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Design

It’s Alive! The ‘Manta’ Motion Control System

By | Behind The Scenes, Compositing, Design, Innovation, Motion Control, Pilsner Urquell 'Legends', Post-production, sony, stop-motion | No Comments

 

Introducing…

The Manta Motion Control system, a portable camera crane with animation, time-lapse and live action capability.

Motion Control and Why We Love it

Over the past 18 months, we’ve been developing our own Motion Control Rig. As self-confessed geeks of anything with motors, gears, and computery bits which control them (just take a look at our logo) we welcome any opportunity to impart motion into a shot to make it more dynamic, balletic, emphatic… (insert suitably OTT adjective here). You get the picture. We’ve already used the Manta rig with great success on three projects for Sony; the Moviemix channel ident is a cheery, seasonal campaign involving 10 x identical camera passes capturing different stop-motion elements which were composited together. ‘Till Death Do Us Part captured a 6 day time-lapse of wilting roses with a single, creeping camera movement running safely during the whole time. True Crime – ‘Women That Kill’ moved the camera on a ‘forensic journey through the evidence’, stitching 4 linear camera passes (IE, no fairings) end-to-end.

(Left) Moviemix Christmas stop-motion Ident. (Mid) ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ Time Lapse. (Right) True Crime VFX

‘MoCo’ Know How

Motion Control (‘MoCo’) has been around for a good many years since the Star Wars days, pioneered by the genii that were John Dykstra and  Richard Edlund. After growing up in the thrall of dog fighting X-Wings and TIE-Fighters, I later had the privilege of training as a Clapper Loader/Motion Control Assistant learning from the superlative VFX Director of Photography, Peter Tyler, working on Red Dwarf series 5 and 6. What better way to spend your Uni summer break than blowing up Starbug?

Since making the move into animation, the advantages for using MoCo in stop-motion were obvious – where you can incrementally move the camera as you animate, thus creating the illusion of a move in real time when you play it back. While it’s always tempting to move the camera just for the sake of it, we always try to use it judiciously. For example…

Using The ‘Camera as Character’

The direction, duration and speed of a shot matter a great deal. These will set up the correct audience point-of-view whether it’s obvious why the camera is moving (Eg, moved by implied impact of something moving in shot) or subtlely exploring a world to let the action wash over you. The Animal Book opening sequence was comprised of shots which moved the camera in a clockwise direction, to complement the clockwork, mechanical nature of the production design. The stop-motion paper world of Pilsner Urquell Legends (below) took the camera full circle from the town square to lush field, referencing the point of origin with the cathedral in the background.

From darkness to light. The iconic Pilsen cathedral was the focal point for signifying Czech provenance throughout the sequence.

My Motorbike (below) was a sleight-of-hand deal which moved the set, not the camera with composited backgrounds to give a drone-style whizz round the mountain, and Bechtel’s The Engineering Machine used MoCo as a time-cheat device for layering up live-action with stop-motion.

Behind the scenes of ‘My Motorbike’ where the set rotated on incremental control. (Right) Composited end result.

Introducing…

With all this in mind, we worked with engineer Rich Sykes to bring the Manta into being. From a bunch of ‘fag-packet’ sketches and long but affable phone conversations, the 7-axis rig was slowly brought into being through Rich’s patience and ingenuity. Our spec required that the rig perform live previews for stop-motion, a function missing from similarly sized rigs on the market, requiring specialist motors and drivers. Its axis capability covers linear tracking motion, rotation (or swing), boom elevation, pan, tilt and roll (for extra dynamism), plus the necessary focus control. The camera head will take any model of DSLR and will comfortably accommodate a Red Dragon or similar. The most weight-bearing axes: track, swing and boom were upcycled from some older, but incredibly robust, mechanics which in a previous life had borne the weight of a Mitchell film camera mounted on a vertical rostrum. This hefty track bed sits on a raised chassis which gives it an ideal reach over raised set decking. The rig is big enough to give a dramatic reach over a stop-motion set, and also to cope with larger life-size 1:1 sets, such as with the Sony Moviemix channel idents. It’s portable and yet rock-steady when locked into position. We’re proud to say that the Manta is one of a kind. 

Come play…

If you have an idea for a shoot which you think could be enhanced using the Manta rig, then we’d love to hear from you. We’re always looking for new ways to use the kit and the technique to best effect. Please get in touch through our ‘Contact’ page for a full spec and rate card.

Photoreal Passion Project, Pug ‘Sculpted’ In Clay

By | CGI, Computer Modelling, Design, Modelmaking, Photo real, Post-production | No Comments

Here in the studio while the paint dries and the renders crawl towards completion, we’re always mulling over new ideas or trying out new things just for the love of it. So, in between commissioned projects over the past six months, our meticulous and brilliant Post-Production Assistant, Marija Salajeva, set herself the task of creating a virtual model of a pug as though it had been modelled in clay by hand. The intention was to create a photorealistic scenario, complete with crumbs of clay and cold coffee. As we’re so familiar with working in clay (and often so engrossed in work that drinks get ignored) there was plenty of live reference around the studio for Marija to draw from. The effect is a scene in which the ‘modeller’ has just finished their work and has left the sculpting table. Judge for yourself, but we think it’s a fascinating and brilliant study of one artistic discipline being captured with the tools of another.

