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December 14, 2010 7:44 PM   Subscribe

Insert Coin is a new stop-motion animation by Ninja Moped (who made the equally impressive 8-bit trip). The animation, featuring only quarters on a black blanket, is so flawless that it is generating some discussion among Net skeptics and counter-skeptics.

The Ninja Moped youtube channel is here.
posted by dgaicun (53 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Love it. Can anyone tell me what the music track is, and if I can get it anywhere?
posted by Countess Elena at 7:51 PM on December 14, 2010


Consider me a skeptic.
posted by zardoz at 7:52 PM on December 14, 2010


Another skeptic here, but that was still great.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:56 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


It seems an impossible task until they explain how they did it at the end, and then it seems much more reasonable. Still tons of work, but the projected graphic makes the process a lot easier.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:56 PM on December 14, 2010


They show their process at the end, I believe it is "real". A lot of stop motion media has been created, all it takes is time and the tenacity to work methodically.
posted by thylacine at 7:57 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I hate the "too much time on your hands" accusation I get a lot of time with my hobbies. I spend less time on my hobbies a month than an average round of golf. Next time someone says this to me I am pointing them to this video.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:01 PM on December 14, 2010


"How could anyone do anything requiring effort? Obviously it was faked. This is Two thousand mother fucking ten; I don't even have the attention span to finish thi~ Hey is that an iPad?"
posted by boo_radley at 8:03 PM on December 14, 2010 [15 favorites]


Yeah. Skeptical.
posted by crunchland at 8:16 PM on December 14, 2010


I dunno, having seen the how they did it, it's pretty reasonable to expect it to be done practically. Depending on how much of the edges the objects change will seriously affect how much work they have to do between frames. I found myself trying to keep track of the mostly similar frames versus the wildly varying frames to see if they kept it to easier art, but I couldn't come to a conclusion. Neat trick, in any event.

That said, I dug the demo soundtrack and themes.
posted by Kyol at 8:21 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Funny, while I was watching it, I was exactly thinking of the method they mentioned- "Oh, it's clear they've got some kind of animation they're drawing from to do this. Let's see, black blanket- projector overhead?"

The projector actually makes it totally doable, because you've already got your keyframing done- you're not trying to simply do it and hope you put in enough frames to make the motion look smooth, which is where a lot of stop mo has to do the most work.
posted by yeloson at 8:21 PM on December 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't believe it. If the image at the end showing them work was real, then the coins would wiggle around more than they do. the coins are on a square grid, and a given position either has a coin or it doesn't, and the position of the coin is precisely the same each time it appears.

What it makes me think is that they created a big squaregrid and photographed it once. Then they used computer graphics on that image to mask out the coins they didn't want in any given frame.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:33 PM on December 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I hate the "too much time on your hands" accusation I get a lot of time with my hobbies.

From a talk I gave: Your Time Vs. Jason's Time.
posted by jscott at 8:36 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, put me down for "Skeptic who now is a believer". I spent some time with the video and I'm convinced it's real. I do agree they should have added other angles, life would have been better for them without half the audience not enjoying the thing by going "fake fake fake".
posted by jscott at 8:40 PM on December 14, 2010


It looks good and I couldn't do it and off the top of my head here's some easier way to do it so it must be fake.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:43 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


As one of the comments on the video says, if you pause the frame on a block of coins you can see where some are mispositioned. Put your mouse cursor over that spot and wait for the animation to blank it out, then a new animation to cover it. The apparently-new coins have the same mispositioning as the old ones. So yeah, it's fake. Chocolate Pickle probably has the correct explanation.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:48 PM on December 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


How could this not be done by cg'ing a template animation, playing it from an overhead projector, pausing every 1/15th of a second, positioning the quarters, turning off the projector, snapping your frame, then repeat 14 times more a second.

Laborious, sure, but totally doable. Am I missing something?
posted by sourwookie at 9:24 PM on December 14, 2010


I'm an idiot, I watched the end, that's totally what they did.

Still, given a high enough frame rate it's gonna look surreally smooth but still very believable.
posted by sourwookie at 9:27 PM on December 14, 2010


is the music from somewhere else? cause seriously, is good.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:36 PM on December 14, 2010


What it makes me think is that they created a big squaregrid and photographed it once.

