Monthly Archives: November 2014

Setting Up My New Studio

We’re finally getting settled here in Kansas City. The meadow set is still in Oregon and I plan to work on finishing the meadow scenes next summer when I visit. Upon arriving at this house I had rented sight unseen based only on its location and a couple of photos, I was delighted to find a spacious basement! The house description only mentioned laundry hookups in an unfinished basement, so I didn’t know what to expect. The garage I had been planning to use as my animation studio is very small and subject to temperature extremes and I’ve heard that the hail gets pretty big around here so keeping my car in the garage seems like a better use of that space.

I’ve documented my steps to preparing the basement for shooting the dancing doll dream scenes. They will be dancing in a blank black space so the set is very simple. To get the space ready, I needed to build an animation table and cover four basement windows with duvetyne curtains.

This is the corner of the basement I'll be using for animation. My familiar shadow is staring back at me.

This is the corner of the basement I’ll be using for animation. My familiar shadow is staring back at me.

The basement is large, but the ceilings are not as high as I am used to. My first thought was to build a table that measured four feet by four feet, but I realized I didn’t need a table that big for this scene and decided to build two smaller tables so that I can use one for animation and have a second to use as a workbench until it is needed for expanding the animation space. My first step was to draw a plan for the table and make a list of supplies.

You see that I have listed the prices of some of the supplies and the Lowes product code for the metal sheet.

You see that I have listed the prices of some of the supplies and the Lowes product code for the metal sheet.

No work bench and no chop saw? No problem. I've got a big box and a miter saw. A little wobbly and slow, but it worked.

No workbench and no chop saw? No problem. I’ve got a big box and a miter saw. A little wobbly and slow, but it worked. Who needs a workbench to build a workbench!

I started by assemble the short sides of the table. My shadow keeps me company.

I assembled the short sides of the table first. My shadow kept me company.

Here is where it would have been handy to have a little help, but I managed to get the first long side attached to the short sides on my own and nearly square.

Here is where it would have been handy to have a little help, but I managed to get the long sides attached to the short sides on my own and nearly square.

Done! The table top is made with a 48" x 27" sheet of 19/32" plywood. covered with galvanized steel sheets. These sheets were easy to find at Lowes. I prefer the metal sheet I used for the meadow set because it was much thicker. This sheeting is thin and flexible. It'll work okay, but may not be as stable as the other. It was easier to attach to the table though, because I could just nail it on.

Done! The table top is made with a 48″ x 27″ sheet of 19/32″ plywood. covered with two galvanized steel sheets that I found at Lowes. I prefer the metal sheet from Umpqua Sheet Metal that I used for the meadow set because it was much thicker. This sheeting is thin and flexible and will work okay, but may not be as stable as the other. It was easier to attach to the table though, because I could just nail it on.

NOTE 12/30/14: These steel sheets are too thin! They don’t lay totally flat and they flex while animating. Moving one doll wiggles others! Also, I found an article explaining that magnetic attraction is weaker on thinner metal surfaces. That helps to explain why they are not standing as well as usual. Here’s the article on Steel Thickness and Magnetism. I’ve made it through the first major dance scene on the thin sheets, wobbles and all, but will be replacing them with a thicker gauge stainless steel back splash I found at Lowes. The thicker metal will work much better.

Once the table was complete, I turned my attention to blocking out the light. The basement had four windows to cover so I made curtains out of duvetyne, a very thick black fabric, and hung them with tension rods.

The Window

Duvetyne is used to cover the animation table and as the back drop.

My little corner of the basement is ready to go! The light blocking curtains are tucked into the rough stone windowsills and the animation table is covered in duvetyne fabric. The rest of the roll is hung as a back drop. A shim is placed under the right front table leg to compensate for the uneven floor. One of the doll puppets tests the table. The magnets in her feet hold securely to the metal sheet under the fabric.

Next step: Lights! Camera! Action!