Monday, December 7, 2015


Over the weekend, I animated my very last shot of the film! I have 9 days until graduation and a lot of compositing ahead of me. Wish me luck and Red Bull!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Animated Paper

A few paper elements will be animated. Each petal has a wire armature running up the back. This particular flower was inspired by the ones I used to find when I was studying abroad in West Ireland. 

Puppet Making

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Set Dressing

Shooting this week! I'll be getting through the first part of the film—everything above water. I'm excited to finally get a chance do some set dressing too. 


Monday, October 19, 2015

With a Little Help from My Friends

It didn't take me very long to realize I was way in over my head this semester. After weighing my options, I decided to try asking for help. Students and recent alumni have come through big time—donating their time to help me get it all done. I could not be more grateful. 

Autumn Helping Sculpt
Scenic Painting

Autumn and Danielle helped to cut-out and rig this vine element. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Scenics and Puppet Progress

Style shift!! I'll be making the environments more painterly and planar, and less sculptural from here on out. This change is both aesthetically driven and time saving, so it’s a win-win. Huzzah! 
It’s all in the details

Jellyfish progress. The body collapses and should allow for a little bit of squash and stretch once in the tank. 

Two down, one to go. I'm changing the goddess puppet from last semester. The marionette will be more pose-able and have white costuming instead of red. 

Casting a Face!

This is how you know who your true friends are. Andrea spent about 25 minutes under the mask—10 minutes  under the alganate and another 15 waiting for the plaster mother mold to cure. 

Plaster and burlap mother mold... and pink straws, because breathing
De-molding complete. From here, I'll be modifying the sculpt to create the character's face. I'll be adding eyes & brows in clay for animation next week.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Oxberry Testing

I would really like to use motion control on some of my shots,  but do not have access to a traditional system. So, I'm modifying our school's Oxberry system to capture my "underwater" sets. 
Shooting tests. So far so good! It took me a few tries (and hours) go get a basic understanding of how to run the Oxberry, but I think I'll be worth it in the end. This way I can do multiple lighting/effects passes for my environments. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Halfway Point! Process Reel:

After a productive internship in New York City this summer, I'm back in the studio at CCS in Detroit and hard at work on this film. I have decided to make a few aesthetic changes to the film. These changes will not only better facilitate the story, but they will also allow what I learned over the summer to influence the art direction of the film and help me stay on schedule. 

Below is a process reel I made to give an overview of the work I have put into the film so far. The reel includes ideation, process, material scouting, and tests. Enjoy!

Password: seniorthesis

PS: The last plate says 2014... but it's a lie. It should say 2015. Don't trust the internet, folks. 


Monday, July 13, 2015

Compositing Test

I'm super excited about the way this comp test turned out. This is a great guide for future shots and gives me a few ideas for changes I can make.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Filming Techniques

The marionette is filmed in this 3' tank (approx. 200 gallons).

The caustic lights on the coral are made by animating panes of dappled glass frame at a time. 

Each layer is shot separately to give me more freedom compositing. For this camera move,  I attached the camera to a track and moved it by hand to animate the stop motion camera move. I do not have access to a motion control rig at this time, but I should when I revisit this scene in the fall.    

Aquatic Marionette

This puppet is super small and does not need to be very detailed because it is a background element in this shot. The silhouette and movement of the fabric is the most important part, so it took a few tries to get the weight of the costume to be the correct buoyancy. 

Pretend you don't see the burned legs... I need to invest in a toaster oven that is not from a thrift store.


Next, I refined the foam by hand and applied primer. From there, I upholstered the pre-dyed fabric. To do this, I soaked the fabric in a 1:1 mixture of white craft glue and water. I pulled the fabric tightly around the set and used pins and staples to hold the fabric in place while it dried (over several days).

Hundreds of Pins Later... 

I also started sculpting additional forms out of Sculpy to dress the set with once it dried. 

Future Tube Sponge
I sculpted over the heads of pins to make a bunch of quick additions.

