... before the storm.
M/Tu/W are my quiet days this week. I'm taking tonight back from the movie, since I really need to spend some time in the Nei Kung class before the competition. I'm getting stiff. And, umm, while I didn't much like Nei Kung when I started (and I still can't bring myself to do it at home), I miss it now when I don't go.
Last night I played a game of 9x9 Go with Nik, so that was cool. He picked up on it quickly, so I suspect I'll have to stay on my toes to keep him from whumping me regularly by the time he goes home.
Ummm. And I'm working. At work. Work work work. Or should be.
Oooh, the inspector inspected our house and his inspection came up good. I feel so... inspected.
I'm not sure I can even remember what we did, but we did a bunch of it. I know a lot of what we did was wait for things to get set up... as is normal.
Saturday we lost several hours due to an unpleasant situation. Everyone was ready to shoot (I think) pretty much on time, but at 9:00 our leading man called in to say he was running a bit behind and was driving slower because of all the cops.
He has a horrific drive for our little project, since he is in Louisiana during the week for an actual paying project.
Apparently, the cops got him anyway. So that's something like four tickets in the last six weeks or so... but the real kicker was the warrant for the unpaid parking ticket. So he spent the weekend in jail.
Of course, we didn't know this on Saturday (though it was the leading theory), so we waited longer than we should have for him to appear. Not so good. Eventually, we dropped the scenes with him in it (or used a body double, which we conveniently have on hand) and went on. Behind schedule.
On the upside, a couple of the cast wrote an amazingly funny song about it and sang it for us during lunch Sunday. It was awesome; they will have to sing it at the cast party if we ever finish this thing.
We had something like 13 dead people to paint, so we did. My makeup team is great! They do most of the work, so I can manage and work up the FX and generally lounge around napping.
Michelle was doing arms and torsos again this week and she came up with a great advance in our arm and torso technique. Using the paintbrush and bodymakeup (with extra water or sealer), we get only mediocre results. Hard to get rid of streaks and beading, even with stringent Witch Hazel application.
So she patted over the wet makeup with a nifty makeup sponge to smooth it out, just like we do with faces, but using more sponge so it's faster. Or something. Anyway, this seems abvious enough after the fact. It's not as FAST as it could be, but it's fast enough and she was able to keep up with the faces, which is what counts.
And it looks good. So that's great. All of our work is, overall, looking better. Of course, some days the actors' skin just doesn't take the makeup... or has spots where it takes far too well. It's aggravating! I can see why the industry wants digital actors...
Anyway, we shot Victoria in the back Saturday, blowing ghost-dust out her front.
I did a quick test on a squib tube (very) full of powder and it failed to blow. Powder just doesn't flow in a tube; it compresses and blocks the air flow.
Last week or so, fortunately, I had worked up a nice squib design using some simple origami on a vinyl glove, duct taped into a triangle, with the air tube zip-tied in a hole in the thumb and a blowout window exposed near the bottom of the whole thing. Ummm, I'll post pictures someday.
THIS was invented for head hits. The normal tubes feed air from above. I needed a packet to feed from below without spilling all the fluid out. So the tube sticks up to the top of the packet and the fluid collects in the bottom instead of spilling out.
These, then, are what I use for all of my powder hits. They are beautiful.
I also was to do a wet hit on Mr. Clark, the kindly old neighbor. This was a reasonably subtle effect to soak through his shirt to show the gun hit on the entry.
This failed to work, which was REALLY ANNOYING, since my wet hits ALWAYS work in the lab.
Doing some debugging, I discovered that the end of the tube that connects to the squib was cut at too severe an angle and it didn't make a seal. I had cut this off in the field after the tube was routed through his clothing, and I didn't think the angle was bad enough to fix. I was wrong.
So I got a high-speed leak instead of a blowout, and it just wasn't right.
We'll fix it in post.
Sunday, we had a mob of dead charge the last two living in the house, and they blow holes in two of 'em (Rafaella, played by Melissa, who is very intense). The dust hits looked great, there, too.
Then they ate the two living folks. I couldn't get crazy with blood, sadly, since they wanted to preserve the carpet and walls for later shoots. Too bad! I was ready for a bloodbath!
Instead, almost all of the blood was delivered by mouth, so it was tricky getting ENOUGH blood in the mouth to (a) look good, but (b) not make 'em gag or leak before we were ready to show. We ended up increasing the mouth load with each shot, so the scenes did get bloodier as we went along.
