‘Fabricated’ is a solo project that arose from ideas and sketches I had done depicting a world of machine-like creatures. I wondered how a new form of mechanistic life might evolve out of the materials at hand, if organic life on earth were to cease. I was also fascinated by the possibilities of stop-motion animation and knew it was the only way to properly realize the concept. The excerpt reel below is a short summary of the film so far:
I have been shooting this film for 7 years now, and as with any stop-motion project, progress has been glacially slow. Following a blog with real-time updates would be like reading a book about paint drying.
The project is now finally nearing completion. I will post updates as the final scenes get finished and I will also post start posting behind-the-scenes material from the earlier stages of the film in chronological order.
Making this film 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. The animation, set-building and camera motion have become much more complicated than what I was doing at the start, but the footage I shot back then still holds up and fits with what I am shooting now.
I hope you’ll join me as I wander back to the beginning of, and then catch up to the present state of this project, at a relatively brisk pace, of course. Thanks for looking!
Brett Foxwell, Sept 2011
Now, when I find myself at the stage of building the set for the final scene of the entire film, I find it difficult to get started. So instead, I spend days on end animating this shot of Big D, the Tyrannosaur being assembled. After shooting the scripted shots for a particular scene, I often try to have a little fun with a one-off whimsical concept shot that is not meant for the finished film. These shots always end up being as tedious and difficult to shoot as the scripted shots, but the results are usually worth it. I get good ideas that I wouldn’t have had otherwise and I am able to try out, and discard, bad ideas in the safety of a non-scripted shot.
The climactic confrontation between Little Joe and his electro-reptilian-nemesis, Big D, has now been completed. 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. I hope the set looks alien and otherworldly enough, after so many months of staring at it, it was beginning to feel everyday and commonplace.
In this set, which I refer to as the bullsh*t grinder, Little Joe 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:
The middle shot, where he passes out after his world begins to blur, is an idea for a shot that i’ve wanted to try for a long time. It is an in-camera shot, with the X-blur and the Y-blur created practically. Little Joe 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 took forever and was a frustrating rig to work with, but it turned out beautifully and I am quite taken with it.
At the end of scene 1, Little Joe has been assembled and is starting to walk. He is a difficult character to animate walking. This video shows my first test animations of his walk. Much room for improvement is visible even to the untrained eye.
Luckily, the learning curve worked in my favor; he 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:
Here I am going to town, animating Little Joe, going to town:
After I had started constructing BigD, the Tyrannosaur, I realized it would be a very long build, so I designed and built Little Joe first, as he was to be the main character. He would be a hybrid construction of scavenged bone parts adorning a stainless steel skeleton. It was as though the design of this new mechanical creature needed existing organic fragments to inspire the shape and function of the underlying metallic structure. This would become an important concept as I set out to design and build the world of the film.
This is the steel skeleton:
I wanted the opening sequence to show his assembly. This photo shows the rough sketch and the first parts of the assembly line:
This next image is of 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. Here is a short video, time lapse and then live-action 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 whole film. It was April 2005 and there was no turning back now.
The first part of this project to materialize were the teeth. I found this shard of bone and teeth when I was living in Miami. It was in a pile of seaweed on the shore near Matheson Hammocks.
I still don’t know who the original owner was. Finding it on the ocean shore, I assumed it was from something aquatic, but I haven’t been able to place it. It is 2.5″ long, does anyone out there recognize it?
It has a row of good sharp teeth and 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 dinosaur looked back at me. One thing led to another, and Big D was born:
Big D, the Tyranosaur from bfophoto on Vimeo.