All of us at Bleeding Art Industries have been working on our first film production entitled Skeleton Girl, under the auspices of Skeleton Girl Productions Inc. Models continue to be built and we’ve been doing numerous tests and alterations to bring this short to life.
The first test shot featured lightning casting a figure’s shadow across a wall portrait. A very quick sequence was shot and analyzed and it became immediately clear that the current rig holding the figure in place was providing more of a hindrance than a source of stability. I realized that, since we at no point will we see the puppet’s legs, I might as well remove them. A second rig was quickly fashioned that acted like a motion picture dolly; it allowed the puppet to move smoothly from one side of the frame to the other in very small yet measurable increments. I don’t have to tell you that small yet measurable increments are crucial to stop motion.
A second pass was done. This was far superior to the first take, but now something else was bugging me. The puppet now looked like it was wearing roller skates as it passed by. Leo and I discussed this for a moment, and Leo rushed off to the shop, returning a few minutes later with an add-on for the dolly rig. Now the puppet could move up and down as well as side to side, again in small, measurable increments. If you aren’t sick of that term already, you’ll love animation.
By now almost two hours had passed between shooting the first frame of the first take and completion of the third take. Everything was looking great. But not great enough. The figure had its ‘walk’ down pat, the animation was smooth and natural, and the lighting was fantastic. But something was missing. The skeleton was missing that one most important element: character.
A fourth pass was done. This time, about midway through the sequence, the figure opens its mouth and extends its arms slightly. Both of these motions last around 6 frames each, which is exactly 1/4 a second, but these simple moves sold the character. We ran the shot forwards and backwards, over and over again, then nodded and smiled. In just over 3 hours we had done multiple takes, reviewed each one, perfected the performance and shot, and moved on.
In live action film the director usually says ‘Great. Cut. Print it’ before moving onto the next shot. I suppose you could say that as an animator. Instead, I just said ‘Great.’