Oh, and there was some chewing of "meat", too, using the test cast I did of the leg I sculpted last week. So that was cool.
Unfortunately, with all this cool stuff Sunday, we ran late. Which comes after running very late on Saturday because we filmed after dark, on purpose. The actors were getting pretty cranky by the time we were done.
So I'm kinda tired, but I'm getting used to that.
Okay, it did in fact take about four hours to do the leg muscles last night. I note that I forgot to factor in dinner and random visits by ex-wives, but that's okay.
Using numerous sculpting and medical references, I laid in the three major muscles in the front of the leg. I kinda split the difference in their shape between the flat all-mushed-together look that muscles get when they are wrapped in skin, and the free-standing-round look that muscles can take when separated from their natural surroundings.
I'm hoping that the naturally squishy-yet-firm nature of gelatin will make it all work out.
Anyway, once sculpted together on the skeleton (with reference to the negative leg mold plus the positive core) I pulled 'em off and cleaned 'em up separately.
Then of course came the tedium of laying a floor of contrasting white clay around them and pouring the plaster slab on that. I'm not sure if I'll be happy with the seam line or not, since I'm trying harder to blend the clays together (so I don't get leaks), but still trying not to mar the model.
In this case, I don't actually care if I mar the model, but I still take care to see if I *can*.
Today after work I can pour the other side of the mold, mix up some gelatin, pour muscles, make blood, organize and pack, do some administrative work and print new photos, pre-assemble some head-hit packets, and pick up my son at the airport
Ooooh, I was thinking that I would have just a bunch of bullet hits to do this weekend. That and about 13 undead to paint...
It seems that we are also filming an eating scene. Mostly implied eating, mind you, but I need to make up some muscle! Egads!
So tonight I plan on making molds (maybe block, I may try for shell) for the heart and stomach, and while those are setting, I want to sculpt my leg muscle(s) and then make a shell mold for those.
Lessee, prepping a mold takes about an hour, so that's two hours for the organs. Casting the first half is included in that. Say another half hour for the second half, so that's 2.5 hours.
Sculpting could take, oh, two hours? And then prepping (+1) and then the shell (+.5) and then the back (+1), giving 4.5 hours plus 2.5, is seven hours.
Hmmm, starting at 5:00 puts me done at midnight.
Could be worse.
Then Friday I can do administrative stuff, clean and organize the makeup stuff, pack the rest of the stuff, cast the organs/muscles, make more sticky/pasty blood, and other stuff.
Oh, and pick up Nik at the airport. All of which puts me to bed by midnight Friday.
To get up at 6 for Saturday...
Maybe I need to trim things back a bit. Technically, I don't need organs and can do just the muscle... hmmm... I'll do muscle first then, and organs if I get ahead of schedule (hah!)
I think I miss my life... you know, in that "get a life" kind of way?
I look forward to having weekends again. To some actual time with Marla where I'm not tired or busy or distracted. To movies and cooking dinner and cleaning the house and paying bills on time and visiting the zoo and just sitting around on Sunday doing nothing but reading on the couch together.
Yeah, I miss that.
I've long past given up on trying to make Chunky Stuff come out of the head hit squib, mostly because it's hard to load through a 3/8" OD tube.
These head squibs are a bit of a pain, so far. I get a fine mist or squirt out of them, not unlike what I get from the regular hit tubes, but last night at least it was spraying in the wrong direction! Argh!
The head load squib pouch packet thing is an interesting origami of a vinyl glove. I cut the tip off the thumb and zip-tie it to the load-and-pressure tube, and the blood sits in a triangle of glove that has been ducted taped to within an inch of its life.
The tube sticks up above the level of the blood, so it won't flow back out when put into place. There is a small spot in the bottom of the triangle at the tip where the glove is not duct taped. When pressurized, this window bursts and the blood comes out.
It's a very clever design, if only it would work right.
I'm going to try a different window and see if I can get more of a "blort" than a "mist". I'm hoping to get it perfect before I need to use it.
Oh, I may need to use it with powder this weekend, for an undead head hit! The powder version works great...
Last Thursday we (meaning Marty, the owner) had a person come out to give an estimate on a new roof (not bad, actually, and easily incorporated into the sales price of the house when we buy it this month).
She knocked on the door and, when Marla answered, she asked if everything was all right. It turns out that the blood splashed on the sidewalk (and bushes, and driveway; it looked like a massacre!) had here worried that someone had an accident here!
