I've been obsessed with hardware stores for as long as I can remember. They're like the "Room of Requirements" from Harry Potter, with infinite possibilities limited only by your imagination. I'm drawn to tactile textures and weird shapes, so when I walk through the overwhelmingly stacked shelves of my local hardware store, my imagination often explodes. Every door handle looks like a spaceship and every plumbing fixture like a steampunk diving helmet...
That's where the idea for "The Diver" was born. Constructing him was like a jigsaw puzzle. I had reference images of old diving suits that inspired me, but I also let the strange shapes I found at the hardware store dictate the creature's silhouette. Another challenge was to make the Diver posable, since I later wanted to bring the creature to life with stop-motion techniques. I ended up building the skeleton out of armature wire and creating volume with felt layers.
Once the creature was fully formed, I began the painting process. I started with a primer and layered metallics, a texturizer, and finally dry-brushed orange to get the rusty look.
Every creature I have built has wanted to move. I have tried multiple approaches, most of which failed. The most promising approach was building my creature in the real world and then creating a digital twin in the computer to then animate in to life. You can find some of these experiments on my website. However, something clicked when I landed on the idea of stop motion. I grew up watching stop motion classics like "Wallace and Gromit" and even made my own stop motion films using action figures.
When I graduated from school in 3D Animation, I had a strong focus on Character Animation, which applied some similar concepts to stop-motion.
This is one of my first attempts, but I believe it will be the first of many. It was truly magical to see my creature come to jerky life.
I have a great deal of respect for stop-motion animators. I have discovered that it is both physically and mentally demanding, and I have much to learn. However, I have also found it to be incredibly rewarding to step back and see the final result. I am excited to continue with these explorations.
I have been experimenting with AI to blend my jerky stop-motion animation of the Diver Creature. The technique is called frame interpolation, and I'm using a free and open-source tool called "Flowframes."
Say I take ten stop-motion images with my camera and move my creature a minuscule amount in each image; this tool uses a machine learning algorithm to add additional images between the ones I snapped with my real camera. This creates a smoother and more fluid motion.
At times, it can still look a little janky, but it always looks better if I start with smoother images from my camera. This tool has empowered me to spend fewer hours on capturing the images.