Posts Tagged ‘video’

Lazy Town: From Director’s Vision to Commercial Reality

Julie, Bessie and meAvid UK has a number of small documentaries about Lazytown on their website. You get to see behind the scenes footage, including me! My face isn’t visible, since it’s pressed into one of the puppet’s backsides, but you can see the operating position that we work in. I was able to grab a screen shot so I can tell you who to look for in the video. This was from “The Workflow.”

I’m the person in the middle, doing the live hands. Julie is operating the head and body, and Emily is crouching behind us doing the eye mechanism. Please note: This is a comfortable position as such things go.

Happy Holidays

This is the holiday video greeting from a friend’s company. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Bear head

I’ve spent most of the last two days trying to solve the issues with ventilation in ways that don’t make it really unpleasant for the actors. The thing about testing to see if the fogging still occurring is that really the only way to do it is to put the head on and start a timer to see when the eyes fog over. So, I’ve spent a lot of time with the bear head on. The other night, I edited the short video of the bear during bouts of testing.

Right now, I’ve got it on again as I’m writing this. Aðalbjörk and Josa, the actresses who will take turns being Hringur, came over to test my mock up. They agreed that it was only mildly obnoxious and that the fogging didn’t seem to be happening.

So, I’m putting the real one in now, or rather, I’m testing the real one before doing the last thing that will make it permanent. My assessment is that, while it does seem to stop the fogging, it makes the impression of heat in the head more intense. See, what’s happening is that the hot air coming out of my nose and mouth is bouncing around in a much smaller area before exiting the character, which means that it feels like I’m breathing in a steam bath.

Here are the steps I’ve taken. I had already replaced the fiberglass cheeks of Hringur with foam for a more huggable bear, but I used the standard upholstery foam rubber. I switched that foam out for a reticulated foam. You can see that reticulated foam (on left) is much more porous than your standard foam rubber (on right).

FoamsHringur bear

Next I honeycombed the new cheek to let even more air flow through. Although this allows more air through, it also makes the cheek weaker. I can get away with it here because the surrounding fiberglass adds structure.

Hringur bear

I covered this with netting and put in plugs as I did with the other holes that I cut in the bear.

Hringur bear

Hringur BearIn theory, the finished bear is not noticeably different from the original bear, but is cooler. What I’m finding is that when I’m moving around, enough of a breeze gets through all of these small holes to cool the head down somewhat, at least compared to what it was before. I’ve been in the head for about fifteen minutes now, including a dance break, and there’s no fogging. Björgvin is coming by to pick Hringur up for rehearsal. Oh, please, please, let this work when they rehearse with it.

Hringur bear visits the hospital

We took Hringur to visit the children at the hospital for the first time.

As far as the kids were concerned, it was a successful visit. Unfortunately the fogging was still happening. Aðalbjörk, the actress inside, said she couldn’t see anything after about five minutes. That’s no good.

But. I had them over today, and we think we’ve found a solution. More on that later. Meanwhile, if you want to watch the raw footage of the entire twenty minute visit, it’s here.

The visit so far

On Sunday, Mom and I went over to visit Grandma. Besides looking forward to seeing my 101 year old grandmother, I was armed with a mission. At Orycon, someone (I’m sorry I’ve forgotten who) was talking about epidemics and how one couldn’t really interview people who had lived through the great Influenza epidemic. I realized that I could. When I mentioned that, Richard Lovett said that I should also ask Grandma about the Titanic, which would have been the shuttle disaster of her generation.

We wound up not talking about the flu epidemic, or even the Titanic much. Grandma says that they didn’t have television or radio where she was living when the Titanic went down, so she heard about it through word of mouth over the course of a couple of days. That sparked a memory of the phone that her parents had had when she was growing up.

It was an eight-party line, she says, and they weren’t supposed to listen in on their neighbors conversations but sometimes, when their mama left the house, Grandma would get a chair and climb up to get the receiver. She says that she thinks her mama put the phone up so high to keep them from getting to it.

