Click on a picture to see the original version or the new version.

For more information about how this shot was created, see below!

After cutting the completed version of this shot into the sequence, I felt that it didn't have the right "feeling". The guy is ostensibly being chased by something and it just seemed as if he were going for a pleasant jog in the middle of the day. So I added some graduation filters at the top and bottom and then brought the overall brightness and saturation down to give it a more foreboding look. Click on the picture above to see the new version. Click HERE to see the old version.

Scene 2 is about 3 seconds of a man or young boy running through the jungle (hard to tell).


Decided to test the feasibility of using a real boy dressed appropriately and then shooting him running using a high speed shutter to freeze the action. I would then use the footage to create a running cycle. These individual frames would either be used directly or as a reference to animate a puppet scaled to the appropriate size.


I recruited the son of my secretary, Sugar. His name is Jaren and he was game enough to wear a black wig and some torn clothing and run barefoot on a fairly brisk winter day. What a trooper. We purposely exagerated the hair and clothing in a basic attempt to make him look more "puppet-like". This was necessary in case I decided to use the actual footage of him running. I wanted to make sure that it mixed in with the rest of the stop motion shots. By using a high speed shutter, his body position would be "frozen" and exhibit no motion blur which, theoretically, should make him look more animated and less fluid.


Here's Jaren strutting his stuff for the camera.


Kind of hard to tell but I had the camer turned side ways so that I could maximize the resolution of the image in the HD video frame. In other words, I was shooting him running as a vertical, which meant that the captured footage was sideways. But that was easily rotated in post for proper viewing.


Here's the jungle set under construction. Note the first surface mirror inserted into the set as a pond. The set is actually in three sections. The front two sections move independently with the foreground moving at twice the speed of the mid ground section, while the back section does not move at all. This will create a multiplane effect that will force the perspective of the set while the camera appears to track with the running boy or puppet (still haven't decided).


Two different lighting tests. One above and one below. Both on an unfinished set.


Obviously, the set still needs to be painted and plants added, etc. But this should give me enough information about lighting and whether to use the photos as replacement animation or whether to use a puppet. The jury's still out......


So the jury's in and I have decided to go ahead and make a puppet. The photo cut outs would work perfectly fine but I really want to have the camera rotate around the subject and the flat nature of the photo cut outs would not allow that kind of depth and movement.. Also, upon closer inspection, the guy running isn't a young boy but, rather, a small man. So I decided to whip out a puppet. Here we go!

Puppet Making 101:


First I roughed an outline on block of wood.


Next the figure is cut using a band saw.


A bit of sanding to give it some shape.


Normally, I would make a metal ball and socket armature. However, since this puppet is always running in a straight line, simple wooden swivels will work just fine. Actually, swivels make animation of repetitive movements much easier and more precise as ball and socket joints tend to "wander" and have to constantly be kept in line, depending on the design of the armature. You will notice that the arms have no joints at the elbow. After looking at the reference footage, it appeared that just keeping the arms at an angle while they swing would suffice. The head is permanently attached with no joint, as well. This is because there is no need to turn the head and, also, because the puppet will be supported by a bracket from above on the far side of the head.


The head was covered with wood filler and let dry and then carved. I gotta tell you, this is a really, really tiny puppet, which makes carving and sculpting a real pain. Since it appears the figure is a man, I decided to make him an older man, as wrinkles and craggy features are easier to produce in miniature than the smooth skin of a younger person. I also exagerated his features into a more "native" look.  The hair is sculpted in place and a depression built in to accomodate the head band.


Since the puppet is always seen from his left side, I was able to attach an overhead support directly to his off-camera side. This support will have a positive register that can repeatedly be removed or put back in place for each frame. This will allow me to remove the puppet from the set, bend it into a new position off-set by comparing it to a 1:1 frame of the running boy, then put the puppet back in place accurately, as if it were pin registered. However, while the puppet is absent from the set, I will shoot an additional frame of the set "clean". This clean shot will be used to erase the overhead support when the two shots are combined on a per frame basis in Photoshop.


Unfortunately, neither Brandi nor I sew worth spit, even for full size clothing. So I needed to call in a pro. Here my wife, Annette, struggles with the tiniest pair of britches she's ever handled (and you can read into that what you will).

Below is another lighting test for the finished puppet.


