The Advanced Doodling Trailer is here!

I had a lot of fun making this two minute trailer, in which about 800 stills from the film are printed out and used to construct the final prop in the movie - a three foot record album. The album then finds its home in one of two gigantic record crates, recapitulating the opening scene of the movie at 200X scale.

Make any sense? Hopefully just barely... enough to whet your appetite for the final product, coming in February, 2015!

Solo Doodling

After almost a year of weeklyish shoots with the Advanced Doodling crew I found myself alone on a friday night and decided to do some animating All By Myself , as Celine Dion would put it (follow that link - trust me). I absolutely love getting together with my AD peeps, but I was none-the-less reminded of how much I love the epic art all-nighters of my yester-years. I have thus decided to indulge myself by doing the final chapter of our sequence as a solo voyage, insanely inefficient as that may be. This piece is a little document of about five crazy days of shooting for the first part of that final chapter.

Music: "Mr. Overtime" by Punks Jump Up.

(p.s. Okay, so there is one sequence in this video that actually comes from the sessions with the whole crew. Can you guess which one?)

Hot Zebra Bead Action

Another teaser here from the Advanced Doodling project. Here we have the "zebra bead" sequence in which this little black-and-white bauble is buried in googly eyes and other beads. The entire sequence is then recapitulated at 300x scale with a big paper mache version of the bead getting buried in corks, easter eggs, and other oddities...

The music is "Big Mouth" by Santigold. Her video for the song is pretty snazzy too. In fact it caused me to go a little youtube dive on this artist. Love the video for Girls as well.

Hot Coaster Action

The art sequence in Advanced Doodling has a quality of looping back over itself at different scales and in different media. Hence, for the last few months I've been thinking about ways to visually depict a branching time-line. This piece is an experiement with one such technique.

The source footage is a single 600-frame stop-motion sequence I shot on a blue plastic beer coaster. I cut the sequence up into 11 subsequences "A"-"K". Then I created branching nodes "A-AB", "B-BC". "C-CD" and so forth. Finally, I composed these nodes in the tree you see in the video.

Advanced Doodling - Hot Studio Action

Here is a quick cut of some dailies from the last month or two with the Advanced Doodling crew.

Earlier in the project I staged a tiny zebra-striped bead on spinning platform and film it getting submerged in stop-motion by other tiny things, including googly-eyes and seed-beads. In the sequence of shoots shown here, we are attempting to recreate this shoot at 300X scale on a four-foot rotating turn-table. The giant version of the zebra-bead is made out of paper mache and it will get submerged in painted corks, small easter eggs, and decked out larger easter eggs.

Then some blue clay will emerge from the larger eggs and form a sculpture. But that's a story for another day... stay tuned.

Advanced Doodling!

I've been in Hog Heaven for the past 6 months or so working on a new short film I'm calling "Advanced Doodling." The film is a spiraling involuted melange of stop-motion art and footage of its own creation. It is inspired by what appears to be an unavoidable axiom:

The art I make is never as pretty as the art I make while making it.

In the spirit of this axiom, I'd like to share with you all the process of making Advanced Doodling.

I'll be building the film piece by piece online, regularly posting the art sequences we create, dailies of the documentary footage our great DP Kevin Jones has been capturing, and various edits and re-edits as the film is assembled.

I've kicked it off with the "Pitch Video" I made to recruit crew in my film collective, Scary Cow. I have a big backlog of footage to show you all so stay tuned!

How Freckle Went Bacterial

In today's post I'm going to take a break from tacking my art up on this virtual fridge and digress into the business side of the Hot Velcro Action endeavor. On Monday, Nov 19, I officially released Freckle, the music video I've been working on for the last 18 months for Brandon Patton. In its 10 days, Freckle racked up 37,000 plays on Vimeo and was written up on LaughingSquid, Gizmodo,, Neatorama, Nerdist, and a few hundred other smaller blogs. It's hard to call 37K plays a viral sensation; let's just say the video went bacterial.

