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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

To Cannes via AirMail

Actually it should read, to Cannes via FedEx.
The DVD has been sent to France. Just waiting for confirmation that the little sucker arrived...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A conservative 120+ audio tracks

Steve Orlando and I finished our primary pass on the 5.1 surround mix for the film. This one will be good enough for the pre-selection DVD that I will send to the Festival de Cannes in France.
With all original recorded sound effects, we struggled to get the track count low enough that an HD2 pro tools system could handle the load. We still required an extra HD Accel card to play back the entire session - this with a hefty load of AudioSuite and RTAS plug-ins used to put a good deal of processing on the computer rather than the HD cards.
We played the compressed ac3 file on several surround systems with good results, often removing a lot of high end with a sharp dip and rolling off a marginal amount of bass. Our struggle with brightness could likely be the horns on several speakers as well as poorly tuned rooms. A little adjusting with an SPL meter smoothed out some of the troubles.
We'll do one final pass for the final HD version sometime early next year.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Who knew a 6 minute film could be well over 70Gigs?

The folks at The Post Group in Los Angeles have managed to transfer our 16MM color negative to DPX 10 Bit Uncompressed 4:4:4 RGB files. I should say GIGANTIC DPX 10 Bit Uncompressed 4:4:4 RGB files that weigh in at over 190 Gigs for 15 minutes. I've hardly had a chance to view the data as few consumer computers can even open these bohemoths. From the frames I've seen though, they look truly beautiful.
Now the files are heading off to our colorist Page Frakes. Let him work his magic.

The negative came back positive.

I'm both happy and relieved to announce that our 5 rolls of film, a little over 500 feet, have been successfully processed. No dirty baths, careless lab assistants, rips, tears, smudges, burning, lashing, or evil ghosts managed to corrupt our negative. FotoKem did a bang up job (with the exception of a careless prepping error.)

Now on to telecine...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Rung Sound Team introduction: Michael McCormick

Michael McCormick is an Oakland based sound artist who works in both sculptural media and film. His main interest lies in exploring the physicality of sound through its referentiality to events and the following cognitive representations such as memory and emotion. Documentation of older sculptural work and sound collage exist at, however, there is no current online representation of his film work. As a film sound artist, Mike has designed several short films, most notably Gordo, a Latino Filmmaker Showcase Finalist which premiered on Showtime.

Rung Sound Team introduction: Eric Arvai

Eric Arvai, a native Chicagoan, began playing piano at age 5. He studied jazz theory and piano performance from Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. He went on to graduate from Ohio University with a B.S. in Visual Communications in Interactive Multimedia with a specialization in Electronic Music. While providing live improvised accompaniment for modern dance classes at Ohio University School of Dance, Eric met his lifetime friend and mentor, world-class concert pianist, Andre Gribou.

He went on to work for a Santa Cruz advertising agency, Full Support Advertising & Design, where he produced many projects in the bay area; most notably scripting, engineering, scoring and mastering a radio campaign for the American Cancer Society.

Currently, Eric is the Director of the Media, Sound & Visual Department at Ex’pression College for Digital Arts. He can also be found teaching MIDI, Game Audio and Music Theory.

Eric contracts work as an Audio / Video Post-Production Engineer for Top Speed Productions, a company producing documentaries on off-road motorbike racing based in San Jose, CA. He most recently worked as an audio consultant on a documentary for NASA and scored a feature length documentary currently in international film festival rotation on American Sculptor David Hostetler entitled “Last Dance.”

He lives in Berkeley with his wife Jennifer and in his free time enjoys rock climbing, golf and his jazz trio. One day, long from now, his epitaph will read Died Tragically Rescuing His Family From The Remains Of A Destroyed Sinking Battleship.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Here's a link to my current resume: Jesse Brodkey

Monday, June 2, 2008

Principal photography is COMPLETE.

Chuck and I have finished the last shot for Rung.
Dare we strike the set?
Thus begins Chuck and Holly's packing frenzy as they make ready to leave in the next week for London.
Thus begins my heavy work on post production. I've already assembled the sound team and we've had our first and second meetings. I'll post the team's bios later this week.
I've also found someone to do titles. I'll post her bio this week as well.

We'd like to thank everyone who worked or helped or hindered or generally had anything to do with the film this far. I'll compile a 'thank you' list shortly.

Jesse and Chuck

Monday, May 26, 2008

>2 shots left

Chuck's 50+ frames into the 2nd to last shot. We might be able to set up the last shot tomorrow night and film it Wednesday.
Gear up for the wrap celebrations that will be taking place through the weekend...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Working faster than even we know.

