Waking the dead: New life for digitally archived puppets

Clark, Mat (2019) Waking the dead: New life for digitally archived puppets. Waterside Arts.

Abstract

The output is a creative project towards the preservation of stop-motion puppets and assets (the Kraken from ‘Clash of the Titans’ (1981) and Mr Toad from ‘The Wind in the Willows’, Cosgrove Hall Archive) before they deteriorate. It is a collaboration between Dr Steve Henderson, Manchester Metropolitan University, Print City, Barry Purves and Matthew Clark. Clark is responsible for the development of the scanned assets so that they can be used in a production environment. Research process: Using a range of software tools, scanned media is retopologised by Clark to a workable level. Character models are reposed in preparation for sculpting and rigging. During retopology, details are lost, so sculpting methods are applied to create displacement maps which can recreate fine detail on a low polygon mesh. During the scanning process, occluded areas may not get full texture detail and these need to be recreated through sampling of other parts of the model or similar media. Rigging provides a skeleton that can deform the digital mesh in the same way that armature might in a physical world stop-motion puppet. In order to test the Kraken and Mr Toad rigs, Clark developed understanding of motion through viewing original footage and through collaboration with Purves. Research insights: The project revealed that it is possible to develop animation from scans that were not initially archived with the intention of reanimating. Clark developed an efficient workflow from scanned artefact to animated article. The original stop-motion animation was 12 frames per second, and it was found that in order to replicate this effectively, the CGI animation had to be made on ones and at 12 frames per second, which is an unusual practice for CGI. Dissemination: The project was disseminated via exhibition at Waterside Arts, 15 November 2019 – 4 January 2020.

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