The success of the release had something to do with the quality of the video, and something to do with the steps I took to promote it. I found the whole process interesting and learned a lot about how things spread on the internet, and I thought I'd share the experience here on the blog.

First off, I should mention that my promotional strategy largely derived from this excellent write-up of the on-line launch of a short film called the "Thomas Beale Cipher". This is what I did:

Release Srategy

1. Created a website

I built a slick web-page around Freckle with fun "making of" videos and features. I knew this would be an important component of the marketing of Freckle since the process of its creation is one of the video's main hooks.

2. Wrote a press release

I wrote up a press release containing copy that could easily be lifted for a story about the video. If you are a blogger and you are choosing among a hundred cool story submissions, why not choose the one that requires the minimal effort to turn around a post? To make it even easier, I organized the release as "SUMMARY: [snappy one paragraph description that in the end was the complete verbatim content of 80% of the stories on Freckle]. FULL STORY: [more copy for the blogger who wanted to write a longer post]."

3. Contacted a bunch of blogs

About two weeks before the official release, I posted Freckle as a pw-protected video on Vimeo and contacted a bunch of blogs with this link and my press release text. The format of this contact differed among the blogs - some were direct emails to editors, some used sites' "submit contact" forms, etc. Here is an example of the wording I used to contact these blogs.

The blogs I contacted before the release were: Gizmodo, Motionographer, Petapixel, Presurfer, BoingBoing, TickleBooth, and Metafilter.

(Why Vimeo as opposed to youtube? I'm not positive it was the right decision in the end, but it was based on the reasoning in the aforementioned guide.)

4. Released the video

At 12:01 am on Monday, Nov 19, I re-uploaded Freckle to Vimeo as a new video. Bloggers want to be the first to the party; they don't want to write about something that's been around for a few weeks. For the previous private link I had given to bloggers, I replaced the source file (which Vimeo allows you to do) with a 20 second splash screen saying "Freckle is public! See here: [link]" and put the link to the new version in the video description as well.

In the video description for the new version, I included a short tag-line, a link back to my website, and contact info (email, FB, twitter...) for myself and Brandon.

I also put the video on youtube. Even though I didn't give the link to anyone, I wanted people searching on youtube to find it. (And in fact, a few blogs did just that, and the unpublished youtube link got a few thousand hits).

5. Spammed everyone I know

And asked them to watch the video! Then politely asked them to engage all their social networking might (twitter, pinterest, stumbleupon, reddit, digg, to spread the word. In the email, I said something like "if you want to take the time to aggressively help me with this, write back and I'll send a list of actions to take, but if not, above all, please share this on FaceBook" since I read (and the results bore out) the FB is king for meme spreading.

6. Reached out to heavy hitters on Twitter

I did a few web searches for things like "influential stop motion twitter users" and hit these users up with "@" tweets linking to Freckle. This worked in very few cases, but as you will see below, in one particular case it got me a lot of traction. I also had the good fortune that the singer, Brandon Patton had some semi-famous friends, having played bass for MC Frontalot and Jonathon Coulton, and toured opening for They Might Be Giants. Brandon arranged for these folks to tweet about Freckle in the first days of its release.

7. Tried to get Freckle added to a bunch of Vimeo channels

I sought out Vimeo channels like "Stop Motion", "Music Videos by vimeo users" etc with lots of subscribers and used the "shout box" to submit Freckle for consideration. Most importantly, I submitted "Freckle" to be a "Vimeo Staff Pick". Thus far, Freckle has not been so designated, but it's worth mentioning, because it's worth a lot of hits if you get it.

8. Contacted a bunch more smaller blogs

My response from contacting the larger blogs was dissapointing -- only presurfer even got back to me. I took a great piece of advice from a co-worker and did this: I googled two videos that are similar in appeal to Freckle, the Jelly Bean stop mo video and Protegion . I then compiled a list of smaller blogs that reported on these two videos and contacted them with my pitch on Freckle. This got a much heartier response, as you'll see below.