For the past two weeks, I've been trying to get an accurate scene and frame count. We're shooting so fast that it's nearly impossible. As Chuck finishes a shot, I'm setting up the next one.
It might be easier to have a shot countdown instead.

I believe there are only 5 shots left.
Really. Only 5 shots.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Nearly nearer and the quest for $

As soon as we get an accurate scene and frame count, I'll update the statistics.

Until then, just know that Chuck and I are putting in all hours. There are about 10 scenes left which include many close-ups and cut-aways.
We're hoping to wrap principal photography before the end of the month, in order to make room for several weeks of drinking and toasting Chuck and Holly off to Jollyville.

In the meantime, I'm on the hunt for funding and acquisitions. FAF is having fiscal troubles, but there are a couple others I'll role dice for. If you have any ideas about loose pockets in these tight fitting jean times, please let us know.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Birth of a Sound Effects team.

By two weeks end, I'll be able to announce the official 'Rung" sound effects team.

I've met with some real talents over the past few months (some friends and some new folks,) who all show imaginative and creative promise. With our first official meeting early next week, I'll have more detail for introductions.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Coming soon...

As I wrangle up the sound team and give them shot fragments (in order that they can begin collecting Foley and SFX,) I've taken to editing completed scenes into shorter clips for reference. Some of these, I'm planning on posting over the next few weeks. So check in often, as snippets should pop up throughout the end of April and May until the completion of principal photography.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Miniature reveal.

Try to ignore the monofilament. It's not visible through the Bolex lens.
And try to ignore my one non-humble moment as I pose triumphantly with the miniature's little lights on.

Catch up.

Just to give everyone an idea of what's going on in the studio, I'm posting this image of Chuck (taken less than an hour ago,) as he "performs" a frame for shot number-thirty-something-or-other. Please take advantage of the large image file and expand by clicking on it, making it easier to notice the following: Chuck's raising the ladder attached to a c-stand to achieve a motion blur effect (go-motion,) while his right toe (sheathed in a stylish striped sock,) is poised above a make-shift shutter release to capture the shot. All this after setting up Mawk in a basket dangling from rope and a baby bird (not currently in frame) on monofilament.
Reminds me of a one-man-band circa 1930.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


We've been at it.
Tearing through scenes and knocking back frames. Our May 30th deadline is a breath away, but we're ready. We are pushing ahead.

*keep an eye on the 'frames shot' and 'scenes completed' counter on the right side. I'm about to do a long awaited update and it will blow your mind.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Minature's update Part B.

Minature's update Part A.

Mawk with a little bit of color.

From the pool of found Polaroids.

A Polaroid of an early portrait of Mawk that was framed and hung inside the doll house.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Although we're not planning on shooting the interior of the doll house for the current script, here are some early black and white test shots to illustrate the ornate details we'll all be missing.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


After numerous rewrites, the kind that inevitably take place once a production's in full swing, we figure that 1/2 the scenes have been shot and finaled.On another note, I need to adjust the shot statistics to reflect not only the frame count, but an accurate scene count as each scene often contains 3 or more shots.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Beauty shot.

The Night Visitor.

Here stands Damon Bard with dinner in hand. Many of you have seen his character sculpts in the dozens of films he's worked on. Some may be more familiar with his fine art bronze castings. If you haven't seen his immense talents, take a moment to visit his website:
But before dining, he stopped in the studio to chat up Chuck when oops...
There lies Damon's dinner sprawled out across the floor and resting snugly against our overhead light c-stand. It's lucky the sandbags kept things steady and straight as Chuck was on day two of a three day shot.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Holly, you've been gone far too long. Come home.

There are several earlier posts illustrating Holly's numerous contributions to the film (from painting skies and puppets to knitting miniature sweaters and hats.) Well, very early in February she took a fancy pants faux finishing job in Costa Rica. Presumably the job would be two weeks to a month. It's now nearly the middle or March and she's still there either working or waiting for materials to clear customs. I'm sure she's frustrated and more than ready to come home.
We miss you Holly.
Get your butt back to Emeryville.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

It may just as well be a children's book.

I mentioned earlier that Will Groebe would be getting a post dedicated solely to his drawings. These storyboard samples helped us tremendously to flesh out not only the camera angles and sets, but the pacing and mood as well.
With such grace and speed, Will sketched out shots during lunch breaks as fast as we could describe them.
What a talent.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Progress of the Accidental Engineer: or why we chose to shoot the first 10 scenes again.