Foam Sculpting

First off, sculpting foam with a hot wire produces very dangerous fumes and should be done using extreme caution. 

In a well ventilated (and sadly very cold) area, I roughed in the shapes of the coral reef. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Below are a few environment renders, set elements, and a shape language guide. I still have a few more environments to get though, but I'm starting to really nail down the look and feel of the film.

The coral reef will be my most fabrication heavy environment. This set is also the bit of fabrication that I am looking forward to most. I'm going to begin sculpting the bones out of foam this week.
This environment will be the first layer explored by the puppet. I'm debating if I want to animate the branches as stop motion elements or in After Effects using the puppet tool. I think I'll do a few tests to figure out which aesthetic fits the film best. Furthermore, this render helped me to identify my influences for surface textures. Mary Blair is my primary influence. 

Assets to help me define my render style. I'm going for painterly, but graphic in silhouette.

I'm still playing with my shape language—finding that fine line between graphic and geometric. Primary influence: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Hot Wire Construction

After checking out the prices of manufactured foam cutters online, I decided to do a little digging and learn how to make one myself. I checked in with some friends I made while interning in LA, and they gave me great advice. 

 12 foot, 16 guage extension cord
Nicrome wire. 16/28 gauge wire 
Bots, washers, and nuts
Scrap wood
1K Variac Dimmer

There are a lot of different ways to build one of these. I found this link to be a good resource. Reading the comments was very helpful:

It actually works! Best results with the Variac set between 5 and 7.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Spring Break Studio: Dye Tests

I spent my first evening of Spring Break in my apartment doing a batch of dye tests while catching up on Brooklyn Nine-Nine on Hulu (btw, great show, check it out). I have two main fabrics to work with—a textured white cotton material and a more complex woven upholstery fabric. The cotton took the dye really well. The upholstery worked better than I expected, but it did come out a bit darker than I would like. 

So far so good. The process of using iDye packets is pretty simple and worked as expected (no surprises... which was a surprise). The dye is a powder that you add to water, then add fabric, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 30 minutes. The tests took all evening because I did 4 batches. 

A little goes a long way with iDye—a dusting of dye powder did the trick. 

Huzzah! I didn't burn anything. 

Scarlet, pumpkin, and pink iDye pigments compared to the original fabrics above.
 Far left: upholstery fabric treated with pink iDye.

Friday, March 6, 2015


A fun test with UV paints. The next step will seeing how they hold up under water.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Testing 1, 2, 3...

First off, I’d like to say that the teachers at CCS are ridiculously awesome. They will do whatever they can to help their students. They have great ideas and are constantly popping into my studio with advice or just to check in. CCS instructors rock!

One of my instructors lent me a large tank to do some key/materials tests. I whipped up puppets (in literally 30 minutes—gotta stick to that production schedule), and spent the evening filming in the studio.

A few quick keys later, and now have some pretty solid test footage to work with. I feel like I’m in a good place (production schedule wise) going into spring break.  

Runner Diaries: Munro Crafts

An instructor turned me onto Monro Crafts in Berkley. The have all of the usual craft store items (particularly related to jewelry), but they also have some really specific things that you can’t find anywhere else. I was super impressed by their selection of polymer clays and sculpting tools.

Munro Crafts Bead & Jewelry Supply
3954 12 Mile Rd, Berkley, MI 48072
(248) 544-1590

So. Many. Beads. 

I'm a sucker for good adhesives. I officially love this shop. 

Runner Diaries: Thrifting

 My hometown has recently upgraded to a super thrift store. This place is huge— back in the day it was our grocery store. I popped in to see what I could find, and ended up staying way too long. I found loads of great stuff for my sets and puppets.

Uhhh, who knew there would be crazy long line? Guess I'm not the only one on a budget. 

Walled Lake Thrift Store
730 N. Pontiac Trail, Walled Lake, MI 48390
Near W. Maple & Pontiac Trail

Killer fabrics! I'm hoping to use the blouse on the far left as a coral texture.