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The Haiku Menace

Posted: Thu, 30th Nov 2006, 5:13pm

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SlothPaladin

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When the evil Dr. Haiku arrives in town, Sophie Swanson, Titular Heroine, suspects that he might be up to some villainous schemes, and sets about investigating, against the orders of the editor-in-chief.

This is the first of four Sophie Swanson shorts, if you visit www.SophieSwanson.com you can subscribe to the pod cast to keep up on the latest episode. If you like the show and would like to support it you could visit the website a buy a high quality version of this episode for $1.50. If things go well we may making another set of episodes once we are done with this set.


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Posted: Thu, 30th Nov 2006, 10:18pm

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SlothPaladin

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Sorry quicktime users, my I'll have a H.264 version up soon

Edit: It's up

Last edited Fri, 1st Dec 2006, 1:10pm; edited 1 times in total.

Posted: Fri, 1st Dec 2006, 4:34am

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MC Turtl3n3ck

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You have some raw talent man.
Posted: Fri, 1st Dec 2006, 6:10am

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miker

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That animation is insane man. You're extremely talented. Good attention to detail. Looking foreward to what comes next.
Posted: Fri, 1st Dec 2006, 1:09pm

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SlothPaladin

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Thanks, if you have any tips on how I could fine tune this 'raw' talent I’m all ears.
Posted: Fri, 1st Dec 2006, 1:55pm

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SyroVision

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awesome!
Posted: Fri, 1st Dec 2006, 5:03pm

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Jazzmanian

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From a technical perspective, it's pretty much flawless. Your stopmotion skills are kind of frightening. Examples abound, but one that really jumped out at me was the coffee sloshing up and down in the cups when Sophie is talking to the editor at the coffee shop. The motion of Dr. Haiku at the publisher's office toward the end was also remarkable. Reminded me very much of some of the early cartoon villains of my youth. (I was kind of waiting for him to be twirling a mustache.)

Music was excellent and added a very nice feel.

With that said, a couple of comments.

First, and this was probably just my connection, but when I tried to download the .wmv version I got a file not found error. The quicktime loaded just fine though. If anyone else has a problem you may want to double check that.

Second, and this is kind of hard for me to say, but... the storyline and the dialogue really just didn't do it for me. As I said, this piece is a technical masterpiece, but in terms of using all of that talent to entertain... I don't know... it just kind of fell flat. The script looked to have potential at first, being a kind of satire of heroine / villain type conflict, but the dialouge just seemed kind of flat and there wasn't ever a sense of any real tension. And if it's entirely geared toward being a spoof, I really didn't find myself laughing either.

Then there's the audio work. Don't get me wrong, it was crisp, clean and well recorded, perfectly able to be understood. But what was missing in a lot of it (at least for me) was a lot more ambience. I mean, there were places where you had some that worked well, like in the coffee shop, towards the end of that scene, you could faintly hear some dishes clattering in the background and maybe a cash register, but it really could have used to be brought up a little bit more prominently. When Dr. Haiku first shows up on the bus, maybe the sound of brakes squeaking or an air brake release... things like that. And the office scene just seemed to be *too* dead quiet behind the speakers. I think it lost some of that sense of immersion because I got a definite impression of VO actors speaking in a VO booth, and less a feeling of the characters actually talking.

It's still a beautiful work of digital art either way, but I think the story itself could use some work to sort out exactly what it is and what sort of effect you're trying to deliver to the audience. Either more suspense, or more comedy. And more immersion could be achieved with more audio work.
Posted: Fri, 1st Dec 2006, 7:04pm

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Sollthar

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This is really excellent animation, terrific lighting and camerawork and tremendous setdesign. Visually, this was extremely cool!

So to me, the kind of random story and the in my opinion rather lifeless voiceover of the villain were a big shame, since the brought an otherwise excellent production down to a rather average level. sad

I however thought the girl and the editor were pretty cool!



So all in all, because of the points mentioned above, it misses it's five. But nevertheless, this is greta and I'm looking forward to the next one!
Posted: Fri, 1st Dec 2006, 7:42pm

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pixelboy

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Very impressive! I can't add a lot of comments, since all of the things I was going to mention has been said already, but 4 stars from me!
Posted: Fri, 1st Dec 2006, 11:09pm

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SlothPaladin

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Well it appears like I’ve made the most exclusive comedy ever, despite the fact that there are no inside jokes the target audience seems to be microscopic. As far as story goes, The Haiku Menace is my favorite story for films I’ve finished (the fourth episode is my favorite unfinished scripts). This script got the best response out of any project I’ve ever done, quite a few people where laughing out loud when they read it (which has never happened before) and one girl who was worried that we might not retain the rights (we were trying to get it financed at the time) even offered to hook us up with some lawyers to make sure we came out on top legally. I guess this just proves that my friends and I are a poor representation of average Americans, or average people from any country for that matter (not that this comes as any surprise).