Marla assured her that the only accident was that I volunteered to do FX for a movie...
Last night I washed some of the blood away. Well, I made it wet; there are still red marks all over but they are lighter.
Oooh, I get more blood powder in the mail Friday, so I can experiment more with really sticky blood and scabs! I'm so excited!
And this coming weekend, we get to shoot people. A lot. Poof! Bang! Spew!
Well, the pulling-Jim-through-the-window scene went pretty good, so kudos to construction guys Matt and Paul for the breakaway boards, and everyone else for getting it in 1.25 takes (don't ask).
However, the setup and fiddling with this scene took several hours! So blowing Mitchell's brains out got deferred. Ah well, that gives me more time to improve the brain squib.
Next weekend it looks like I get to shoot Mr. Clark (living) as well as several dead. This means I can test my new, improved easy-load squib setup! I hope it works!
I haven't analyzed the shot list yet, so I don't know exactly what I have to do yet, nor if I need my larger makeup crew or not. We do have a number of undead extras, it looks like, so I may get to call in more of the troops.
Nik, my son, is flying in on Friday (Hi Nik!) to stay for the usual month of summer. I'm hoping to get him smuggled into the crew in some capacity so he doesn't get booted from the indoors shooting, so he isn't totally bored out of his mind this visit. Next weekend is mostly outdoors shooting, though, so he can demonstrate his usefullness and maturity then and weasel his way into the director's graces...
I've been slacking off on the Journal thing this week... bad Edwin! And you know, the rest of y'all on LJ haven't been keeping me entertained enough. I think y'all need to write more...
It's 6:20AM as I write this, on a Saturday. What human in their right mind is awake at 6:20AM on a Saturday, I ask?
I'll be driving out to Lockhart in a half hour or so. This morning we have two girls to put into makeup (thanks, Curry!), one dead guy that I palm off onto Curry as well, and I get to give Matt a head wound until later today when we clean it up a bunch.
Oooh, today we get to beat up Hank! He's such a dick, so he deserves it. But I'll need to figure out what he needs to look like... should be fun. Or something. I find this stuff is a bit LESS fun when the entire crew is waiting for you to do something. My mantra is "I shall not be the bottleneck... I shall not be the bottleneck..."
Tomorrow we get to blow Mitchell's brains out. I'm still not satisfied with my head squib, so I may play a bit on site or something.
Ahh well, time to hunt down and kill the mighty Coffee Beast.
When I was a kid, I used to pray every night for a new bicycle.
Then I realized that the Lord, in his wisdom, didn't work that way.
So I just stole one and asked him to forgive me.
From fark: This was found on rec.humor and was allegedly taken from an Emo Phillips skit:
I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. I immediately ran over and said "Stop! Don't do it!"
"Why shouldn't I?" he said.
I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!"
"Well ... are you religious or atheist?"
"Me too! Are you Christian or Jewish?"
"Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?"
"Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?"
"Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?"
"Baptist Church of God."
"Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?"
"Reformed Baptist Church of God."
"Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?"
"Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!"
To which I said, "Die, heretic scum!" and pushed him off.
Okay, the Eating Jim sequence has been split. We were all under the impression that the inside and outside sequences were to be filmed this weekend, but we were wrong. The outside (effects-laden) version has been moved! I have more time!
Of course, I have more work... we are blowing Mitchell's brains out this weekend. I forgot about that.
Time to make a Brain Bladder and test it. Mmmm, brains.
I'm only so-so when it comes to making molds, and I still have real problems with plaster. Making giant heavy molds in plaster has a whole stack of extra problems relating, mostly, to the weight of the plaster.
Meaning it bursts through and pours all over my floor. I must have lost 25lbs of plaster to leaks when I made the core mold for my leg. And I don't even think I'll be USING this core after all.
I really prefer to use advanced and expensive rubbers and plastics to make my molds, but plaster is soooo cheeeap. And for some molds, I find that a block of plaster is necessary to make it work right. But for big molds, it's way better to make a (plastic) shell mold instead.
I'm making a detailed leg that will be dissected (alive) and eaten (alive) by the dead. It will have skin, a fatty layer, muscle, and squidgy viscera holding it all together.
I originaly thought to cast the skin in a tube, which requires a negative outer mold and a positive inner core mold. But upon further reflection, I fear that this approach will cause more problems than it solves, as well as wasting my precious (and darned expensive) silicon skin material.
