Kommer Kleijn SBC

Director of Photography, Visual Effects Cinematographer, Motion Control Cinematographer,
Stereographer, Special and Large Format Cinematography.
Visual Effects Consultant, Image Technology Consultant

Animoko at IBC 2009
Animoko (on the left) and me at MRMC stand IBC 2009

In 2006 I designed a concept for a low cost and light-weight Motion Control rig specifically made for stop frame animation. It was first ordered by the "La Cambre" animation film school in Brussels and it was build by Marc Roberts Motion control in the U.K. It was presented in Brussels on december 11th, 2008 and I called it the ANIMOKO. (Ani for Animation, Moco for Motion Control and then I changed the C into a K to get the fist two letters of my first name)

The rig can move cameras of up to 1 (one ! ) kilogram so no 35mm Mitchell here, but perfect for digital cameras like SLR Digital still cameras and digital "cube" cameras. The rig has very high precision (comparable to that of a Milo!) but is much cheaper, smaller but slow. It is not fit for live action shooting and lacks the speed, stiffness, hight and accellaration capabilities of the Milo, but for most Stop Motion Animation shots those features are actually not needed :-). The result is a rig that has much lower cost, is easy to move and install and can be also be used safely by animators or even students. Besides for puppet and clay animation, the rig can be very useful for movements on models as well as product shots.

 The goals of the design were these:

- Focussing performance to what is needed in animation only, in order to better adapt to animation production and loose cost and weight and gain securety.
- Small enough to fit into tight animation studios. It can pass through a standard doorway without a need for dismantling.
- Lower cost making Motion Control a more economicly viable option for animation projects given the sometimes moderate budgets and the fact that the equipment is often needed for long periods.
- Lightweight and on wheels: can easily be installed and used by a single person!
- All motors are slow and/or weak enough to be unable to hurt someone. This is important because it allows us to leave it working alone with an animator without the need for the continuous presence of a qualified motion control technician, without fear for damage or injuries. The need for continuous presence of a qualified operator has previously caused an economic problem for the use of motion control on animation shoots. This rig is unable to hurt someone and can safely be left alone with film students without a need for additional supervision.
- The rig can operate without track, the function being performed by the extend axis above the table. This greatly simplifies installation of the rig and also helps to provide a better working space for the animatiors. No need to level a track, no track or carriage in the way. Just level the feet of the rig and you are ready to program your move and shoot. A track can be added though as an option if needed for long shots. But for the majority of shots the rig can be installed very quickly just on its adjustable feet. The motorized extendable arm also allows to enter sets more easily with a small camera, allowing for compelling shots that are easy to set up and avoid the need of costly and cumbersome periscope/boroscope lenses that were needed for such views previously.
- Even without a track and in spite of the small size and cost this is a full 3D target tracking rig with 6 axis (plus optional axis that can be added). Target tracking is a big help to simplify movement setup. The rig provides all the neccessary axis for FLAIR software to be able to perform full target tracking and carthesian XYZ functions. Other smaller solutions like a-head-on-a-track generally do not allow for 3D target tracking. This rig concept allows the full use of the facilities the MRMC FLAIR software provides, FLAIR being one of the most user friendly and most performant Motion Control control programs on the market today. The 3D capabilities of the rig also allow to use the FLAIR XYZ CGI integration facilities to its full extend. Moves can be exported too and imported from CGI packages to ease integration of puppet animation or models and CGI. The CGI software does not need to know anything about the rig as FLAIR can convert pure XYZ spacial data into rig movements and vice versa. The Animoko is proposed as a complete system including a complete and pre-configured FLAIR system.
- Scaling compatibility with f.e. in combination with f.e a Milo: A life action shot made on a Milo can be imported into the Animoko computer and then be scaled down to shoot a matching move on a miniature set, that will match the Milo life action shoot in compositing.
- Competitive price. By tailoring the performances to what is actually needed on contemporary animation shoot, you can have quite a few of these, for the price of one Milo :-).

The starting goal of this undertaking was to make complex camera moves more easily accessable in actual Belgian animation production. Many animated movies in Belgium and surrounding countries could not afford to use Motion Control at all, because most rigs required the precence of a qualified operator for safety, and are often too expensive to rent for prolonged periods, and sometimes simply could not fit in the confined studio spaces at all ..... My ultimate wish and motivation for this effort is the hope to see animated movies to have their cameras move more often and more freely :-) (I am a BIG fan of animated movies, both those I shot and those that I didn't :-))

Among the animation studio's that acquired Animoko's are Aardman studios in Bristol (they have 3 Animoko's) and the National Film Board of Canada. Here is an example for seeing an Animoko in action on an animated feature on Youtube
For additional info or if you feel you need one of these, don't hesitate to call upon me. My e-mail address is on the bottom of each page of my personal web site.

Kommer Kleijn with Animoko Rig
Photo: Rosario Melin, 2008

Link: The ANIMOKO page on the Marc Roberts Motion Control Web site.

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