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Posted by Strider, on 2005-01-31 02:33:20

Atmosphere and Depth in Stop-motion

I've been surfing for cool sites to post about in here, and this is my latest find. A great site, and I've never heard of it before. It's by Anthony Lawrence, who seems well-versed in many ways and means of animation, 2d, 3d, CGI, what have you. Here's what initially drew me in, a nice article covering forced perspective, atmospheric haze, and glass paintings done in a pretty simple way. There are Real Video clips showing his setups, and the entire 6 minute film called Looking for Horses is included as well, but on that the compression is a killer. Here's the first page: http://www.abc.net.au/arts/strange/workshop/atmosphere.htm From there you can access the rest of it, and other articles on various other techniques. I haven't looked at them yet. Seeing it done like this in a small studio environment makes it seem more possible for us amateurs. Here's a very good article about the film and about Anthony Lawrence: http://www.abc.net.au/arts/strange/articles/spy.htm

Posted by Eric Scott, on 2005-01-31 07:00:28

I was going to post this one! x( I like the article on creating atmosphere. I also noticed while watching the "behind the scenes" featurette of the new Wallace and Gromit film that they were using a haze machine for the forest set. I'm not sure if they're doing it the way the IMAX Kong was done or not but I would imagine so. Anyways, very good info. The glass technique is going down in my little notebook. :) Eric Scott http://www.stopmoshorts.com/

Posted by Nick H, on 2005-01-31 17:12:55

I know Anthony, he was shooting his Plasmo series while I was shooting Once Upon Australia, but I didn't know about those articles, thanks for posting them. Nice in-camera techniques. I tried a smoke-filled room without the kind of computer/laser control of density used in Robocop 2, and it was a disaster, just constant variation that looked more like a light leak. So I've been wanting to try a bridal veil for a long time. I've seen it used on stage, with the light varied on the different levels of gauze, to make things appear and disappear in a magical way. (More front lighting on the gauze makes it more visible and hides the layers behind, no front lighting makes it vanish so you see straight through.) I like the way fog separates the foreground, midground, and background, and gauze is a good practical, low-tech way to do it in stop motion. I get partway there by just using bluish fill light on the more distant parts of the set, but it doesn't take out the detail as well as gauze. I don't think I'd use the angled glass in front though, it's easier to add the rays of light in post.

Posted by Jim Aupperle, on 2005-01-31 19:15:31

Several shots during Sally's song in Nightmare before Christmas made use of bridal veil for the fog effect. There's one shot where I did precisely what you describe as "light varied on the different levels of gauze, to make things appear and disappear in a magical way" to make the set fade away behind Sally. I liked that technique very much since you could see exactly what you were getting as you look through the camera. It would work just as well in live action or on the stage as it's so simple, reliable and direct. Jim Aupperle

Posted by Strider, on 2005-02-01 00:04:38

Adding the rays in post might be easier, but when I look at the effect in Looking for Horses as compared to that in The Phantom Inventory, I like the in-camera effect better. I suppose you could make the computer-generated rays more transparent though. Nick, I was wondering if you might know Anthony Lawrence, as he's a Melbourne man. According to one of the articles, there's a "Melbourne style" of stopmotion!!??? :o Not sure if that's where Dik Jarman is from, but I suppose Dad's Clock would fit the criteria.

Posted by Nick H, on 2005-02-01 17:44:28

Yes, Dik Jarman's in Melbourne too. Plasmo was filmed in Dik's studio, when he had one. I sculpted some characters for Plasmo. Three of my assistants also worked on Anthony Lawrence's Plasmo, and one of them, Eron Sheean, was DOP on Dad's Clock. (And animated on Anthony Lucas' film Bad Baby Amy.) When I dropped off a camera to another, Sharon Parker(Plasmo and Good Riddance), The ship model from Dad's Clock was being stored at her place. So it's all interconnected. I guess there are a few here because there are 2 institutions offering animation courses here, and once the students graduate, there's no work so they can't afford a ticket out of Melbourne! I didn't go to any of the courses here, I've learnt on my my own, so I don't know if I fit into the Melbourne Style if there is one.