So I think I'll go back to the method I used making the arm for HT last year, where I paint the skin into the mold in layers and then cast the guts into place. Though time consuming and harder to repeat, I feel more comfortable with it.
I still need to sculpt muscles onto the bone, cast gelatin muscles, paint the skin, and cast the whole thing together with, I think, foam gelatin.
Maybe three times.
And I need to make the (plaster, block) molds for the stomach and heart. And do a test for intestines. And work up the blood system for the leg. And a few other things I'm blocking from memory right now, I'm sure.
By Saturday at 7:00 am.
I think I officially get to panic now.
Does anyone here have experience (and I mean it, not just an interest) in laying up molds? I would farm out the mold-making for the heart and stomach in a... heartbeat.
Oh, we did have some fun on Sunday, shooting dead-guy Stephen (played by Paul) in the arm.
Hank asks, "What are you?" and he answers, "Episcopalian" so Hank shoots him in the arm for being a smart-ass. When he does this, dead-guy arm dust blows out the back.
Pretty simple, actually.
I'm using my new trademark patented extra-special pneumatic "squib" technology that I invented for this movie (as seen on TV, offer good while supplies last, void where prohibited).
There were some issues. The first take was perfect. The second take the timing was WAY off (very slow bullet, it seems). Third take didn't fire (the squib tube wasn't seated firmly so blew out). Fourth worked, I think... or was there a fourth at that angle? My head hurt so I don't quite remember.
We then repositioned the camera for a different angle and had a couple of them not working right... the wouldn't blow when I hit the switch. So I refilled the tank to get back up to pressure and started again.
One blew after I *released* the switch... so I did a bench test and discovered that they were blowing after about a 1/2 second delay (don't know WHY the first few went fast). We changed our timing on the count to adjust for this. The first time through it blew too soon. The second time my timing was perfect but the actor forgot to react. The third and, I think, fourth time worked out well.
So I think we got it. Hope it looks good! A cloud of baby powder might be a weird thing to get from shooting a dead guy in the arm.
One high point of the baby-powder squibs is that the scent overpowered the stench of sulfur coming form the sink. The tap water out there comes from hell, apparently, stinking of the sulphurous depths and resounding with the cries of the damned. Or perhaps just the cries of the crew when the tap gets turned on accidently...
There is a scene in Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's book "Good Omens" (ISBN 0441003257, required reading, very funny) where the demon's car is speeding along on fire, held together by sheer willpower, until he comes grinding to a halt at his destination, whereupon the entire thing collapses into a pile of parts.
That was me Sunday afternoon.
I escaped the shoot at about 2:30, a few hours after I had hoped to get home, and fought my way home through a grinding headache. By propping my head up on the headrest I could just stand to remain conscious to do this.
I came home, hit the couch, and slept a fitful sleep for two and a half hours, ate dinner, and then blew off the thousand and one tasks crying for attention and watched a movie ("The Village" by M. Night Shyamalan, beautiful cinematography, lame start with wooden dialog, got really good by the end) and went to bed.
I feel, again, almost human. This almost-human state seems to come come in fits and starts.
In my extended absence from domestic normality, our front yard as frayed into a sight that is bringing complaints from the neighborhood mafia, er, association. Fair enough. We'll deal with it over the next few days.
Next weekend, though, is a large and difficult effect that I have yet to create, so I'm pretty much panicked right now. I hope I can get it done.
On the bright side, once I get through this one I'm done with all of the really hard stuff and mostly get to repeat existing gags. So that's cool.
And, I guess, I'll be doing stuff for work to justify my pay. Which I should be doing now...
It took a couple of nights of 8-hour sleep to do it, but I feel almost human again today. When I don't get enough sleep I start accumulating symptoms of depression, which is less than fun.
Hey, I notice that I've been neglecting my log of projects!
Lessee... I may not have mentioned the life-cast of an actor's hand I did a couple of Tuesdays ago. Or maybe I did.
Last week I spent making a variety of nifty things!
With the help of Tall Matt, we made a dozen or so pneumatic gunshot hit simulation reservoir tubes, though the scene they were for dropped off the end of the weekend's shoot.
I made several liters of fake blood using moulage (trauma simulation) blood powder, water, and corn syrup. This appears to be thin in the jar, but comes out vaguely clotted. Which is vaguely disturbing. I'll try to make some un-clotted yet thick blood using straight corn syrup. And I want to modify some of the thin clotty stuff into thick clotty stuff, for jollies.
