Some illustrations of the characters from "Beauty in the Beast", a wonderful graduate film I worked on. Want to see more Beauty in the Beast?
Long post today.
As January of 2015 rears its ugly head, amidst the cloud of graduate final project stress, who should approach me but the marvellously talented Mr Paige to ask me about making puppets.
More bloody puppets.
Well, puppets with a twist. I've never worked in latex before, not that I was going to let Ryan know that. What ensued were weeks of building foam and wire skeletons and trying to build something that seemed impossible.
Two puppets of the same character (The letcherous frog) for a short 12 minute fantasy drama. He had to talk, smoke a hookah pipe and ride on another characters shoulder (whilst talking). Below are some clips of the finished frog in motion!
The finished result was something I was enormously happy with. The only thing I wish I'd been able to improve upon was having eyes that moved and blinked. However with the miniscule budget and time we had afforded for this project, simply redrawing the pupils on static eyeballs (ping pong balls) worked pretty damn effectively.
The film clips above were all filmed over a week of principal photography with a Blackmagic 2.5k Cinema Camera in Prores 1080p with Canon EOS lenses. I also puppeteered the creatures on set which gave me last minute fix and stitch time (A hot glue gun ever at the ready). Though incredibly other than a couple of tears at the shoulders the puppets remained undamaged by the movement and transportation the whole week.
Now for some build photos:
Firstly some eye tests from Kinder egg cores, it's unclear in the photo but these (albeit a little crude) mechanical eyes could look left and right, up and down, and later on even blink. The chocolate was necessary.Unfortunately the eyes were made more complex by the arrangement of the eyes on the Argentinian Horned frogs (of which this one's design is based.)
The sexiest of Frogs.
Unfortunately I've been disorganised and lost a lot of the photographs I had at that time, so only have a few of the fabrication process.
The frog had a foam body, with galvanised steel wire for spine and arm / leg structure. It was held together with hot glue and the latex itself. To get the colouration on the latex but retain waterproofness (for predictable English weather) I mixed in paint with the latex itself, and painted the top layers in the recognisable frog pattern of the Argentinian horned frogs.
I began, like with all the puppets, with an all too familiar paper build.
Translated into a foam prototype (Frog head A attempt 1).
The foam head (and paper sizing up the body.)
Alas, as I wrote, I seem to have lost a lot of the build photographs so longer am in posession of the foam stage of the finalised two frogs, but this was a stage where between Ryan and myself we really looked at the foam prototype, the reference photographs and worked out proportions, expression and movement.
Does not appreciate travelling economy.
Swaddled, ever the diva on set.
Really happy with the conclusion of this project. Here are the two next to one another for a direct comparison. I was pretty meticulous with the colour patterns and facial proportions, because I really had to maintain the illusion of one creature. The arms and legs I took a little more artistic license with because, frankly, the Argentinian frogs are so crazily proportioned anyway I thought it would be the least noticable liberty to take.
A very concentrated expression from me as I practise the arm movement. (I had headphones with the pre-recorded frog lines which I would immitate from behind the stump. Ryan's voice was then later overdubbed, so while my voice was only a guide, it was important to get the pace and intonation / body movement correct with the lines.)
Our sound man Joe looks truly disgusted by the kiss.
Here it is, and here they are: the puppets; walking, talking and singing at last.
This is probably the post I'm most nervous about because, in general, I was rather disappointed with the film overall. The dialogue and the scenes in between the muscial numbers lack pace and border on preachy and melodramatic. That said, the musical numbers themselves I'm actually reasonably happy with, so here they are:
Singing in the Bathtub
Smile Darn Ya' Smile
"That classy classic condiment of choice for so many Britonic breakfast munchers, all those who love that unique tomato vinegarette enjoy this classy ad for the nations tastiest gunge. This was a Spec Ad made for the 2nd year of Bournemouth University Film Production and Cinematography (BA). Produced by William Geraghty and Directed by Henry Fothergill."
This was filmed in one day on a Canon 5D Mk III in a tiny studio in our film department. The biggest mistake in this was using hot lights around food, in particular the cheese thins. After setting up for the first take the actor was unable to peel any of the cheese because the stack had all melted into one solid block, which of course we reset to get the shot used in the film, but not before the smell of sweating melting cheese had filled the studio, soaked into our clothes and dug itself deep into our noses. A lot of apologies were given to the poor schmucks using the studio the next day.
One of the most fun parts of the shoot however was the food preparation itself, all of the food in the film was real food. It was interesting trying to cook a 20lb steak to look aesthetically pleasing and grilling sausages for just the right amount of crisping on the top. We did use a couple of tricks like having a spray bottle of water to make the parsley look fresher and adding oil to the steak to make it look freshly cooked.
The pack shot proved most problematic of the whole shoot however as we couldn't move the lights to give enough brightness to the logo without also causing some nasty looking reflections AND rather unhelpfully HP sauce printed their best before dates on the white bottle topper. Unfortunately neither were something we could rectify on set or in camera so I took to photoshop afterwards. Because I have limited knowledge of After Effects I decided to export the packshot as an image sequence and correct it frame by frame, even though it's more arduous of a process I thought I would get a better result in our constricted timeframe on more familliar software. – Our alloted editing time was only 3 days long – In the end I don't think it's noticeable that it has been doctored, or that I did a similar process to hide a line in the studio wall behind the actor. I think in total I corrected 175 separate frames.
This was a short promo that I made for Oxford Brookes, with which they would pitch the team to future investors. The footage was shot on two Canon 600D's by myself and a university friend, William Geraghty, over two days where the team were testing out their Formula Student car. It was bitterly cold but I think we achieved some good results, particularly using my smart car with the roof down and William sticking through for the dolly shot!
Pictured: Not on the risk assessment