Rubber Onion Battle 2017 #2: Awkward Valentine

So here is the result of Saturday’s plasticine activities:

And the link straight to the YouTubes in case your phone hides the video (like mine does).

For February’s Rubber Onion Battle I used the underlit plasticine technique that I learned about at an animation workshop with Ishu Patel I participated in a decade or so ago. It consists of gently scratching out your image in a layer of (preferrably dark) plasticine, spread evenly over some underlit glass. The deeper the scratch, the brighter the line, so to speak. You then photograph each frame before making tiny adjustments to it in order to transition into the next frame. So it’s a frame-by-frame straight-ahead animation type of thing, where you cannot go back and correct something, and you have to be super careful not to move your work surface and camera.

As the more observant viewers probably noticed, I ended up moving all the things I wasn’t supposed to, as the entire thing shakes quite a bit, and that’s AFTER I spent ages editing and fixing the massive jumps that happened in the footage every time after I changed the battery. (Three whole times. I was actually pretty impressed with how long the poor thing lasted.)
The wobbly light table certainly played its part – it’s a pretty old table that has been moved, dropped, jumped on by a tiny child and dragged across a loopy street once. Then there’s the fact that I found myself leaning on this already not very stable thing quite a lot: I needed to at least steady my scratching arm, plus hovering over such a large area requires some kind of support. And changing the batteries, of course. Because the image wasn’t shaky enough as it is.

It is also to be noted that I didn’t have onion skinning for this project: I didn’t find a free program that would work with my Nikon and wouldn’t stamp a nasty watermark all over the result (which was expected really), and I didn’t want to spend a small fortune buying one for a 15 second animation exercise.

I’m very glad I had the detailed animatic ready and prepared, and stuck to it closely. In order to keep the two characters remotely on model, I traced their original head shapes onto a small piece of paper that I kept nearby and used for reference. And I think my main carving/scratching tools were a piece from a very old hair ornament and marker cap (for the cat’s eyes).

I added the sound as an afterthought: the music is from and the slap is from I’m still not sure about the slap’s timing and tone, I should’ve probably recorded it myself instead, but I’ve yet to learn to record usable sound effects.

I’m considering editing the stream recording into a 1-3 minute long “behind-the-scenes” video, and I’ll start working on it as soon as I figure out how to convert the footage into a different format.

I definitely want to stream again in the future, it boosted my productivity to unseen before levels, and I’m curious if that effect occurs every time, or only the very first one, while you’re nervous and shaky. It was great having people show up and hang out with me during the process, across the ocean and over 7 hours worth of time difference. Just as I was getting comfortable with the whole live streaming thing, Stephen the Rubber Onion Brooks himself popped into the chat, and WHOOSH! there went my confidence as I gushed and rambled on between the shots. He was super cool, and even tweeted my embarassed wave 😛 I later found out Rob was lurking in there too, which is probably for the best, as I suspect I would’ve made an even bigger spectable of myself otherwise.

I’m especially grateful to the two fellows and lady that stuck about for most of the 6 hours and kept my viewer count above 1, and gave me a reason to not feel silly talking to myself in the dark room.

5 thoughts on “Rubber Onion Battle 2017 #2: Awkward Valentine

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