First things first...

Hello all,

Welcome to ZAZ animation's new "The Devil production Diaries" blog.

In this blog we will be posting about the making of "The Devil": tests, tutorials and some other delightful hellish stuff.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Building the puppets part 2--some bears

Well, it's time to move on to the bears:
The bears we built with a lot of trial and error, mainly going from one prototype to another until we had the right proportions and feel.
 We had one requisite: the bears would be the leaders of the plot, and have to hold (even without facial expressions) the feeling and the sympathy of the viewer.
We based the design on a few toy bears we found, having strange discussions on "what makes a bear cute" and what are the right proportions for the bears to look almost human. So the first mock-up looked like this:

This green bear was made with mop cloth, and didn't respond well to dies. we then tried it with a special type of Egyptian cotton, and even tried one as an anamorphic person thing, but realized that these characters can be only bears.

strange dough puppet. too creepy even for this clip
 After reaching the right proportion and look, Yoni went on to build the armatures. He built three different types, one very simple, with aluminum wire for the bears that do not need to run and hide, and actually have only to die.... Another one, with legs good enough to run but with simple arms and head and the last type was a full jointed armature, for the main characters: diamond-eyes, the green that actually thinks he has a chance and the bear that gets his hand shot off: those got the fancy armatures. here are some examples:

The furs are tinted with acryls and cloth paint. i did some tests to get the right tones, and we actually did two bodies and two heads for each, so we can replace them if tragedy happens.

The insides of the bears are of simple foam, and the extremities are filled with acrylan. the eyes are stone beads, that are more light reflective....
The bears heads are made of  hardened soft clay, and Yoni modeled them one by one to create slight differences and features. Here is what we came out with in the end....

In order of getting them to stand, move and be completely still while animating,the feet are equipped with threaded holes, and the bears are secured to the set with tie-downs--literally bolted to the floor.

That enabled us to pose the bears in extreme positions, as well as control their movement entirely:

And this is how they all ended up:

May they all rest in peace....

In the next post i will talk about a little about the set building, and some of the mechanisms that the devil played with.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Building the puppets part 1 - The prince of darkness, Beelzeboob, cutiepie- however you want to call him

Now , for the ever-elusive puppet building.
And first, the devil:

From the last post you can see that we wanted the devil to be a Tony-Montana-meets-stock- broker-dandy-meets-goat:


Yoni Bereskin, our art director and lead animator, had a distinctive look in mind:
The idea  was to give a different take in the devil's resemblance, using ready made materials that would give him an unique look. The devil's head was taken from a piece of wood found in the forest. He bleached it with chlorine for impact. and to add a touch of "good ole holy-landness" we decided the horns will be inspired from the Nubian Ibex, an animal very common to the desert here.

For even more impact, and having in mind that the devil won't have any expression features we figured it will be a good idea to light up the devils eyes: that was made with an LED simple setup, lighting up some transparent tiger "eye beads" Yoni found.

Now for the armature: Yoni built a stainless steel armature from parts we had custom-made. The armature enable us to move the devil slightly between every frame, creating motion. the armature is hand regulated with nuts and bolts.

As you can see, Yoni added some hair in the devil's back and neck to hide the junctions. The next step is to bulk the devil up using Acrylan (the stuff puffs are made of). His suit was tailor-made  by a pro, the size exactly down-scaled from a real suit. We went with a black pin-striped suit, very fashionable right now.... The real challenge was to find buttons and fabrics in the right proportion, not to give away the illusion of the actual size of the puppet.

The hands are made from silicone, casted over a fine, pliable wire to maximize mobility. this was really tough. The devil does all kinds of intricate things with his hands, including tossing coins, reloading guns and smoking cigars. The hands were designed to give the devil some expression and feeling instead of facial expressions, that like i wrote before, are not his "thing".

Weapons: Here, the work was mainly to find a toy in the same scale of the puppet. we actually found one that had the option of changing mags, offering great possibilities for animation.

And for last, the shoes: again, the trick was to find a right size toy to use as a base, and tinker with with so it will be suitable to animation. Every step the puppet takes a hole is drilled in the set to secure it standing.

Well, it added up to this pretty fellow

All that is left now is to build some bears for him to kill \M/ \M/
But that's for the next post: I will be covering the "birth of a teddybear".

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The concept

We first met the song when we got an mp3 and the lyrics from the band- carefully written on a piece of paper.