I used my tombstone trick to make a couple of house signs. Take your text or graphic and print it out really big and reversed (thanks Photoshop!) on your HP laser printer (other brands of toner may or may not work). Place the sheet toner-down on your board or whatever and you can transfer the toner by rubbing the back of the paper with acetone.
Ooh, and the big project was the rocks.
Nice rocks. In fact, these rocks were essentially indistinguishable from real rocks until you touched them.
I started with a collection of rocks from the site, so I could match their structure and coloring. They appeared to have a background color (yellow in some, reddish in others) overlaid with darker greys and browns to make a complex rock-colored pattern.
To get the shapes, I broke up and pressed together rough chunks of Sculpy (of which I had a zillion pounds of left over from previous projects) into rough rock shapes. Roughly speaking. There was no care involved, only breaking and combining.
Then I took plaster bandages, like you use to make a cast for a broken appendage, and put about 1.5 layers of this around the clay. Not too much, because I wanted these to be light and non-damaging to the house when they were thrown at it.
Once that hardened, I used an abrasive cutoff wheel to split the shell. Note it's better to cut the line the long way around the rock and not the short way, so it is easier to get the clay out. And they actually fit back together better when you can place a top on a bottom, rather than trying to bond two sides together. If that makes any sense, which it probably doesn't.
I added another 1.5 layers of plaster bandage to bind the shell halves together, taking care to lay it in random directions so there wasn't an obvious seam line.
The rock has shape now, but has a bad texture. I fixed that by mixing up a thick mixture of hydrostone (a hard plaster that doesn't set too fast) and spackled a thin layer of that over the bandage. The drying the rock shell, the faster the plaster would stiffen up over it! This was handy, since I could smooth the plaster easily with a wet finger once it got stiff (but not hard).
Once that layer did harden, the trusty airbrush laid two layers of smooth color onto the shell, giving the interior color of the rock. I used a browny-golden-yellow that I drifted over to a pinkish-red-brown-gold by adding color as I went along.
Then I took a dark brown paint and spattered the rocks with speckles using a brush and my thumb to riffle the bristles.
By now the rocks are looking pretty good, and in fact some of them would be usable as-is with a light glaze over them to smooth the colors. But I took one more step.
Taking two colors of brown (medium and darker) plus a dirty grey, I painted these on my hand and then smeared this thin, almost dry, layer of paint onto the rock. This darkened the highlights in a rough pattern and turned the rocks into... rocks!
I'll eventually put pictures up on one of the areas of the site, but not today. Or this month. The whole movie will get a section once it is done.
I think that was about it that weekend.
Oh! No, Matt put together some screen frames and I cast some Smash! Plastic into 'em, to poor effect. The humidity (or something, I have a tech call in to the manufacturer) caused the plastic to foam and bubble. This stuff is beginning to piss me off, but I keep trying because, once it is right, it has great characteristics (as I can tell from the good fragments I'm typically left with).
I'm also going to try sugar glass (3.5C sugar, 2C water, 1C corn syrup, heat to 300 degrees). Dammit.
While the movie project has its good points, it has eliminated pretty much all of my downtime and I'm feeling the strain. Today I feel distinctly unwell, a general stressful malaise and a pain in my brain.
This weekend is fairly light on FX, though I think we'll be shooting people so that should be interesting. Next weekend is the Big Weekend and should be crazy. It's also, last I checked, the weekend of the big Leg Eating Scene, so I need to make that prop.
I hope I can hold out to the end of my duties in the shooting. I'm pretty tired.
I'm tired a lot lately from, you know, lack of weekends. There is still a slim chance that the movie will complete on schedule, so we are fighting for that. In that case, we have about six weeks left.
There is an even more slim chance that I'll be able to do all of my FX work in that time with my weekends consumed by the movie.
So I'm sitting here today working. Trying to work. I'm converting a bunch of code from the original C++ on the PC to C on the microcontroller. Search and Replace did most of the work, but I need to walk through it all to make sure it's good and to do minor adjustments.
This code consists of about six functions between ten and twenty lines each... repeated endlessly. Six thousands lines of code, more or less. Staying awake for this work is a true challenge.
Maybe I'll go play Kingdom of Loathing instead... someone is working in my "nap spot" in the oasis.