Marks Place

Reality-What a Concept: A stop-motion film by Mark Butler

Winner of "3rd place overall" and "2nd place Story" in the A.P.E. contest at www.Brickfilms.com

Awesome movie! I loved several of the effects and loved the twist in the ending. Very clean technically and great photography. All the "gee-whiz" effects lent themselves to the story and fit perfectly. Kudos Man!
             DigiDave (www.brickfilms.com)

I'm tired of writing reviews, but I just have to say Great Work ! The idea is really ingenious and the conclusion is so smart. Nice work.
             Lowweek (www.brickfilms.com)

 

Click the links below to watch the movie or right-click and select "Save Target As" to save the movie to your hard disk.
        Reality-What A Concept - Low Rez (320x240  6mb .avi file)
        Reality-What A Concept - Hi Rez (640x480  18mb .avi file using DivX codec)
 
 
  

Background

This film came about as an entry for a contest at www.brickfilms.com

The contest was for a movie that:
    Was surreal with a twisty ending (like a twilight zone episode)
    Must be less than 3 minutes in length
    Could be about any topic appropriate for a general audience
    Included the words "Hey that's my monkey"

 

The Design

I spent some time working out a fun, twisty and fairly simple plot. I needed something that could be told in just a few minutes of story, was easy to understand and had a unique twist. I was searching for a twilight-zone style of feel with a the viewer wondering what was happening along with the main character. Eventually I selected a end-of-the-world theme. From there the rest dropped into place.

The Filming


Raw camera shotOne of the reasons I chose this concept was that it was relatively easy to film. The set is small and the whole thing is fairly static except for the running scene. Essentially I had a brown square plate and built everything on it. Without any greenscreen video tools, I used Photoshop to simulate a greenscreen and manually "cut" away the surrounding image frame by frame.

Doing the running scene was tricky as a couple of things had to happen, first the camera had to move with the minifig and then the "world" had to shrink.


Moving the camera was accomplished in a non-smooth fashion by sliding it one row of bricks each time the minifig took a "step". This kept the figure in the proper place in the frame but resulted in choppy panning...sigh...


The shrinking of the world was done in Photoshop. I placed each frame in a separate layer and then defined a selection by tracing along the vanishing points. Using a macro I shrank the selection by 5% each frame. This worked ok until I got to the street where the vanishing point works differently. I had to manually cut the frames where both the wall and back street were visible, as well as where the streetlight was visible. It took quite a bit of work but the results look pretty good. The biggest mistake was the bush, it is not cut as it should be..oh well....

One thing that worked out pretty cool was the zoom-out at the end of the movie. I actually filmed the sequence using my digital camera at full resolution. This allowed me to scale and crop the frames without losing any definition, it makes the zoom work quite well.


Original concept for giant faceThe face was a lot of fun and tedious as well. I originally used a giant minifig face but wanted it to look more detailed and animated so I created the giant face on a gray plate. I made 4 different frames of it with the mouth in a closed, small "o", large "O" and slightly open. I then spent a long couple of days manually syncing the frames to the audio, trying to place the closed mouth frame, right when the "b" is said in a word and the large open mouth frame when a "ahh" is said in a word. It was more difficult than I expected and I think I only partially succeeded.

 

 

Raw Giant Face  combined with another set results in Results in

 

From a directors viewpoint, the biggest problem I saw with the movie was that there was a lot of dialog and very little animation! long talking scenes of the guy just standing there talking to the face. I tried to keep it interesting visually by cutting back and forth but it certainly wasn't as dynamic as I originally envisioned.
 

Hidden Mickeys


"Hidden Mickeys" is a term popularized for Disney (www.hiddenmickeys.org) to show in-jokes or "Easter Eggs", little surprises or nuggets of info the general public would miss. For example in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, at the beginning of the ride as you pass the Blue Bayou restaurant, if you look to your left at the second house painted on the wall just before the old man in the rocking chair there is a silhouette of Mickey in the doorway. Also about midway through the ride where there is a pirate sitting with pigs, there is a burning window just above him with the shutters cut out as Pooh's profile. Later on one of pirates trying to lure the dog with the key is the exact likeness of Sid Caesar. Sid was the friend of one the Pirate Imagineers and a great Disneyland fan, so they modeled a pirate after him as a joke.... I am using the term to reference the little surprises/secret info in the movie.

The Title - the title "Reality - What a Concept" comes from an old Robin Williams comedy album. In his early years he was very "out there" and his humor reflected it. I still have this album on vinyl and the title seemed to fit the theme of the movie perfectly.

The Tune - the tune sung at the beginning and end is inspired by the monks who hit their heads with boards while singing in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. If you listen closely, the words sung are the basic scale "do re me fa so la te do"

Monkeys typing Shakespeare - there is a saying that if you had an infinite number of monkeys sitting at an infinite number of typewriters for an infinite number of years typing at random then one of them would eventually type the entire works of Shakespeare. I think I remember reading about this from an Arthur C. Clark novel but the original credit is attributed to Thomas Huxley (a 19th century scientist). Anyway if your interested a search on the internet will find a lot of info about it, I thought it would be funny to add it in as the first "end of all things" criteria.


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