*note: I'm having some trouble loading poster frames for the 3 clips below, but they are there.
Some at Tippett Studios may remember late last year when Chuck Duke walked away from his desk, and more importantly his computer, to work on his very own stop motion film. They may also remember when he didn't come back in January as expected. The word on the QT was that he had to re-shoot the first part of the film. This is true, but not without good reason.
From the beginning, I made a fuss about the motion of the dock. We tried our best to get a natural movement without spending a year to do it. The closest we could come was smooth, but not rocking.
Here's a dump from the frame grabber of the first shot. As you can see, it looks as if we're simply raising the dock up and down on a tripod. We literally were.

Press Play
Here's what Chuck accidentally engineered. By pitching the center of the dock between 3 and 9 degrees and rotating it incrementally he managed to get a steady rocking motion.

Press Play
This more complex movement and sense of queasiness is why we chose to re-shoot the first 10 scenes. It's going to be worth it.

Press Play

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Taster's choice

You've asked for a peek.

I cut this scene from a particularly long shot (nearly 400 frames.) For reference, we're using a LunchBox DV digital frame grabber and a pretty unforgiving digital camera (the kind you'd find used for security.) The benefits of the video are registration, clarity, and a deep focus, but the pitfall is ambiance. This is missing the entire mood and look of true film that will hopefully be present in the final.

Friday, March 7, 2008


Here we are posing with our Bolex Rex5 16mm camera. We initially intended to shoot the film on a mint condition 8mm Bolex Chuck had sitting on a shelf in it's original box. But then somewhat serendipitously, a friend, who owed me a bit of money, was just happening to be unloading this Rex5. We ran a plethora of light leak tests and shot several hundred feet through a series of lenses: a 25mm, 75mm YVAR and a 10mm. The footage was stunning. So much so that when we considered shooting on digital (which has come a long long long way,) we still opted for film.
Who's the tool?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Feedback loop

We've received a lot of requests for snippets of actual footage, rough or final shots to give a taste of the animation so far. We'd like nothing more than to show-off the finished product, but we have yet to see it ourselves because we're using actual 16mm color film. We shoot on 100foot rolls, each of which can hold about 1/2 the finished film. Of course we're not naive enough to pile so much on one reel, but we do plan on processing all the footage in small batches. But then we have a negative which needs to be transfered, and that we plan to do in one stretch since the labs charge by the hour.
In the meantime, we have frame grabber footage that's under hard light. Truly unflattering. These clearly show the quality of the animation, but do little to demonstrate the atmosphere and vibe of the film.
I'll post a clip or two later this week as an appetizer.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Credit where credit's due.

As is our custom after watching particularly awful films, Chuck and I looked over the DVD special features of Beowulf. We often watch these behind the scenes features in an attempt to see someone we know in the VFX scene as they disingenuously chat up the benefits of computer animation, or we're grasping at straws, hoping to make some use out of the hours lost. The hours were irretrievably lost because there is, of course, no measure of satisfaction after a film as awful as Beowulf.
But then came a little gem among the tech drivel and twirp boasting. Neil Gaimen (who I'm pretty certain hasn't actually done anything good, or at least good enough to deserve his enormous cult following,) went right ahead and took credit for a truly lovely quotation by G.K. Chesterton. The original quote goes as follows: "Fairy tales are more than true. Not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten."
How lovely is that? How eloquent and thoughtful and encompassing a concept. What a fantastic tribute to the fairy tale as a genre.
But then back to the DVD features where Neil's bobbing and talking head spoke this same quote, but as if it was of his own design. He followed G.K.'s words with his own, adding "and that is a huge true thing."
What a word-smith.

Let's just hope the editors, on a deadline, just happened to cut out the part where he gave credit to G.K. Chesterton and his marvelous quotation. I hope it's not too unlikely.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Puppet couture

Holly hand knitted Mawk's sweater and beanie with tiny needles and yarn not much thicker than sewing thread. She magically finished the sweater in less than a day. The beanie was done over a cup of morning coffee.
Chuck's super hero moniker for her is "The SilkWorm," which is pretty appropriate for a woman who doesn't miss a stitch even while knitting in a dark movie theater.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Workspaces continued.

While taking a breather from the rigors of animating, Chuck winds down by painting the miniature dock house. We're under such a tight schedule that down time ends up being just another time to work.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Puppet's with no soul.

It's tough to bring a puppet to life. A good deal of the illusion comes from the animator's performance and an engaging narrative, while some believability stems from the puppet's design. The better the design, the more fluid and natural the movement. The smoother the movement, the more life-like. But is 'life-like' the goal?
I'd argue that 'magic' is the goal. Something more than realism (otherwise you should simply film live action.) Somehow, it's a balance between the familiar and the unbelievable. It all comes down to a 'suspension of disbelief.'
From the start, Chuck and I agreed that our puppet's eyes needed to be as expressive as possible. We put so much weight on them, that at one point we removed them all together and opted for a hollow face. When we finally came around, Chuck found an old man who hand crafted glass eyes for dolls [contact information to be added.] As a finishing touch, Chuck added a little drop of lube which gave a great deal more depth to Mawk.
As an example of going the full distance, take a look at Chris and Maciek's film "Madame Tutli Putli" to see just how powerful eyes can be alongside skilled animation.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Miniatures continued.