Well, reading the lyrics we knew the video has to be fast, violent, and fun (for the devil, to all others, not so much).
The concept was simple: a fun evening in hell with the devil chilling with his hobby.
The challenge now was to figure out what the devil  does when he wants to relax.
This is what we came up with:

Well, what can be more fun or relaxing than a "bear grabbing arcade machine" from hell? Or whatever it's called. What does it look like? What are the rules of the game? We took some references from some twisted s#@t we found over the net, and in the end we stuck with this Hieronymus Bosh painting, called (literally) "Hell 2":

We mixed it all together, and came up with a first concept, that you can see below:


It's just some images roughly put together in Photoshop, but it helped us get the general feeling of it.

Having in mind the space, budget and technical limitations we planned to shoot the whole thing in green screen, and compose the footage with live action footage and still photographs. To see if everything works as a whole, we built the devil puppet (i will elaborate on it in another post) and did a "general rehearsal".

This rehearsal had to test the puppet abilities, the green screen setup, the integration with live footage and the muzzle fire compositing: 

This is the first test we did:


The look was convincing. The green screen worked as a charm and it didn't take five hours to do. for us, nothing could be better. The band gave us a green light and now we would have to keep our promise of making a full stop motion video, with a bunch of bears, killer live scorpions, demon's hands, gates to heaven, explosions and mutilations.

In the next post i will talk about the puppet building process, and how we made the devil do it. feel free to ask questions on any of the things shown here, or on things you are curious about and want me to answer or elaborate on. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Enter the Devil: how we got to do Betzefer's "The Devil Went Down to The Holy Land" music video

There has always been a strong link between heavy metal music and stop motion. The textures, the darkness, the hard core imagery yearns for hand made nightmares, so when we had the opportunity to work on Betzefer's new music video for their new album, we got right into it.
Betzefer is a groove metal band with killer riffs, crazy growling and built-in savagery (you can check them out here). That's just what we wanted for their new music video, so the picking of the first track of the album, "The Devil Went Down to The Holy Land", with it's crazy beat, urgency and undeniable groove was natural.

In the next few posts i will try to give some information in "How we got to build some teddy bears, Capture three scorpions, use some chlorine, make coffee-scented sets, torture a Betzefer band member, burn hundreds of hours in front of a computer, slaughter some things, and generally do a lot of stop motion stuff".
But i would actually like to start with a few appetizers...So, here are some of the things i will be breaking down in detail in the next few days:

So, in a nutshell:
We started with a concept frame to get the right feeling...
The idea behind it: The devil having fun in a carnival in hell

the first concept frame we did
From that first impression, we started experimenting with design and materials, based on that, we made the devil's puppet.

The Devil
We wanted the eyes to glow like fire, so they were lit from within.

light him up
The body muscle was built in foam

More on the devil on posts to come.

Moving on to the "bear victims": 
We had seven different bears to build and prepare for animation. we built for the bears steel armatures to allow us make slight changes to each frame, adding up to the animation sequences. We built them with the specific movements in mind, so time and money could be saved. All "bear skins" were dyed, to create the different characters.

not a bunch of dead squirrels

 I will talk a lot more about the bears and their armatures in a specific post.

 Pre production
 Everything was shot over green screen, so we did extensive testing on it....
The strategy was to save as much real estate as possible, so we built small sets, and stitched everything up afterwards on the computer. 

green screen test
green screen supreme
 animation of the scenes:
The animation was shot in two different locations, so everything had to match precisely.
Because of the amount of action that the characters were planned to do, we used dfferent rigs and pulleys to allow them to jump, fall, run... and for most cases, die.
here is an example of a rig we did for the bears falling:

rigging setup

I will elaborate further on...

Adding Avital's hand was mostly chinese torture (for him), as he sat under the set for a whole day with his arm up. We animated his hand just like a puppet.

Avital sticking his hand were he shouldn't

And of course, the bugs. Those were a true bet. It was one of the first ideas we had, and the last thing to be shot. The real challenge was to collect all of them. Afterwards, all we did was set them free on set and hope they would do what we wanted them to do. Fortunately, the bugs were a lot more disciplined than live actors, and they eventually did everything we wanted and expected. We just had to shoot a ton of footage and edit it to our liking.

I will talk a lot more about how we did it, and show some off the scenes carnage in a dedicated post.

With all of the footage shot, It was postprodution time. It took roughly the same amount of time to composite everything and add the special effects as it took to shoot the whole thing. I will elaborate on that on  the future.

Well, that's about it for starters. I will write about all of the stages in depth, but feel free to suggest topics and ask questions....

Until then, See yah!