Stop Motion Animation Forum Archive











Posted by Nick H, on 2005-01-19 01:46:06

Canal set

This is a Venetian canal set I'm working on. I'm doing the sculptures to go on the Bridge of Sighs at the moment. Somehow, I'm going to have to put water in the canal that will reflect the model gondola and puppets in it, and extend into the alcove behind the arches. Options are CGI water, real static goop on set for water with no ripples, or composited live water. I'm not sure if I can paint the tabletop as a bluescreen without blue light bouncing up onto the set. I could do a static matte, but I'd have to roto around the moving gondola. I'm also going to have to extend the Doge's Palace to the far side of the bridge by putting what I have in different positions, then compositing it together. A bit like the way the duplicate crowds by moving the same bunch of extras around the set. As long as I have the part of the set that the gondola passes in front of, actually behind it during the shot, it should work. It would be simple to build more set, but I don't have the time. This is for a couple of scenes in a program that is not funded yet, so there is no budget and no official hours at all. With luck, some animated footage will help us raise money eventually. But if I can think of a story that puts a chicken into this set, I'll be using it in the next StopmoShorts round!

Posted by Marc Spess, on 2005-01-19 02:26:34

Hey Nick, Nice looking set so far. One way you might want to do the water is to cut out the center of your set floor - and place a blue screen under it several feet away so theres no light spilling onto anything. Place a piece of plexi or regular glass flat in front of the buildings to get their reflections. Then composite in some real water. You can also have your little boats on top of the plexi glass and they would also have reflections for a more realistic look. I did do some tests taking some black thick plastic used in gardening work - and covering that with plastic wrap. The plastic wrap has static and clings to the lower black plastic giving it a lot of depth. It looks pretty convincing as water, but it's not so easy to animate. If you want me to send a picture let me know. Just some ideas, Marc Visit:

Posted by Strider, on 2005-01-19 03:20:53

Wow, quite an impressive set! It looks like it's all made from plaster castings of a few elements? I was going to suggest something very similar to what Marc said about using plastic for water. I don't have a clear grasp of how you're going to do it (I guess you don't either, right?)... but if you're going to shoot a pass without water, or with a section done bluescreen, you might be able to get some reflective silvery cloth stuff or some shiney plastic... I think there are really thin plastic emergency blankets for use in camping kits that would work, and lay it on the floor to cast reflections up onto the walls. You could animate the 'waves', maybe by putting small weights here and there and gently pushing them around frame by frame. I got some unbelievable results one time with a desk lamp aimed at a book with a plastic dust jacket cover in a dark room, just by putting my fingers on the book and moving them around slightly. It really looked like reflections of rippling water! But that would probably be harder to do animated, with no immediate feedback, unless you had time to do some tests first. I could see a chicken gondolier drifting by singing..... Man Nick, you really set the bar high for the rest of us. I love it!

Posted by Manni, on 2005-01-19 05:58:07

Really nice work!. That is a set i can only dream about making one day. It seems so easy for you. I bet you spend a long time working on your sets. Do you make everything yourself in your movies? and how do you get the idea from the head to a final product?, it always seems for me that i have an idea of how the things are gonna be, but the most of the time it doesnt go as i want it to. Im still very new in stopmotion and you have been working some years, but the stuff you guys make in here, really makes me wanna learn this skill, cause it seems like its only the mind that makes the limits. Manni aka Kasper Kehlet

Posted by StopMoWorks, on 2005-02-05 11:53:23

[div class="dcquote"][strong]Quote[/strong] This is for a couple of scenes in a program that is not funded yet, so there is no budget and no official hours at all. With luck, some animated footage will help us raise money eventually. But if I can think of a story that puts a chicken into this set, I'll be using it in the next StopmoShorts round![/div] So you must be busy working on this. We are all awaiting with hyper-spasmic anticipation what you have decided about the water. I have sort-of followed this topic but I felt not worthy ;) to offer advice to a master modelmaker, props fab wizard, Stop Motionist extrodinaire .... the Lone Aussie Ray Harryhuasen-like Arteest in OZ :o Since I came late into this .... my dos centavos ....use Real Water? I know it's too late and construction of set would have had to be different. I was thinking a wide shallow custom fiberglass tub/pan allowing about 2 inches of water depth, then the canal set somehow built to edge of the pan of water and incorporating that alcove. Underneath of canoe/boat would have a couple of all brass ball joints, brass balls, brass rods (water proof/won't rust) at fore & aft (is that correct gondola terms?) and ball joints attach to lead block or something heavy. Hard to explain but a drawing would say it all. You animate movement of boat by pushing lead block underneath water, and boat sway done via ball joints. Tub/pan could be painted with color hue of water you want or in addition, water also dyed/tinted. Real reflections of boat & building in water. This got me going cuz I saw this other post.... Damn .... I wish I can get paid for these ideas .... as consultant or something! :P So you are doing this on your own time for ABC as a demo/test using your Nikon D70 (?) with possibility of persuading ABC in future to go digital? Maybe more $savings$ to them, compared to 16mm or 35Film and incentive for them to do more Stop Mo based projects!? :7