I also learned that her father was an excellent story teller and would tell them ghost stories that, “made it so you were afraid to sleep at night.” The one that she could remember was about a man who was cutting through a graveyard and fell into an open grave. While he was down there, two people fellows came along and were dividing up walnuts, saying, “One for me, one for you, one for me…” The man in the grave thought that it was the boogie man and death talking about dividing up souls and leapt out of the grave and ran straight off. She said that couldn’t remember it the way my great-grandfather told it, only that the way he told it was scary.

I remember hearing this story when I was little, but don’t know where I heard it. Now I want to find a large print version to give Grandma for Christmas.

About this time, I remembered that I had a video camera on my palm pilot and so by the time she and Mom started talking about the Indian mound on my great-grandaddy’s farm, I’m ready. I’ve edited out the bits where we start talking about family.

It was a good visit. Next time, I’ll make sure I have the camera out the whole time.

Many things, varied and sundry

Today I waited around the house for my DSL connection to be hooked up because Qwest said that I had to be home between nine and five, which was a nice, narrow window. It was okay, because I also had to be here for the gutter guys to come give me an estimate, and to sign for my cell phone when it arrived.

The downside to this, was that I also had to go down to the Portland Spirit to do a video shoot as the Cinnamon Bear. I was getting ready to leave and–behold!–UPS arrives with the modem setup for my DSL. He rang the bell and just dropped it off; I didn’t have to be here at all. For that. But the gutter guys were still coming, so I wrote a note, apologizing for having to leave, and explaining my concerns about the roof. I taped it to the front door and biked off.

Slowly. We were having some Icelandic weather here. The wind was so strong that it was like biking up hill all the time, so it took me twice as long to get there as usual.

It took about three minutes to shoot the promotional spot (I have to say, that my bear suit is nicer, but it’s also more expensive so, there you go.) and then I got on the bike to head home again.

There was an estimate taped to the door. I’ll call them tomorrow.

No cell phone. So I call and discover that the order had not gone through. The guy tries to cancel it and redo the order. He’s very nice; we get everything sorted out. Then two minutes later he calls back to say that the first order went through after all. Oy. So two cell phones are coming here. I’m supposed to be able to send it back and get a full refund. He was really apologetic.

So after sorting all of that out, I talked to the window folks again and got that lined up. He’s dropping off the contract tomorrow.

Which just left me time to go down to the NaNoWriMo write-in downtown. It’s nice to sit around other people who are frantically typing. I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked, but the companionship was a nice change.

The really fun thing came on the bus ride home (remember the wind? Add rain to that and darkness. Not good biking conditions). I struck up a conversation with a fellow who makes his living betting on horse races. Fascinating. He said that he used to go with his dad when he was little, and has been betting for thirty years. The way he talks about it, it’s like a full-time job. He was just coming home from a track and was going home to go online to research the races for the next day. We had twenty minutes of conversation about a world that is completely alien to me. I loved it.

My cat, Marlowe

This is one of my two cats. He’s a mask artist.

When he was a kitten I gave him one of those string ornaments to play with. He used to bite the edge of it, and it would flip, almost going over his head. One evening, as I was hosting a dinner party, one of my guest said, “Kitten! What have you done?”

I had nightmarish images of the kitten dipped in paint and looked under the table, to see this tiny black kitten with a giant white bubble on his head. After dying with laughter, I pulled it off the poor thing. Five minutes later he had it back on. Our best guess is that looking through it makes him think of tall grass. When it still fit over his entire head, I painted it like a jack-o-lantern for halloween. None of my guests believed me that he liked it.

He’ll greet me at the front door with it on, occasionally falls asleep wearing it, and will run from one end of the house to the other with it on. I bought a twelve-pack of the balls, because he does wear them out. And yes, he can take it off on his own. He’s an odd, odd cat.

If it weren’t for the fact that so many editors have a strong aversion to cat stories, I would totally write one about Marlowe and his helmet of invisibility.

A wee bairn and the bear

One of my co-workers was in today with his kid. She’s just started walking and is pre-verbal…not sure how old that makes her. Anyway, I fast-forwarded the latest video to the point where the bear dances. She sat there and made us play that section over and over by pointing at the screen and grunting until we did.

