think when we finally show this film, people will say they’ve never seen anything like it, and we’ll have to agree and say: “that’s because it is too insanely hard to create something like this!”
But we are pushing forward. Yesterday we finally finished all the images that will go into Act 2 Scene 3. Of more than 1500 photographs taken, 718 are ok to render into video. That’s about 3 minutes of film. What with the holidays and other hold ups, this scene took 6 weeks to capture. It is a long and complicated scene, and I think it will prove to have been the most difficult of the whole film. At least I hope so. In much of the scene, seven eggs were airborne over the table, each egg hanging by two monofilaments.
In my last update I crowed about getting the rig built to bring the eggs off the table. The rig allowed us to photograph eggs dancing in a ring formation. But when those eggs needed to move into a more freeform, wilder dance, the rig got in the way. Turns out microphone stand booms work pretty well, one or two per egg.
I was having to change the positions of seven eggs suspended above the table. Each egg had a role to play and I was performing all the roles. This meant a confusing variation of altitudes, pitch, spin, direction, and of course distance traveled since the last shot. Some single shots took 30 minutes or more to set up. I sweated and squinted, leaning over the table, fiddling with the 28 or so alligator clips we were using to attach the nearly invisible monofillaments to the booms, or adjusting the levers and tension knobs on the stands. My shoulders ached. My legs strained. Who knew this would rise to the level of sport?
Rendering a long series of images as video in a stop action animation sequence demands that we have images that show contiguous movements, a logical flow. But that’s tough to pull off with eggs slipping from my control, or cameras getting nudged during battery replacements. One change frequently set all the egg marionettes swinging wildly into one another with scary cracking sounds. Or a monofilament sometimes slipped from my fingers and sent an egg lurching toward the table.
Sometimes I couldn’t remember precisely where an egg had been hanging in the previous shot or the whole frame shifted slightly when a lens got bumped. Then we had to reshoot, compare it to the previous good image and figure out how to align the eggs or the lens so the rendered motion made sense.
All the hard work notwithstanding, we had lots of fun, too. Part of this scene involved an egg falling to the table and breaking. This meant I had to make stunt doubles so we could have shards without having to actually break the original. And we shot video at a high frame rate with lots of hot lights to see what an egg breaking actually looks like.
Turns out, a hollow egg that falls and breaks is a beautiful thing to behold in slow motion. It bounces! It explodes into flying shards, that then skitter and rock after they land. Here is a still from one of the tests we ran.
We have selected the footage with the frames we need for the animation.
Next up: the part of the film that shows the process of how a pysanka is made. I’m a little nervous about having cameras watching me work. Making pysanky is quiet, solitary work for me. Will I be able to pull it off for an audience?
In other news, we now have a tentative date for the premiere screening: March 28. Thanks to one very generous kickstarter supporter, we are seeking approvals to locate the premiere at MIT’s Simmons Hall auditorium. Time to design the movie poster so that when the date and space is approved we’re ready to advertise. I’ll also try to get a second showing on March 29 at my neighborhood cinema, the Capitol Theater. It’ll be good to work against a hard deadline to bring this project to an end.