Posted by Yuji, on 2005-01-19 06:10:43

Hi Nick, I had an idea of animated water a while back. I think it was the same time I was thinking about where the nodal point was on a camera. :-) Anyway, I haven't tried it so don't blame me if it doesn't work and I don't know how you are going to get a gondola through it or have it extend into the alcove of your set. My idea involved shiny blue cloth like silk or something similar. You could use some of that goop on the cloth to make it more reflective. This would be drapped over a "wave rig". Gather as many plastic or wooden balls as you can. About 1/2" to 1" size depending on the scale of your set. Drill a hole into the ball at an offset. Not dead center. Otherwise, it will not disturb the cloth. Then glue the balls randomly onto a rod making sure the heavy ends are not all facing the same way. Sort of like a cam in an engine. They don't push the rods all at the same moment. Make a few of these. Think abacus with offset beads. Now mount your rods into a frame like an abacus and lay it flat. Lay your cloth on top of the balls and turn the rods making the cloth ripple like water. You could put gears onto the rods and connect them so that when you turn one, all of the rods will turn. Here's another idea. Have a string of different size balls or glue them onto a narrow piece of wood and pull them under the cloth. Not as cool as the "wave rig" above but it might work. Use a couple of rolling pins and move that under the cloth for Hawaii size waves! PS. That is one awesome set. PSS. What was that short film that had wooden boards that simulated waves. The boards intersected with a ship. One of the characters had a wooden head which was not painted. He was visited by a bird with what looked like metal wings. That ocean was really beautiful. Well executed.

Posted by Nick H, on 2005-01-19 17:08:22

I knew I'd get some good ideas for water from you guys! Especially since I knew Marc had to deal with water for Zombie Pirates. Bluescreen: Yes, when I've done something like a tv set with a blue screen, the blue backing is about 5 ft behind the tv with the cutout screen, so I can light it separately, so that would probably be the way to go. The off-centre balls: I had thought of something like this with disks, but the balls would be more smooth and rounded and would work better under a cloth or plastic sheet. Maybe a tretchy fabric, pulled tight? Great idea. I also thought of just using rows of flat cut-out waves, like a stage effect, for an ocean, with cams to raise and lower the different rows. A couple of weeks ago I saw this effect done brilliantly in a short sequence in Finding Neverland. The waves were all flat cutouts, but there were many many rows, and they weren't shot flat on but at an angle. The result was a completely artificial ocean, but one of amazing power, with waves progressively moving through the layers. It might have been digital, but could easily be made in card and animated incrementally. That effect alone was worth the admission price for me, and I'll have to get the DVD to study it. For the canal though, I just want small ripples, not big waves, and the balls sound better. The gondola I'm making is a "waterline" model, with a flat bottom. I intended it to slide along on a flat surface. I'm not sure how I'll do it on a flexing surface. If I go with a void and a bluescreen behind, I'll mount it on a pole, and paint the pole out frame by frame. I might try to duplicate the lower part of the boat as a cgi model in cgi water, and line it up with the model, with a soft edge to blend the two. then the waves would shape around the hull. I only need a couple of shots with the boat in the water, mostly I'll go with closer shots of the gondolier with the building going past in the background. I've nearly used up the time that was salvaged from other programs, it was going to be 12 weeks but it turned out the hours on one show had actually been used, they just hadn't gone through accounts yet, so I had 3 weeks. I'm supposed to be doing cgi maps now for another show, but I keep sneaking off to do a bit on this. I'll probably have to settle for something quick and easy for the water. The set is not cast in plaster, but cut from thick corrugated Triwall card, with different thicknesses of MDF building up some parts, and bits of timber moulding. My vac former is in bits, the abc wanted the space to store sets, or I'd have made a model of a section and vac formed it. Here's the bridge, showing how it's made: I used something called Agnew's Water Putty that a maintenance man left behind to texture and fill some gaps. It's a yellow powder that feels like plaster with cellulose in it, possibly similar to some stuff Strider uses. It sticks to card better than plaster, which can flake off. I got some DAS to model the sculptures on the bridge, which I regret. It's not great to work with, feels like a mixture of paper pulp and clay, with the worst properties of both. Very draggy, you can't slice a bit off without the whole shape distorting, and slow to dry and quick to crumble. I should have used plasticine or potter's clay and made alginate moulds to cast in plaster, or even modelled directly in wet plaster. I should have new pics in a few days with the fiddly bits stuck on. In this case, the design work was done for me by several dead Italian architects. I just simplified it a bit. I needed to recognize Venice, without a big wide view of the Grand Canal and dozens of boats and ornate buildings, so I picked the Bridge of Sighs, a known landmark in a small canal. I won't ever show the prison on the other side, but I will shoot 45 degree shots from both directions. I just re-read Yuji's post, I'd missed the part about just pulling some shapes unde the cloth. That sounds like something I could do without a lot of building. I've got to think it through, but I like it! And if the surface underneath had some ripples in it, they would flow over those...

