Introduction: Pixelated (The Making of a Mask and a Stop Motion Video)

Pixelated is a collaborative project between filmmaker Salman Sajun and myself.

When we met earlier this year he had presented the idea of a future collaboration. Given that I specialize in making mascot styled masks and he specializes in stop motion animation, the idea became clear that we would make a stop motion animation of a mask being assembled.

This instructable will be a brief overview of how the mask was assembled and how the stop motion animation of it was shot.

Watch the video here:

PIXELATED from Salman Sajun on Vimeo.

As well as a short making of:

PIXELATED - MAKING OF from Salman Sajun on Vimeo.

Step 1: Designing and Assembling the Mask

Salman's mask was first sketched up on graph paper and a measurement was determined as to how to translate it to the foam being used. The foam I used for this was just over an inch thick, so the calculations were not as exact, but I adjusted them as I went along.

If you were to adopt this step, it would be entirely up to you as to how you would want to translate yourself into a pixelated mask. We used some images from the web as inspiration, such as characters from Minecraft.

I chose to use some black felt I had for the hair and polar fleece for the skin tone. This allowed for a difference in texture.

The goal of this stage was to cover the form in fabric using pins. It would only be temporary, and no details would be added. This will make sense in the next couple of steps.

Step 2: First Day of Shooting.

The first image in this step shows how Salman and I started shooting. The head was completely covered in fabric but only pins held it in place. I tried to sand and paint the pin heads to resemble the fabric colour as to camouflage them a little. You may notice that the background colour in the first image is different from the rest. That is because Salman had adjusted it in post production.

We began with the fabric on the nose, unrolling it upwards, pinning it in place at each move.

The rest of the unrolling was brainstormed and done on the spot. We only went through this process once, but we were pleased with the results. As with any stop motion animation, this process was painfully slow as each shot had to translate smoothly into the next.

You can re-watch the video in the previous step and try and imagine it backwards to observe how we went about this.

Step 3: Foam Jenga.

After removing all the fabric we began to fill in all the negative spaces with square and rectangular shapes of white foam until the mask looked like the first image displayed here.

We began shooting again, removing a block or two for every frame until we were back where we finished with the last segment.

Unlike the last segment, and the one that will follow this one, this was shot the way it was played out in the final video.

Step 4: Big Foam Block.

For this next step we made a very light registration mark on the blue background where the front left corner of the mask was. We then replaced it with the structure you see in the first photo here. Only three sides needed to be assembled since that was all we were seeing on screen.

Again we started the shooting process. After every shot we would leave a marker as to where the front left corner was left off. I would cut all the sides down and replace the shape for the next shot until it was too small to cut and we could just remove it completely.

And again, like the first segment of shooting, this would be played in reverse in the final video.

These first three segments, making up roughly 8 seconds of the final video, took approximately 13 hours to animate. This doesn't count the time it took to setup the equipment either!

Step 5: Prepping for the Second Shoot. Creating the Details.

There was a long break in between that first shoot and what would be our next. In that time I constructed the details for the second shoot.

Salman and I first brainstormed the process we would go through for this shoot. The details of the face would pop out and be animated, so multiple objects of each part of the face needed to be created, all of different sizes.

In the first photo you can see the range of ears and eyes that were made. To give the animation a more lively feel, parts were made that would be slightly bigger than the final objects. It's a subtle thing to take notice of in the videos, but you can see both the eyes and ears sort of bounce as they grow out of the head. This will be explained further in the following step.

Pixel-like glasses were also constructed out of rectangular wooden dowel and spray painted grey.

Step 6: Shoot Two. Animating the Details.

This shoot had been far easier than the first as it mostly involved adding and removing pre-fabricated parts. The one tricky aspect of it was making the head spin.

Salman had used Dragonframe to capture these images. This program as well as other stop motion programs offer an onion skin option where you can see where your next shot is going to be in relation to your previous one, making it a bit easier to control. This helped us as we just went with intuition on the increments the head moved for the spin.

Replacing the eyes and ears were easy as we made a switch for every single frame.

The eyebrows were animated by adding a small speck of black felt, then a small roll of it, then a larger final piece that was rolled out until they were complete. Similarly the pupils of the eyes were small pieces of black felt added for two frames and then replaced with the final shape on their third frame.

The glasses were animated to enter from the back of the head. Since they were constructed to be a bit tight on the mask, it was easy to move them along the top of the head and drop down over the eyes as they slightly hugged the face and didn't fall.

The final step involved setting up a rig with fishing line to remove the head. We then switched backgrounds and had the head lowered onto the wearer without their face being revealed.

Step 7: Bonus Animations.

In addition to the main video, we made three small ones using the speed burst function on Salman's camera. The prep time took the longest for each of these where as the actions themselves were perfected in just a few takes.

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