You know, there was a post a while back about some guys who wrote software to do that with 2D lego bricks. IIRC, they scanned in a giant grid in a few different colors, and then basically build a rendering engine that turned their video/animation into "stop motion animated" lego studs.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:38 PM on December 14, 2010


You're telling me that in all the hours it took to do this, no one bumped a suitcase once?
posted by Brocktoon at 9:45 PM on December 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I hate the "too much time on your hands" accusation I get a lot of time with my hobbies. I spend less time on my hobbies a month than an average round of golf. Next time someone says this to me I am pointing them to this video.

I keep going back to the oft-repeated Clay Shirky story. Some TV journalist was interviewing him and at some point he mentioned something about the scale of the effort involved in editing Wikipedia. The interviewer rolled his eyes and said something like "Where do people find the time?" To which Shirky replied, "No one who works in television gets to ask that question."
posted by middleclasstool at 9:46 PM on December 14, 2010 [11 favorites]


Well, if it is real, then all the people yelling "fake" to them is like how when people accuse me of running an aimbot in TF2, which is pretty awesome.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:48 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah. The software is called LegoBoard, and it was created by the Lego Matrix guys.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:49 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Vermeer had to use a camera obscura, but it is still Art.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:57 PM on December 14, 2010


I have no trouble believing that someone would do this. Lots of people do crazy things that take huge amounts of time, just because it's fun. For example. But I don't think these guys did what they say they did.

Apart from the fact that each coin apparently appears and disappear in exactly the same position, I'd also expect the coins to move very slightly between frames as the animators walk all over the rug. If not every frame, at least once. Sorry, but until I see a time-lapse video of them actually doing the whole thing I'll be voting fake.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 10:06 PM on December 14, 2010


the coins are on a square grid, and a given position either has a coin or it doesn't, and the position of the coin is precisely the same each time it appears.

If anyone wants to see this for themselves, I made a quick little gif that fades between 2 different sections. FWIW, I thought of the projector method before the video finished, but after making this animation, I've converted myself to a skeptic.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 10:26 PM on December 14, 2010 [14 favorites]


Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug FTW

Totally. Nailed.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:52 PM on December 14, 2010


I don't think anyone's claiming they couldn't have done this all by hand if they were willing to spend the time on it. I just think they didn't. It seems much more plausible that they used something like the LegoBoard software mentioned above.

NSAID, I was just making an animation like that myself from the higher-resolution downloadable video. The frames I picked are from the middle of two separate scenes, hundreds of frames apart. A few of the coins have been shifted slightly, but the majority are pixel-identical, even though they've supposedly been picked up and replaced numerous times. Look what happens when you take the difference of those two images.
posted by teraflop at 10:52 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, I really liked their last video, even though I was pretty sure that some of the scenes were faked in exactly this way. The fact that this one is pretty much exactly the same thing, just in a slightly different medium, makes it much less interesting.
posted by teraflop at 10:55 PM on December 14, 2010


Or maybe...they replaced every coin in exactly the same spot every time just to fuck with the internet.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:59 PM on December 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


It is national fuck with the internet day.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:04 PM on December 14, 2010


As has already been pointed out - they generated the video first. Then they projected it onto the background. And put the coins into every spot exactly where the quarter sized spot of light was. That's how they got the coins to be in the exact same spot. They then photographed it.

As far as masking the coins - that's what they did digitally. That's why it's a revealed grid, and not just a bunch of coins moving around.

And for not knocking the carpet - tape the thing down. If they walk across the carpet and knock some coins out of place - put them back - in the spot of light from the projector. It's really easy. It's just extraordinarily time consuming.

Note that these guys a Scandinavian. It's socialism + support for the arts. If they didn't get a grant to live on while they did this, the dole would be sufficient. They had plenty of time. Do some bong hits and move coins around all day. For weeks and weeks.

I had my doubts - but there really is no reason to think they didn't do it.
posted by Xoebe at 11:12 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Then they projected it onto the background. And put the coins into every spot exactly where the quarter sized spot of light was. That's how they got the coins to be in the exact same spot.

Xoebe, that's not what the "making of" video shows. The projector is showing a grid of squares, and they're just roughly pushing the coins into the squares without any precise alignment. There's simply no way they would get this kind of millimeter-level precision by that method.
posted by teraflop at 11:18 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Xoebe, did you watch Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug's clip? It's not that the coins are in the same spots hundreds of frames apart... it's that the coins are in the same spots hundreds of frames apart and that they're clumsily placed and not even close to being on the orthogonal grid that a computer projection would produce. It's really unlikely that image they are working from is that sloppy. It's pretty clear this video is a fake. (On preview: what teraflop said.)

