01 November 2011

We dit it We did it we Did it we did It!

....A bit windy mind you, but it was great to finally get it up there after all the work. Apparently there were about 2000 people in the audience. Not a bad turn out for a show that seemed destined not to happen on a ferociously windy night.

A big thanks to everybody involved who worked their guts out to make it happen, especially the puppeteers who were seriously battling the elements on Saturday. Anthony, Jillian, Michelle, Callum, Kate, Gareth, Damo (1 & 2), Kete, Jacq,  Wendy & Scott. You guys are awesome. Also thanks to Helen for coping with the Herculean sewing task and Paul for taking the giant-sized, person-shaped tent and turning into a puppet that did stuff. Sound and light were a big part of the show as well so thanks Stephen for composing the tracks and Outlook for making the show seen and heard.

Thanks also to the funding bodies, Arts Victoria, Festivals Australia and Australia Council We couldn't have done it without you.

29 October 2011

D day

Tonights the night, and the weather is a shocker.

crazy winds.

All we need is a half hour break in the weather

stay tuned

22 October 2011

The Making of a Giant Puppet - Part 6 (face tech)

All through the development process the what to do with the face has been a bit of an unknown,

So many options...

A:Building a physical face on the puppet
  • Pros: Simple. Reliable. Always stays fixed on the face.
  • Cons: Needs still more operators to make it work in an already crowd ground crew.
(photos Michelle McFarlane)

B:Projecting one from the ground that can be controlled from the operating desk and automatically tracking it to the head.

  • Pros: Easy to set up control.
  • Cons: Hard to convincingly projec t the face as it turns to profile. Auto tracking seems a bit inconsistant and laggy.

C:Mounting a projector inside the head itself that can be controlled remotely from the operating desk.

  • Pros: Animated face will allways line up perfectly with the physical face.
  • Cons: Battery powered projectors are relatively dim compared to AC ones (like 50 lumens compared to  10,000).

    D: Some combination of the above

    • Pros: Takes advantage the best of all possibilities.
    • Cons: Too many options.
    With a week to go we still havent decided yet...but damn I'm having a good time.

    We also just addded a buch of coloured lights into the puppet which changes things a bit (making the non-brightness of the battery projector even more of an issue).

    Tending towards option D but head awhirl with the possibilies. Whichever way we end up going Ive had a ball playing around with it.

    21 October 2011

    The Making of a Giant Puppet -Part 5 (it lives!)

    Finally got the sucker up on the silos...

    First in dribs and drabs...An arm here (photo by Gareth Llewellin)...

    ...A head there... 

    Until we finally plucked up the courage to raise the whole thing.

    Several months later... it all turned out remarkably close to the original design.

    Now we just need to work it into the show. We seem to have a fair degree of control over it (unless its windy which is most of the time). Being so dependent on the weather is abit unnerving but we've little option right now but to carry on.

    18 October 2011

    The Making of a Giant Puppet - Part 4 (the dream shed)

    Luckily for us, Graincorp generously gave us permission to use one of their sheds. Just a few hundred meters from the silos where we're doing the show. A genuinely substantial shed. A shed fit for a puppet. Big enough for the puppet to sit up in and with easily accessible rigging points. In hindsight I can't image how we could have even thought about doing this show without a shed like this. Like several other things that have just fallen into place. It really was just freakish good luck.

    Meanwhile the riggers Damian, Gareth, Wendy and Paul were prepping the silo

     (rigging photos by Gareth Llewellin)

    We started hauling up bits and pieces of puppet checking what each bit did with the wind and, slowly, gaining confidence

    17 October 2011

    The Making of a Giant Puppet - Part 3 (the Skylines Sweatshop)

    Soon enough Skylines Gallery had been completely converted into a sweatshop.

    Over the course of several weeks...

    ...Nearly 200 square meters of fabric...

    ...3 kilometers of thread...

    ...And a couple of hundred meters of fibreglass pole, it began slowly to take shape.

    And Paul Hoskins started work on the puppet's skeleton too. Again, starting with the hands, the fiddliest but least overwhelmingly large bits.

    Big shoes to fill?

    10 October 2011

    The Making of a Giant Puppet - Part 2 (the head and skylines sweat shop)

    It seems there are a few schools of thought on sewing patterns for making spheres. Rounded square patterns, orange segment patterns soccer ball patterns. I opted for the orange segment design mainly because the shapes fitted in we with the roll of fabric we had. The width of the roll (150cm) determining the number of segments we needed to make up the 4 meter sphere (which was 8).

    So I sent the pattern off to Helen and whilst she was busy cutting and sewing I tried to work up how the frame was going to work.

    My first thought was to build it up like a double sided dome tent having various fibreglass hoops at right angles to make a solid sphere (standard sized parent for scale)
    Here it is with a tent fly draped over it and a projection of the animate face that one of the children at the local primary school had done. However, since its mostly white line on a black background, you done get much of a sense of the surface its being projected onto.

    So here is an image of a giant white sphere sitting on the end of a jetty, as projected onto the side of a giant white sphere destined to be used in a show featuring that very same jetty....meta, meta, meta. Shows up the structures shape a bit more anyway.

    So, after all that, I completely abandoned my double dome tent style frame and opted, framewise, for a sort of concertina type design like you find on those paper lanterns. Mostly because it was becoming more and more obvious that moving this thing around and storing it between rehearsals was going to be a bit problematic.  The easier it was to pack it up smallish, the less traumatic my life was going to be over the coming months.

    Helen's sewing studio was too small to physically assemble the larger bits of the puppet but luckily Doug Hockly generously gave us the use of his Skylines Gallery space to put it together.

    Sadly even this the space was only big enough to get the head half way up.
    Curiosity got the better of me after a day or so and I dragged it out the front to see what it looked like.
    This is how it looks on the inside . Simey happened to wander past just as I was trying to get it up and was good enough to crawl in there and hold the central pole up long enough for me to get back and have a look at the whole thing from a distance.

    Next post, the whole rest of the puppet...

    07 October 2011

    The Making of a Giant Puppet - Part 1 (the vision/madness)

    We're in the home straight now, zoning in on the Nati Frinj (28th-30th Oct) but I wanted to do a few posts on the creation of the actual puppet.

    We've dona few shows on the Natimuk silos before but I stupidly decided I wanted to do something really quite different this time. To make something part puppet... part drive-in-movie screen.

    Knowing the whole thing was going to be needing to be hauled up on the side of the silos and operated by a small team of aerial performers. It was going to need to be light. 70-100kg was my original goal for the weight of the whole puppet. With this limitation in mind I decided that the whole thing could be built up like a big tent. A combination of a rip-stop nylon outer and bend fibre-glass-pole frame inner. On top of that it was going to need some sort of skeleton inside so that we could attach it to the rig and move the whole thing around in a person like manner. That was all a bit too much to think about at once and I already had Paul Hoskins earmarked to do the clever work with the skeleton so I decided to just get stuck into the puppet design and pattern making.

    The first thing I did was a bunch of quick sketches. For me that's always the best way to think about something. Even if I end up ditching the sketches at a later point, the act of scribbling just seems to help me work stuff out.

    It still seemed a long way from my quick sketches to a fully realised giant puppet but, happily, I was put on to the wonderful Helen Blandford (thanks Greg) who agreed to have a go at sewing the whole thing together. We decided to start on the hands first since, compared to the rest of the puppet, they weren't that big.  So the next thing for me to do was turn my 30 second sketches into something a little more rigorous. 

    I probably dont need to point out that Im no kind of pattern maker but, Helen was able to turn my bunch of measurements...
    ...into this.

    Here's Freya modeling the hand of fear. It was princess day at our house that day... Again.

    The next step was going to be making the head, a sphere about 4 meters in diameter that needed to be self supporting and weigh less than 20kg.

    More on that soon...

    19 July 2011

    the Birds (Rhyme of the Ancient Merino)

    It's been a long time between updates on The Rhyme of The Ancient Merino, been a bit distracted just lately with the making of the Highly Strung giant puppet.

    Anyway, here is a clip "making of" clip of sorts with a few shots on the birds, a mix of raw green-screen shots and some with the green keyed out.

    The landing on the fence post shot I actually filmed in reverse....starting with the bird propped on the fence and then flying him back out from there. And somewhere in the middle of the shot (and at about 2 in the morning) one of the wings fell off. Distaster! There's a reason why rusty metal is not the animation material of choice for stop-motion. After a few high-stress minutes of cussing, soul-searching and consideration of the awful possibility that the entire shot might need to be redone, I managed to re-attach the wing with a discrete splint, get the bird back in position, finish off the shot and go to bed. Hot glue saves the day....again. See if you can work out which frame this all happened on.

    12 July 2011

    Highly Strung-Silos Show is Go!

    Exciting times! The Funding is in (thank you Festivals Australia and Arts Victoria) and its looking very much like there's going to be another big silo show at this year's Nati Frinj Festival (28th-30th Oct).

    The new show will feature animation I made with the local Natimuk school kids projected onto the front of a 12-meter puppet. The animation is mostly done and looking great and I'm just now starting to get my head around the construction and operation of a puppet that's 12 meters tall.

    Here's some concept art cobbled together variously from tea-towels, bed-sheets, projectors, silos, maya, photoshop, etc.

    The actual puppet will most likely NOT look like any of these but I'll be sure to post some actual real photos once the R&D gets a little further down the track and Ive got something more impressive to show than a back veranda waist deep in fabric and broken poles.

    21 May 2011

    D'days, B'days & frogs

    Well, as far as I can tell, we seem to have survived the forecast end of the world. I can tell you how much this pleases me, as I would have felt like a complete idiot having spent the world’s last week, writing grant applications (speaking of grant applications, stay tuned for some VERY exciting news in the next few days).

    The frogs however would do well to listen to the words of nut bag kooks like Harold Camping.

    I did these sketches for a project a while ago (for a project I’ll hopefully be talking a bit more down the track) and today seemed as good as any to put them up. It may not have as much to do with god as he thinks and his dates may not be spot on, but (with about 170 species lost in the last decade and 1,900 species on the way) for frogs on the whole, the end is nigh. Unless something fairly miraculous happens.

    It bothers me greatly me when people talk about biblical proof for the end of the world, or some god or other intends this or that. If the world ends any time soon it will almost certainly be at the hands of humans, and it would be good if we (as a species) would face up to that, be perhaps just a little bit accountable, and stop point fingers in stupid places. Now I realise that sticking a bunch of half-arsed scribbles up on the web isn’t going to do a whole lot for the frogs either, and frankly I’m not sure what is. Frogs are just one good example of the sort of actual real problem that I wish people were spending more of their time and energy looking into than stuff like judgment day.

    And on a final note… Jill, who’s birthday it is today, was also very pleased to see that the world didn’t end on Saturday. Happy Birthday Jill.