Category Archives: Technology

Multiplane Downshooter

The final shot of the Dream of Dolls Dancing sequence takes place under water. The mermaid is floating and the One is sinking. I shot each character separately over a greenscreen, created bubbles in Cinema 4D, and assembled everything in After Effects.

comp sinking v3 (0-00-08-22)

Since I am only doing one shot with a downshooter, I put together a temporary set up with my existing materials instead of constructing something more permanent.

The acrylic sheet is clamped to the animation tables above the greenscreen backdrop paper on the floor.

The acrylic sheet is clamped to the two animation tables to suspend the puppets above the greenscreen backdrop paper on the floor.


To set up the camera for this shot, I removed the central piece of the tripod and attached it to the arm of the c-stand.


The mermaid has magnets built into her derriere. A second pair of magnets under the acrylic sheet keeps her securely in position.


I shot the mermaid sideways so I could get the camera closer to her in order to have as many pixels as possible to work with.

Once the two characters were animated I brought them together in my After Effects composition and rendered the partially completed piece as a JPG still image sequence. To create the bubble effect in Cinema 4D, I imported the image sequence for use as a backdrop and constructed an invisible model of the sinking creature to displace the bubbles made by the particle emitter. Then I rendered the C4D bubbles as a transparent PNG sequence and put it together with the other elements in After Effects. A still image of the final result is at the top of this post.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 9.03.00 AM

In this screen capture of the Cinema 4D viewport window you can see the rendered frame at the top left. The bubbles and the puppet in the background frame are visible, but the CG character model is not.

The next step for this project within a project is to work on the sound design……


Animating Bubbles in Cinema 4D

Work continues on the dancing doll dream sequences. I am creating elemental effects in Cinema 4D, a computer graphics program, and have just completed an animation of bubbles for the sequence done from the creature’s eye view as he sinks into the dream ocean. I achieved the really nice stretchy bubbles by making them into metaball objects. Then, I rendered the bubbles with an alpha channel so I could combine it with my After Effects composition as the top layer.

Here’s a low resolution test render I did to see how the timing is working. I’ve still got endless adjustments to make and some work to do with lighting the background and creating surface ripple. Also, the final animation of the bubbles will be rendered in Cinema 4D again with the background so they will have the correct reflection and refraction.

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 9.24.33 PM


The final render of the bubbles is finished and now I’ll add it to the rest of the layers in Adobe After Effects. Here is a transparent still image from the bubble render. Notice the reflection and refraction of the dolls in the bubbles.


Keeping up with Changing Technology

Starting a long term animation project in a world where technology is constantly changing has its challenges.  I shot Blood Tea and Red String in 16 mm film because, when I started, high quality video wasn’t readily available. I hope to get a new transfer of the film done in HD eventually. Seed in the Sand will benefit from the many technological advances that are so easily accessible now. The picture quality of my new Canon 7D is amazing! And I love using Dragonframe stop motion software. When I started out as an animator, I had never heard of any sort of video assistance to see how my movements were working and I didn’t even know how to anchor the character’s feet to the set!  I’ve learned so much since then. I don’t miss animating blind on my old Bolex at all.

I’ve been doing some reading about what resolutions are available for theatrical projection and what the likely direction of development will be. Right now, a few theaters are projecting in 4k but most are using 1080p.  While I am preparing my project in full HD with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, I am maintaining my source files in full 5184 x 3456 resolution so that I will be able to release Seed in the Sand in 4K, with a resolution of 3840 × 2160 or greater if that becomes the standard in the future.

Digital video resolutions (VCD to 4K)

These are two of the helpful articles that I read:

This article got very techie!