Jazzmanian, I 100% agree about the audio, this was sort of rushed out the door and audio wise this really suffered, the scene that bugs me the most is fight sequence, it need music or something... I wanted you to hear the bus drive off in the opening scene but on effects like that each new effect just costs more money. My mic is just awful at recording stuff like that.
Posted: Fri, 1st Dec 2006, 11:27pm

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Ceramite

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The lighting is fantastic!!! If it was live action i would have praised it but this gets double positive marks for being miniature. Great job!!!

The one line that bothered me was the bus driver. To me IMHO i thought a line like "uh what change?" would have fit better.

Sadly i didn't get the jokes either, but i have a film degree not an English degree....... or math... or a science degree.....Well thank God for film degrees! biggrin

-edit- I really do enjoy your work!!! At this rate i don't think it will be long until we're seeing your work on the big screen!
Posted: Fri, 1st Dec 2006, 11:44pm

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SlothPaladin

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FYI: Miniature lighting is WAY easer then full scale live action lighting, imagine if you could expose each frame for 1/4 of a second and did not have to worry about lots of floor and space limitations, makes things very simple.

I don't have any degrees, I dropped out of collage... twice, but I do have a high school diploma, lot of good that will do me.

Ceramite wrote:

edit- I really do enjoy your work!!! At this rate i don't think it will be long until we're seeing your work on the big screen!
if things continue at this rate I'll have to get another s*** job in a few months and my time for animation will go down the tubes !@#$

and Jazz, I just downloaded the WMV (on dial up!) and it plays fine.
Posted: Sun, 3rd Dec 2006, 7:51am

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ben3308

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Rating: +1

I really liked the animation in this Chris, but the overall production, as has been aforementioned, sort of fell flat. This seemed to me like a 'nothing' movie where either not alot/nothing happens or the things that do happen seem insipid or insignificant to the audience.

In this, it's a little bit of both. I found my self rewinding and rewatching, and I think it's the pacing of angle changes coupled with the (what many would consider, not trying to be too mean here) lackluster audio that don't make this 'work' for me.

I watched this before the failed vampire movie, and to me the vampure film is much better. I read your story about why you quit, so I completely understand; but let me draw some parallels here, because I think I know what you need to fix....

-The voicework. This one's obvious, but it's not just tone and inflection that need to change; it's character. You need to try and overplay and overact the voices to the point where they distinctly define the character. In Vampire from Beyond the Crypt, the vampire hunter has a low, deep, luminesce voice, AND he refrains from speaking out of turn. These all give the obvious message that he is a darker, brooding, and, might I say badass character. You tried the same thing with Sophie and Dr. Haiku, but it didn't work. This is a mere "try harder next time" sort of thing.

-The pacing/volume/anunciation of the dialogue. You have points during the fight where both Sophie and the Doctor say phrases that overlap. I'm assuming this is to make it seem more natural than just an A-B-A-B sort of dialogue. This skill you need to brush up on. If Sophie hits Haiu in the face, he's going to need to yell "ouch!" in way that is naturally timed and sound with how an actual reaction would go. I know I'm a bit hard to understand here, but maybe you can get the gist of what I'm saying.

-The pacing of the cinematography. I think you might be a little too choosy with some angles and not choosy enough with others. Many parts were great, but other angles seemed like they lingered all the way until the camera absolutely had to change angle. This is most notable in the fight scene. I understand that this is nowhere near as easy with stop-motion people, but perhaps contemplate shooting/cutting through more angles more rapidly in areas of suspense or action, like the fight. This way, it seems less forced to the viewer.

All-in-all, a very solid production, but I can't find myself really liking it. I'm sorry. I do realize and admire the time and dedication it takes to put any claymation together; and stuff from you is grander than any stop-motion I could locally imagine. You must understand, however, that people like me have grown accustomed to your animation skills (I was eagerly waiting the release of Trinket way back when) and that we now put that enormous fact aside, and grade you indifferently; nearly disregarding the fact that the animation and undertaking of such a thing is more than any man on this website could ever do.

In summation, I give it a hearty 3/5.
Posted: Sun, 3rd Dec 2006, 9:29am

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ashman

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Great job Chris! You really do have a fantatic creative talent, and have a lot patience for this kind of work. While I didn't like the story to much the technical side of things were brilliant. I could go on but so much has already been said about this there isn't much more to say from my part. The fact that so much has been said says alot about the respect that people on here hold for you, keep going and never give up.

