#2. A Project Revision & Progress Update
What follows is a project revision proposed at the end of September 2018, and approved by the grant committee. It explains the reasons for the revision, and also summarizes the progress made to date.
Regarding my grant project Expanding Practice: Stop Motion Metal and Wire Armature Animation, I would like to extend my project timeline so that grant activity will end June 30th, 2019. Other than their schedule, the activities and outcomes of my project will not be changed. Only the timeline will be changed to allow enough time for the activity.
The change is necessary because, due to advice I received from machinists consulting on my project, the machinery I am currently working with to construct ball and socket armatures demands a steeper learning curve than predicted in my project plan.
Due to my employment at the Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul, my project started with delays. However, once the 2018 Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival ended at the end of April, I was able to turn my attention towards my grant project fully.
First I began by buying the reference books as laid out in my project plan. These have been elemental in my progress so far, and helped me make decisions about how to move forward. Namely, I have been using Tom Brierton's Armature Construction Manual most intensively, alongside an art book from the film Paranorman, the World History of Animation, and Advanced Art of Stop Motion by Ken Priebe.
Second, I have consulted with two local animators with stop-motion experience: Maret Polzine and Jordan Hamann. We have had three meetings since June 2018, and have corresponded via email regarding techniques to animation and building materials. They have been elemental especially with regards to approaching wire armatures.
In the spring, I met with a faculty member in the machine-tool department at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. He recommended that I explore different machinery options than originally laid out in my project plan. He referred me to a student of his as a consultant on the project. After speaking with Garth, he helped me determine exactly what type of machinery to use, and made recommendations for reference video and resources for learning on such machines. I noticed that some minor budgetary changes would have to be made, but after checking with my program manager, Sherrie Fernandez-Williams, was assured that if the changes amounted to less than 10% of my total budget, then I need not report it. I spent nearly two months shopping for the right equipment, and made a purchase near the end of June.
[I purchased a 12” Deluxe Vertical Milling Machine and 17” Long Bed Lathe from Sherline]
In the meantime, I made aluminum wire armatures with advice from Jordan and Maret. I completed three armatures by the beginning of July. One humanoid figure, after being dressed in green felt, resembles Kermit the Frog. Another is a six-legged creature, and the last is an origami crane discreetly lined with floral wire to make it pose-able. Finally, my shipment of tools arrived and I began assembling and working to understand the basic machining process.
Buying the machinery was one thing, but I also had to learn about metals and how to work with them. Every metal has its own specific cutting speed which determines the rotations per minute at which you should be cutting. This is also applicable to the cutting tools themselves. I also had to study machine-shop safety to ensure that I was using the machines properly. After ordering raw metals, I began following along with the armature construction manual by Tom Brierton. I have so far created one ball and socket joint--a sandwich plate joint. Each puppet will need an average of eleven joints, and I plan to make three armatures. Much is yet to be done.
My day job at the Film Society is picking up again due to fall programs. It has been very difficult to devote time to this project since mid-August. I emailed Sherrie Fernandez-Williams about a project extension, and after hearing that I could only extend my project to June 30th, I decided that I needed to leave my job at the Film Society to focus on this project and my career as an animator. Thanks to this grant project and other life circumstances, I will be a self-employed animator as of November 12th. Still, given the amount of work yet to do, and the steep learning curve associated with my new tools, I feel that the extension to June 30th is reasonable, and will allow me to meet my own expectations of what I can achieve with this outstanding opportunity.