Category Archives: Rigging

How The Heck Do I Do This.

Do any of you clever folk have an idea how to set up this scene?

In the image is the standin puppet for Sabela — a very early WIP who I use for test walk cycles, and lighting, etc while the other puppet is getting ready for the scene.  Wow, that sounds silly — basically Sabela’s right thumb broke off, and I am replacing it.

The graphics are also temporary; I am still playing around with fonts!

Anyway, I need to figure out a way to a) cut this cabbage leaf as though Sabela is cutting it with scissors, and b) have the cut-off pieces fall into the soup pot.  So my dilemma is — do I pre-cut the leaves and then stick the pieces together with something easy to take apart, so that it appears she is cutting them?  Touching up the seams in post?  Or do I use an X-acto or something to cut while she is cutting with her “scissors?”  (The leaf is very tiny, by the way — about 1″ x 2”, and made of paper coated with acrylic, so not that easy to cut.)

Also — the pieces that fall.  The only solution I can think of is to put a thread there, vertically, coming out of the pot, to link to the leaf… but it would limit her movements so much, as the work area is so tiny, and there’s not a lot of room to maneuver there as it is.

Sigh, any brilliant suggestions?

Lighting Breakdown for Scene 14

As promised, I’ve documented the setup for Scene 14, which is the one following the Amelie-like shot of Sabela looking out the window. Here we see her from the other side of that very same window. What started out as a simple 7-second shot somehow turned into a mammoth lighting and dolly setup that took about 2 weeks to design and build.

I’ve made a video and some panorama collages of the setup, in the attempt to explain what’s happening there lighting-wise. The info is second hand from Marcus, remembered and repeated with 90% accuracy, guaranteed 🙂

It’s 10 minutes long, but be sure to watch til the end, where I show a little timelapse of the lights turning on sequentially to light the scene, so you can see what each one is doing.

We used a total of 11 lights on the scene. Three Dedos, eight Arris — all 150 Watts.

The Breakdown (more or less in order of how they were added to the setup):

1. The Main Light: Dedo with barn doors, orange gel. This is the warm side light to illuminate Sabela and the window wall. The light bounces off a large white foam core card: the card is the light source here. (Bouncing lights off cards helps to soften them in such a small, delicate set.) The light is flagged by four pieces of foam core, which help crop the light into a vignette on the wall, and limit the light on Sabela’s legs, so that they fall off into darkness at their base. (We will have to bring back this vignette effect in post, as some of it was lost when lights #9 and 10 were added at the end… Those two bounce cards spilled a lot of light everywhere, which you can see happening in the timelapse at the end of the video above.)

2. Special Dedo. This light has a projection lens and iris unit, which allows us to have a precise spotlight on Sabela’s face. The light is filtered through a diffusion gel to soften its edges, as well as a pinkish-orange gel, as her face was looking a little sickly green without it. (Maybe because of the green hue to the glass?)

3. Blue Gel Arri from Below. This one shines up onto a piece of white foam core on the outside of the wall, opposite to the orange foam core of the main light. This bounces to create a soft blue moonlight on the outer wall, as well as a 3/4 backlight to Sabela’s face. It also helps fill the shadows created by the Main Light.

4. Back Blue Gel Arri. A light shining through a flicker rig, as well as diffusion paper-backed black wrap. The black wrap has been punctured with strategically-placed and -sized holes, creating a small starfield in the window.

5. Far-Away Dedo. This orange-gelled light has barn doors that are open about 1mm, just creating a soft-edge highlight on the red theatre curtain, which is reflected in the window.

6. Line of 4 LEDs. These are lined up at the back of the theatre set, out of sight. They are placed about 5 cm from the back wall of the theatre, and cast a gradated glow there. Since LEDs tend to be cooler than incandescents, we’ve added orange gels to them.

7&8. Pair of Arris with snoots. These are placed at a sharp angle above the extra theatre wall to create two scalloped beams scraping down the side of this wall.

9&10. Two foam core bounce cards (lit by another pair of Arris). These fill in the details of the wall that weren’t lit by the scallops: the wood below the chair rail of the wall, and the wallpaper detail to the right of the scalloped lights.

