Monday, April 18, 2011

Spring Planting with Farmer Joe

If you don't like reading, here's the link to the video (, but it's more gratifying to read right to the bottom and click the link down there!

My friend Daryl came over on Saturday, and as usual we got creative. After a short brainstorming session, we settled on a claymation short about a gardener planting some seeds. We quickly bashed out a storyboard and broke down the scenes into simple actions. Since we were working at 8 fps, each second of video would require 8 different pictures (oh the maths!). So, we acted out the scenes and estimated how many shots each action should require. With that finished...

... we got started on the modelling. We had decided to use real dirt and plant material for the environment, and we needed to use the clay for props and characters. With seven colors available, it was fun mixing to get what we wanted. (Quick, how do you make purple? Yes, red and purple. I mean blue.... and how about skin color? Correct again, red and yellow and white).

We needed some structure inside Farmer Joe to get him to articulate and maintain posture, so we used a skeleton of wire, which turned out to be far to flexible and weak, not to mention its aggravating tendency to disassociate itself from any contact with clay. It turned out to be a battle, and Farmer Joe was bolstered up in the garden with various toothpicks, paper clips, and the occasional "hold him in place and photoshop afterwards". As you can maybe see, we started by drawing out each of the characters and props to scale on the cardboard before modelling. As you can maybe also see, despite this careful planning, everything turned out 1.5x bigger, so that's alright.

We were a bit behind schedule by the time we got everything modelled, but we set up the camera on a Joby Gorillapod (product placement: Joby, please give me money) and got everything into position. I decided to shoot at a relatively wide aperature (f/4.5) so we didn't get too much in focus, seeing as the background needed to be somewhat amorphous and "passing as a real outdoorsy place"

Claymation always has its frustrations, and this was no different. Farmer Joe generally refused to sit upright and as the shoot progressed, his face got dirtier and dirtier, not to mention more hole-y around the crotch and legs (courtesy the aformentioned toothpicks et al.). But ultimately we got almost all the shots we needed (if you're very astute you can work out from the storyboard how the short was supposed to end) before the sun and Daryl both departed.

Then it was up to me to assemble everything together. I collected all the jpegs, ditched the unnecessaries (the bloopers, if you will), used some clone tool in photoshop to remove a few wires, and imported them as an image sequence into After Effects. I made compositions for each of the three shots, cut together the pieces, and exported in eye-popping 3D. I mean HD. One of those.

And for those that made it this far, here is the link to the final product:

Hope you enjoy it. Also, get out there in the real world to do some gardening!


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