In DitoGear™ Spotlight #6 we are sharing an interesting video by Adam Makarenko, who dedicated part of his living space to create this project. He will show us how to bring life into a world of miniatures. Don’t miss that!
And what’s your latest project? Share your interesting stories in the next spotlight.
“The Glory” is an epic song by Royal Wood that will require an epic video to bring the visual interpretation of this song to life. It is a song that looks at how we take things for granted, while often ignoring the delicate balance of our existence. The song speaks of something bigger than ourselves, but we tend to easily miss the big picture while we are in the trenches of our petty earthly drama. The song is a message that represents life on a grand scale. It examines our connection to everything.
As a result, the video for “The Glory” will take the viewer through a miniature hyper-realistic time-lapsed world, which will focus in on a variety of different natural environments that showcases life on a grand scale. It will also interweave performance shots of Royal who represents the human component within the context of the songs narrative – a player on the stage of life.
Patryk Kizny: Adam, could you tell us about the idea of using time-lapse technique in your production?
Adam Makarenko: This particular project (Royal Wood – The Glory) really required a stop motion control dolly. I wanted to emulate the feeling of real life time-lapse, but in miniature.
I did a lot of research when it came to choosing the right dolly, and I felt that the DitoGear OmniSlider was the best option out of all the other ones I looked at. I also liked the fact that the people who have created this dolly are also artists/filmmakers themselves working in stop motion and other forms of film making.
PK: Why did you want to create such a specific vibe in your project?
AM: Royal Wood – The Glory is a song about the bigger picture, essentially things bigger than ourselves (i.e. the universe, matter, spirit, God, etc.). I tried to go for an epic feel in every image – attempting to bring life to miniature nature. I also wanted to do things in stop motion that have not been done often. Mainly I wanted to take the ideas of real life time-lapse and put them into miniature.
PK: What makes your project stand out from the rest projects of similar kind?
AM: This music video is representative of my miniature work. I don’t think that there is anything like it out there.
PK: What were main challenges you had to face?
AM: I had to cope with a never ending amount of challenges. These challenges included everything from setting a sun into a lens off of blue screen, to emulating the correct optics in miniature as compared to real life. With miniature sets everything is so delicate, that it can fall apart really easily – so there is also the challenge of keeping the sets intact and not falling apart. There are no how-to books on making things in miniature.
PK: Could you tell us more about creating all those beautiful miniatures? Would be fantastic if you give us details about materials used for the project, as well as time spent on the preparation.
AM: Each set took anywhere from a few days, to a few weeks to make. It all depended on the scale and the details of the set. As time went on, the sets were made faster, because of the limited time frame. At first I made very large sets that took up my entire kitchen. This made it really difficult to shoot, and move around. For materials, I used everything and anything: Faux fur, styrofoam, spray insulation foam, wood, plaster, clay, plastics, Sculpey, water, etc.
I made a real miniature lake, with real water. The reason I did this was that I wanted to have the water rippling (like in real life time lapse). I put a fan over the lake when I was shooting it so that it would ‘buzz’.
The waterfall set took at least two weeks to build. I sculpted three panels (which are essentially the rock faces of the waterfall) out of a material called Chavant. Then I made a mold of each panel, and casted the final panels out of plaster. I loosely based the waterfall on Angel Falls in Venezuela. This was the initial inspiration. This set was roughly six feet by three feet. The waterfall was then shot in a few passes with the OmniSlider. The actual waterfall/river in the waterfall scene(s) is one of the only 3D CG elements in the video. Steve Bosco, who is the main post person mapped out the move in PF tracker then in C4D created the waterfall to match. We actually 3D tracked most scenes so we could add in atmosphere ad particles in 3D space within the miniatures.
The tree that I made was based on a real tree located in Southern Alberta (Canada) called Burmis Tree. I made the skeleton of the tree out of aluminum wire, and then covered that wire with Sculpey (polymer clay). I gave the tree some texture, and then baked it in the oven. Afterwards, I painted the tree with a special ultra flat tempera paint. For the shot of the tree I animated a light to move across the branches of the tree to create a moving shadow.
PK: Did you invent or apply any special shooting/ production/ post-production techniques to make the piece more interesting?
AM: I believe that setting suns, and sunrises straight into the lens off a blue screen are something of a new thing in miniatures (at least I am claiming this – until I am proven wrong).
I had a special light that I made, which was on a rig. I called it the ‘sun rig’. The light would flare into the lens, in just the right manner as to represent a real sun. I would do one motion control pass with the sun setting, then I would go back and do a second pass without the sun. Then later in post I would use a Luma Matte to key out the blue and keep the information of the flare from the ‘sun rig’ version.
