Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Stop Motion Animation Book Trailers

Earlier we blogged about creating some stop motion animations. We have created two more since that time. Both feature a character from Dime Store Novel named Whiskey Joe. The first was a screen test that shows him playing harmonica and dancing a bit of a riff. It's very short, but it will give you an idea of what how he can move.

The second tells a little love story that may or may not appear in one of the future Dime Store Novels. This animation is a little longer and uses a mix of Claymation and paper animation. It was really a challenge to work with the scale of the characters.

We had so much fun creating these animations that we have decided to create some book trailers using Whiskey Joe as the spokesperson for the series. Look for the first one sometime this summer.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hunting Hornworms

One of our hobbies is organic gardening. Because we don't use pesticides, I find myself spending some time each day checking the plants for known pests. It takes patience and a careful eye to spot the tomato hornworm.

Tomato hornworm
Notice how well he blends into the tomato plant. His feet are like suction cups, clicking to the branch, allowing him to hang upside-down while he devours leaves. A single hornworm can defoliate a tomato plant in a short amount of time. So when I spot the stripped stems, I look carefully under each branch until I find the little villain. Then I pull him off. It's like ripping apart velcro, except when he finally lets loose, he squirms and even tries to wriggle up and attach himself to my finger. I rip his body in half and throw the gooey pieces on the ground. I miss the days we had ducks and geese. They would come running for the worm and I'd feed it to one of them, trying to be fair and alternate between them.

The first time I saw a hornworm, it was bigger than the one shown in the picture. Its horn was fully developed and red. I thought he'd make a great model for some demonic villain. I still have yet to write that story...but I will someday. Who knows...maybe this summer's hornworms will inspire a story. When it happens, it'll be a horrific one.

As for this guy, he is goo on the ground now. I'm just thankful I found him.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lights! Camera! Action! Stop!

John asked me the other day whether I'd ever considered that we would make stop-motion animation flicks. I replied that I never thought it was outside of the realm of possibility. After all, John has been enthusiastic about 3D animation since the early days of Pixar's animated desk lamp, and around the same time, I was crafting page-flip animations in Hypercard. A little over a year ago, John decided to pursue his dream of becoming an animator and went back to college. This semester, he's taking a class in stop-motion animation, which we have both found very challenging -- and a lot of fun.

So...that's where we've been. And if nothing else, it's given us a vast appreciation for animators. I can safely say that I will never look at another animated film without reverent appreciation for the amount of painstaking, and in some cases back-breaking, work that went into creating it.

Along with a deep appreciation, our journey into stop-motion animation has opened our eyes to some exciting new ideas we'd like to create -- new ways to make our stories come to life for our audience. The actual execution of those ideas will need to wait until after the semester ends. But for now, we'd like to share a few of our animations.

The first one is called The Rescue Fairy. This animation was created with paper puppets. The pieces of each puppet were cut out of poster board and the joints were stitched together. We are both passionate about animals and animal rescue, so John's idea was to create an animation about a rescued dog.

The next animation is called A flower blooms -- in chalk. It is a chalk animation that we filmed in a breezeway at a nearby restaurant called Famiglia's (thank you, Joe and April). On a normal day, a breezeway would be a nice place to film such an animation. Unfortunately, we chose a day in early March when we had strong gusty winds. At one point, the camera got blown across the breezeway and we had to reposition it. We lost a few shots that way because we could never get it back to exactly the right position.

But we got it done and we'd like to thank Steve for an excellent meal after filming (the best Italian steak in town, bar none) and Zoe for her support and being such a fantastic server.

The final animation we'd like to share (for now) is the one we filmed last week, entitled Clockwork. We set it to the opening part of Tiny Dancer, by Sir Elton John.  It think it's my favorite. I actually make an appearance in this one -- I'm the last dancer. We'd like to give many thanks to all the dancers, especially Stephanie Jenkins, who was game to relevé en pointe over and over until we got all the shots we needed. Clockwork was also filmed at a nearby restaurant, Casa Sol. We'd like to thank Adam for his hospitality and excellent food and drink to celebrate when we were done.

