Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Professor Puzzle & The Puzzle Of The 12 Foot Walls

When I’m not applying for jobs, sleeping, playing assassins’ creed or watching the third season of Boardwalk Empire I’m working at Professor Puzzle in grand old Shepperton. Having shown my boss Ben my animation work and set building skills he came to me a couple of weeks ago with an idea for a stage at the toy fair in Nuremberg. Whilst he was travelling around Hong Kong he noticed some frames with a fabric stretched over that when tight resembled sheets of MDF that would weigh next to nothing. So the challenge was passed over to me to try and create these backing boards the only difference being that Ben wanted two walls one 3m high by 3.5m and the other 3m by 7m! So I started drawing up some plans and checking out some ideas online to get a rough idea of what I was going to need to build and how I was going to go about doing it. After researching through some ideas I came to the conclusion that I needed to make three 3m high by 3.5m long canvas frames built almost exactly like a normal canvas frame just with much more support as they would be a lot larger. The other issue was that I was building these in Shepperton and they had to be shipped out to Nuremberg in as small a size possible but also not so small that it took forever to put back together at the other end in Nuremberg. The Toy Fair begins on the 27th and the last date for sending out pallets was the 17th so this gave me a week to draw up the designs, source and buy the correct amount of wood and then build the three walls but then also take them apart into small sizes and ship them safely on a pallet.

I decided having measured the size of a pallet that could be sent to make the three walls in quarters so each quarter would be 1.5 by 1.75 in size and could all be stacked alongside each other for transport. This also made buying and transporting the wood a lot easier than trying to fit 3.5m lengths of wood into a car boot. As you can see in the images above I built the four corners and then laid them all down and joined two so I had halves and then finally pulled it all tight screwed it together to form the one wall. My measuring wall all correct and the frame stood and fitted together very nicely. My mate Tom stands in the third photo to show the size of the walls.

As you can see above after building the first one I decided that the joins needed much larger pieces of wood to secure the frames and make it much stronger as they had to stand for over a week and not bend or snap. I followed the way to build a canvas frame but just added in the element of having to have the frame in four pieces. I had to make sure that on the front facing side that it was all flush and in line as when the fabric is pulled tight over the top I didn’t want any pieces of wood sticking forward a tiny bit and ruining the effect of the fabric. I tried to make all of the middle support beams sit lower in the frame and when the larger 1m support pieces were added to the frame I made sure that they sat at exactly the same place as the outside frame to really give a flat finish to the front. After taking about 2 days to make the first frame and source the materials I managed to make the second two (a lot better) and a lot faster, since I knew what I was doing and had the first to look at and reference.

I then started the process of taking the three frames apart and drawing up instructions of how to put them together again as I won’t be there in Nuremberg at the start (although I did manage to convince Ben to fly me out for the end of the toy fair to help out and have a look around and take the stage down!) I colour coded each frame and numbered each corner and its corresponding metre long supports. After that it was just a matter of finding a larger enough pallet to ship the frames and then loading it up with Nuremberg stock and making sure it was all wrapped and secure for its drive over. Overall the whole process went very well and I only had to make small changes to the original idea and plans, I was quite happy to take up the challenge and be building again.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Time To Test

so post Christmas and my first weekend it was time to submit a Morph idea to the kickstarter campaign and put together everything I have been working on previously to make a nice stop-motion test! It did not go smoothly but it wasn’t all that bad!

As you can see above I have now got the set made up (this morning I drilled some holes into this one side, two for standing and a row for a walk sequence.) Got the webcam working into the Helium Frog software all nice and HD, the armature is all made and nice so was good to go!

I borrowed one of my housemate's arm lifting circles to

weigh down the tripod just in case it wanted to jump up and move about. Looking at the logistics of where the laptop was before as well I moved everything around to minimise contact with the camera and tripod area of the room! So everything was set up and I was 8 frames in when my laptop died and I had to take the base off and give it a good clean (pretty sure it is going to burn out soon) and then I was off.

Helium Frog is a very nice free program to animate with and I could use reference material in the program and sync it to a frame which is a very useful setting. The video playback isn’t that smooth and it was hard to flick between earlier frames and the current live frame but that just meant I had to go for it a bit more rather than keep checking back all the time. Overall the animation process went very well and was enjoyable (especially seeing as my laptop didn’t overheat 4 seconds in) and I’m pretty pleased with the result of the test below, check it out!

Stumpy damage after the animation, if I do anything major he is going to get torn to shreds!