Beach Set Pictures

At this point it doesn’t look like much of a beach, but that’s what I’m going to keep calling it for consistency’s sake. I’m pretty happy with the giant circuit board appearance, and probably could have spent a  lot more time creating more circuit boards with more dense detail (it’s really fun), but  I had to put on my producer hat and move forward with lighting and blocking. My main challenge right now is to decide to lift the stage up to create a space for tie-downs underneath, or to go with my original shortcut of just pushing the tie downs into the foam floor. I am anxious to finish all the robot’s animation in the next month and have the holiday break to work on rig removal and digital effects.

The following pictures are not the final lighting at all, just photos of the set as it looks now:

November Progress

So far all of the room has been shot, and although I won’t post the final cut online, I have the first 1:12 of animation shot and (roughly) edited together. There is some post work necessary like rig removal, color timing, and most important, the graphics for the screen. There is also a 2D water effect that needs to be animated for this scene.

I’m currently building the Beach stage, which has since transformed to a landscape made of giant circuit boards. I realized that I was missing an opportunity to play with the robotics theme, and took inspiration from the pile of circuit boards I’ve been hoarding. The shots will probably be adjusted based on the limitations of the set, but my focus will be to show that he is transitioning from the internal psychic journey back to the external material world. The same concept of a standalone doorway remains the same.

Also, I have the cutout Bird Skeleton puppet built. I cut out the pieces myself and attached them together with string and Zap glue. I’m really happy with the way it looks (pictures forthcoming) and can’t wait to test it out – right after I finish up the Beach scene. Even though the great Yuri Norstein does cutouts with totally loose pieces, I know it would have driven me crazy, especially since the bird has about a dozen vertebrates along his neck to keep track of.

This Thanksgiving week I hope to finalize all construction of the set and light the first shot (and dare I hope to animate the first shot!). I am also aiming to go out and get some hi-res footage of those oil derricks off of La Brea.

Ideas from Languages of revolt; Dada and surrealist literature and film


The following are some notes and observations I had as I read this book Languages of Revolt, which aims to show how the language of Alchemy was used by both Dadaists and Surrealists to break viewer’s paradigms and then rebuild them according to frame theory.

Alchemy as Initiation

This chapter presents alchemy, and in particular, the Tarot as a coded narrative describing the stages of man’s progression through the trials of life towards wisdom. The “occult” sciences refers to that which is hidden, where the alchemist is often shown with his eyes bound. In this way, he must turn his attention inward towards the “true science” of primary cause rather than the science of the phenomenal world.

I would also add that occultation implies action and engagement on behalf of the viewer-initiate. He/she cannot merely be a passive observer but must actively engage in the pursuit of wisdom. The occultation is in fact an invitation for the curious to draw back Sophia’s veil (The Priestess Card). There is a longstanding association of Wisdom (Sophia) as a divine feminine energy, a holy center, a sacred temple, the mother church, or the bride – both in alchemy and Christianity. Most importantly this energy is rooted in compassion so that all action (the male principle) is motivated by divine love. In this sense, it’s the key to the initiate’s fulfillment.

I am now appreciating on another level Duchamp’s Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even as I suspect it is a reference to the alchemical wedding. If so then we see the absurd result of a mechanical manifestation of the Shekinah from Duchamp, perhaps as a reaction to the industrialization and mechanization of Europe and America. If alchemy represents the highest pursuit of the soul, Duchamp is using the alchemical langauge to explore the place of man in a world that is increasingly mechanized.  What does it mean to automate human activity?


It seems The Large Glass is a critique on the stripping of the Bride, or the removal of wisdom’s “veils” by her bachelors. The bachelors in this case are an allegory for those who are pre-inititates. That is, they have not culminated their knowledge and accomplished the Wedding (the reconciling of opposites within the self into a greater whole). For me, there is a definite allegory of forcefully abusing the material world without proper understanding of consequences – this is the impetus behind the Nightmare sequence for MX-93. To strip the bride is to take away the heart from our philosophical sensibilities, leaving only the mind and the material world – a heartless, calculating, mechanistic worldview is what remains.

Additionally, Duchamp’s Étant donnés  has always seemed to me to be about the death of the Divine Feminine in western culture. Everything about her position, what is visible and not visible, suggests that the creative, nurturing, compassionate forces lie inert and lifeless in a field. The image is disturbing in it’s suggestions of foul play. The figure holds a lamp (The Hermit card) out, indicating to me that she is indeed this

Divine Wisdom, the light that guides the soul and illuminates the mind.  Tarot card from the Rider-Waite tarot deck, al...

I have no idea if Duchamp meant all these things nor has the author discussed him, but  it’s likely he was aware of the occult and alchemical foundations of the dada and surrealist movements. At least it’s helpful for me to understand how other artists might have worked with the occult language in their work.

Meanwhile, MX-93 is himself enacting an initiation. He experiences the fluctuations between the poles of Heaven and Hell, but such a realization is only the beginning.

Opening animation

These animation clips are the lo-res versions using Dragon Stop Motion software.  Post tweaks will include rig removal (my finger) on MX-93 and on the hat. I’ll also add the contents of the glowing monitor in post. I lit the set using three Arri lights and some blue gels. My lighting challenge was to create a diffuse field of light behind him and behind the monitor (I used a  chimera attachment).


Bird Skeleton Final Design

This is the final bird skeleton design. I’ve used three tones: black, light grey, dark grey which will be laser cut on thick card stock paper. Then I will glue the different layers together to create the pieces for this 2D puppet. I will animate him on the downshooter, then clone him in After Effects.

Flames Animation Test

A very rough concept test for the goddess halo. The idea was to use the Illustrator stroke function to animate a cycle.

  • 4 frames looped in After Effects.
  • layer sequence: outside stroke, center stroke, inside, center
  • Rendered at 24fps
I like the pointed joints but I will need to finesse the bezier curves to achieve the desired results. I also need to rearrange stroke order for each captured frame so the flame colors stay in sequence