I Feel Like I’ve Felt Like This Before…

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Ok, it’s a terrible pun, but it’s also a felt board with felt characters, so there’s not much room to go any lower on the cheesy scale. Especially when the felt board is from the late 70’s.

So, rezlife is starting up a new series after Thanksgiving called Faith Like a Child. In this series they’re going to be looking at the quintessential childrens’ bible stories- Noah and the Ark, David and Goliath, etc.- and discovering new meaning in them, and especially how they point to Christ as Advent begins.

This video was on a tight schedule. I didn’t get a hold of the felt materials until yesterday late afternoon, so I essentially spent the rest of the day thinking about what I was going to do. I generally like to try and be clever with these types of videos, so I began to ponder the stories that I knew there were going to focus on. As I pondered, I realized that a lot of the bible stories that one hears as a kid end kind of violently- with Noah and the Ark the body count is extremely high, and with David and Goliath there is a more visceral demise. So I thought it might be amusing to focus a little on this aspect of the stories, since it kind of juxtaposes a story being for a kid and its violent content. (Actually,if you think about it, a lot of fairy tales and nursery rhymes follow this same pattern- either very dark or somewhat violent. Kind of interesting…)

Since I was using felt characters, I also thought it might be funny to approach it as if the characters were aware of their surroundings and how odd it was that giant hands were moving them about. This made a nice foil to make a coherent whole out of the video- the recurring hand-grabbing-the-character scenes are intentional in that even though the rest of the video is kind of random, these tie it all together and keep bringing it back to a purposeful movement. An interesting thing about this approach is that you can combine a bunch of really disparate elements (a centurion posing for his admirers, a random golden man-statue, people drowning, graves) but still have a coherent whole by weaving a common narrative thread through the whole thing. Granted, the brevity of the video helps, but the principle is still valid and can be scaled to some extent- for example, symphonies often have very disparate sections, but often have a common theme weaving it all together.

This entire video was pulled together in 8.5 hours. This included the scanning of the characters, photographing the background scenes, recording the voice-over, animating and post-production. I had originally shot all the imagery in true stop-motion style, but I was having some difficulty getting the footage to work out right, and found I didn’t really have time to figure out what was wrong. So I decided to start fresh and do a faux-stop-motion. I’ve employed this in a couple different videos, with varying degrees of success. It is probably nearly as tedious, but gave me the control and flexibility I needed in the time frame I had.

The concept is that with any stop motion you have a certain interval between frames- consider that one is editing in 24 frames/sec, you would determine how many steps you are going to actually employ per second. The higher the number of steps used, the smoother the animation can be, and of course the fewer frames the more jerky it will be. I decided on having an interval of 4 frames per step to give it a nice jerky feel but still with a little bit of smoothness. Here comes the tedious part- I limited my layer (let’s say for ‘Felt Man’) to 4 frames, and then duplicated that. I slightly moved it along the X and Y planes, and then repeated this process over and over for every character that moves a bit. Yeah, quite tedious. (To be fair, I cheated a little bit. For longer sections, I would hand move about 10 steps, and then duplicate those and then just place them further down the timeline. With that many, it’s hard to tell it’s just duplicated, especially if the movements are slight.)

After I had done this process for every character I wanted to move, I repeated this process for the cameras as well. I also set up a couple of lights to pull the scene in a little bit.

I actually didn’t do much in post- I did some color correction to add more contrast and darken it all a bit, as well as a vignette to focus the scene. Add some music, get all the levels right, and BAM, done.

Enjoy.

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By deviantmonk

Jason Watson

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