I also had a few friends or friends-of-friends, that were bloggers themselves and generously agreed to write up Freckle. Every little bit counts.

The Gory Details...

This google spreadsheet contains a list of all of the blogs and twitter users I contacted. Happy hunting!

Here is what happened:

Monday, Nov 19

Freckle gets a little over 300 views, mainly driven by FB traffic. Towards the of the day, as the result of my outreach to smaller blogs, stories appear on WallToWatch, PaperBlog, and Presurfer.

Tuesday, Nov 20

Freckle is viewed by 900 more folks as the result of:

  • The small blog posts above. Bizarrely, Freckle gets about 150 embedded plays from the Boston sports site I still haven't been able to track down this story.
  • More facebook traffic. shares Freckle to its 13,000 fans. Eventually 1275 people would "Like" this post.
  • Tweets to a total of 90,000 people by Jonathon Coulton and MC Frontalot.

Wednesday, Nov 21

  • The twitter user @WeLoveStopMotion tweets about Freckle and posts it to the blog of the same name. While the tweet goes out to only about 1000 followers, weheartstopmotion is a popular blog on tumblr, which I now learn about. Tumblr is a little like Pinterest -- people have blogs that that largely consist of "tumbles" -- reposts of other stories on tumblr, which is accomplished with a single click on a story. Within a day, about 35 other tumblr bloggers reblog the WeHeartStopMotion post, eventually accounting for about 700 plays (hard to count since they show up in Vimeo's analytics as a bunch of separate embed sources).
  • posts a story on Freckle and tweets it to their 360,000 followers.
  • About two hours after the LaughingSquid post appears, lists Freckle as a "Watch This!" story on the side-bar of their main-page. At the end of the post it says "via via Vimeo".

Thursday, Nov 22

Freckle spreads laterally from gizmodo, which is basically used like a wire service by blogs around the world. Vimeo's embed stats show that Freckle is being played from over a hundred random little blogs, aggregrators and other web-sites.

Friday, Nov 23

Most of the hits are now coming from three (apparently) big european blogs, (swedish), (polish), and About 400 people watch Freckle on a European clone of Facebook,

Saturday, Nov 24

Freckle is listed on in its "Black Friday Music Roundup" , along with videos by Florence and the Machine and David Guetta. This seems pretty dern cool, but only results in a hundred or so plays.

Mon, Nov 26

The youtube version of Freckle shows up on, and via Neatorama,, resulting in about 2000 plays on youtube.

Wed, Nov 28

Another spike of about 3000 views results from the video's appearance on, the Japanese edition.

Woulda Coulda Shouldas:

Thus ended the first ten days of the on-line release of Freckle. Here are some things I might have done differently:

  • I didn't really pursue promoting Freckle on the full panaroma of social media outlets, like Pinterest, Stumbleupon, Reddit, Digg,, etc. This is mainly because I didn't have accounts or critical masses of followers on any of these sites, and none of my 30-something friends did either. If I had been yet more promotion-minded, I would have tried to learn / build traction on some of these outlets months before the release. I anecdotally know their power because in 2010 I had a gallery show for some velcro art and the next day a 1000 people visited my website via stumbleupon.
  • I did not do a great job of capturing viewers of Freckle. I had a Facebook "Like" button at the top of my website that a few people clicked. However, it wasn't till Saturday that I learned that a "Like Button" is different than a "Like Box". The "Like Button" allows a user to post to her own wall that she Likes your link. The "Like Box" allows a user to add himself as a fan to your Facebook Fan page (and post to his wall to that effect), giving you a permanent connection to that user. I quickly threw up a "Like Button" in a more prominent spot on my web-site, linking to my little used HotVelcroAction facebook fan page and got 12-15 new fans. Had I done this early on, perhaps I would have gained a hundred or so contacts for future projects.

