Last Saturday, Abbott Imaging and I built the rig for shooting the Feather clan dance. That dance is in Act 2 Scene 3 and poses a big challenge. 

So far most of the movement we’ve captured images for has been on a simple white plane: the table in the studio. But the Feather clan dance calls for the eggs to move around in 3D space. I’ve been puzzling for months now about how to solve the problem of eggs aloft, and finally we’ve come up with something that will let us appear to defy gravity. The eggs will be attached to 2 pound test monofilament fishing line. We’re using an old lampshade frame to clip the lines to. We have the lampshade wireframe anchored in a flange so it can rotate and swivel. And we positioned the rig on microphone stands for better stability and adjustability. Good thing Abbott Imaging has extensive carpentry skills and a ton of microphone stands lying around! 

I attached a line to each pole of a test egg, oriented the egg horizontally, and hung it on the rig. We took a series of images as we rotated the wireframe. The pysanka floated in an arc above the table! Luckily when the flashes went off, the shadows from the rig fell outside of the captured image, but the shadow of the “floating” egg appeared right where it should on the white paper below. 

This is what the rig looks like. You can see the test egg ‘hovering’! 

The cleanup editing shouldn’t be too difficult because the monofilament is almost invisible. We could have gotten a similar effect with pure animation, I suppose, but it would not have looked as optically real. And animating round, complexly patterned objects with software is computationally very intense. Levitating those eggs in real space — getting that hands-free look I had imagined — feels like a huge step towards our goal. 

By January I hope we will have all the images captured for Act 2 Scene 2 and maybe even have started on Act 1 Scene 2 which also calls for eggs to swirl around in space. 

In January I’ll set up a worktable at the studio, and using various cameras we will capture the video needed for a time-lapse sequence showing the whole pysanky making process. That will leave February for finishing up with image capture and lots of editing. I’m hoping to get the premiere scheduled for the last weekend in March 2015. 

In other news, last night I saw a rough 2 minutes and 47 seconds of Into the Ovoid on a largish screen as part of Boston Open Screen, an ‘open mic’ for filmmakers held in the Coolidge Corner Cinema screening room in Brookline, MA. Abbott Imaging edited together a clip showing Act 1 Scene 1 and Act 2 Scene 2 and sent me the file right before I had to leave for the theater. I copied the mp4 onto a flash drive and rushed out the door without even seeing it first myself! 

Traffic was a mess. Many streets were partially flooded from the downpour we had been having all day. At least it wasn’t snow, and I made it just in time to sign in our clip and find a seat before the show started. Our test clip was screened in the 45-seat room at around 9 p.m. 

There was only minimal sound in this clip, so we still have work to do on that, but this test totally succeeded in showing how good the enlarged stop action looks. The resolution is crisp. The digital zooms we have in some places look excellent. I can see it all coming together and I am thrilled. 

 After the lights came back up in the theater, there were questions. Our clip got the very first question: what’s the story behind that egg film? And then someone else asked about how we got an egg to emerge out of the plane of the table. Answer: by building a surface with an egg-shaped hole that we could push the egg up through. Then capturing images as we swapped in and out sheets of paper, each with a hole sized to show only the emerged part of the egg.

I was pleased to get this level of interest. The audience clearly appreciated the complexity of some of the cooler effects. 

Happy Holidays, everyone. I’ll be in touch again next year!