Still pretty cool though.
posted by painquale at 11:27 PM on December 14, 2010


Xoebe: And put the coins into every spot exactly where the quarter sized spot of light was. That's how they got the coins to be in the exact same spot.

teraflop: that's not what the "making of" video shows. The projector is showing a grid of squares, and they're just roughly pushing the coins into the squares without any precise alignment.


That's a good point, teraflop. My original interpretation of the video was also that the projector grid was precise quarter-size spots and that that was sufficient evidence of authenticity.

But this screenshot shows that the colored grid is actually fairly loose squares, which really does cast suspicion on their unusual precision.
posted by dgaicun at 11:29 PM on December 14, 2010


On the other hand, the squares might still be relatively small enough that minor variations in the coin position aren't readily perceptible in the over head shot. In Nonsteroidal's animated gif the coins are aligned crookedly on the left-most wall of the pac-man image, and while it's difficult for me to tell, the same coins seem more aligned in the hand image. Which is consistent with non-cgi coin movements.
posted by dgaicun at 11:47 PM on December 14, 2010


OK, I've overlapped the two images in Photoshop, and I think the evidence is pretty strong that the method that they've claimed to use was not used. The coins from disparate parts of the video line up exactly. They're crooked in the exact same way.

FAKE!
posted by dgaicun at 12:00 AM on December 15, 2010


Wow, I take that back. The similarities in the area I was focusing in on might be coincidental, since many other areas show clear dissimilarity. I'll create some screen captures and come back later. Other people can try as well; I'm not experienced in this kind of forensics.
posted by dgaicun at 12:17 AM on December 15, 2010


OK, my final verdict is that this was either entirely done in a computer (with possible deliberate imperfections added to cover up this fact), or that a large amount of computer work was combined with the stop-motion process. Either way, the artists are guilty of a non-trivial amount of dishonesty about their process.

I took a full-screen screen-shot of this part of the video and this part of the video. The two scenes are not adjacent and all the coins involved were cleared away many times between these two shots. I overlapped the images precisely in Photoshop and zoomed into an area of about 9x15 pixels. The animated gif of this area is here.

Clearly the coins overlap exactly. Most are "randomly" crooked in the same exact way, which would be impossible given the method they claim to use in the video. A small number of coins deviate, but since the majority are exactly the same, this can be considered either a deliberate trick or a result of some unknown process. Either way, a computer was clearly made to make a significant part of this animation.
posted by dgaicun at 12:59 AM on December 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


dgaicun: "The coins from disparate parts of the video line up exactly."

As someone else said, it would be possible to sort the frames in the order that means you must move as few as possible coins between each frame. You are then shooting the frames non-sequentially and at the end reassemble them to the correct ordering.
posted by brokkr at 1:10 AM on December 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have a theory.

They did what they say, but not the order they show it.

That would explain the few coins that do move between these frames.

Because I can't think of an alternate explanation for why a few coins move but most don't.

If it's to throw off sleuths why do only a few move? If you wanted to do that, why not just do the whole grid 4 times and randomly pick a grid for each coin each time a coin leaves or comes back? Or just introduce a little noise in by software...
posted by aubilenon at 1:19 AM on December 15, 2010


Brikkr, note the two screen shots I used. The small area I zoomed in on is one of the only areas of significant overlap. In a stop motion animation adjacent frames of the animation will virtually always be the most similar and, in the case of this animation, require the fewest amount of coin alterations.
posted by dgaicun at 1:24 AM on December 15, 2010


If I didn't have an exam in the morning, I'd stay up all night counting the coins in the shot where the guys spread them all over the carpet, and I'd compare that to how many "coins" are visible in one of the animation's more populated frames.

It's a good thing I have my priorities straight.
posted by EmGeeJay at 3:08 AM on December 15, 2010


OK, I made one more animated gif of the same area in four separate sections of the video (labeled 1, 2, 3, 4).

It's a different part of the screen but 3 and 4 are again completely identical. 2 shares most of the relative coin spacing with 3 and 4. 1 has relatively unique coin spacing compared with 2, 3, and 4, but is not completely different as it should be given the stated process (see, for example, the unique spacing of the central four coins which is identical across all four frames).

Non-sequential photographing would be much less efficient, not more efficient, than making gradual minor changes to each adjacent frame. Which means the shared grid space would've needed to be cleared multiple times between these frames. Yet the same "random" coin spacing keeps showing up in the same areas throughout the video.

