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Director / CrewIamA stop motion animator that has spent the last 4 years of my life creating a scifi/horror webseries called Operator. I wrote 15 episodes(Between working other jobs)and just released Ep 2! AMA

Aug 3rd 2017 by HeadOrFace • 7 Questions • 42 Points

Hi reddit! Sam Barnett/headorface here. I released Operator as a standalone short in 2013 and got much more recognition than I ever anticipated. I got inspired to make more and spent the next two years(between working other jobs) writing 14 new episodes. I got interest from a major studio to make it as a feature but it didn’t pan out. I considered working with a smaller horror production company that wanted to make it as a webseries but it wasn’t a good fit. After two years developing the series I decided to stop waiting for permission from studios and launched a successful kickstarter campaign to make episode 2 which we just released!

Episode 1 Episode 2

If you are interested in seeing more behind the scenes stuff or want to support the series here is a Kickstarter to fund episode 3

Proof: http://i.imgur.com/0qcP2HO.jpg

Q:

You must love your job! What degree if patience would you say it requires and as a fellow dramatic writer, what's the most important part of a story for you?

A:

I do love it! I don't think anyone would choose to do it without loving it. haha.

It definitely requires a whole lot of patience. Staying very focused on long periods of time is often therapeutic for me really. My mind can run all over the place if it isn't occupied.

I like this last part of the question a lot. Not an easy one to answer, because there are multiple good answers for me. When there is something in a story that feels like it cuts deep into you, emotionally, or psychologically, having something like that in a story is what really makes it work for me. It could be something that crystallizes some truth about the world for you, something that just makes you really sad, or satisfied or angry. I feel like if a story does that it has really added something to my life.


Q:

what are the latest technological tricks to help make stop motion animation easier? is it common to use CG to smooth motion between image captures?

A:

DragonFrame isn't super new, maybe 10 years old? But it is incredibly useful for stop motion. The major thing it allows you to do is have your screen alternating between the frame you just took, and what is in front of the camera. When you are moving 8 or 16 difference body parts just milometers at a time this is very helpful.

Mocha in After Effects is pretty new and very useful for all VFX. It is a planar tracking system that makes rotoscoping certain things much easier.

CG is used all the time in stop motion. Not all the time to smooth motion between image captures. I have used it that way, but as I have become a better animator, my movements have become more smooth and natural. Though I could still get a whole lot better haha.

One thing I did use a lot in Episode 2 which is similar was a motion blur trick. there is no natural motion blur in stop motion motion since everything you are shooting is still. But using motion blur and a timewarp trick you can fake it in a fairly effective way.


Q:

Big fan of the first two episodes! What are your main influences for the series? What has been the most challenging part of making the first two episodes?

A:

Thanks Oedimoose! I have a whole lot of influences. Brazil by Terry Gilliam and the 1st Alien are pretty central for sure. The body horror stuff that David Chronenberg has been an influence for sure. I have been a big fan of David Lynch for a long time, and I am not sure I can easily point to something in there series that is directly inspired by him. Maybe in the sound design. But his work has been very influential on me for sure. Also the paintings of Francis Bacon and HR Giger.

Finding the right actors is very hard. Building good characters, which I think you have to have for people to care about them, is not something that comes as easily to me as other parts of the process. I can design images while half asleep but building characters takes a lot for me.


Q:

Great references to draw inspiration from. I got a John Carpenter/The Thing vibe from your work too. Great work Sam, I really hope to see more.

A:

Certainly The Thing has a lot of similar stuff going on. I didn't think about it much in reference to Operator until people started pointing it out but do now. Tetsuo Iron Man is another one with a lot of similarities in terms of joining metal and flesh. That one probably had an effect on Operator too without my thinking consciously about it.


Q:

I've been loving your work for quite some time now! How did you get started with animation, specifically stop motion?

A:

Thanks quad64bit! I got into animation completely by accident. haha. I wrote a script one day and on that day it seemed like it would be easier to just animate some wires and clay then to try and find and cast actors. I kept thinking I was going to do live action film making for a long time, mostly I think because the films I love are mostly live action. But my ideas kept making more sense in animation. I actually got a degree in live action and near the end of completing it I finally realized I wanted to commit completely to animation.

Stop Motion specifically for a few reasons. Most of the skills I learned in live action transfer over very smoothly to stop motion. Light and Camera work. And I think I have stuck with it because I love all the detail in real objects, and I think something about it being made from real things makes stop motion unsettling. Uncanny valley maybe.

Edit: added second part


Q:

Soo... How much do you love/hate filming stop motion? I know I personally would never have the patience, but I absolutely LOVE the look of it! I have shown episode one of Operator to SO many people and it freaked ALL of them out so good job! I really just wanted to say thanks for all the time you have put into this project. It really shows in your work how much dedication you truly have. Good job dude 👍

A:

Thanks LadyDeadpool89! I do love making it. I really hate that it takes so long, but only because I wish I could release the episodes much more quickly. There is no question that if you spend years building something, there are going to be days that you really don't want to do it and you have to force yourself to push through. But overall I feel really lucky to be able to have worked on Operator so much.


Q:

What is in your Opinion the best stop Motion feature length film?

And which film required the most work in your opinion?

A:

Haha, any feature length stop motion is going to take so much work it is hard to compare. Coraline might be my favorite, but Alice by Svankmejer is really great. Some of that one is live action though. The design in Kubo and the Two Strings is really incredible but the story was a little too by the numbers for me.