Animation lab

with Kojo Opuni and Adekunle Somade

Kojo’s purchase of an exceptionally well-articulated Iron Man figurine formed the basis for this sketch. Setting everything in a subway gives us an excuse for the camera angle to shift occasionally, giving us leeway for accidents. Adekunle wrote the plot: A tee-totaling Iron Man is dragged onto an NYC subway car by The Hulk. Iron Man is himself – namely, an ass. The Hulk is surprisingly patient, at first.

We put a great deal of time into the subway set: I made a cardboard mockup, then painstakingly recreated in Adobe Illustrator and burned into it chipboard. Unfortunately, the digital laser cutter was not in top shape, and it required three passes to get even close to cutting all the way through. This was exhausting. Kojo completed and decorated the set beautifully.

Together, we filmed everything with a Canon 5D Mark II hooked up to a production macbook running Dragon StopMotion. The great thing about working through the program is that a) the shutter can be triggered remotely, so nobody has to touch the camera and risk knocking anything, and b) An “onion skin” overlay mode allows you to view the current scene over the previous shot, to keep positioning consistent.

Filming was even more exhausting than prepping the set. The most stable figurine when standing was Hulk, but he was also the least articulated. Tony Stark had no hope of standing on his own, and we used modeling clay (which had to be redone every shot) to keep him up. Working in small movements makes it incredibly difficult to remember what the finished gesture is supposed to look like 50 frames from now. We could scroll back through the program to remind ourselves, but it is absolutely a painstaking process. And despite our best efforts, the set was knocked more than once.

And after all of that, we still have to conquer the beast that is Final Cut Pro X to make a finished movie. Every time I open it, I feel like I’m trying to break a stallion. And failing. Dear Transform effects: Please generate icons where I used you, so that I can find those places again. Dear Compound Clips: Marry me?

Once again, I profess my adoration for Wallace and Gromit, and the team behind Coraline – you are my heroes.

Stay tuned for some “marvelous” animation.

[Update] The Fall of Iron Man


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