‘Fabricated’ is the title of a stop-motion animated short film I have worked on for ten years. It is a journey through an alien world that was once our own. Radically reshaped by machines, this new world gives rise to strange creatures constructed from the parts we have left behind. It is a story of the birth of a new world amidst the decay of the old.
It is now being scored and sound-designed. This trailer is a short summary of the film:
Creating this world, and animating it has been a very interesting and challenging endeavor. I had no idea it would take this long, or grow into the miniature epic it has become. It has been a learning experience like no other and I am very excited to see it when it is done. I am planning to have the film completed with sound and music by the end of 2014.
The Kickstarter campaign to finish this film has been successfully funded! A huge thank you to everyone who pledged to this project and who helped spread the word about it. I could not have done it without all of your help and encouragement.
Before sending the puppets off to their new homes, I set up a group shot of all the characters to run with the credits. We may have had disagreements over the long working hours and the blocking of certain shots, but I could not have asked for a finer group of stop-motion puppets to work with:
I am very happy to announce that the shooting of this film is complete. Over the last few months I have finished the final edit, while concurrently shooting the final sequence. The finished film is almost eighteen minutes long and I am very pleased with it. This was the first time I had ever edited the shots together as a tight and finished piece. It ended up being longer than I had originally planned, but it also seems like it goes by too fast.
I have launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the sound design and musical score. It is a rich, detailed universe in need of a meticulous and full sound mix along with a rousing and emotional score to really come to life. This sound work will be starting soon and I very much look forward to collaborating with the sound designer and composer. This has been a one-man show so far, and I am excited to hear someone else’s interpretation of the sonic aspect of this universe.
Special thanks to Phil Tippett for the cameo. After I finished using a set of mechanical gadgets I built for ‘Fabricated’, I lent them to Phil to use in his film Mad God. I was honored to have the universe of my film co-mingling with the equally strange Mad God universe.
When complete, I plan to submit the film to film festivals. It will be online eventually, but if you would like to see it as soon as it is done, please consider backing this project.
As Oto, the main character, explores a succession of new environments, the camera is his constant companion. So the camera had to move a lot.
The slotted aluminum bars seen here, and in other photos of the project, are known as 8020. It is a commercially available aluminum extrusion system. With a set of extensively modified lengths of this material, I have developed a modular and flexible system for both set construction and camera motion control. All of the sets are built on a framework of 8020, and this allows easy attachment of motion control rails to the set, in whatever arrangement the shot requires.
It is a very sturdy setup, allowing me to rest my weight on the camera support as I lean over it hundreds of times to animate the characters. The system can be bumped quite roughly without shifting. This is very important in stop-motion, as an unintended camera shift can ruin a shot.
The camera is usually held in an arrangement similar to the following photo:
In this arrangement, the camera can be panned and tilted incrementally, and the micrometer in front can change the focus. All of the camera movements are done manually with knobs, there is no computer control. With just a little bit of math, I have achieved some very smooth and intricate camera motions.
After the rust-filled wastelands, Oto next finds a strange environment made of copper. A mysterious device is collecting oxygen and pumping it through a brass tube. Oto follows this brass tube into a glowing tunnel.
The set and camera rig for this shot.
A frame from the finished shot.
Moving right along.
The climactic confrontation between Oto and his electro-reptilian-nemesis, Rex, has been shot. This scene, which takes place in a world teeming with strange machines and long-dormant mechanisms, was the most difficult to animate scene of the whole picture.
In this set called the Machine Garden, Oto begins to understand the hidden workings of his world. He realizes his purpose, and faces great challenges to set evolutionary events in motion. The struggle takes its toll:
This shot of Oto, in a bout of vertigo, is an idea that i’ve wanted to try out for a long time. It is an in-camera shot, with the X-blur and the Y-blur created practically. Oto was attached to the camera and the camera was on a long slider which could move in X and in Y. The shot started static but then I progressively moved the camera more and more about the center point to obtain the blur during a 3 second exposure. It was a frustrating rig to work with and it took a very long night to finish shooting, but it turned out beautifully and it’s a great evocation of the character’s inner state of mind, as he crumples to the floor.
By the end of the opening sequence, Oto has been assembled and is starting to walk. His novel uni-ball hip design makes him difficult to animate walking. This video shows my first test animations of the walk. Much room for improvement is visible even to the untrained eye.
Luckily, the learning curve worked in my favor; Oto is released into the world stiff-jointed and unsure of his footing, but as the story progresses, he learns to walk and move in a much more natural manner.
The first new world he encounters is Rustville, which is a primordial metallic jungle environment made from piles of twisted and rusted scrap iron, and styrofoam.
This was my kitchen.
This is the finished world.
Here I am going to town, animating Oto, going to town.
I soon realized that Rex, the dino-bot, would be a very long build, so first I designed and built the lead character, Oto. He was to be a hybrid construction of scavenged bone parts adorning a stainless steel skeleton. It was as though the design of this new mechanical creature required existing organic fragments to inspire the shape and function of the underlying metal skeleton. This would become an important concept as I set out to design and build the world of the film.
The first parts of the assembly line as they rolled off the assembly line
This is the finished assembly line with the skeleton ready to receive the shoulder ball joints, note the springs separating the shoulder joint plates-it’s the little things that count.
Now the sequence was ready to be animated. This is video of me animating the assembly line tracking shot. This was the very first shot I attempted. It had about 1000 frames and is the longest shot of the entire film. It was April 2005 and there was no turning back now.
These teeth are where this project began. I found this shard of bone and teeth near Miami in a pile of seaweed on the shore.
I still don’t know what animal it is from. Finding it on the ocean shore, I assumed it was from something aquatic, but I haven’t been able to place it. Does anyone recognize this smile?
I started to fashion a set of stainless-steel dentures for the missing jaw. One day I held it at just the right angle and a T-Rex looked back at me. One thing led to another, and a dinosaur was born: