as soon as you start to do full CG backgrounds, part of the charm of the medium is lost.

Posted by Antony, on 2004-02-03 05:56:41

You could treat some of the foreground elements similarly to what you did with the painted figures. E.g. like the fountain in the foreground, which at the moment looks really 3-D rendered, you could make this as a model and composite it in aftereffects. You wouldn't even need to make the model to scale and it could be a still image. Try it also with the trees in the river shot. Some of that knight stuff I've been experimenting with I've been try this and it works really well. I build one model tree and shot it at several different positions and made a decent forest background composite. Antony

Posted by Marc Spess, on 2004-02-03 12:29:02

Hey Nick, I have an idea for you. Maybe you can build your large sets in 1/35 scale, light them, and take pictures. Then use the images as texture maps for your duplicate CG sets. Maybe this defeats the purpose of doing it CG though? All I can say is that I have seen video games that use photos as textures, and the effect is really good. Here is a site with pictures used as textures, just look in the gallery: It still has a CG look though, Marc Visit:

Posted by teabgs, on 2004-02-03 14:32:29

Nick, I think you should build as much as you can, take photos in different perspectives, sizes, etc, and composite those elements as much as you can. Then you can even make Texture maps out of that, to use on the sets. the CG you have looks very CG, I don't know what you're characters look like, so maybe it works...but, i'd try to use the computer BG's as a way to get the same look and not have to take up so much space/money. what program is that? Lightwave? 3DS? it doesn't look maya to me. I really think compositing is the way to go here instead of full CGI Bg's... my 2 cents.

Posted by jim danforth, on 2004-02-03 15:51:41

NICK H: I'm thinking you may have a new style here (and an interesting one), rather than a replacement for your original style. Somewhat like the Max Fleischer cartoons with cel animation photographed in front of miniature backgrounds -- but in reverse. I like your test examples, but I'll probably always prefer the full-miniature approach (and you do it so well). I like the architecture of the plaza and the look of the river. Jim

Posted by StopMoWorks, on 2004-02-03 18:32:26

Nick, I can see the reasoning of your approach ..... financial, limited studio space, and "your time" to create sets in full scale size to your puppets. Perhaps a compromise .... as others have alluded to .... you can create miniature sets for your background/foreground elements. Do it in much smaller scale. I have some railroad modeling books about creating miniature sets, dioramas, etc.... and I am amazed at the detail of the miniatures that these model railroad hobbyists build. I forget the scale size but it was small. Lots of miniature props and items available in that scale but could be pricey and you can probably make your own in that scale, too. Go to hobby stores, look at their model railroad magazines. Once you shoot the miniatures as your elements, you can sort of cut and past things together in the 'puter ..... like creating a painting but using real images. You still may need to build sets in scale to puppets but maybe only partial sets but you "extend it" in the 'puter. I'm only brainstorming here and I have not done any of this, but merely reading & seeing behind the scenes others doing it but on larger scale .... ILM with their Star Wars prequels and LOTR but they had humongous big-a-tures (as opposed to miniatures). Your cgi sample backgrounds looks good, but I don't know if they would be too sharp contrast with the real animation puppets composited into them. You can still use cgi, like for water, smoke, fire, etc. to tweak and enhance the real elements (the miniatures).

Posted by Nick H, on 2004-02-03 20:21:18

Thanks, everyone, for the feedback. I pretty much agree with most of you, real models look better. Most of my animation would be shot closer, with at least partial real sets behind the puppets, so those shots would retain the stopmo feel. The risk is that there would be too much contrast between these mainly cgi wideshots and the real model close/medium shots. These were built in Lightwave 5.6. Quicker, but less satisfying, than making 1:24 sets in real materials. But it all fits on a CD. Some of the distant trees in the forest riverbend shot are 2d artwork mapped onto rectangles, and I could indeed photograph model trees, with a matching silhouette shot against white for transparency, to map on instead. This would give more continuity with the puppet shots. But too many flat images mapped in close to camera will cause perspective problems if I do virtual camera moves. Doing real camera moves on the models, using sequences of images instead of stills, then match moving the virtual camera, is possibly beyond me or my system's memory. I might try box buildings with less geometry, mapped with photo textures on all sides. But that might make those straight hard edges look even worse. I agree, the fountain has that telltale look of hard clean edges with airbrushy surfaces inside. It's that gap between the real geometry of the object, and the bump maps and colour textures. But the camera moves past it to follow the car, so a 2d image will look like a cutout. I'll look at beefing up the polygon count to get slightly irregular edges and see if that helps, but with all those objects the rendering time is already going up. Maybe when/if I actually get a green light I'll just build more real models, and look at this as just part of the planning phase. That's pretty much the response I'm getting here. (That's the way I went with my diesel locomotive in the last film, I scrapped the detailed cgi model and went with mdf and fibreglass, with only an overhead shot of the carriage roofs in cgi put into a model set.)

Posted by Nick H, on 2004-02-03 20:35:47

Marc, I just looked at that Stalker site. The textures are good, but in the arch back in the upper right of one picture the difference between the apparent rough texture and the clean "curved" edge made of several straight lines really shows up the cgi limitations. However, there is a square column behind the creature that seems to have more irregular edges, which works far better. Either the column object has more polygons to wiggle the edge a bit, or a trasparency map is giving a false edge on one side which is less straight than the simple box it's mapped onto, which could be worth looking into. I like worn, cracked, lumpy surfaces, and the edges have to match.

Posted by Mathias, on 2004-09-18 13:53:41

Thought of a kind of interesting tutorial about cameramapping, its for Cinema 4D but it might be able to transfer over to lightwave also! Hope you might find it usefull!

Posted by Mathias, on 2004-09-18 13:54:25

i forgot to enter the url for the tutorial.. sorry here it goes: