Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Changeling

This little film is an adaptation of Leah Bodine Drake's poem "Changeling", which was published in Wierd Tales, in September 1942. She's quite an interesting character, with an equally interesting family tree that includes Sir Francis Drake, Davy Crockett, and Jean Bodin. Drake was a poet, author, editor, and critic, and she's probably best known for her first book, published by Arkham House, "A Hornbook For Witches."


It seems the book didn't sell all that well when it was published. Now, of course, it's a valued collectible. Among the poems in the book is "Changeling."


Some of her poetry is probably better known for being included in the record "A Hornbook For Witches", narrated by Vincent Price. Even this item is becoming something of a collectible, but you can find the whole thing uploaded on YouTube. 


So, what is actually a changeling? According to folklore, it's a fairy child placed in a human home. In my native Sweden it's the trolls who take a human newborn and replace it with one of their own babies. Why do they practice this custom? Nobody seems to know, but the general idea seems to be a lust for knowledge of human secrets, such as iron-making, butter-making, and similar things. The fairy or troll child is a kind of infiltrator, in other words. The changeling is mostly an unhappy creature, neither fairy nor human, which is something Drake touches on in her poem. My grandmother's uncle claimed he was a changeling.

My puppet changeling started life as a medium-grade Monster Clay sculpture. I made the head and the torso.


The sculpture was placed on a clay base and a dental plaster mold was built up around it.


I added tinted latex to the plaster mold to create a sturdy skin. This forehead was reinforced with a mix of latex and cotton. Other parts of the head were padded with strips of polyurethane soaked in latex. The body was padded with layers of soft foam.


The armature for this character is very simple; a humanoid frame made with aluminum wires and Polymorph thermoplastic. I used very thin polyurethane foam wrapped around the armature to build up the shape of the body. The very thinnest foam is square bits you buy in large bulk packages from a drugstore. They're washcloths used in health care. 


The head was attached to the neck part of the armature with thermoplastic. The foam padding was glued down to the armature padding with contact cement. More padding was added to smooth out the transition between latex skin and foam.



Here's the little chap finished and ready for animation. His eyes are plastic pearls painted and placed in silicone eye sockets on the inside of the head latex skin. Thermoplastic holds the sockets in place. The hair is patches of crepé hair - tufts of dyed sheep's wool. His nappy or loincloth is simply made from kitchen tissue paper dabbed with latex. His skin is painted with tinted latex, using a foam sponge. His claw-like nails are copy -or printer's paper dabbed with latex and cut in shape with small scissors.




The same night I finished him, I found the little blighter running around one of my bookshelves. Changelings, whatever their origin, are never up to any good!



In my film, you first see the changeling riding on a white owl. As I was a bit pressed for time finishing this film as a bonus for my Patreon supporters I didn't make an owl puppet, which would've taken a bit of time (longer than making the changeling). Instead, I found a couple of stock footage clips of a CG animated owl and stuck the changeling puppet on its back in After Effects. The background stormy clouds are two other stock clips I've used a number of times in my films.



The weasel and fox footage are also two stock video clips found on Videohive.com. Again, it's a bit of cheating, but all in the tradition of how movies have been put together through the ages.


The backgrounds are, unless something's moving in them, still images downloaded from depsoitphotos.com. Smoke, fireflies, and similar ethereal substances are also stock clips, usually placed on black backgrounds, leaving it up to me to choose the right kind of transparency for the layers in which they are placed.


I thought Leah Brody Drake's poignant poem was a good subject for a bit of animation. We all feel like outsiders at some point in our lives, and the changeling is one of those ultimate outsiders that human imagination has provided us with through storytelling, like characters such as Gollum or the Frankenstein monster. The poem also has a bit of nature romance to it, which I always enjoy indulging in.



































Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Abandoned Places


The concept for this one is very simple and even seems to be a bit trendy at the moment: Making videos about creepy places where unexplained events have taken place or are taking place. I did one earlier called The Haunted Room, and this project is a development of that idea, you could say.

So, I'll go through each scene and make some comments on it. I probably shouldn't, since it's really up to the viewer to make up his or her own mind about what has happened in those abandoned places. Most of the content in this film is cobbled together from still stock images and videos, but there is some animation here and there.


I've downloaded all my stock photos from Depositphotos, and then made a few tweaks to them in Photoshop. This old place is obviously haunted by a girl who seems to be stuck in a single window pane. the girl, like most of the stock videos used here, comes from Videoblocks.


My idea here was that some government experiment went to heck and this energy sphere is still around causing havoc. Again, a blend of stock effects and animations.


An old abandoned classrom with an unplugged TV that turns on anyway. A satanic ritual of some sort is displayed on the screen. the screaming noises I used are supposedly "real" sounds from Hell, picked up by drilling crews. It can't get more authentic than that!


This shot is, of course, alluding to H P Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space." The crosses and the well were added in Photoshop and the green energy is a stock CGI effect tweaked in After Effects to look a bit more organic.