I think significant computer assistance best explains the uniformity of the coin spacing across the video.
posted by dgaicun at 4:16 AM on December 15, 2010


To put some numbers on that, I counted the percentage of identical "pixels"; that is coins that overlap exactly in Photoshop (this method underestimates similarity, because it doesn't capture retained spacing patterns).

Frames 3 and 4 share 62 grid spaces, and of these only 2 coins don't overlap (97% similarity). Frames 2 and 3 share 99 grid spaces, and 18 coins don't overlap (82% similarity). Frames 1 and 2 share 78 grid spaces and 50 coins don't overlap (36% similarity).

But when I take random sections of the grid space and place them on top of each other, none of the coins show exact overlap.
posted by dgaicun at 5:02 AM on December 15, 2010


I just wanna know why they have a Commodore PET 2001 in the studio. It's not generating the music, the PET was only capable of generating single notes at a time & the sound is much more complex than it could make (I know, a friend & I put together a system in Jr High that played Bach concertos by using two manually synched PETs, ie you hit ENTER on both at the same exact instant; one plays the laft hand & the other plays the right). And also you can hear the music playing in the background while the PET is pretty clearly unplugged. So what's it there for? Besides just plain cool factor, because PETs add coolness to any scene they happen to be in.
posted by scalefree at 5:06 AM on December 15, 2010



PETs add coolness to any scene they happen to be in.

Indeed, they do.
posted by gimonca at 5:23 AM on December 15, 2010


Given the studio is a hardwood or laminate floor and the black surface is a muslin of some sort... there's no chance at all that over the hours/days that would have been required to position the coins frame-by-frame that the muslin would not slip, bunch up, move around and jostle the position of the coins so they had to be moved back into place with the aid of a projector. So I'm thinking they did use a projector to position a frame full of coins and then jostled it just a little bit to make three or four source frames, which were then composited together. I mean, I don't CARE, it's a cool concept and a cool video and do you know what? I don't think less of Wei for having an entire village make his sunflower seeds rather than doing it himself.

So, rock on dudes, you made something cool.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:36 AM on December 15, 2010


As to the amount of time it must have taken: Animation takes time. Whatever form you're doing, it's a massively time-consuming process. I made a two-minute video in which I put my own face into old New Wave album covers and animated myself singing, and pretty much the only thing moving was my mouth. It took me almost a week.

As to nothing getting bumped: You know, that's an issue with anything animated. You might as well look at the original King Kong and say there's no way that could have been done. Somebody would have accidentally knocked over the ape. It's CGI.

As to everything lining up alike: We're seeing it from at least 10 feet away -- as sloppy as they may be, they're covering little dots on the floor with quarters. As long as the dot is covered, the difference is going to be a fraction of an inch, and not noticeable from the distance they filmed at. Similar imperfections throughout? Easily explained as a projector or related glitch. If it's got one dot a pixel off, projected from 15 feet away, that's going to be a noticeable difference. And that difference is going to reappear every single time they put a quarter on that dot.

Should they have shown in close-up, or from different angles, so that we knew it was real? I'm sure you Internet Sherlock Holmes would have come up with a way to discredit that. As somebody who has actually done stop motion animation, this is currently passing the sniff test for me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:59 AM on December 15, 2010


If dgaicun's animation wasn't convincing enough, here's something else that convinces me that this was done with a computer. Look at the second frame in the animation he links to. Those two sections that I circled looked suspiciously similar to me, so I enlarged them (selection 1, selection 2). They appear to be completely identical. Granted, this is a screenshot of a compressed video rather than the original raw files, but it still seems highly implausible to me that this is "naturally occurring."
posted by pluckemin at 7:36 AM on December 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


(Note that I'm not claiming those two selections are identical down to the pixels -- given that it's a screenshot of a compressed video that would be pretty much impossible -- but rather that the coins are placed in precisely the same spots, have precisely the same non-round shapes, and are precisely the same colors.)
posted by pluckemin at 7:38 AM on December 15, 2010


(And upon a closer inspection, there are a bunch of other examples of what is pretty clearly copying and pasting a small grid of quarters to make a large matrix.)

The funny part is that they presumably added the imperfect spacing to make it seem more realistic, when in fact the imperfect spacing makes it possible to see recurring patterns, giving the animation away as being non-stop-motion.
posted by pluckemin at 7:52 AM on December 15, 2010


This would be interesting if they had actually done the stop-motion instead of just masking some 3D animation with a complete grid of quarters. It's pretty obvious that this wasn't done by hand.
posted by tehloki at 4:58 PM on December 15, 2010


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