Another interesting thing I did was animate a light source to create moving shadows. I think overall the idea of ‘trying’ to create a planet earth style music video is definitely something new for me. I think I was able to take this video to a higher level than I had in the past, and I hope by the next one I can go even further.
PK: What are your expectations after completion of the project?
AM: I had been on a few blogs with the music video, and I hope that more blogs/sites pick it up. I think that it is every artist’s goal to have their work seen by as many people as possible – this could be for many reasons. For me, having thousands of people seeing this equals success. This success leads to more opportunity, and possibly more projects down the road – It keeps me going. Aside from the volume of people viewing the video, it’s also the recognition and accolades that go along with it, that certainly makes me feel good after I have worked so hard. It’s definitely a moral boost, and as an artist I feel grateful for the acceptance.
I also have to sit back and say to myself that they can always do better – This how I look at every project. I examine what I accomplished, but also look at what I could have done better. I always need to improve and evolve. Ultimately finishing a project like this, and being happy with it is also a success.
PK: What were main issues encountered in the project? How did you manage to deal with them?
AM: I think with a complex thing like stop motion there will always be failures but you need to break them down bit by bit. Essentially minimizing the failures on a shot by shot basis. Can the shot come out? Can you adapt?
My video was supposed to have a bird, but the puppet maker dropped out of the project so then I had to either make the bird myself, or scrap it. These choices come up all the time with an ambitious project. In my Zeus video there was suppose to be a Griffin, but once again people dropped out so it could not happen. This is a failure that can’t be resolved easily.
Sometimes shots don’t work because of optics. If you want something to represent reality the optics have to match but this is a difficult task when speaking of miniatures. Miniatures define different optics. A landscape in real life has deep focus, but in miniature that can be a challenge because everything is so close together and not far away at infinity. So if this is not compensated in a number of different ways then the shot will look miniature. It all depends on what you are going for.
When a rig breaks, or a puppet breaks that becomes a challenge but you just need to work with it, and find a solution. In fact it’s always about finding solutions.
The biggest and easiest way to fail is with the actual ‘idea’ behind the project. If the story or idea is lame then the whole thing will fall apart. This is something every artist/creator has to deal with. The ‘idea’ is the seed of the project. Is that seed capable of growing into something spectacular, unique, awe inspiring, thought provoking? Sometimes it’s hard to tell if an idea is great or just ‘ok’ – this line can be blurred. If you have been watching a lot of Michael Bay movies you may feel that blowing things up is the best idea and maybe if you did this in stop motion it might be! Then again, it may not be the best idea.
I find that this is really the biggest challenge – With a music video, the treatment has to happen fast, therefore brooding over an idea is not an option – so it’s tough.
Recently, the ‘idea’ or story is the biggest thing for me to concentrate on, then I’ll worry about technical stuff after. I think you can get away with a lot more if your idea is great versus if it is not. Failure is huge if the idea is not great, but if you have a great idea and a few technical failures here and there they will not even be noticed. It’s always story/idea. This is why collaboration is really important, especially in film projects. It requires the meeting of many minds to create a great project. This could be as easy as bouncing ideas off fellow filmmakers, or friends. You need to take input, criticism equally. In the end you need to filter.
PK: What role played the DitoGear equipment in your production?
AM: DitoGear OmniSlider was used predominantly for most of the miniature shots. I wanted to have the shots moving at all times, and the OmniSlider made this possible. I think I used the dolly in every possible configuration: left to right, pushing in, pulling out, and even hanging upside down moving overtop of sets. The device also helped me by allowing me to do repeatable moves to create multiple plates within a single shot. I wanted to emulate the feel of real life time-lapse films (ones like TimeScapes by Tom Lowe), and the DitoGear Omnislider made this possible by allowing me accurate control and smooth characteristics of motion control.
PK: What is the next big thing for you?
AM: The next big project for me is a documentary on a mysterious island that is creating an ominous sound. The project is called ‘Zug Island’ and I will be trying for Kickstarter soon!
After that I was thinking of re-making Robinson Crusoe on Mars in my kitchen…
PK: Adam, thank you for taking the time for us. It was very nice to get familiar with your inspiring work and personality.
I wish you good luck with the Kickstarter campaign. I am looking forward to your interestingly promising documentary!
Interested in shooting stop motion?
Check DitoGear™ OmniSlider Animators Edition
Follow Adam and the video:
Royal Wood “The Glory”
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