And with only the head, inactive on a pedestal, she just wanted to sit and pet it.

I’m thinking that’s a sign of success.

A movement test

I met with the seamstress today and she’s confident that making the jacket will be easy. We talked about the need for the pockets to be gigantic to allow the bear’s paws inside. I’ll drop the bear’s body off with her on Saturday so she can make the pattern for the jacket.

Here’s a video of the process of finishing the head and a movement test. As you’ll be able to see, there’s still some finish work that needs doing, but the bear is very close to being finished.

I’m very pleased with the movement of the bear. What doesn’t make me happy is the heat inside the head. Although I put in a lot of ventilation, it’s still very stuffy. I’m going to open up the mouth tomorrow and replace the sheer cloth I have with scrim. Hopefully this will get more air into the performer.

My biggest surprise, and my largest concern now, is that the mouth doesn’t work when I speak Icelandic. The prevalence of þ and ð (both make a “th” sound) cause interesting lipsync problems because the sound of both letters is produced without moving the jaw. Indeed, it’s almost impossible to move the jaw and make either sound. When I try to say Þú (the word for “you,” pronounced “thoo”) the mouth only moves if I really force it, and then the vowel sound changes because it’s not meant to be said with an open mouth. I’ll put a native Icelandic speaker in there tomorrow to see if they have better success. I wish this had occurred to me as a potential problem. I’ve been testing the movement of the jaw with, well, English. Silly me, it’s an Icelandic bear.

Arms, beautiful arms

Isbjorn armsIsbjorn armsI started by finished stitching the gusset into the remaining arm and then inserted the boning. I pinned the arms on so I could check the range of movement with them both there. I’m pleased. My movement was absolutely unencumbered and the torso is very light. I’ve been entertaining the notion of swapping the ribs out in the chest, but after playing around today decided that my initial reasons for going with the lighterweight boning were sound. It gives the performer a little more range of movement in the arms. That meant I could do the finish work on the torso which I’ve been putting off.

To hold the boning in place, I drilled two small holes at each end of the bones and stitched it to the armseye bone. I also had to use a soldering iron to fuse the ends of the pettisham (ribbon) which is holding the bones in place. It was unraveling, but is fortunately a synthetic so I could melt the ends to seal them.

Once that was finished I repinned the arms to stitch them into place. To my surprise, this material is insanely difficult to sew through. I’d been having trouble on the sewing machine but blamed that on the tension. No. It is the material. I should have taken video of that so you could watch me try to get a needle through; comedy in action.

Alas, I did not start the pelvis today. In fact, I think I’m going to work on finishing the head tomorrow because I feel like I deserve a break from sewing after the insanity of today. But the arms are beautiful. Everything holds hits shape even when it’s just hanging without a person in it. I can’t wait to see this on the actor.

Arms and Chin

Today was a good day. The weather cooperated so I was able to finish fiberglassing the bear’s chin. And behold! A video to prove it.

While the fiberglass was kicking, I worked on the bear’s arms. It took me a little while to figure out exactly how I wanted the gusset under the arm to be, but I’m very, very pleased with the results. I completely assembled the left arm, with boning, and pinned it to the body. The movement is wonderful. I’m delighted. The right arm has all of the bone tubing in place, so I just have to slid the boning in tomorrow. I’ll attach both arms, which will need hand-stitching and take some photos.

Next up, the pelvis.

The lower jaw

I did the next layer of fiberglass on the lower jaw of the bear today. Sorry, no photos but tomorrow, I should have a video for you. I’ll be heading in to the studio to finish up the arms and to saw the jaw apart.

Because I need it to be a completely enclosed thing, I’ll have to cut the fiberglass open, remove the clay from the inside and then refiberglass it shut. At the moment, I’m dancing with the weather because I can’t glass in less than five degrees celsius. Yesterday was too cold; today was five degrees. If it’s cold tomorrow then I’ll wait until Saturday to seal the lower jaw and do it in the studio with the ventilator on. The ventilator is pretty wimpy, so I’d rather not do it when people are in the building.