Posted by Strider, on 2005-01-20 01:20:03

Hey Manni, I can partly answer that. Yes, Nick makes everything himself. He was smart enough to get work in the propmaking department of a theater, and also worked in a plaster factory where he learned all kinds of skills like moldmaking. Believe me, propmakers know how to make just about anything from just about nothing. Give a propmaker some cardboard and string, and he'll make you a Michelangelo's David. I got myself a book called The Prop Maker's Molding and Casting Handbook, and it shows a lot of great tricks and techniques. But it's basically a matter of learning as you go, trying to develop a large repertoire of tricks. It's also about having a stockpile of materials. That's another area where Nick has it over the rest of us. Just about every time I want to make something I have to think about what to use, and generally I have to order some. But I'm working on building a stockpile of the good stuff.... blocks of styrofoam, nuts bolts nails screws, lots of different glues and tapes and epoxy putties, I'm always adding to my selection of acrylic paints, polymer clays etc. I now have a bucket-o-wires and a drawer-o-cloth-n-fake-hair. I have a small supply of basswood in various sizes, but need to get more. I also need to get ahold of some sturdier lumber for loadbearing walls and set floors. I've been using the same piece of plywood for all my set floors, and it's getting a lot of holes in it. I guess that's cool.... it's starting to resemble a sort of irregular pegboard. Nick, I had a different idea that's sort of similar to the parallel wave-topped boards you mentioned, involving long pieces of cling wrap that are bunched up but pulled tightly from end to end, laid alongside each other. They could be pulled at slightly differing speeds, and over forms to make a sort of ripple effect. Each strip would have to be maybe twice as long as the full length of the set, or maybe longer, depending on how long the shots are. Or they might run under the table in a continuous strip, with the seams being staggered so none of them are near each other. The boat would be between two of the strips, and they'd have to sort of separate around it. A low camera angle should hide the triangular bare spots in front and behind. Hey, I just thought of possibly putting little magnets inside the wadded strips of cling wrap and having metal underneath. Maybe strips of metal with little bumps bent in them, and the magnets would hold the plastic against it for good rippling. Yuji, your wave-cam idea is excellent!

Posted by Yuji, on 2005-01-19 23:03:21

[div class="dcquote"][strong]Quote[/strong] PSS. What was that short film that had wooden boards that simulated waves. The boards intersected with a ship. One of the characters had a wooden head which was not painted. He was visited by a bird with what looked like metal wings. That ocean was really beautiful. Well executed. [/div] I remember the name of the short. It is called "Dad's Clock". I found it on ZED after Strider had posted this: Great image of the ship in water. I love the way it intersects. I would like to see the mechanical part that makes the ocean move.

Posted by Yuji, on 2005-01-20 03:16:39

Thanks, Mike. It looks good on paper. Uhm... computer screen. But it could end up looking like skin with a bad case of goose pimples! :7

Posted by Nick H, on 2005-01-20 03:27:18

Strider - There's a studio trick for a reflective sunset-over-distant-ocean-from-beach type scene, with cling-wrap stretched across the set, and fans blowing on it to make it shimmer. Stretching it means lots of creases running along it, parallel with the horizon. I don't have the stockpile I used to, I had to buy in the mdf, triwall, hot glue, timber moulding, and paint with my money, cause I don't have a program to charge it to, and I've used up most of my materials 12 months ago. But yes, it sure does save time having the basic stuff on hand. I've now stuck the heads (modelled in DAS) and a couple of fiddly shield things and a merman (modelled in wet plaster, then carved) onto the bridge.