The abandoned asylum is a must, and I found a very nice stock CGI zombie girl which I stuck into the dark doorway.


This field is a stock video -you can see the grass moving slightly which I thought was nice. I replaced the original, very blue and calm sky with a CGI cloud vortex. The writing on the silo was there in the original stock footage,


The two bat-like creatures circling the cloud funnel are a single puppet once built and animated for my film "Azathoth." It was pressed back into action here.


A once-nice drawing room invaded by giant slugs. I thought about having dead people sitting on the furniture, but decided against it, as the place would look more abandoned without them.

The giant slugs were simple photos of the brown "Spanish" garden slug. My garden is, unfortunately, full of the pests. I moved them about in After Effects using the Puppet tool.


The scene of some industrial accident, though it might have occult overtones, as you can glimpse gigantic tentacles looming out of the mists behind the buildings. I re-used old animations of a tentacle prop.


A farmhouse afflicted by some sort of pulsating alien fungi. Again, a bit of Lovecraftian overtones. The fungi are actually some sort of ocean anemone creature.


Some sort of stately building where a zombie-like creature sits on a ceiling corner and then scuttles off into a hole. 

The creature is a zombie puppet I've used a few times over the years. It was actually animated upside down since that was easier for me, and then flipped in After Effects.


This shot is actually a complete stock footage clip, so kudos to whoever came up with it.


Of course, you need some creepy toys when doing a video about haunted places. I re-used a couple older puppets that still held up quite well despite being over ten years old by now.


A commentator on YouTube noted that it was obvious that the cymbal monkey would come to life, and he's right -why put it in there and not have it bang its cymbals?


The clown puppet might've been a better surprise, but a clown puppet is a rather obvious addition to a cast of haunted toys, right?


In this shot, I added the jars and bottles with freaky contents. The beating heart is a stock animation placed inside its jar with some After Effects trickery.


I thought the last shot would be a bit humorous, with a hairy arm grabbing a bug scuttling by on the floor.


The arm came from another old puppet, a devil puppet that has popped up here and there in my films. Again, despite being over a decade old, he's held up quite well.

This film was another little experiment in creating mood. I'm quite pleased with it, but it's not something I can do too often or the idea will wear very thin indeed. I might return to it eventually.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Nemesis

 

Someone in my YouTube comment section described this little short as "Metal Hurlant meets Lovecraft", and I think that's pretty apt. The French sci-fi comics magazine (better known in the US as Heavy Metal) had a lot of crazy content, and I certainly read the magazine and I'm sure I've been influenced by it. The Lovecraft part is the fact that I decided to join bits of his poems "Nemesis" and "Psychopompos: A Tale In Rhyme", which, in themselves are good, but I had my favorite parts and thought they'd go together very well. What I ended up with was, basically, a revenge tale of a single warrior taking out a planet-destroying giant monster.


So, let's start with the monster, as I usually do. My idea was to make a tentacled skull with a distinctly evil look. I started with a rough clay sculpture of a slightly cartoony and scowling skull. The skull and the jaw were made as two separate pieces.



However, I didn't make a plaster mold around the sculpture as I usually do, but I instead built up a skin over the clay using cotton and latex. I just addad one thick layer, and allowed to dry slowly.


The eyes were two glass blobs with flat undersides glued to a paper printout of photoshopped blood veins. I used transparent scrapbooking glue.


I wanted some very big, gross-looking veins protruding from the skull, and used macramé yarn soaked in tinted latex to achieve the effect.



To make the skull and jaw sturdier, I mixed up some Rhino plastic, a fast-setting resin that I use for many things, and simply poured it into the hollow skull and jaw skins, slushing around the plastic to make it cover all spots. Tentacles made from aluminum wires covered with soft yarn soaked in tinted latex were attached by drilling holes in the skull and inserting the ends of each tentacle, attaching them with thermoplastic. I also made a bunch of horn-like protuberances by wrapping yarn around the tip of a pencil and painting tinted latex over the yarn. 


I added teeth made from cotton dipped in latex, using liquid latex as a glue.


The eyes were stuck to the eye sockets with dabs of hot melt glue.


Patches of textured latex skin were cast in texture molds and attached to the puppet.





The finished puppet was painted with tinted latex and acrylic airbrush colors. A support rod was made from two thick aluminum wires wrapped in chroma key tape.



The ship seen in the film was a CGI stock footage animation downloaded from Videoblocks. In the clip I used various angles and movements were provided.
 

In After Effects I added the ship to various space backgrounds that were either Photoshopped or also downloaded from Videoblocks.


The vengeful pilot was an even bigger cheat. I simply used two still images of a dressed up person, found at stock image provider Depositphotos, and placed that guy in spaceship interior backgrounds, also a mix of stock photos and Photoshopped details.

I'm sure my interpretation of Lovecrafts poetry differs wildly from the intent of the old guy himself, but as it is, I had fun doing this film. It was a quick and creative project.