Creating the Launch Sequence

This is the final part of the rocket build – I’ve already posted the short film (see previous post), so now I can explain what it was all for.

One of the main reasons I wanted to build the rocket was to create a 30 cell animation of it launching, as we are planning to have a flick book effect running for 30 pages in the final book.

This is how I did it. I’ve numbered the pictures above to make things easier to understand:

1. Picture of the finished rocket. At 9ft long it is big enough to look very realistic through the camera lens. Any smaller and it probably wouldn’t have worked.

2. Dad and I pegged out a huge blue plastic sheet as a background. This made it easier to cut out the rocket in Photoshop later. Next we taped down a standard tape measure along the route the rocket would take (yellow in the picture).

3. The idea was to make sure that when I took the sequence of still images, the rocket was moving away from the house in consistent, measured distances so the animation worked correctly. This needed to be pretty accurate.

4. Me, looking confused, as I tried to work out how much the rocket needed to move for each frame. Mathematics was never my strongest subject.

5. The high resolution stills were taken from an upstairs bedroom. This shot is one from about halfway through the sequence.

6. Another shot in the sequence.

7. In the next few pictures (7-10), I’m going to explain how I combined images to create a single animation cell. This is an early shot where the rockets engines have just ignited. Dad is keeping the sunlight off the rocket with a table. This image is taken with a good quality 8 megapixel camera.

8. This is a still taken using the high-speed camera as we fired the CO2. The camera takes a blast of 72 images over 3 seconds, so is ideal because the CO2 fires out so quickly. Sadly, the picture quality is only 3 megapixels, so not quite sharp enough to use in the book. So what I wanted here was JUST the smoke, and because it is blurry stuff, the loss of quality didn’t matter.

9. This is the single cell created from the various pictures. I’ve cut out the still rocket picture taken with the 8 megapixel camera, and overlaid the smoke from the lower quality 3 megapixel camera. I’ve created a background in Photoshop, added spotlights, adjusted the smoke and added flame colour (or color, depending where you live in the world!).

10. I took this shot of a crane. I’ll let you work out which bit I used for the launch tower in pic 9.

11 This is a shot from later in the sequence. I’ve darkened down the rocket quite a bit, and worked on the flame and smoke trail in photoshop.

12. The final sequence. It took about 2 days to create all 30 cells.

Thank you Mr Apple Mac and Mr Photoshop, but mostly a big thank you to my Dad for moving the rocket up the garden 1ft at a time, without complaint.

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