Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Grim Fandango Story Board (intro cutscene)

As part of the reverse engineering process, I have posted, earlier, a detailed script of the Intro cut-scene movie that is the scope for this Stop Mo project.

Partly to learn the lingo and the process, and partly for practical reasons, I have reprocessed my notes into a more standard story board format (the storyboard template used here is heavily borrowed from some scans of Bob The Builder storyboard original, courtesy of HOT Animation).

This format has the advantage of being easily printed into a booklet for use on the set. Each cell of storyboard will be further decomposed into a dope scheet giving a frame-by-frame guideline for the timing of different animated part, and the shooting of each key frames.

The huge advantage of this project is that I have already dumped each image of the in-game full motion cutscene movie. The in-game movie was playing at 15 fps, and it will be a simple of conversion to create dope-sheets at 24 fps using the image of the original movie as reference for timing and placement.

Manny's jaw-dropping mouth expressions

Scoop of the day: Did you know that Manny had a tongue? Surreal, uh?

In an earlier Post, I indicated that lips syncing will be made using the classic stop-mo technique of "replacement mouths" on the puppet’s skull. The very basic set of mouth required for realistic lips syncing is 7 distinctly shaped mouth pieces. More can be made for other facial expressions, but with seven mouths per character, you can realistically animate any dialog script.
Frame by frame analysis of the Intro cut-scene of Grim Fandango shows that the animators were relying on 8 mouth models (or rather textures) with the 7 classics, plus an additional variation on the “E” allowing for more subtle mouth moves (Manny is often talking to himself, and skull-mumbling is easily rendered alternating "closed  E" with an "open E" mouth piece).
Sound "P" & "B"
Sound "F"
Sound "E" and many other sounds
Slightly more opened "E"
(useful for mumbling)
Sound "Th"
Yes! Manny has a tongue
Sound "A"
Sound "O"
Sound "U"

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Starting at the Intro

The first project will be a 3 minute stop motion animation that will stay as close as possible to the Intro cut-scene of the game. It last about 3 minutes and 12 seconds

The film will use puppets made of metal armature. These will be purchased already made. The movie will be shot with a Digital Still Camera, Canon EOS 550D or equivalent, leveraging from the "live view" feature that have appeared in recent  models. The project will also be shot with Dragon StopMotion frame grabber software.

I know... I have not take the cheapest options for a beginner project... I feel a bit like a spoiled kid doing an expensive shortcut into pro equipment, with no hard-won wisdom and experience to back it up. Well... guilty as charge!

Monday, 26 September 2011


Amazing work from Thomas Beg
I recently stumbled upon a quite amazing modern 3D rendering of Manny Calavera's skull done by Thomas Beg, apparently as part of of his Graphic Arts, Animation studies.

This model has just the right amount of detail and modernity, while retaining the essence of the original character. It would be an excellent start for sculpting the head  a Manny. The mouth might be a little too aggressive thought, but the skull sculpture will not get into mouth details. I intended to use mouth replacement for lips syncing.

Anyway, thanks a lot to Thomas for his inspirational work that could spin a whole new style in the adaptation of the character's skull. If only he had the time to give me his contemporary 3D interpretation of Celso Flores, we would be almost set for puppet making the main characters of the intro cut-scene.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The big dive

I have been toying with the idea quite some time now. Grim Fandango never ceased to come back to me, in dreams as in musings. I reciprocated by haunting the forums of some fine yet long-forgotten societies, ripping arts from the game with some arcane tools, collecting fan arts from some obscure corners of our digital ether. "But you are not alone, everybody here is just as dead as you". In fact we seem to be legions. Sleepless, reckless ghouls refusing to let their heroes sprouted by oblivion... Manny, Glottis where are you?

Almost everything seems to have been done. Scripts, novels, paintings, tatoos, piercings, sculpture, hi-res overhauling,  animations, pranks, video, cosplay. I have dutifully devoured all what could be found, and I am still unearthing a few bones now and then, left by another fan from another corner of our shared nostalgia.

Like most, I have been fantasying about a sequel, a movie, a revisit of the world, anything that would get me to these dark blue jazzy riffs in the misty nights of Rubacava. But Tim, understandably, has moved on. And LucasArts is a sleeping giant crouched on its gems.

But I have not moved on. I am still stuck in this dream-like story... and I want Glotis back! Bigger than life! With all the resolution, pixels and polygons that his low birthing era denied him.

Hence here come the project of  making a few stop-mo clips out of the most famous cut-scene of the game.

Surgeon Warning: I have no experience, no references, and no gifts. I don't know what I am getting into. All I have to say in my defense is that time is on my side : because I am not in hurry, this is plain hobby that will take as long as it needs to take. It might take a few years to create 3 minutes of shaky and flickering crap. So be it...let the fun begins.