Posted by Strider, on 2005-02-01 18:05:31

Here is a quote from the article that *sort of* explains what he means by a "Melbourne tradition": " It is full of precise observations, of moments that evoke our own memories of holidays, hope and curiosity. In this way, it fits a Melbourne tradition of domestic animation, seen in films like Sarah Watt's Small Treasures, or the dark family tales of Dennis Tupicoff. This mode of personal revelation is much more familiar in short stories" Once again, I confused animation with stopmotion.... I seem to be getting tunnel-vision on that issue lately. So he's referring to traditional cell animation as well as stopmo (and possibly CGI as well).

Posted by EmotionToMotion, on 2011-08-01 16:21:20

Hi there, Sorry to bring this up but I stil can't really work out how the gauze effect works? I'm creating a scene of a long dark back street, in the distance at the end of the alley is a busy well lit main street. Since all my action is taking place at the bottom of the alley, how could I use this effect to create depth? Cheers, Will

Posted by Nick H, on 2011-08-01 19:28:00

The gauze gives a slightly foggy effect - in fog, things further away are less contrasty, a bit greyer looking, than things up close. In real fog it is a gradual effect - but with gauze, everything in front of the gauze is clearer and more contrasty, then suddenly everything behind the sheet of gauze is softer and greyer. It can be improved by having more than one layer of gauze at different distances. So what you do is this: First, your camera, then the front part of the set. (By "bottom of the alley" do you mean close to camera, or far away?) Then a sheet of gauze behind that, maybe behind a couple of buildings, and going right down to the pavement with a few paving stones to hide a slot so it can go below the ground. Then, some more set behind the gauze. If you are animating anything back there, you need to be able to go back there and reach the puppets, maybe from behind. Sometimes you can have gaps in the set that the camera does not see, to let you get in. If the front set sticks up and hides the gap in the ground from the camera's point of view you can actually have quite a big gap and never see it. You could have another gauze behind that mid-ground set, then the background set. Or you could have a painted backdrop, which can be painted like a scene in fog so the furthest things just about disappear into the fog. If you light the set behind the gauze, but make sure no light falls on the gauze itself, the effect will be very subtle. The more front fill light you put on the gauze itself, the paler it looks, and the more it hides what is behind it. The main drawback is that a puppet can't walk towards camera, getting gradually more distinct as he gets closer - he would have to go through the gauze. You can do some of this effect with no gauze, just with lighting. Have a soft fill light with a little blue gel hit the further back set, so it fills in the shadows and generally lowers the contrast. But mask it so it does not hit the set close to camera. In the closer bits you want more contrast - brighter highlights and blacker shadows. I've used that to suggest great distances with a bit of atmospheric perspective - that's what makes the mountains in the distance appear blue. Fog is just a more intense version of this atmosphere, that effects things much closer. With a desert set, I also painted the ground with bluer colour in the distance to help the lighting along a bit. You can also do it with the background painting. One trick I've used to paint a foggy scene is to paint the distant parts first, then lightly spray over it with pale blue-grey paint. Then I paint the next bit, slightly closer, and spray again. Then I paint the close bits, and don't spray. The furthest layers get the most sprays of blue-grey so they look the foggiest. You get a series of layers, much like you get on a set with several layers of gauze. If you had a foreground set, then painted backdrop, you wouldn't need gauze or special lighting effects, the set would be more distinct and seem closer, and all the receding depth would be in the painting. There is another way to do it - shoot different parts of the set separately against bluescreen, and composite them together in layers (in TV Paint, Photoshop, After Effects or other software). Each layer can be colour graded differently to look more or less foggy. I also use a 3d animation program, Lightwave, which has a built-in fog effect. I map the layers of set onto rectangles and place them at different distances so the virtual fog effects the further ones more - kind of a multiplane effect. I think I prefer the idea of doing it in-camera with gauze if possible, at least you know all the perspective lines up.

Posted by exit_44, on 2011-08-02 09:44:57

You can also use gauze to create a foggy impression inside buildings for example a big Church. Here you can use controlled light beams from the side onto the gauze to simulate sun shining thrue the windows, creating light beams/cones in the foggy air. J. www.weirdoughmationfilms.com