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doll20parts_zpsoei23o2mSo… Looking at this project from the front and kind of far away, without anything in hand and just the paper dollies stop-motion trailer from last year under my belt, it looked like simply A Good Time. A little closer up, sitting on the orange rug in the office, surrounded by ripped open bags of secondhand Barbi, Bratz, and a variety of other unidentified dolls* from the thrift store, it still looked like fun, albeit somewhat complicated fun – there was a problem to solve, and I generally like a problem to solve, especially when it involves clay, dictionary pages, ink, and glue. And over the course of a few weeks, with the generous application of all of those (delicious) supplies** our models emerged at last, rabbit-headed and incredibly tippy,*** but creepily darling in their own right.

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And then I had no idea what to do about it. Because that’s kind of how I work, right? I write novels without outlines,† I push things into motion sometimes (ok, often) with only a general plan, and I have been known to go on a spending spree at the craft store just because I want to touch all the things to find out how they feel. A friend once asked me what I thought my defining drive/emotion was, and for me it came down to Curiosity. This is to say, my inner critic is strong, but she also often gets squashed down by my inner six-year-old, who just wants to know How Things Work.

Ok, so I had a clue: I knew that Picasa would crunch pictures for me once they were amassed. I knew that we would need something stable to hold the camera while we took a brazillionty†† pictures for Picasa to crunch. I knew that lighting was going to be A Thing. And I knew that keeping track of two figurines, specifically, which leg of which figurine was going in which direction during micro-movements, was going to be a little tricky.††† I also knew that we were going to need to build a set that not only looked nice, but accommodated some really top-heavy movie stars.‡ And so, armed with an idea, we dug in to make a trailer.

Here’s how it went, bullet-point style:

– We opted for the iPad to take the pictures, because it does a better job than my phone. Also, I do not own any high-end camera equipment.

– We moved two six-foot tables into our space – one for the set, and one parallel to it for a workspace & camera. There was about a foot and a half between the two. We masking-taped the floor around the feet to mark the tables in case any of us bumped them, so we could move them back if need be. Also we duct taped a couple of the feet down and prayed it wouldn’t pick up the finish upon removal. (We got lucky there \o/)

– Books books books. And tiny birds. And dominoes. And the tiny model trees I had always wanted to buy but had no reason to buy, and a birdhouse, and some bitty paper apples. Dictionary paper, a watch key, and a bunch of fat produce rubberbands, cut into strips, to keep the slidy stuff in place – we built a set. A really cool set \o/
PRO TIP: Take reference shots. Things will move as you move all the, well, moving parts. It’s really good to know where they were before they moved. Also, if you have cats where you work, reference shots are invaluable. (SPOILER: we have 3 cats. We also employed a barricade overnight because Gunther likes the way Barbi hands feel against his fancy fancy teeth. Project board worked really well. G’bless the science fair, y’all.)

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– We set up lamps. We broke a lamp. We agreed we needed more lighting. We bought two cheap clip lamps (cheap clip lamps are The Best! Just, you know, make sure you have something to clip them to.) and a pack of 100-watt bulbs from HoDo. We moved in a couple power strips. We adjusted and adjusted and adjusted, and sighed and decided to humor one particular set of shadows in favor of dulling a big shiny reflection on the pretty green wall. In retrospect, we probably could have benefited from a string of LED Christmas tree lights taped strategically behind the set.

– We stuck the iPad on a couple books and boxes (and a tiny side table), and strapped that mess together with masking tape.
PRO TIP: I picked up a pack of foam popsicle stick looking things, initially to place between books to keep them from sliding. They were sort of ok for that, but not as good as the rubberbands. What they were REALLY good for, tho’, was as shims – we used them to keep pretty much everything level. And by everything, I mean the camera setup – we slid some under the iPad case, we slid some under the tiny side table, we popped a couple in under a book when the shot looked a little off.

– We applied generous amounts of modeling clay to the feet of our dollies to provide some support. This really worked out really badly. We revised our approach.
PRO TIP: if you want to get something to stay in place, the intuitive leap to modeling clay is great only in theory. Pick up some sticky-tac. You know, the stuff you use to hang up posters without cocking up the semi-gloss on your walls? It is AMAZING in these situations. Truly, I cannot praise the stuff enough for on-set shenanigans – with the sticky-tac we were able to make our models go where we wanted without having to employ balancing tricks; we just sort of, well, stuck stuff to other stuff where we wanted them to be and shot quickly. Hello, I ♥ sticky-tac.

– Team Salli posed the models, ducked out of the frame, and I shot. Pose, duck, shoot, pose, duck, shoot, pose, duck, shoot. Sometimes I posed and ducked and one of them shot. We did that for roughly 250 pictures – Good Times.

– And I let Picasa crunch the pictures: you select your pix from the files, tell it to make a movie, use the time-lapse option around 1/9 (play with it – you may find you like 1/10 or 1/8), and export that business. Afterward I popped it into Windows Movie Maker and added some music and fades, and voila! My friends, we have a trailer =)

For more information about Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival, check out www.rabbitheartpoetry.com

Also! If you’re poking around looking for info on making a film with practically no budget, check out the Rabbit Heart Pinterest page, How-To Tuesday for Rabbit Heart, where we’ve collected all kinds of good links for you <6

***

*Some of which were unidentifiable because they were missing a head, or were only a head. The thrift store sells them in plastic bags that seem to have been scooped roughly out of a bin marked Random Doll Parts. Or maybe a dumpster behind a daycare. Anyway, the contents are all mismatched and really ought to be washed down before too much handling. I, natch, spilled them out on the rug and decided to wash my hands really well afterward. Before I vacuumed.

**And paperclips (to hold on the ears). And a multitool (gogo Leatherman!) There’s most of a Skipper doll inside the little bun – some bits needed to be trimmed. Honestly, the most difficult part of the transformation was getting the hair off the dollies so that the air-dry Crayola clay would stick to the doll.
And on that note, I must once again mention (I know you’ve heard me say this before): Behold the humble glue stick. Your materials almost never need to be expensive, they just need to do the job. Stuff we used for this project included wood glue, an $8 glue gun, Elmer’s glue sticks, used toys, a sheet of sticky tack, roughly-used dictionaries, a couple of $6 clip lamps (the bulbs were pricier than the lamps!), and kids’ craft air-dry clay. Stay simple, y’all.

***Some of this is down to the user. I was never a kid who played with dollies. Our interns, Alli & Sarah (whom I have been known to refer to fondly as Team Salli) were able to get them both to stand up with far less stress than I.

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†Admittedly, the last one took me 10 years to complete. I’m not proud of that, I just can’t seem to stick to an outline. In my own defense, I did write four short stories and a chapbook worth of poems that applied to the same universe in that time.

††FWIW, there are easily a Brazillion Portugese speakers on the Ragnaros realm in World of Warcraft. And I have pugged with a fair number of them.

†††This is where having two interns was particularly great – one dolly per intern really helped!

‡Sidenote: there’s a serious riot grrrl rant in here somewhere about how dolls marketed to boys, action figures, stand up better than dolls marketed to girls. But since I did happen to add a shitton of weight & counter-intuitive-balanced ears to the figures (not to mention, encased Skipper in an super unnatural position inside that small bunny), this is probably neither the time nor place.

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Well, it took a hot minute, but we now have a trailer for Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival 2016! Shot on the rig that Audrey and I built from a defunct photo enlarger and some odds and ends, and pushed uphill through post-production in Photoshop from its first draft, it took about a week from start to finish.*

This was an incredibly rewarding project – I mean, just learning how to do it was pretty exciting all on its own, but there’s more, too. Seeing something grow from scraps of paper to a moving thing is amazing. Collaborating with someone to make it happen is affirming. The groove of Process is renewing. This whole thing just feels really really good. If you ever have the chance to do one, I would highly recommend it =)

So save the date, ya’ll – Rabbit Heart 2016 is coming to Nick’s this year on Saturday, October 2016!

 

*Tho’ the paper dollies took a couple days on their own back in February.

WooT! We have a fine beginning for the Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival trailer – this is the first draft, the proof of concept, if you will, that Audrey (best intern EVAR) and I cooked up today on the repurposed rig. 180 frames, I think.

Next I want to adjust the color and contrast, and crop out the messy stuff on the left and top. Tomorrow is All Photoshop All Day. Please send good thoughts – xoxo

finished20rig20at20rest_zpsagbk2depRepurposing is a thing that happens around here. Because of the lives that Will Dearest & I live, a wide assortment of oddball stuff has a tendency to accumulate in our home – I have a suspicion that this isn’t unusual for people who make art on the regs; most of my friends have a junk drawer (or room) that they refuse to open in mixed company. We’ve acquired the regular stuff – a variety of printers and computer parts (some that work, even), pallets, milk crates – as well as some of the less usual: a fussy lighting rig, a photo enlarger for analog camera film, a ziploc bag of feathers, three steamer trunks, you know, biggish and/or eyebrow-raising stuff. All of these items one of us looked at and said, “This might come in handy at some point,” and then stuffed into a corner.

But, check this out – this week we used some of it \o/

I’m not gonna humblebrag until the project comes to completion (there’s still a ways to go), but I am excited af to tell you that the first steps of making a stop animation trailer for Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival are finally happening – we have built a rig!

The biggest problem I’ve had with filming anything, much less stop animation, has been about keeping the camera from wobbling like a drunken cartoon character. I know for a fact that there are folks around with stable arms, people who can shoot handheld and make it look like gold, but I can assure you I am not one of those people. And some my previous attemts at building a rig involved rubberbands. Spoiler alert, that business bounced around like an outtake from The Blair Witch Project. I don’t need to tell you that was less than ideal. So I approached this project with some trepidation. Luckily, our fantastic R ♥ 2016 intern, Audrey, was there to the rescue! So, here’s how it went.

Tools used: a screwdriver with a star-shaped bit, pencil, xacto knife. Not pictured: scissors, cutting mat & board (I like my carpet, y’all), most of a roll of blue painter’s tape, and a few sheets of cardboard. And a pot of coffee.

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We started with two pieces of equipment: the enlarger and the light rig. The initial idea was to have the enlarger do all the work, hold the ipad and keep out the shadows, but it turned out the light was a) blocked by the ipad, and b) just not that bright. Hence the two-piece solution.
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