Again, the set is not finished but this shot allows me to see what the completed puppet will look like. In all, I like this much better than the photo cut out, which mandated a side view. And using an overhead support instead of traditional tie-downs allows the option of mid-air poses not usually practical with tie downs through the toes. Though not as detailed as could be achieved on a larger puppet, this will suffice for a wide, three second shot of him in continuous motion. I color matched the acrylic paint on his skin to some tan colored clay that we have in stock. That way I can use the clay to cover the screw heads at the joints on his shoulders and ankles. My goal is a level of realism that makes it visually interesting while also reflecting the traditional "Hanna Barbara" look typical of the series.

Completed the overhead support system for the puppet.


Again, the set is not anywhere complete but I needed to get the overhead support in place before making decisions about plant placement,  running path, etc.  The top black knob is loosened so the entire lower support column can be removed in between exposures. This is necessary for two reasons. One is to reposition the puppet and the other is to take a second "clean" shot of the set without the overhead support. Below is an example of how this works.

Above you can clearly see the support bracket above the puppet. The part of the bracket behind his head was colored bright red so that I could key that out and not have to manually roto (cut out) around his head for every single frame. So the red allows an automatic cut and then final cleaning is done using the erase tool in Photoshop.


Above is a frame where the bracket has been removed. The area directly above the puppet's head is from a totally different frame.


In between each exposure, the support column (with the puppet still attached) is moved to a positioning easel. This easel has a locking system that is identical to the one above the set. There are a total of 15 positions taken from the footage I shot of the boy running. These positions form the complete running cycle that will be used for the 3 second shot. Those have been printed out onto 8.5 x 11 sheets, each of which will "corner up" for repeatable registration. The puppet is then bent into a position to match the photo on the paper.


The support column has a separate, smaller column that can be moved up and down independently of the larger support column. There is a numbered vertical scale that tells me what height to move the smaller column to raise the puppet up and down for each frame. This is necessary since his running makes him move up and down during the shot. Though this all sounds complicated, it really isn't. I just move the set to its new position (since the background is moving), put the column in place, take a frame, then loosen the top knob, remove the column, take a "clean" shot, put the column on the easel, reposition him based on the photo, then put the column back on the set.
I then repeat this about 70 times for the entire clip! :)

I did a sample running cycle, just to test the whole concept. The background isn't moving, so the puppet appears to "moonwalk" but it shows that the system works.

Click HERE to see the run cycle test!
(no audio).

Big day! Completed the jungle-run set and made ready to shoot.

(For a larger view of this photo, click HERE.)

The whole set is about 8 feet in length and slides side to side in increments. Oddly enough, this is just low-tech wood on wood. My wife, Annette, had the brilliant idea to coat the platform with Johnson's Paste Wax. Incredible. You can slide this huge, heavy piece of wood side to side with one hand effortlessly. I may never machine another motion control track again. In the foreground you can see the positioning easel with the puppet in place. The rocky background is just foil painted gray/green.


(For a larger view of this photo, click HERE.)

Here you can see the camera swing arm. The pivot point of the swing arm is directly underneath the puppet. So as the set is advanced side to side in increments, the camera swings in increments around the puppet.  Interestingly, because all the increments are numbered and, because I knew the numerical sequence of the running cycle, I could predict where the set and camera would be for any given puppet position. This saved a tremendous amount of time because I could pose the puppet in position #1 just one time only and then slide the camera and set to the position that would correspond to that pose, take a frame, then advance the set and camera on down the line to the next set/camera position that would feature puppet pose #1, take a frame, etc. Then I would position the puppet in pose #2 and repeat through all 15 poses. Though the final animation has 84 frames with the puppet repeating its run cycle about 5 and a half times, I only had to animate the puppet one time! :)

Of course, since I was shooting the animation out of sequence, I made sure that I put a sticky note on the overhead rig for each shot with a number so I could put the individual frames back in order. Otherwise, it would have been a nightmare. The upside in doing it this way was that it saved time and wear and tear on the puppet joints. It also reduced the likelihood of errors. The downside is that I could not use my animation preview program to play back the footage as I shot. So I just had to forge ahead and see if it all worked after I was finished a few hours later.

Because the scene goes by so fast, I decided to post a larger image so those interested can see the set detail.
Click on the picture for a larger view.


Thanks for looking!


All information, videos, photos and graphics in this website are copyright 2009, Roger Evans. All rights reserved.
For those that enjoy the creak of leather, click HERE for my gallery of western art paintings