Category: Damocles

  • Damocles Screened at Roll Yer Own Festival

    ASIFA Atlanta’s Roll Yer Own Animation Festival, with entries from local animators, took place on Monday, May 21, 2007 at 8:00 PM. The venue was “the 5 Spot” at 1123 Euclid Ave in Little 5 Points.

    Thanks to Karl, Brett and everyone at ASIFA Atlanta for your work on the festival and for including my film “The Sword of Damocles” in the program. Also, thanks to everyone that attended the festival for your support of our local animation talent.

  • Video: Frame Rate and a Fix for the Ghosting Effect

    In both Man Drawing a Reclining Woman and the Sword of Damocles I have what looks like ghosting in the animation. My process is to shoot 12 photos for each second of animation then stretch that sequence in Sony Vegas to 24fps. Vegas then blurs every other frame. When analyzing the footage within Vegas frame by frame I would see one clean frame followed by blended frame composed of the the previous frame and the next frame.

    What I found out a few months ago is a setting in Sony Vegas called “disable resample” which eliminates the blending and will render each frame cleanly. The result is that every frame is shown twice with no blending. The default in Vegas is set to resample which blends every other frame automatically for image sequence clips. I still haven’t found a way to disable it permanently but in the meantime I am re-mastering my films to remove the ghosting. Jason, on a thread for a related topic at the forum, mentions the same fix in Adobe Premier by unchecking “blend speed changes”.

    Here is my breakdown of the process:

    • Shoot 12 photos for each second of animation with my DSLR camera (the spy cam is the same)
    • Import the frames into Vegas as a numbered image sequence
    • For each sequence/clip I set the frame rate to 24fps and a field order of None (progressive)
    • Drag the sequence to the timeline
    • For each clip or sequence on the editing timeline I:
      Right Click > Choose Switches > Choose Disable Resample

  • Business Cards: The MOO Solution

    I needed to get some business cards to hand out at various times and decided to try the Flickr / Moo option. I have a Flickr site and read the specifications for sizing photos as Moo cards and made 10 card designs in Photoshop. I got the Moo 100 card pack for approximately $20 and it took about 10 days to arrive from the UK. The cards come in a little plastic holder which is nice. Click the photo below to see a larger version for more detail.


    The cards turned out well and the paper is heavier than regular photo paper. They feel solid like a typical business card and have a matte/satin photo on one side and my name, email, and web site link on the back. I think the price and the ability to custom design up to 100 different types of cards is worthwhile.

    The one thing I would do differently next time is to adjust the photos to make the images and text contrast more. For example, I used grey instead of pure white for the text on the photo and the grey at that size is a little difficult to read. However, they turned out great and should work just fine for my current purposes.

  • Lighting With Clamp Lights

    The lighting that I have been using for my films so far consists of incandescent bulbs and inexpensive Clamp Lights that you can get at hardware stores. I believe Karl at Between the Frames may be using the same lighting system.


    I modify them by putting 4 holes around the rim which allow me to bolt armature wire onto the edge. The four arms of wire hold sheets of tracing paper in front of the bulb and housing which diffuses the light. By combining various bulbs and types of paper (printer paper, tracing paper, etc…) I can get different levels of light. I’m using 25, 40, and 60 watt bulbs and usually work with one main light to the side, one fill light on the other side, and sometimes one back light from behind.

    To attach the 8.5″ x 11″ paper, I fold over the edges to make a seam and tape it closed. That makes a pocket for the armature wire, which has a bend at the tip to prevent tearing the paper, to hold the paper in place. Doing it this way makes it easy for me to remove the paper if I need full light or to switch to a thicker paper.


    Clamp Lights have a tightening bolt that attaches them to a clip so they can be used and positioned in many places. In my experience, the spring clip that comes with the light isn’t stable enough and loses its grip over time. Therefore, I remove the metal spring clip that comes with the light in favor of using a wooden bead that is glued to a dowel rod or fixed to some other structure that is more stable.

    In the photo below you can see one bead is fixed to the top of an old drum kit stand with epoxy putty and the other is a dowel rod with a bead and the rod is inserted into a wood frame. The light housing can be tightened to the bead which then provides an adequate balance between grip strength and the ability to rotate and position. It can easily be knocked out of place though so I have to be cautious when working near one of the lights during a shot.


    I haven’t tried using color paper or cutting designs in the paper to see what effects that might provide but so far the system has worked out pretty well for a quick and dirty and inexpensive lighting system.

  • Sword of Damocles Production Notes

    The Sword of Damocles is a short stop motion animation that was made in response to the StopMoShorts December 2006 contest. The contest provided three words (sword, cave, and fear) to inspire animators. I focused on the sword with the idea of doing something related to the legend of the Sword of Damocles. I would also embed the other two words in some fashion within the film.

    When I first learned of the legend I envisioned it in a medieval setting. However, the legend appears to be Greek in origin and much older. The premise I chose would keep a medieval setting while also referencing the legend. By using a referential approach I took the opportunity with this film to explore how it could become a veiled criticism of conventional film formulas (including film techniques, story formulas, three-act structures, etc.).

    The list that follows contains the conceptual ideas that I was working with when creating the storyboards, the script, and during filming. The whole process was very much stream of consciousness and experimental to see what I would come up with quickly. I may have succeeded in some places and failed in others. In either case, I did have fun making it quickly and learned several things that I can apply in the Vitruvius production process.

    1. What quote by a literary figure is being referenced in the opening tale by the Jester? What is the context and meaning of said quote?
    2. At what points do the harp strings sound?
    3. Is the Jester ever seen in the same frame as any other character?
    4. At what point does the Jester directly address you the viewer?
    5. Why was the Jester dismissed by the King?
    6. The King and Damocles toast each other? Who is the other party that the Jester is toasting at the end of the film?
    7. There are multiple films presented, which one is the real film?
    8. There are five characters and each are symbolic of participants in the film making process.
    9. The sword is hanging behind the window at the end of the film but the Jester’s words are future tense and speculative.
    10. The voice of the sword in the last act says: “I am the Sword of Damocles. Pay no heed to the tale being told by the fool jester. I was recorded by Cicero as being invoked by the King Dionysus to inform Damocles of the perils of being King. I am the one true Sword of Damocles.”

    Character and Set Design Photos

    The characters are aluminum armature wire with epoxy putty at the hips and chests. The wire is wrapped in jute string and painted. I used thin craft foam for the clothes and hot glue to hold it all together. I painted raw umber acrylic paint on the clothes to dirty them up a bit. The hands and heads are carved from basswood. The arms of the puppets are single strands of wire and the hands have a small hole in them so they are easy to put on and spin around. The feet are epoxy putty with a slot cut through to use tie downs. I also used some epoxy putty for hair. The eyes are wooden beads and the eyelids are Sculpey clay. Eye blinks are made by pressing the clay over the eyes for for one, two, or three frames as needed.

    The sets are made out of pink insulation foam and covered with plaster wrap and then painted for texture. The chairs and table props are basswood and epoxy putty.

    The film was shot on a Nikon D50 and edited in Sony Vegas. The vocals were recorded and edited in Audacity and the music was made with Sony Acid Loop samples.


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