HSS8123; Second Drafts

| July 11th, 2017

There’s no such thing as a final first draft. In just a few days and a handful of experiments, my ideas and projected course have changed quite substantially. This was to accommodate what I feel are is a better, more fun and enjoyable script while also smoothing out technical hurdles that could pose a serious threat to my time schedule and/or sanity.

These hurdles came in two flavours. The first was deformation, the second in keeping the damn models upright. As I quickly learned after opening up my packs of clay and throwing together some very quick, crude experimental models, dear old Plasticine isn’t quite sticky enough on its own to hold up even a small model, and is extremely difficult to keep any sort of consistency while making movements and actually animating. Legs grow stubby as they’re pushed down onto whatever surface you’re using, arms grow twisted and deformed, etc.

Mr. Prototype mk.I becoming Mr. Prototype mk.II after having a skeleton transplanted into him.

My first plan was to build on the 3D printing aspect of the project and build the characters, even those meant to be fully human and “fleshy” a skeleton I could wrap the clay around. The idea being that this would help keep consistency while also perhaps creating a better centre of gravity. It helped slightly with the former, not so much with the latter.

Luckily, professional help was right around the corner and I managed to finally get my hands on a copy of Stop Motion by Susannah Shaw. An excellent book going over all the basics and giving hints and advice for beginners. Browsing through it was an informative experience, even if not all the sections or techniques were relevant.  Surprise, surprise, the very two hurdles I encountered in my first few experiments were specific issues that needed addressed by all stop-motion animators. What I had tried to do with the skeleton is referred to as an armature, and is what actually allows a model to be flexible and thus animated.

As to keeping things upright, the usual solution would be to either use magnets and a steel “foundation” as part of the set, or to include bolts in the model’s feet which could be secured in holes drilled in the floor of the set; these holes would then be filled in once the model’s foot has passed over it to the next.

The magnet solution is both very costly and would be somewhat unwieldy in the space I have, as well as total overkill. The “tiedown” method, meanwhile, is a lot more technically advanced and far more time consuming; I do not have ample access to either resource. The subsequent workaround, which I am quite proud of, is to instead 3D print one character a wheelchair, and to change the other from a cyborg into a cyborg dog, the lower, wider frame hopefully providing much greater balance and stability.

These changes also demand a rewrite of the initial script, which on reflection is a good thing. I am prone of falling into a dangerous trap of trying to make things overly melancholy. More often than not it just comes off as pretentious, boring, and not all that interesting. I intend to wipe away all the waxing and wailing of what makes us human in an overly cryptic and annoying manner. Instead of an old, lonely scientist creating a humanoid companion ala Frankenstein, the new draft will be of an old, lonely scientist creating a simple pet, in a far more simple and wholesome tone.

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