To further illustrate the benefits of Y2Clay, I've added a picture of this very rough miniature sculpt of Mawk. At under 1 and 1/2 inches, it's not too difficult to get fairly intricate. After forming the armature from thin wire and getting a basic shape, I added melted Y2Clay in bulk to the areas I knew would be needing bulk. When the clay was a bit cooler, I carved out the general shape with an x-acto blade.
Once it cools completely, I'll go at it with tiny tools to get the little details and textures.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Mister's Tutli Putli

We were lucky enough to have both Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski stop by our studio for a visit before heading to Los Angeles and the Oscars. Their film "Madame Tutli Putli" is nominated this year for best animated short film.
These two, and their film, are simply wonderful.

Friday, February 15, 2008

To make an omelette you have to...

...break a few quail eggs.
It didn't take much to destroy this fragile egg moments before it was to be on set.
I mentioned in a earlier post how many eggs I've sculpted in the past that couldn't compare to the original and how happy I was to be using the real thing. After blowing the innards out, I filled the egg with wood glue thinking it would solidify over the next 48 hours. Unfortunately, I forgot that the glue wouldn't set in such a dense volume.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Your feedback.

If you're an avid blog reader, and specifically a reader of our blog, let us know what you would like to hear more about.
The only blog I've read more than once or twice is John August's screen writing page. His is more a reference tool, a wealth of tricks and tips for screenwriters. If you're curious as how to write a phone conversation between three people without wasting a page's worth of "cut-to's," then his blog may be helpful.
Aside from a daily update to keep a fire under Chuck's ass, I'm trying to imagine what the few stop motion folks out there might find useful. Documenting every detail of our film from puppet fabrication to storyboarding may prove useful to some, but tedious to others. Would this blog better serve as a resource? Let us know.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Villains. Introduction to one antagonist.

We're not planning on giving away too much.
Then again...
Here's an early sculpt of one of our villains. I began by wrapping wire around an approximately 2 inch square block of wood, then added hot clay and built up the basic form using Y2Clay (this clay's fantastic because it melts into smooth hot chocolate then hardens strong enough to take carving with a razor blade or sculpting tool.) We get the clay from D&S (Douglas and Sturgess) in San Francisco. It's pretty tough to find anywhere else in the Bay Area. Once the basic clay sculpt was finished, I added some dried alien flowers for bone-like feathers and prepped it for molding. At the time, I was working in a model shop in Bay View Hunter's Point with Martin Meunier and Erik Dunn -- they're master fabricators and mold makers with a shop right next to Merrick Cheney's (who I mentioned in an earlier post as the one who machined Mawk's armature.) I then poured the mold out of Platinum-Cure silicon and cast several resin figures. These I cut apart into their basic componenst: head, body, wings, and legs and then re-molded each part individually so that I could cast those pieces seperately. Now I had a complete puppet somewhat like an action figure.
By grinding away bits of resin with a Dremel to make room for armature parts and movement, I managed to make our villain.

Monday, February 11, 2008

How low?

I've read that when a film shoot goes too smoothly, chances are good that the movie will be bad. Problems in the narrative or cinematography or direction that aren't addressed during the shoot, simply slip through. The same can't necessarily be said about a rough shoot though. It still may not be any good.

We had a rough set up Saturday for a fairly insignificant close up shot. 3-5 seconds of mostly camera movement, but it took an entire day to set it up -- and this using the same set pieces and lighting. I was the first to lose patience, barking ridiculous statements like "why bother with a storyboard if we have to rework each shot during the shoot anyway!"
After a cool down, Chuck reminded me of all the behind the scenes stories, all the rewrites, all the experiments, all the risks that go into the DVD extras of Criterion films. I'm not normally one to find comfort in sympathetic suffering, but it's nice to think that well planned shoots by seasoned pros see rough days as well.

I find comfort in knowing that a film's made at least 3 times: the screenplay's written, the film's shot, and the footage is edited. It's good to have safety catches. As many as you can.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sticking to it the only way we know how.

