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Monday, April 11, 2011

Cardboard Golden Gate

That's riiiiight! It's time for another Johnny Walnut music video, and you know what that means. Cardboard. Lots and lots of cardboard. This time, the video will be shot using an ambitious style of mixed media stop motion, lead by a team of cardboard artists, awesome animators, and an army of paper cutting interns. I've taken my place among the build team as cardboard alchemist, transmuting corrugated sheets into worlds.

For the first shot, they needed a bridge. The Golden Gate bridge in fact.
I asked, "How big?"
They said, "As big as you think it needs to be."

Hoo boy...


I started by doing some a little research and some math. The scale of the animated actors on average was 1/2 inch, meaning for every foot in real life would be 1/2 an inch in the model. I quickly realized that if I was going to do an accurate scale of the Golden Gate, even at 1/64th scale, it would end up being longer than the building we were shooting in. So I had to get creative.

I would have to use an optical technique called forced perspective to create the illusion that the model bridge was longer than it actually was. I would make the tower closest to the camera at a 1/64th scale, and the tower farthest away at a smaller 1/128th scale, and then connect them with a bridge span that tapered from one end to the other.

I started with a simple setup to get the basic idea in my head, with some help from Iron Man standing in where the animated character will be in the final shot.


I concluded that 16 feet was the right length, and the relative height between 1/64th scale, and 1/128th scale was enough to complete the illusion. What followed was more math than I care to relive.

I started with the main tower, which in reality measures 500 feet from roadway to the top. Check here for more nifty facts and numbers.

Yes there is a little satellite dish on the top. No it doesn't get HBO, only this guy.

Next came the first three foot section of road, sidewalk, and the little criss-crossy bits under the span. I'm sure there are very technical terms for all of these things, but my engineering degree is written on a piece of cardboard with a sharpie. All I know is I had to cut out a rediculous amount of triangles.

Street lamps. Lots and lots of street lamps.

Then it was time to do the same thing... only smaller!

Aww, they're friends!

After mini tower was done, I was faced with the next challenge. The span. The roadway had to start at 6 inches wide at the front where the big tower started, and taper down 3 at the end to meet up with the small tower. With the help of a chalk line I managed to get a general guide of where to cut.


The next part was really boring, there was a lot of cardboard cutting. Just picture it through montage.

Another challenge to this whole piece was I needed to design in to separate into sections so I could fit it into my car for transport. But before moving it to the set, I had to take it outside to impress the neighbors.

What's that Mr. Jenkins? Oh I'm just test driving my new bridge.

I also made a little viewing window to see what the final shot might look like.

After the bridge safely made the journey to set it was time for it to get painted, strung up with lights like a Christmas tree, and ready for it's debut.

Buildin' bridges! Thanks to Laura Valladao for the sweet pic.

This is only the first set of many for this video. More to come.

Be sure to check Flickr for other tidbits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/matthewelium/

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