Posted by Strider, on 2005-01-20 04:19:41

That looks awesome! I want to be you when I grow up !!! :D

Posted by teabgs, on 2005-01-21 05:08:39

Nick: amazing. How I would love to see a moving camera shot through that set! Here's an idea... maybe use live water composited in for most of it (blue screen it). But, if you do that you wont have a wake, or water hitting the boat, so make your 3D bottom of boat, and get the water hitting the boat, and the wake from CGI. THEN, composite that into the live action water for a final effect.

Posted by Nick H, on 2005-01-23 17:44:38

Yes, with a spare 3 weeks I could do all that. Now I have no time at all, and some maps and graphics I can't put off any longer. I'm leaning towards a non-realistic approach at the moment - just don't ask me which one! The off-centre balls rotating under a cloth idea has a lot of appeal, but it might take too long to make. I will do a moving shot through the set in a week or 2, and if it's ok with Eric I could post it at StopmoShorts. I should finish the gondola today (While I test render a map shot), and I'm taking materials home to work on some puppets in the evenings.

Posted by Nick H, on 2005-01-24 17:34:59

I haven't got anything new yet, but the amazing Boy Oyng has done a test with water effects, using my still image. I hope he won't mind me posting a link to the Quicktime movie here: Notice how he's not only put reflections into the real water, but made them ripple - a quick and dirty test for him, but well ahead of anything I've managed so far.

Posted by Yuji, on 2005-01-24 17:53:11

WOW! That's cool.

Posted by AngryPuppet_, on 2005-01-25 10:28:45

Hi Nick- I just had to chime in here really quick to say again how truly inspiring your work is. That set is looking great! Besides the boat, are there other animated elements planned?

Posted by Marc Spess, on 2005-01-25 11:24:50

Nice water! If you used blue screen it came out really well. Marc Visit:

Posted by Nick H, on 2005-01-31 03:09:08

Boy Oyng did that water test from the still image I posted at the top of this thread! He flipped parts of the image upside down to create the reflections in the water area, and composited in some real water. Then he used the brightness of the water images as an animated displacement map on the reflections to give them a ripple effect. He said he did it with AE, which I don't use. The gondola will move along the canal, with the gondolier rowing, and a couple of tourists taking photos sitting in the seat. It would be nice to put some pigeons sitting on a window ledge or something, to add more life to the scene, but I may not have the time to make them. Here's the gondola: The prow is made separately, so it can break off in a later shot. The armature shown is really too big for the scale of the boat and set, I'll probably need smaller puppets.

Posted by Eric Scott, on 2005-01-31 07:04:33

NICK: Looks great! What kind of light setup are you using in that last pic with the gondola? I like the look of that one. Eric Scott

Posted by Nick H, on 2005-01-31 16:51:20

The main light on the right is a 2000 watt with a blue gel, hanging where it was left from lighting My Left Shoe. I didn't set up lights to take this still, I just used what was there. The fill light comes from leaving the flouro room lights on, and from a 50 watt halogen pointing down from the left. It may not be all that different from how I'll light it for the next Stopmoshorts submission, except I may go darker. But it will be more of a daytime shot in the program I am actually building the set for. The previous shot of the bridge looks flat and dull because the light was low, and the auto flash came on. D'oh! Normally I never light from the front or use flash, I like the light to bring out the modelling and texture.

Posted by Eric Scott, on 2005-01-31 17:10:57

I also liked the lighting in My Left Shoe. I've got to get me some of those cool blue gels. Thanks. :) Eric Scott

