The Making of Dr. Zond Controls the Weather
This film explores aesthetics particular to the medium of stop motion. I took influence from great animators before me, particularly the Japanese animator Kihachiro Kawamoto and Czech filmmaker Karl Zeman.
Like them, I utilized foreshortening to mix flat and dimensional elements in the same frame. The predominance of physical effects (rather than digital) is meant to appeal to the natural aesthetic of stop motion. That aesthetic seeks to feature rather than hide the actual funky textures of the tiny sculptures that were built for the film.
Digital photography and digital composites enabled me to actually use more physical effects that would have been feasible shooting with film. Digital photography was controlled from the computer using a software called FrameThief, that I originated with Roman Blok back in 2000. FrameThief has an interface that offers many user assists to line up, time, sync and review the footage as it is being shot.
With the exception of the weather machine's electric discharge, the origin of all the effects in this film were actual physical images. In most cases, it was done in front of the camera. The balance of the effects were photographed separately and then combined in the computer.
The set was wired with lights manufactured for doll houses. Glowing radiation and heat were photographed directly on the set. Clouds were animated shadows, cast from movable masks in the lighting set-up. The waves were achieved as Kawamoto did them, using cardboard cutouts. 4 layers of 24 inch wide placards were stood up in racks about 6 inches apart and replaced on every frame.
Two methods of depicting rain were used. Layers of sheer drapes were animated as they were dragged across the set. White rain drops were simply painted on a rotating drum and layered in later. Natural lighting was projected onto the background.
In this era of digitally synthetic images, Dr. Zond Controls The Weather serves to update the aesthetic of using real objects to make a film.Production Stills