Welcome to the thing I have always wanted to do forever and ever and ever.
I will tell you all about it. But first I have to tell you about a Beastie Boys video.
In my senior year of college me and my buddy Dan wore the shit out of a VHS tape called "Skillz to Pay the Bills", a compilation of music videos by the Beastie Boys. We must have watched it 25 times. The tape is chock full of gems, but one video in particular consistently melted my face off.
"Shadrach, Abstract Impressionist version".
This video was created by presenting concert footage to a team of artists who created acrylic paintings of each frame at four frames a seconds. About 600 stunning paintings, any of which I would gladly hang on my wall, strung together into a four minute video. It was mesmerizing.
I would later learn that this technique is an example of "rotoscoping" in which stills of a video are hand-traced with ink or paint, one frame at a time. Rotoscoping grabs me. It's not just that it's an arduous manual process. It's what that process is capable of producing: A film in which each momentary frame has the detail and craft of an artist's sole attention.
I love that video and I love the Beastie Boys. Every thing the Beastie Boys do gives you the feeling that they went into it thinking "This is going to be fucking awesome!!!!!!!". It's almost besides the point that it always fucking is. I've spent hundreds of hours of my life doing stop motion and listening to the Beastie Boys.
Every time I start a new film project, the first step is to decide that I am not yet ready to remake a Beastie Boys video. Now it's time. Time for 1741 frames of "Shake Your Rump".
The "Shake Your Rump" video from Paul's Boutique (1989) is diabolically simple and effective. Three cameras are staged on a rooftop in a triangle. The cameras point into the middle at each of three different angles. Camera 1 is a high angle, shooting down from a tall tripod. Camera 2 is medium angle. Camera 3 is a low angle, shot from the ground. The Bboys jump into the triangle and perform the song. For three and a half minutes the inside of that triangle is the most exciting place on planet Earth. The band cuts the footage from those three cameras together, adds some kooky B-roll interstitials for the bridges, and voila "Shake Your Rump."
Why Shake Your Rump? Of course I love the song and the video, but there is also practical consideration for stop motion. The video has no camera movement. The whole thing (interstitials aside) is made from three fixed cameras. From a rotoscoping perspective, that means that I can make a fixed background and only create artwork for the moving figures.
The three fixed angles also led me naturally to a mega-fun way to approach the video:
I am rendering each of the three camera angles with a different stop motion medium
1. The Medium Angle: The Great and Powerful Velcro Dot Board!!! (544 Frames)
Since Hot Velcro Action I have been steadily been amassing an enormous arsenal of velcro pixels. These little morsels are made by punching circles from cool papers/drawing/paintings and then affixing them to 1.5" self-adhesive velcro coins. I have about 30,000 of them, in about 400 varieties. In parts of my last three films I experimented with moving them around in on a velcro grid in stop-motion, as pixels forming a moving image. For "Shake Your Rump", I'm going off the grid! Just piling the dots on top of each-other pointillism-style is way more expressive - more like painting.
Each frame takes about 1-2 hours to make. A projector throws the frame from the original video onto a big table. I cover the table in dots, using the projected image for guidance. When I take a photograph, the flash blows out the projected image and all you see are the dots. Yep, velcro rotoscoping.
2. The Low Angle: Acrylic Painting (359 Frames)
Speaking of painting... I suck at painting. But luckily I have friends who can paint and I'm trying to meet more! For the low angle frames, collaborating artists / fellow B-Boy-lovers are hand-painting the three figures on top of printed templates provided by me. I make the templates by digitally replacing the video's background with random cool images and then printing out each frame, with a regular ink-jet printer, onto an 8.5"x11" sheet of cardstock. Hit me up if you like to paint/draw and want in on the fun!
3. The High Angle: Claymation (149 frames)
Claymation Beasties! With the help of awesome-sauce stop-mo animator Annie Wong I've built a set and models for "Ad Rock... MCA... and me MIKE D". I also busted out my long-dormant sewing kit and created clothes for the three figures. I knew I couldn't pull off the Adidas, so I found Olga Kulemina, a doll-clothing artist on Etsy and she made me the banging custom kicks you see here.
Current Frame Count 704 out of 1741 (12.16.2017)
BONUS: You've reached the end of this long description of my passion project! As an added reward I will maintain below a continually updated version of my progress on the video!