Barge is fantastic glue.
It can be hard to work with though, especially indoors, as the toxic fumes demand quick work of it. Even this little bit immediately filled the room. Chuck still managed to shoot 140 frames with traces of the acrid smell still in the air. What a champ.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Side X ediS

In order to match a vertical camera move with the frame grabber, we made this mount for the video camera so it would move in tandem with the Bolex. Our tripod head included a 1 1/2 inche deep quick release plate. We wrapped two boards around it, then secured it with metal braces and hot glue.

Friday, February 8, 2008

POV of our laundry.

Taking a break?
I don't think so. If we take a break, it's to catch up on chores, like laundry. We both watched the spinning long enough to wonder what the clothes were seeing.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Will takes a spill.

Will Groebe, from Tippet Studios in Berkeley California, helped extensively with fleshing out the story and single handedly drew each frame of our storyboard. There's a post coming soon dedicated solely for his drawings.
I heard this afternoon that he had an accident while riding his motorcycle. A Ducati none the less. He's supposedly fine. A little broken, but fine.
If you know him, send him a note.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Camera move.

Nothing says 'computer animation' more to me than an overly dramatic and complex camera move. Sometimes a story necessitates a simple pan or push to link movement or make up for lens limitations. There's something so lovely about a subtle Kubrick-style push in, a movement so slow you hardly notice it's even happening. But a gross misuse of extravagant motion seems to generate a more diluted sense of tension. It's not really more exciting or hectic, just more complicated.
We shot this test with an older frame grabber to see how smoothly a Mitchell head, that we mounted on a borrowed track, could move. To make things worse, this image was filmed with a camera phone.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Quail eggs are simply beautiful

I've fabricated eggs.
And when I did, each one turned out egg-like or egg-ish.
But none came close to matching a true egg.
I'm not talking so much about the shape, but more about the color and texture. The shape is easy to match because it's naturally roundular, easy to roll in the hands with warm or semi-warm clay. The texture is another problem all together. If the clay is dry enough, you can use stand-by tricks like orange rinds or dry sponges to dent and ding the sculpted mass. Then you can air brush, dry brush with acrylic paint, maybe a smudge of oil paint, a little spit and shine for either the flat or glossy finish...
You can blow out a lovely quail egg from the market (99cents for 10.)

Monday, February 4, 2008

When to worry you worry worts you.

Having lost Monaco Labs (our local film lab,) we sent a precious 100foot roll to FotoKem in Los Angeles through the regular old USPS. No fancy pants film delivery service. Just the USPS -- folks walking around in nifty striped slacks or driving white bread boxes.

The film was shipped out Friday.
We both began losing our minds late Monday morning after a check-up call to Foto Kem. "Has the film arrived?" Chuck asked. "Not just yet," they replied.
120 hours of work lost and wandering between Northern and Southern California.

*A plug for the people at FotoKem who called us when the film arrived early that same afternoon setting us both at ease.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Cinefex, are you reading? Or watching?

This candid picture of Chuck on set could make it into the December 2010 issue.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Expressions not Ex'pressions

I'm currently teaching at a college in Emeryville called Ex'pressions. The picture above of Mawk's heads are 'expression tests.'
I couldn't resist.

Friday, February 1, 2008

A miniature of a miniature

Chuck built our dilapidated dollhouse from scratch with a little help from nearly everyone who passed through his workshop. Each adding their 2 cents...
A scrap or wood here. Broken shard of glass there. Little bit of paint and moss.
It was built for another shoot. Chuck even went so far as to build a life size interior in his apartment so he could match live action with stop motion. So for several years he lived in an over sized dollhouse.

When we adopted the house for Rung, it didn't take long to realize how much we needed an even smaller version.
I'm not sure what scale this is. I simply eyed it.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Antiquating 16mm film.

After numerous tests for both color and b&w 16mm film stock, we brought in a 100 feet of MASTER footage to Monaco Film Labs in San Francisco. A sign on the counter (I'm remembering it as scrawled but it was likely typed,) read that "as of February 1st 2008 we will no longer be processing 16mm color workprints."
They won't even process 16mm black and white.

Their new name should/would/could be: Monaco Digital.

We'll be sending film down south to Los Angeles or up north to Seattle or Portland. If you have a trustworthy lab, let us know.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The sky sweep.

In early September 2007, Holly Strauss "faux-finisher-extra-ordinAIR" began painting our sky. Layer after layer. With a little brush and a big brush. A flat brush and a round brush.
But no air brush?
She finished in a couple days, adding small details along the way.
We rolled an enormous canvas over a corner of the studio.
We made the backing from thin (1/8th inch) bendable plywood which we mounted on 2x4 bracing. The canvas was clipped on, so as the paint dried, it began tightening, hugging the backing, and taking on the smooth curve.