I give this a 4/5
Posted: Sun, 3rd Dec 2006, 10:25am

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SlothPaladin

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thanks Ashman

Ben wrote:

In this, it's a little bit of both. I found my self rewinding and rewatching, and I think it's the pacing of angle changes coupled with the (what many would consider, not trying to be too mean here) lackluster audio that don't make this 'work' for me.
How can I improve the pacing of the cuts? I don’t really know much about editing and one of the quirks of animation is that the rough edit should be done before one frame is animated. The last few films I’ve sort of wondered if I’ve been relying on fast cuts to keep the viewers attention rather then keeping people engaged with the animation and plot so I’ve been trying to not have too many fast cuts. Does having faster cuts hide the fact that when it comes to directing I’m a no talent hack? Hell I’ve said else ware that I’m an animator by choice and a director (and everything else I do) because I can’t trust anyone else to do it.

Ben wrote:

I watched this before the failed vampire movie, and to me the vampure film is much better.....
Is the direction/editiong/sound work better or the script or both?

Ben wrote:

-The voicework. This one's obvious, but it's not just tone and inflection that need to change; it's character. You need to try and overplay and overact the voices to the point where they distinctly define the character. In Vampire from Beyond the Crypt, the vampire hunter has a low, deep, luminesce voice, AND he refrains from speaking out of turn. These all give the obvious message that he is a darker, brooding, and, might I say badass character. You tried the same thing with Sophie and Dr. Haiku, but it didn't work. This is a mere "try harder next time" sort of thing.
This seems a bit weird, because I’ve got a lot of positive feedback about Sophie’s voice work, it this a criticism of the editing of the voice work? (interesting to note that the actors for Sophie and Dr Haiku are a four hour drive away from each other so it was not possible to record them together)

Ben wrote:

-The pacing/volume/anunciation of the dialogue. You have points during the fight where both Sophie and the Doctor say phrases that overlap. I'm assuming this is to make it seem more natural than just an A-B-A-B sort of dialogue. This skill you need to brush up on. If Sophie hits Haiu in the face, he's going to need to yell "ouch!" in way that is naturally timed and sound with how an actual reaction would go. I know I'm a bit hard to understand here, but maybe you can get the gist of what I'm saying.
One of the problems with the fight scene (and it’s my fault for rushing this) was I did not take the time after the animation was complete to do pickup lines on the combat, no one seems to notice but Sophie’s combat noises were not done by the same actor, it’s my mom. The lack of background sound in the fight scene really bugs me, I really wanted to have some kind of fun action music but having no musical ability what so ever I have to rely on others and with the whole ‘credit and a copy only’ payment does not work that well to motivate others.

Ben wrote:

-The pacing of the cinematography. I think you might be a little too choosy with some angles and not choosy enough with others. Many parts were great, but other angles seemed like they lingered all the way until the camera absolutely had to change angle. This is most notable in the fight scene. I understand that this is nowhere near as easy with stop-motion people, but perhaps contemplate shooting/cutting through more angles more rapidly in areas of suspense or action, like the fight. This way, it seems less forced to the viewer.
Define ‘too choosy’ not really sure what you mean there. The cut at 1:53 is one of the worst, but not so much because of the cut but because of the timing in the animation, it’s just stupid that she can get her hand over the pen fast, but not pick it up quickly (damn you narrative causality!)

Ben wrote:

All-in-all, a very solid production, but I can't find myself really liking it. I'm sorry.
Do you really think it’s a very solid production or solid animation in a shaky production?

Ben wrote:

I do realize and admire the time and dedication it takes to put any claymation together; and stuff from you is grander than any stop-motion I could locally imagine. You must understand, however, that people like me have grown accustomed to your animation skills (I was eagerly waiting the release of Trinket way back when) and that we now put that enormous fact aside, and grade you indifferently; nearly disregarding the fact that the animation and undertaking of such a thing is more than any man on this website could ever do.
Well I’m glad that you’ve grown accustom to my skill because I like criticism (and I would greatly appreciate some kind of response to this response) +1 for the honest review. I seem to have figured out animation and lighting but need quite a bit of help on the other areas of filmmaking, unless I can find a director I can trust.
Posted: Sun, 3rd Dec 2006, 7:37pm

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ben3308

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Rating: +1

I think the prime way to fix the faults in camera pacing (which there are very few, but the ones that are there are pretty bad) is to storyboard twice or even three times over. I've seen storyboards fmro you that look (well...not legible biggrin ) pretty good, albeit being simple. I think you just need to storyboard a set of 'dry' angles, locked, standard angles that cut in a simple, Napolean Dynamite-esque manner; and then you need to go back and do another set of fast cutting, sweeping storyboards, something that would make Tony Scott proud.