Freckle is Here!!!

18 months. 19,000 velcro dots. Two velcro dot-suits. 20 volunteer velcro pushers from Scary Cow. A girl. A guy. Space. Skin. Freckle has arrived!

After watching it, CHECK OUT THE "MAKING OF" PAGE .


A Happy Fourth of July break from Velcro, ladies and germs... Enjoy!

This piece actually started as an I-Swear-This-Will-Be-A-One-Night-Art-Project art project having nothing to do with the fourth. I was just in love with this fabric and wanted to chop it up and get my meta on. In the end the video took about three weeks.

My friend Sam once told me: "Don't get obsessed with process. Too many artists get obsessed with their process." Too late, Sam.

There is a message at the end of the video and I hope it moves you to some small action. I originally planned to deliver that message as a voice-over in the piece, have no music, and make it a sort of earnest, slightly quizzical meditation. Instead I wimped out, pulled in the faux-melodramatic Wagner, and stayed in my comfort zone. None-the-less, thank you to anyone out there who sacrifices their time and more to defend this amazing set-up in which I do my life: America.

Hot (Generative) Velcro Action

After wrapping on the meticulous velcro tracing sequence described in my previous post, I decided to set the Freckle crew to work on a project of a completely different nature. As an experiment in rule-based art I created a series of "pattern cards", each of which provided instructions for a fairly simple dot sequence to be executed on the board over an 8 frame interval. This interval was selected so that when set to music in 4/4 time, each card would represent a "part" in visual 1/8th notes. Here are some examples of the cards:

Over a month of wednesday and friday nights, the crew used these cards to create 32 measures (256 frames) of Hot Velcro Action. To add some additional structure to the piece, we switched color pallets every 8 bars. We started with pastels and muted tones, moved to highly saturated primary colors, went back to muted tones, and finished with black/white and graphical print dots.

But wait a second, aren't you supposed to be working on a music video? The overarching purpose here was to make some cool abstract footage as background for various green screen composites in the outro of "Freckle", which is what you hear in the video above.

In the end I love the visuals created by this process, though the patterns didn't get pulled out by the rhythm of the music quite as much as I had hoped. Thanks again to my amazing crew -- it's back to velcro rotoscoping on wednesday...

p.s. Thanks to John Hight for the great shot of hands at the board.

Freckle Crew In Effect!

Thank you, Freckle crew! Joining the Scary Cow film-makers collective is one of the best decisions I ever made. Working alone in my cave at the dot board is a thing of the past. With the help of my new team of velcro creationizers, we shot a 127 frame sequence in five glorious nights (alone I would have sweated out 6-8 frames a shoot). In this sequence, which starts at 0:04 in the video above, dots swirl on to Brandon and Amber spinning in the meadow.

About four of us worked at the board at a time, one person on Brandon's blue shirt, one on Amber's dress and arms, one on Amber's hair and face, and one on Brandon's head. We created the frames in reverse because it's easier to make the dots swirl off of the figures then it would have been to move the dots from the border into fully formed images. Dhonga Kim on the crew was put to work painting skin tone dots (see the photos below) with Gary Goldsborough documenting the process.

Extra special thanks to Nancy Campbell for ducking below the camera and frantically spinning the turn-table on which Brandon and Amber are spinning in the original live action footage.

Here some pics from the shoot...

Rabbit Hole

Just made this little demo vid to test out a few ideas for the finale of Freckle, and also to pump up my new crew for our first production meeting friday. Crew?! That's right, thanks to the Scary Cow film-makers collective, I now have a minion of potential velcro co-creationizers!

"Rabbit Hole" was a test-edit for four shoots:

  1. Piles O' Dots . I am starting to experiment with going off the grid, as it were. Just building mounds of dots. In the vid I just show a big green pile. Actually I shot a lot more, with multiple colors, but it didn't really look as killer as I had hoped. I think in the next iteration the key will be to light and shoot the pile from an angle to give it some dimension.

