Step 2: Research
I’ve been working since last September on a drawing project that uses stop-motion animation. You may recall that I began this project last summer with a 19 second animated video Train Sequence. That was Step 1, a mini-movie to test the stop-motion process. My goal at that time was to incorporate the 19 second piece into a 4 minute animation, to be completed by August 2012. I begin shooting and editing in July so I thought this would be a good time to look back at the production process up to this point.
I’ve completed 26 drawings which are the basis of the animation. Similar to the way illustrations accompany a picture book that are tied to a narrative, the drawings are motivated by the text of Josh Ritter’s song Wings.
In addition to online resources and library texts, I visited some of the physical sites mentioned in the song. I began with a trip to the Cataldo Mission, near Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho. Originally a Jesuit mission, it’s said to be the oldest standing building in Idaho. Most of my life I’ve lived no more than 50 miles from this historic site, but this was my first visit.
Inside the mission are wooden statues on either side of the vaulted dome ceiling. Carved and painted to resemble marble, they were made by Father Ravalli, a Jesuit priest who was also a sculptor, painter and designer of the mission. Like an elaborate stage set, the building’s interior is full of his faux-finished structures and ornamentation: hand-painted newspaper “wallpaper,” tin can metalwork “chandelier”, and faux marble carved wooden altar and baptismal font. Working with Schitsu’ umsh tribe members, Ravalli used only the tools and materials that were available, including cat hair paintbrushes, and paints made from plants and berries.
In January of this year, I wandered into the CREHST museum in Richland Washington, looking for a little information on the area since the Columbia River Basin is mentioned in several stanzas. Not only does the museum cover the history of the Columbia River drainage, it also has a special collection of paraphernalia from the Hanford Plutonium Project, enabling me to skip the research trip to Hanford.
The museum docents, former employees of the Hanford Project, encouraged me make the 25 mile trip to Hanford and tour the site.
And finally, I needed to research the process of how a tree becomes a board. So last week I joined a group tour of the Hull Oakes Sawmill, near Monroe Oregon. It’s one of the last commercial steam-powered sawmills in the U.S.
Scene 17 begins with a drawing of a lumber mill that comes to life with animation. I grew up in a mill town so I’m not clueless about the process, but I thought I better double-check.
My plan is that trees will “leave” the hillsides, move through the water, up a conveyer, into the mill, and become stacks of boards in the lumberyard. Of course Hull Oakes has several people (not computers) involved in these steps: unloading the logs from trucks into the river, running machines, grabbing logs with a spiked tool, directing the cuts, shunting jagged boards to the waste bins, lowering the circular saw, etc. I have the luxury of leaving people out…it’s only an 8 second scene.