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October 14, 2006

Zero Refills animation movie clip

After watching most of the “The Films of Charles and Ray Eames” box set, I decided to take a crack at doing some real animation.

In the spirit of DIM (did-it-myself), I made the set out of diaper genie box. (For those of you not familiar with the diaper genie, it’s an ingenious containment device for soiled diapers.)

I lined the inside of the cut-away box with black paper. I cut the balloons out of gift wrapping paper, and made the mountains out of an old cardboard box. I strung two fine pieces of black wire along which each hanging balloon could be moved.

I set up my video camera on a tripod, and messed around with lighting until I got something I liked. I know Jack Shit about photography. When I say “messed around with lighting,” I mean I turned the hall light on, saw how it looked, then shut the hall light off and saw how that looked.

The mini dv video camera I used can take still photographs, so I positioned my subjects (the balloons) in their first poses, and snapped a still. Then I used a knitting needle to nudge each balloon a tiny distance further along the wire, and snapped another still. I repeated that step hundreds of times.

When I was just about to lose my mind, I stopped shooting and imported all of the stills into my computer. Nothing fancy, just iMovie. Since movie cameras (for the most part) take 24 “pictures” a second, and my stills were each a couple seconds long (the default length for the camera I had), I edited each of my stills down to 1/24 of a second (or 0.0416 seconds) each. Then I lined them all up, and watched them go by in real time. Voila, real animation. I added the rain digitally, for effect. I know, it’s a little much. Like putting a hat on a hat, but what the hell, I was drunk on animation power. I also tweaked the colors a bit.

Then I dubbed in the coda of my tune “Zero Refills” because I am without shame. I am not, however, without respect for people who do real animation on a grand scale. It takes a ton of work and time even for it to come out crummy. To paraphrase Robert Lowell (or maybe it’s an exact quote): Even bad cooking can take up a whole day.

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Joe @ 3:13 pm