So what's next?  And what do we have in store for our readers?  Well, today we'll be concentrating on learning how to animate faces. This summer, we're planning some short Dime Store Novel animations to whet your appetite. And someday? A full-length feature starring Hanover Fist, Toledo Cats, Regan Worth, and Mary O'Malley.

Do you have any preferences for which one you'd like to see first?  Let us know. We're also open to the idea of animating any of the short stories in our collections.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Raising Hope - A story from the farm

As some of you know, 2012 was a tough year for us. I won't get into details about all of it here in this blog because I want to talk about Hope. He's a calf who was born in on November 8th to our cow Princess. Unfortunately, Princess was an elderly cow (probably 14 or 15, we are not sure) and was battling an abscess in her jaw. We were treating her, but the stress of child beaaring, her age, and the infection was too much for her.

Here's a picture of Hope the day he was born. Princess had given birth not long before we went up to feed the cattle. You can tell because Hope's umbilical cord is still wet. He was healthy enough on that first day, but we were watching closely because we'd been treating his mama for her infection. We named him Hope because we were hoping the best for both him and Princess.

On the 2nd day, I noticed her bag was not developed and Hope seemed week. We filled up a bottle of milk replacer and took it to him. It was a struggle at first, but John held him and I put the bottle in his mouth and squirted some in to let him taste the milk. Eventually he took to it.

The next day, was horribly windy and Princess and Hope were not with the rest of he herd. We figured they would be down in the cedars for protection, and they were. We coaxed them up the hill and I fed Hope. Fortunately, this time John had the camera. It doesn't show here, but Hope has a way of letting us know when he's done. When he was very young, it was only a lip tremble, but now it is a full body quiver.

Unfortunately, Princess passed away when Hope was a couple of weeks old. She tried hard to be with him, standing by him and laying by him in the sun. But the infection was too much for her. On the day before she died, Hope did not want to eat. If anyone is curious -- cows DO mourn. I have seen mothers mourn for their fallen calves and calves morn for their mothers. It is not physiological, it is emotional. And that day, Hope was mourning.

Princess passed away on a windy day. Hope went back to eating and two of the other matrons in the heard, Ghost and Blackie, watched over him. Ghost let him suckle too, but she has a calf of her own to take care of, so we try to keep Hope well fed so he won't suckle her too much. We burned Hope a day later, after the winds were calm and the herd had had a chance to say goodbye.

Hope's been eating very well since then. He eagerly looks forward to his bottles. When I call his name, he runs to me, licking his lips. He eats twice a day -- between 10 and 12 quarts every day. He is starting to nibble on a bit of solid food now, so hopefully we'll be weaning him soon. Here's a video of Hope a few days ago...when he was just over 2 months old. As you can see, he has grown a lot. And he drinks his milk with gusto!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Why We Cry - Adventures in Movie Making

A year ago, John decided to go back to school to pursue his dream -- becoming a 3D animator and a director of animated films. Last semester he took a class called Cinematographic Storytelling. His final project was to make a short silent film. He decided to create a film adaptation of one of our short stories, Why We Cry. You can download Why We Cry free if you'd like to read the story.
When John told me which story he wanted to use and asked me to be the cameraperson, I thought he was nuts. If you read the story, you'll understand why. It's about 80% dialog. I tried to talk him out of it, but his mind was made up. So we had our work cut out for us. We sat down one evening over a bottle of wine and brainstormed.

John asked our friends Sandra Szendrey and her daughter Aysha to play the roles of mother and daughter. I'm glad we did because they did a terrific job. Here's the silent movie -- with the addition of a soundtrack on harmonica by Frank Miller and a few key lines of voiceover.

Let us know what you think.  Oh...and the best thing. We had so much fun making the movie and seeing the story come to life that we've decided to make another one. We are in the early stages of a movie adaptation of our short story, The Bar. It's published in Mind of a Mad Man, which is available at Smashwords and on Amazon.