Thursday, 21 June 2012

Puppet making: magnetic jaws

For easy mouth replacement, I have decided to go magnet. Here is the painted head and mouth set, with the magnet set within the two part of the skull. The magnetic pull is very soft, which should make the mouth replacement routine almost effortless, with little risk of displacing the puppet in the process.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Puppet Making: handicraft

I was first trying to sculpt/mold the hands around the armature, but I always ended up with a shape too plump for bare-bone hands. I have changed strategy by using the insulating plastic of electric wires. It's a bit gross but that will do.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

GF's Rosetta Stone

I have the good fortune of spending a good part of my life in Cambodia. Khmer culture is reknown for its monuments, and in particular for the amazing stone bas-reliefs that ornate its countless  angkorian (and pre-angkorian) temples.

The mastery of stone carving has survived, and skilled artists are still sculpting elegant Budhas and generously breasted Apsaras.

You may recall Grim Fandango's famous "mural" that was gradually lighten up as the player progressed through the story. This mural, originally designed by Peter Chan, was imitating a stone carving containing  clues and pointers of the world and unfolding story of GF. It's an absolutely amazing piece of art. According to Tim Schafer :  
After Peter Chan created it, he dutifully handed the original over to LucasArts Marketing, where it probably got shoved into a closet and forgotten about. I’ve tried to get my hands on the original for years, but I think it’s just gone.  It might have even been thrown out when they moved to the Presidio. :( 
 (source: Double Fine(tm) forum here)

Sometime ago, a couple GF fan, elbiolin (LucasForum) and Laserschwert, laboriously managed to "restore" a high resolution rendering of this artwork from some pixelized screenshots...

Laseshewert's "restoration" of Peter Chan's mythical "mural" (CG, click for details!)

I downloaded his high res file, printed a poster, and went in a little carving shop located in a small street of Phnom Penh. When I unrolled my poster, I could tell on the face of the shop owner that this was the most unusual commission that he had ever received. He looked at me, puzzled, wondering what could possibly be my religion. Of course, a cultural chasm (not to mention the language barrier) did not help to explain the nature of my condition.

He asked for three months, but called me back after only four weeks. While on my way, I got myself prepared for a big disappointment. He could not have possibly completed this piece in just a month. I was not even sure that carving this piece was actually possible. There are so many layers of depth, so much details... this was plain silly!

I arrived at the shop, and Mr Choum Sophek was waiting for me. A plate of sandstone at its feet measuring 110cm large, 38cm high. With the help of two of its staff he turned the stone over to reveal its sculpted side and I went... speechless.

Mr Choum Sophek (& co) actual carving (sandstone, click for details!)
I am now the proud owner of this improbable artifact:
First conceived and drawn by Peter Chan somewhere San Francisco, lost in some bottomless IP vault at LucasArts, laboriously restored in its original splendor as a computer graphic by GF fans, and finally, 15 years later, carved into a 40kg piece of sandstone in Cambodia by the descendents of the Angkor Wat builders. What a fantastic journey! Peter Chan's masterpiece has finally reached its own Ninth Underworld... in my living room!

Oh by the way, I intend to use this carving for the Opening of the movie (panning through the details in extreme close-up, in stop-mo, but under natural light in order to get some natural flickers as a special "intemporal" effect)