Week Two – Overview

That went by all too fast. It’s called week two but really it was the first proper week and I’m starting to realise the enormity of work that will be required from me this semester. I like to lose myself in a task and having three distinctly creative modules will turn my brain into an idea-plate spinning machine. But this is what I signed up for and I’m excited about creating some great work this year. I’m less excited about all the lovely sleep I will need to sacrafice.

So this week I had my supervisor meeting, and since then I have been thinking about the work that I will be submitting in December. Like I never said before, the module runs for two semesters, finishing in May, but we must set our own goals/deliverables for a December hand in and we will be graded on that body of work. These grades will contribute to our overall grade along with the final hand-in and a Viva Voce presentation.

I will be going ahead with my original idea of stripping stop motion animation down to it’s bare bones and researching these topics individually. I can then demonstrate my newly learned skills in a short animation as my final submission. So far from what I’ve observed stop motion animation can be divided into the following constituents:

Stop Motion types

The common types of stop motion I have come across so far are:

  • Clay-mation
  • Paper motion
  • Go motion
  • Pixilation

Software

A search on the internet provided an abundance of stop motion composing and editing software. Below is a list of the more popular. As stop motion is currently experiencing a new trend it may be an idea to compare and contrast a few of the more popular programs. If not, then I should explain the software I use to create my animation and why I chose it.

  • JLipSync
  • Dragon Stop Motion
  • iStopMotion (Mac only)
  • Stopmotion Pro (Win only)
  • Animator DV
  • I Can Animate (Mac only)
  • Stop MotionMaker (Win only)
  • Stop Motion Station (Win only)
  • Frame Thief (Mac only)
  • AnimAide XT (Mac only)
  • BTV-PRO (Mac only)

Lighting

I feel that the lighting will determine the final standard of the animation. Too many stop motion animations are ruined by not paying attention to basic consistency with regards to light. I aim to delve into this issue and determine the best way to illuminate a stop motion animation. Some of the topics may include:

  • Numbers and types of light
  • Angles to eliminate shadows
  • Incandescent, CFL or LED bulbs?
  • Wattage
  • Gels and diffusers
  • Heat generated from bulbs affecting set/models

Photography

Things I need to consider within relation to stop motion photography will be white balance levels, F-stop and aperture settings. Also I will need to consider how many shots I will require. This will be done by means of storyboarding. As I have only one DSLR camera I will need to consider different shots carefully. Image format is also a issue. Ideally I would like to shoot in RAW format which offers the most flexibility in post-production. If I am to shoot 1000+ images then this would not be possible as the file sizes are huge and that amount of processing would require an extraordinary amount of time and processing power, neither of which I will have a surplus of. I will need to research the correct methods of zooming in stop motion while keeping focus. All these options correctly researched will hopefully provide me with a more professional looking piece of work once completed.

Set Design / Stop Motion Techniques

There are no hard and fast rules in the setup of a stop motion ‘studio’. It seems that they are constructed for project specific needs. I will need to try and obtain information from stop motion animators on the general rules of set design. I can imagine some of the issues I will need to consider will be the size and stability of the stage. How the lights are affixed will play a key role in the finished set design. The background will be an important decision, and I am already looking at photo shoot backdrops that eliminate corners and help focus the subject. These topics can be researched and tailored to the specificity of the final film’s needs. Keying may also be required and is an important process in many stop motion shoots so I will need to look into green screen technology. The actual movement of objects will utilise some stop motion techniques, or trickery, involving  invisible threads or wires that are removed in post-production. Techniques like these have been around since the birth of stop motion animation and will be an integral part of my research and final production. Also I have to consider camera movement about the stage and as hand held movement is not ideal for this type of photography I need to look at ways the camera can be stabilised while moving incrementally.

General rules / standards

As this is a popular and one of the older more established forms of animation, I can imagine there are certain rules that are commonplace.Issues such as consistency of lighting is a big rule of thumb. Also non-required organic movement such as plants and clouds could taint an otherwise great animation. These ‘rules’ will arise whilst researching other aspects and it might be a good idea to compile them into an easy to read paragraph. I imagine animatics and storyboarding will be the key to achieving a fluid final animation and this will also be looked at.

Sound (syncing)

An integral issue when working with animation is syncing the sound. I will look at different methods used over the years and determine which will work the best for my stop motion animation.

Above are a few pics of the space I’m working in at the moment. Thankfully the old office desk weighs a tonne and is very sturdy. I will try to develop this space over the coming months based on my research, and non-budget.

As the project started with me trying to restore this reel-to-reel tape recorder, I am still trying to fix it up. My friend Dan, who studies electronic engineering, made up some great cables for me so I will be able to input sound to the machine. The Uher 724-L used 5 Pin Din connectors for its audio input and outputs. Dan built me a female XLR to 5 Pin Din cable to connect a microphone, and a phone to 5 Pin Din for the output so I may connect it to a small mixing desk. I have, after months of searching, purchased some isopropal alcohol from an old chemists which I will use to clean the magnetic tape heads. Finally, I am on a mission to replace/restore the perished drive belt and its attached discs. I have ordered some spools of 7″ tape which should fit this model, and I believe they already have some recorder music on them so it should be a good test to see whether this machine works or not. The issue of it working is not really of great importance though as I will be manually moving the parts myself for the film.

Another aspect I have thought about is motion blur. If, for example, the tape reels were to spin at their natural speed and this was to be shot on video, each frame if viewed individually would show the reel blurred as it is in motion. If I was to shoot this in stop motion then each frame would just show the reel in a still form. I don’t know what effect this will produce when combined to play at 24fps and it is something which I will have to consider. Possibly there may be a way of blurring the moving object in post-production using image editing software such as Photoshop.

An idea I had today was that I wanted to combine pixilation animation and the traditional stop motion photography. I remembered an old Guinness ad from a few years back and thought it could be cool having a person (me probably!) working on the machine from the inside and it could zoom in through the various parts and I could be moving them by hand. It’s the skeleton of an idea, and needs some meat on its bones if it’s to come to life.

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  1. This is good info! Where else can if ind out more?? Who runs this joint too? Keep up the good work 🙂

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