 

 

Rounding Off 2016 With More RTS Nominations. Thanks To All Our Collaborators…

By | Awards, BAFTA, Broadcast, CITV, Design, Modelmaking, Nominations, RTS | No Comments

After delivering a bunch of exciting new work during 2016, we finished the year with three more award nominations. Our contribution for CITV’s ‘Share A Story’, a tale about A Shark Who Swallowed The Sea, written by Heidi Hogarth was among the nominated films in the Children’s BAFTA Short Form Category. The same film was also nominated twice in the Royal Television Society Midlands Awards, for Best Production Craft Skills and Best Fictional Television Programme. This project is our fifth project involving traditional puppetry. You can find more like this here. Huge thanks go out to all who worked with us on this project.

The Fundamentals of Animation

By | Design, Food for thought, Pilsner Urquell 'Legends', Press, Publication, stop-motion, Uncategorized | No Comments

A nice thing happened recently. The second edition of The Fundamentals of Animation was published and our ‘Legends’ film for Pilsner Urquell was covered in some great detail in the book’s ‘Design as Concept’ section, together with a feature on the studio in general. Enormous thanks to Samantha Moore and Paul Wells for allowing us to be part of this. It’s one thing to be ploughing your furrow, often in the dark (metaphorically and literally) and so focused on the aims of the storyboard, that you don’t think you’re ever breaking any ground. Being interviewed by Sam and having the Legends project broken down in such granular detail made me realise that we did actually try a few new things. We’re genuinely honoured to be featured in such a staple industry publication.

The Engineering Machine picks up multiple awards

By | Awards, Bechtel, Design, stop-motion | No Comments

Our recent film produced for Bechtel, The Engineering Machine, produced with Iceni.co picked up a Construction Media Award for Best Social Media campaign. This represents the third industry plaudit for an ambitious collaboration between us, Andi Jepson and co at Iceni and the brilliantly energetic students at Birmingham City University. EVCOM are champions of the power and value of communication, so the award feels apt especially for all those undergraduates from the Visual Communication pathway who were such a pleasure to work with.

Second RTS Win For An Epic Collaboration

By | Awards, Design, RTS, stop-motion | No Comments

Earlier in 2015 we embarked on an ambitious animation project together with the creative gang at Iceni.co and the incredible undergraduate crew on Birmingham City University’s Visual Communication (Film and Animation) course. This collaboration was recognised this month at the Royal Television Society awards in the Best Production Skills category. The ‘Rube Goldberg’ machine was designed and built at Second Home Studios then transported an re-assembled at BCU’s Parkside studio where a team animated the machine building itself in stop-motion prior to all the kinetic trigger points being filmed live.

This award is real testament to the dedication of the student crew who sweated buckets with the rest of us to help build, manhandle and artfully destroy it!

Bechtel_Montage_1_SFW_1

Here they are again:

A Second Home Studios and ICENI.co production

Produced in collaboration with Bechtel and Birmingham City University (UK)
Thanks to: Carillion // Crossrail // Edmundson Electrical // Hilti // Network Rail

Producer for Bechtel: Leanne Bell
Designed by Chris Randall

Assistant Designers: Frances Rice // David Checkley
Modelmakers: Yossel Simpson Little // Sarah Crombie // Dan Hayward
Assistant Modelmakers: Jonathan Kiefert // Kieron Reilly
Lead Animator: Ian Whittle
Motion Control: Matt Cusworth // Arron Sheekey
Motion Graphics Supervisor: Fraser Ntukula
Compositing: Gareth Langford // Gareth Flavell
Sound: Craig Barlow
Edit / Colourist: Alison Huckett

Huge thanks to students from Birmingham City University (UK) Visual Communication School

Clara Chou // Daniel Coetsee // Luke Frangeskou // Andrea Haenze // Hayley Harrison // Al Hassan // Jack Mugglestone // Nina Parker Noon // Dilek Osman // Waheeda Rahman // Jan Rospond // Sam Holyhead // Mikolaj Kacprzac // Kent Lau
Chris Mair // Borislava Marangozova // Natalie Sergeant // Adam Scotford // Jake Wesley-Worrall // Kieran Wilson
Grace Zhang

Thanks to: Steven Chamberlain // Matt Cusworth // Lee Metcalfe Chase // Arron Sheekey // Matt Tromans // Hilary Weston Jones // Kelvin Wong from the Visual Communications School

Written, Produced and Directed by Andi Jepson and Chris Randall

Scaling Up – Science Of Sound Gets A New Stage Set

By | Design, The Mechanical Musical Marvel | No Comments

Since making the BAFTA nominated The Mechanical Musical Marvel, Town Hall Symphony Hall commissioned us to design a new stage set for their educational Science Of Sound showcase. We designed a portal which is used to house the screen where all the key sequences are projected. The set features all manner of Heath Robinson-style musical gizmos akin to the film’s animated title sequence. Constructed by Acquis Media.

 

SOS_Set_WS_1_IMG_0606_SFW

SOS_IMG_0607_SFW

 

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – Building Narnia in Miniature

By | Behind The Scenes, Design, Modelmaking, stop-motion, Theatre Projection Design | No Comments

I used this post originally to keep the production office and other members of the creative team updated privately on progress here at the studio during the latter development stages and rehearsal process. It was a really useful tool for inviting feedback and allowing cross-collaboration with Stage and Costume Designer Tom Scutt.