Posted by Nick H, on 2005-02-06 23:59:51

Thanks Lio! The set is for a project we hope to pre-sell overseas, so maybe the ABC will commission it. But since I'm building it, I'm doing a Stopmoshorts film on the same set. That lets me test the camera, lighting, and water effects. I still need to get a sequence of shots that is flicker free before I can consider the D70 for a serious production. My exec producer is not convinced, since we already have the Mitchell paid for. But, especially with things like compositing and greenscreen, it's a real advantage to take a still or 2, seeing exactly how it looks, and testing to see how good the chroma key is. The Nikon is a greater cost benefit for me, for my own independent productions where film and telecine are major expenses, than it is for the ABC, where my labour is by far the greatest expense. These days, they are doing cheap television, where a half hour costs less than one of my 5 minuters (In some cases, A$5000, or about US $3800, for a half hour, up to about A$20,000). The multi-million $ budgets for US tv hours just don't exist here. So a stop mo project can only happen if most of the money comes from overseas. That's been the case for most natural history for some years now. I'm using a mix of my own time, and time that I'm employed but with no program to charge it to. (Too much of that, and I'll be perusing the employment section of the local paper. But much longer without projects of my own in production will see me fail my next performance review anyway.) I've used real water (or water thickened with wallpaper paste so little bits on the surface don't skate around madly) before, it creates a still flat pool. The advantage is that puppets can wade into it, it does reflections, and looks wet. But I was hoping for some ripple in the water, like all the photos I've seen of the canals. So I'm looking at 2 possibilities: 1: Shoot it with a green screen where the water will be, and ley the water in. I'll use a digital object with a ripple displacement. (That shouldn't be too hard, but getting it to reflect the buildings and gondola may be trickier.) Boy Oyng had a real water shot which he used for a test, so that's a possibility too. I tried a horizontal sheet of green plastic on the table top, and it did what I expected - the bits in shadow weren't green enough, and it reflected green light onto the set and broke up the key. So today I'm setting up a vertical green screen attached to the front of the rostrums, with flourescent lights hitting it with soft light, and a board overhanging the flouros to block most of the light from the set. The set overhangs the rostrum front by a couple of inches too, to keep the angled light on the set off the green screen. This means the gondola has no table to sit on, it's mounted on a tripod which sits on my track unit on the floor. 2. The other option is to rig up a ripple board with lots of little cams (or balls, as Nou suggested) all linked together, so a sheet of shiny plastic over it would physically ripple right there on the set. I really like that idea, but it would take a few days to build, and I'd have to spend more of my own cash for the balls and rods. A stretch fabric moves well, but doesn't reflect. Plastic can have wet goop on it to make it more reflective, but makes ugly creases. If it did look ok, It would only suit one size and scale of set. So I will try the greenscreen option first. Not every shot will show the water, but I need one or two to establish it. I also want to rig a rotating cylinder to put in front of a light to create the ripple light effect on the underside of the bridge. And just for the hell of it, I'm rigging a practical lantern to go on the front of the gondola, since it will be a dark night scene. I can't get the lists of categories on the board to show up today, I get errors, the only way in was through clicking on "new messages", so I'm not sure if this is posting or not.

Posted by StopMoWorks, on 2005-03-11 11:21:25

So Nick .... just saw your latest entry at StopMoShorts .... the singing chicken on the gondola in your canal set. The water comped in .... looks great! Also being a night scene, the lighting, atmosphere, the lamp on gondola, etc. .... pretty coooool! So it seems you went with #1 using greenscreen. Was it some specific software you used? Using digital object .... what is that? Overview of steps how you did water?

Posted by Nick H, on 2005-03-13 21:43:54

You'll be sorry you asked... Step 1: Ask Boy Oyng how he did the test, then see how I can do it on my completely different software. He used AE which I don't have. I used Aura 2.5 (Now called Mirage). I use Lightwave 3d for my very limited 3d animation. I tried making simple cgi buildings that would reflect in the surface of the water object. I used Front Projection Mapping so they would look like the background image, a view of the canal, but that image did not reflect in the water, only the building's base colour. :-( So I abandoned that idea, and created an upside-down image of the buildings in the water area, by flipping and distorting. In Aura (like photoshop but with whole sequence of frames) I put a still image of the reflected buildings in the background layer. Then I put in the image sequence of the rippling water above that, but partly transparent. Following what Boy Oyng did, I used that water image as a displacement map to slightly distort the reflected buildings, a litle different each frame. (Pixels are moved according to the brightness of that part of the spare image. I wouldn't have thought to look for that effect if Bruce hadn't used one like it.) To do this in Aura, you have to load a single image into a "spare image" buffer at a time, and apply it to one frame of the other layer, then load the next frame of rippling water into Spare Image, and apply it to the next frame... What he did in AE in 2 hours took me 2 days. So then I've got the reflected buildings rippling, and the water image over that. On top is the animation footage with the water area in greenscreen. I tried Chroma Key and Colour Key and both were crap. The green was too uneven, and there was green spill. x( (Because I had to put the green stuff on the front of the table in line with the buildings, not 3 ft back, and because it was plastic and shiny and had hotspots.) Then I used the paint bucket tool as an erasor on the green area. It took 7 or 8 clicks each frame, and if an area was clicked twice a little nore of the edge would get eaten away. So it was slow, and the edges flickered, but I had the water showing through. The buildings didn't move, so I could clean up the edges by painting back a little of the building to cover the flickering edges as a still image in another layer. I stretched it out to cover the whole sequence, made it an animated layer, then erased bits of it as the boat moved over that part. The moving boat still flickers. x( I need to do better for the real film the set is made for. Guess why you didn't actually see the water again after that opening shot?