  2. Dot suit hoe-down . We shot this a long time ago and I have been so excited to see how it would turn out. The concept is simple: purple screen background, green suits, and pink dots, allowing me to pull each element as a mask by color ("chroma-keying") . In reality it was actually a bit of nightmare. I'd say it took me 25 hours of finger-numbing roto-work to pull good masks for that 6 seconds of footage. On the plus side, I got through almost a third of Doris Kearns Goodwins A Team of Rivals on audiobook. In the end, though, I think it completely worked, and I will totally use this footage in "Freckle."

  3. Baby's First Year. Okay here's the story: I got really high in my apartment one day and it suddenly dawned on me: why isn't my whole studio covered wall to wall in dots? This led to: even better, I could get circular picture frames of different sizes, create an imaginary grid across all my studio walls, and do some crazy stop motion moving the the frames like big dots around the walls. And then of course: Omigod I'll print out stills from the video, put them in the frames, and do some crazy meta stop-mo for the end of the video. So I jumped on my bike, trekked to every thrift store within a five mile radius of my house and bought a huge mess of picture frames. But the idea cracked in half when at the Goodwill on 23rd and International I found the "Baby's First Year" frame, with 12 little oval insets for each month of your sweet cherub's little life. And then...

  4. Prez ... it cracked in half again the next day when after work I drove to Urban Ore and hit another insane find: A large coin-collecting book in which to place each of your 43 five dollar US President collectible coins (look closely at the dots in Amber's book, and you will see the names of each of our founding fathers...). The diameter of the little holes for the coins: 1.5", exactly the size of my dots. Some times the universe just hands you a gleaming heap of tater tots and you just have to smile and chow down.

Freckle Teaser!

Welcome to the bleeding edge of "Freckle", the music video I am making for friend and crooner extraordinaire Brandon Patton.

Brandon got a showcase at the SXSW Festival ! The festival gives him a slot for a video on their web-site and in various promotional shenanigans so I had to have a teaser prepared STAT!! Always good to have a fire lit under your toesies.

This video represents about a year's work of worth. I have thrown everything and the kitchen sink at it -- velcro stop motion, beads, wax, green screen velcro suits, music-video-y footage of attractive people dancing against scenic backdrops, you name it.

At the end of this teaser, you will find a special surprise: about of minute of "making of" footage that fills the space remaining to be completed. I'm not sure what to think about the fact that this minute, which I put together in two days, might be as or more entertaining than the 2:30 year-long labor of love that precedes it.

Here it is. Very much a work in progress... please let me know what you think!

Velcro Rotoscoping

Welcome to the Hot Velcro Action Blog inaugural post!!! What is the purpose of this blog?  To be honest, I'm not sure. Over this past year I've been working on a music video for "Freckle" by Brandon Patton.  In the course of production, all this amazing stuff keeps happening in my studio and it drives me absolutely bonkers that it's not shared with anyone.  Hence the blog.  

A generous outpouring of creative energy that can't be contained or an exercise in loneliness and narcisism.  I'll let you be the judge.   

I'm starting off the blog with a little video that describes the bread of butter of my animation work, a technique I call "Velcro rotoscoping."  The rotoscope was a machine used in the olden days of animation that projected an image onto a glass plate for an artist to paint.  By projecting one frame at a time of a film, the artist thus created the cells of an animation.  Velcro rotoscoping uses the same principle:  A projector throws an image onto a 36 x 27 grid of white velcro dots, and I recreate that image using my luscious velcro pixels.  Do this for a sequence of frames in a video: Voila!  Velcro Rotoscoping. 

(Nowadays, rotoscoping refers to a computer-driven process by which the animator goes through video footage frame by frame to decorate or mask out an object in the foreground, but that's a different story...)

Less talk, more rock... Enjoy the video!


By the way, 6 zillion people sent me this link and now I'll pass it on to you... it's Jellybean rotoscoping!