Stop Motion Cinematography and Forced Perspective: An Interview With Mark Sawicki

Stop Motion Cinematography and Forced Perspective: An Interview With Mark Sawicki
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In February 2012, The Masters POV Los Angeles 2012 will kick off with a full day of intensive workshops, running from 9am – 6pm. Offering a variety of topics, and a chance to really get to the bottom of today’s hot topics – what better way to start your MPOV experience!

I caught up with one of our awesome session leaders, Mark Sawicki, to hear a little more about how his workshop will play out…

Hi Mark, tell us a little bit about your recent work…

I’d be delighted. One of my more rewarding projects was authoring and performing an FX tutorial for the Stan Winston School. As you probably know the late Stan Winston was the Academy award winning character creator for such films as The Terminator, Predator and Jurassic Park among others. To honor his memory and preserve the craft of character creation his family founded a school in his name. This unique school is on line and offers video tutorials by the actual artists that made the creations for award winning fantasy films. I became involved when Stan’s son Matt invited me to write and perform a tutorial on how one of the Terminator performances was created. I had the good fortune to have worked on the original Terminator years ago by coming up with some optical effects tests for “Termo vision” at Fantasy 2. While I did not do any actual animation of the Terminator itself I was very familiar with the technique and knew the late Pete Klienow who animated the figure for certain scenes. I was very proud to honor the accomplishments of both Stan and Pete by putting together a lesson that shows how to recreate the early Terminator effect using Stop Motion Pro software. Stop Motion Pro is a digital animation tool that is used for the charming Wallace and Gromit clay animated programs produced by Aardman. This software was an ideal instrument to demonstrate both animation and digital rear projection techniques. I had a great deal of fun with that project and look forward to doing more.

What gave you the idea for your two Masters POV workshop topics, “Stop Motion Cinematography” and “Forced Perspective” and why are these important to have in your “toolbox” as a cinematographer?

Well, I had the thought of doing a stop motion presentation as I had just finished shooting two commercials for Lisha Tan of Elastic using this technique. Because stop motion is usually done with miniatures it seemed an ideal way to illustrate broad concepts in a compact space. Because of the incredible control one has in an animation environment it is an ideal platform to illustrate lighting in post methodology. I decided to demonstrate forced perspective to point out the importance of lighting regardless of the compositing technique. While forced perspective is an historical FX method it is far from being obsolete and can provide a relatively inexpensive solution for some FX demands. In this tough economic climate revisiting tried and true traditional techniques can yield impressive results that are quicker and less expensive. Slight imperfections in a traditional process can be cleaned up easily using simple 2D compositing tools. Older techniques may not be as flexible or responsive to last minute changes but they can certainly get the job done and without resorting to a full blown computer graphic approach that can get extremely complicated and expensive.
Stop Motion Cinematography and Forced Perspective: An Interview With Mark Sawicki

What kind of topics/techniques will you be covering?

The forced perspective technique will cover set up, lighting and camera movement considerations while the stop motion demo will illustrate proper blue and green screen set up and planning as well as lighting over sampling technique coupled with compositing used as an extension of the cinematography process.

What can attendees expect to learn from your workshops?

I have hopes that they will learn to not only think out of the box but “in” the box at the same time. That box being the computer and the many tools we now have to digitally manipulate images. As an FX cinematography I have been trained to shoot pieces or elements of pictures that are meant to go together at a later time to create a cohesive singular vision . It’s not “shoot now fix it in post”, it’s “shoot now and enhance in post”.

What are you most looking forward to about Masters POV 2012?

I am very much looking forward to hearing what the live action cinematographers have to say. These last few decades have been a whirlwind of change and that wind is getting faster all the time. These master image makers are sure to cut through all the technology and gizmos and teach what it means to simply see, interpret and capture a story with lens and light.

Thanks Mark!
To secure your seat for February, just head here! To post any questions for Marks workshops, use the form below, or email us your favorite topics!

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