Making the Bear’s nose

The Bear without it's nose I started today by sanding the bear down to remove the rough spots. The white patches are where the fiberglass has been sanded.

I cut out the eyes of the bear, which I’ll replace later, with a tile-cutting bit on my dremel tool. While it is possible to sand the eyes down to a glossy, smooth surface, it makes more sense to replace them with the original hemispheres I used when sculpting the head. I’ll then trim those to insert the lenses. I also used a bit of two-part epoxy to redefine the eye lids.

Prepping the foam I also removed the snout of the bear. I have two reasons for this. First, it makes for a more huggable bear. Second, it removes weight from the front of the mask, which will make it more comfortable for the performer.

Carving foam is starts much like carving wood. I trace the basic shape of the bear’s snout on a block of foam. With an electric carving knife, designed for carving turkey, I cut out the rough shape. If this were wood or styrafoam, I’d use a bandsaw.

The first stage of carvingEach time I cut off a piece of foam, it takes my pattern with it. There’s a very simple way to handle this fortunately. I use a spot of hot glue to glue the pieces back on so that I can see the pattern. When I’m finished, I’m left with a blocky shape that’s roughly the same as the original nose.

At this point in the process, I realized that I had a video camera and an editing program. So you get to watch the rest of the process, edited down to less than a minute and a half. Enjoy.

Any questions? Oh, and let me know how the video works for you. I might do it again if you like it.

Reading Aloud 11: Making Sense

This entry is part 11 of 17 in the series Reading Aloud

Okay. At some point, every SF story on the planet is going to hit some handwavium. You know the thing I’m talking about, that magic point where you just have to make stuff up in order to cover the gap between what is possible and what you think might be possible sometime in the future. On the page, it can be fine, but then… then you have to read it outloud.

John Scalzi pointed out this clip, which provides the most beautiful example of speaking handwavium with confidence. Watch it and then we’ll discuss.

Okay, first of all, it’s very, very, funny. Second, although this goes way over the line into absurdity, the fact is that even though his words make no sense, at all, by using tricks of pacing and emphasis, he creates the illusion of meaning. The actor’s name is Mike Kraft and he writes and performs industrial training videos. If he used just one of those phrases in an SF story, you’d totally buy it. So let’s see if we can apply what he’s doing to an SF story.

For instance, he’s giving the made-up words no more weight or emphasis than the real things. Look at your sf story. The technobabble words in it are everyday words to your characters so you should treat them as such. At the same time, Mr. Kraft is also using hand gestures, sign-posting and phrasing, to give clues to what words mean.

Hand gestures aren’t an option for audio fiction, but some of his other tricks are.

Signposting, at its simplest, means that he changes the direction in which he is looking when he changes direction of the speech. You can also do similar thing by pausing before beginning a new thought.

Which is really part of phrasing. Notice how he’s using a pause for emphasis here, “Such an instrument, comprised of Dodge gears and bearings, Reliance electric Motors, Allen Bradley controls, and all monitored by Rockwell software is [pause]Rockwell Automation’s retro-incabulator.” It lets you know that what’s coming next is important. He pauses again in the next sentence before each of the “significant” parts of the encabulator.

He also uses emphasis, (which means that he gives a slight punch to certain words by using speed or volume) such as “panendermic simi-boloid slots of the stator. Every seventh conductor being connected by a non-reversable tremi pipe to the differential gurdel spring on the up end of the grammeters.”

Back in Reading Aloud 1: The Basics we talked about twisting words that had an almost onomatopoeic quality to them. Mr. Kraft does some of that, but not a whole lot because it would be inappropriate for his character.

He’s also using good old-fashioned stage presence to pull this off. As the character, he believes that each of these words makes perfect sense because they are all part of his character’s world. Watch his hands; his character knows what each item does.

Your exercise for today is to try and read the transcription of this clip. Then I want you to find the most convoluted handwavium in your own fiction and see how real you can make it sound.