11. Hair Light Arri. This was brought in at the end of the lighting design process: the finishing touch. The back of Sabela’s head was getting lost in shadow; it seemed like she needed a highlight in her hair to add some dimension to her head. The light is flagged to avoid spillage onto the window frames.

The Star Field (& Apparatus):

To animate Sabela more easily, and — particularly — to add and remove her eyelids when she blinks, Marcus suggested using a piano hinge to rig up the window wall. This way the wall can lift up between shots, making Sabela more accessible. The hinged wall locks into place with rare earth magnets at the base, ensuring that it lands in the exact same place every time.

High fives to Marcus for his awesome lighting job on this one!!!

Now to tear it all down…

*Edit* — Here is the shot itself, pre-post FX.

Groovy New Clothes and Dolly.

I don’t know what it is about the holidays — the non-stop eating, visiting, socializing, languishing in PJs til noon every day, or what, but it’s been extremely hard to get my butt back in gear this past week or so.  Not so long ago I used to get up at 6 or 7 am and work pretty hard all day, getting lots done, and feeling pretty accomplished.  Lately I’ve been dragging myself out of bed no earlier than 10:00, and my brain does not wake up fully until later in the afternoon.  The simplest of tasks takes three times longer than usual.  I feel like I’m in a bit of a daze.

I’m hoping to get back to my usual schedule and frame of mind soon.  It’s been a very sad week — we found out that our cat, Nova, has lymphoma.   Her health has been slowly deteriorating, and there’s not much we can do other than try and keep her comfy and give her lots of TLC.

In film-related news, here’s what’s been happening:

Alli has finished two of the puppets’ clothes.  Here’s what Sabela’s mom and dad are looking like:

So this is Liberdade and Xosé Luís, clothed in their 70s-inspired grooviness.  I’m particularly fond of the velvet pants on Xosé Luís — I could not stop laughing when I first saw him in his outfit, he was just so adorable.

These guys will be sitting, along with Sabela and her sister Abigail, at the dining room table in the final scenes of the film.

So that’s what’s happening with the puppets.  There’s also been lots of rigging and planning going on for the upcoming couple of shots.  Marcus has spent hours and hours building dolly tracks and rigging his 3-way geared head with scales for tilts and pans…

The tilt scale, above.

The base of the geared head, with rigging for the pan scale.

Here’s the pan scale, which is sandwiched between the head and the dolly.

The dolly, with geared head attached.  Marcus built this mostly of plywood, with a box housing the geared head that slides on two 5/8″ aluminum rods.  The rods are slightly bendy, which isn’t a problem with this shot, but may be later on.  The dolly is strapped onto the arm of our studio stand, extending beyond the arm into a diving board, which has been stabilized by several 2x4s screwed into the floor.

The next scene of the film involves a track back with the camera, which uses the entire length of the dolly.  The setup for this shot takes up most of the studio, so it’s hard to capture on camera, but here’s a glimpse of what it looked like a couple of days ago.  It’s 99% done, so once it’s done, I’d like to figure out what Marcus is doing here.  There are about 10 lights, and 20 little cards scattered everywhere on grip stands, either flagging or bouncing light.  I’ll take a series of pictures, trying to capture the setup, and draw out a diagram / map of what each element is doing, as best I can, in my next post.

This setup was complex — this is a continuation of the previous shot, looking over Sabela’s shoulder, towards the opposite side of the window.  We see a reflection of her face, as well as the theatre set in the window, and some sparkly stars beyond the window.  Lining up these three planes for the camera was quite a task…  this setup has taken close to a week to do.

The little window opens up via a piano hinge, so that I’ll have access to Sabela (who’s standing behind the window) while animating.  The last shot was difficult, because she was standing so close to the window, and surrounded by gear, so I couldn’t access her face at all to add her eyelids when she blinked.  I had to reach delicately through a forest of arms and cables and lights to blindly place her tiny eyelids.  I was so scared I would drop them into her dress, or somewhere that would be unretrievable!  But thankfully it worked out OK.

(This image is taken with the house lights on — I’ll have some pretty “lighting” shots with the next post…)

We also had great news about our lighting and equipment rental, which we’ve been given a huge break on — thanks, Dan at White’s!