Also, when doing this, be sure to try and correctly time the actions and dialogue to the changes in camera angle. Cuts always work best when the camera changes angle mid-line or mid-action, and I think that's what you need more of. So after you've storyboarded something crazy and something mellow, mesh the two together. Try and find what works best out of the two and use it.

When I was shooting a scene for Splinter Cell, I'd storyboarded it to be one, maybe two long, medium wide handheld shots; so that the camerawork seemed more involved, like it was part of the scene. I also suggested we shoot alot of the other dialogue in the scene locked and uber-super-closeup, so as to create more tension. My friend interrupted my angle-choosing and suggested we add a dolly shot that is cut back to several times. I didn't think such a precise, moving shot would fit with the in-your-face stuff I already wanted, but what the hell, I tried it. I think it came out great, but you can contest that if you wish. Here's a link to what's (sort of) the final cut. Link
Posted: Sun, 3rd Dec 2006, 9:08pm

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SlothPaladin

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Thanks a bunch, I'll keep this in mind when I do the next storyboard
Posted: Fri, 8th Dec 2006, 11:28am

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Simon K Jones

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In terms of knowing whether to employ fast cuts or lingering shots, it always has to be specifically about he scene in question. Much of Dr Haiku sneaking about works fine as lengthier shots, but the fight sequence, for example, could probably have done with more angles and snappier cutting, to really bring the audience into the fight.

Personally I found the story rather charming and amusing, but it is definitely a very 'niche' concept and probably a bit too quirky for a general audience.

Everybody here highly rates your animation skills - have you ever tried getting a job at an animation studio? Your animation shows a solid understanding of character as well as the technical requirements, as well as a good eye for lighting and the ability to combine techniques.
Posted: Sun, 10th Dec 2006, 3:29am

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SlothPaladin

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Tarn wrote:

Personally I found the story rather charming and amusing, but it is definitely a very 'niche' concept and probably a bit too quirky for a general audience.
I think for the most part independent film makers, as well as people who enjoy watching low budget indie flicks are more interested in action, horror, sci-fi, and zombie movies. Sophie Swanson is not really targeted at that audience so it’s falling sort of flat, all I need to do now is find wherever the target audience is hiding and show it to them.

Tarn wrote:

Everybody here highly rates your animation skills - have you ever tried getting a job at an animation studio? Your animation shows a solid understanding of character as well as the technical requirements, as well as a good eye for lighting and the ability to combine techniques.
Yes, I’ve sent my demo reel as far as France, but before Sophie Swanson it lacked a lot of high quality character animation. I’ll most likely start submitting it to studios again once I finish this mini-series.
Posted: Fri, 12th Jan 2007, 9:24pm

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DavidLittlefield

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This was amazing. I agree with everything that's been said. But I can't stress enough how solid the technical aspects are. I feel sorry for you that the story is lacking. But this earned a good 4/5 from me.
Posted: Sun, 14th Jan 2007, 6:03pm

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KA Productions

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Cool man. But I already saw this on Stopmoshorts.com But then I didn't know how you created several efects like the lamp, now I know.
Posted: Mon, 22nd Jan 2007, 2:54am

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jmax

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Well I agree with everyone else on how stunning it was technically.
But you found you're target audience in me, Sloth Palladin. I thought it was pretty clever. The wry sense of humor didn't provide belly laughs, but was funny in its own, shrewd way. I'm hooked, keep the Sophie shorts coming!
Posted: Sun, 25th Mar 2007, 7:17pm

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ASTempleton

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Charming! Clever premise. I love it how only villains use "thwart"...

And I dunno about the story being "lacking." I thought of it as tantalising, wishing there were more. Just need to find an investor or angel and time off from the day job to give Aardman a run for their money.

Keep up good work.
Posted: Sun, 25th Mar 2007, 7:31pm

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Simon K Jones

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Great to see Haiku Menace finding some proper fans - it well deserves it, if you ask me!

Any news on the rest of the series, Slothpaladin?
Posted: Tue, 27th Mar 2007, 12:34am

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SlothPaladin

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Thank you ASTempleton and jmax! The initial disappointment from the poor response has really slowed down the production of the next episode and then that was further compounded by some stuff in my personal life I don't want to talk about. But I will be making another (hopefully 3 more).

A while back I was showing it to some independent film makers in Seattle (in a theater, yeah!) and the festival director for Seattle True Independent Film Festival told me I needed to submit to his fest, and that there would be about 95% chance of it making the cut. So it should be showing there in about four months and I hope I can get around two more episodes done before it plays, or at least thats the plan.