Global Astronomy Month – April

The Best Views of the Universe are from our own Backyards

A 9-minute movie with a dual purpose: demonstrate quick movie-production techniques combining puppetry and 3D animation while offering food for thought about astronomy.

This script started life as a children’s book manuscript. However, I got a good response from an article on this theme:

http://www.cloudynights.com/item.php?item_id=1995 

So the challenge was to translate this into the much more band-intensive medium of a movie. Many techniques were employed. Puppets were not used to be ‘cute’ or to appeal to younger children. Rather, they were much easier to use with a one-man-&-a-laptop movie studio. A puppeteer can read the script off-camera in real-time, not needing to memorize it. Note, however that the bear in the TV scenes is an iClone animation using the puppet bear’s face and in the final scene is a voice-synched animation (CrazyTalk) of a still shot of the puppet (against a blue screen). Animations are even easier to use when there are potential edits, revisions, and re-uses of the script.

Points to consider and discuss:

  • use of spoof (puppet as “1st bear in outer space ..”) to parody the notion that ‘experts’ are needed to discuss what should be ‘general knowledge’ for the human race -ie- our wherebouts in space.
  • animal puppets and alternatives – whether live actors, picture cut-outs, avatars, clay models, dolls, clip art cartoons or other character portrayals would be equally or more effective.
  • ‘rear projection’ technique live-filming puppets in front of still image and moving image screens.
  • ‘chroma key’ with talking head in final scene.
  • ‘integrated media’ -ie- carrying a character (astronaut) across multiple media -ie- puppet > 3D avatar (iClone) > talking head (CrazyTalk) avatar.
  • 3D character’s ‘space suit’ created from iClone ‘hero’ armour with colour brightened and de-contrasted.
  • helmets created from CrazyTalk ‘fun messenger frame’. 
  • voices using falsetto rather than digital pitch-shifting.
  • archival public domain movie and NASA space footage.
  • home photos of stars using ‘night shot’ feature of standard videocamera.
  • interior of house from 3D iClone sets.
  • videoscreen created from animated .gif of movie laid over a powerpoint image of room and TV created from Win Media Player screen shot.
  • song created with software and multitrack harmonies.
  • alternative ways of presenting same message -ie- 4 page text version, podcast…etc.
  • alternatives to ‘preachy’ message -ie whether some discovery method might better convey this message
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