I hope everyone is getting a strong start to the new year! Post-production continues with "Monster" and I have some news to share - but in order to do that, I need to wind the gears back to end of Sept last year and a really great animation festival...
...You may remember I was invited to Best of ANNY in New York City. There I shared some of what we've been developing with the facial motion capture for "Monster". Here's a pic from that panel on Puppetry and Motion-capture in Animation:
Two things came out of this panel:
1) From the questions from the audience and moderator, I realized just how much excitement there was around this (rather) NUTTY idea we've been developing of taking a person's facial performance and splicing it on to a puppet! and 2) There was a person in the audience who was developing the SAME IDEA halfway around the world!
The first bit gave me fresh resolve to delve more in to facial motion capture and the second bit actually gave me the means. The fellow in the audience, Peter Spence, is a visual effects artist in Oslo (originally from Bristol, UK), and he's been looking for ways to develop an effective pipeline for putting faces on non-human/inanimate objects. The last film he'd worked on was placing a talking face on a magic twig and the integration was SEAMLESS!
We talked right after the panel for two hours + and decided then and there that we needed to combine forces! So for the past few months and through the holidays (and fires on my end and blizzards on his!), we discussed software, hardware and workflow that would get us to where we wanted to go.
Today, we took a big first step out of the world of concept and in to the world of making it happen! Bringing back my actor, co-producer and friend Sumiko Braun (who voices Sky), we went back in to the script and re-recorded her lines PLUS all of her facial expressions. Here are some pics:
Along with shooting what was originally scripted, we also shot various facial expressions and new material for the film. It was a fun and exciting day - and great to really get DEEP back in to the project to make it better!
The technology has come a long way since we set out on this journey. Back then there were big set backs. First, the studio that was helping us closed shop. THEN the camera and software I invested Kickstarter money in was bought by Apple and discontinued! I'll admit, it was discouraging.
But now, a few years later, and the tracking system is mostly markerless instead of the awkward glue-on balls (dots on Sumiko's face are for reference for lens correction only), the camera rig mobile instead of a studio with staff and overhead, and the whole system lightweight and portable! I'm excited to revisit, relearn and reapply all of this collective knowledge to bringing YOU a richer and unique indie film.
I'll continue sharing news as we develop this tech and push to complete the short film, a project that has taught me much about patience, set backs, sharing, and amazing surprises. I appreciate all the creative energy along the way and new faces with fresh ideas. AND I THANK YOU, the backers, for sticking with this project and being patient so we can reach the finish line together.
Best wishes and big goals in 2018!
- Sam, director of "Monster of the Sky"