Proof Of Concept – Line-Up Movie

I realised at the start of the week that I could use a flash animation as an overlay in Dragon Stop Motion. I learned this from watching the making of the excellent Accumulonimbus by Andy Kennedy. In it he demonstrates how he uses Flash to first create the movement of the pieces, then overlaying it in Dragon as a reference layer to ensure smooth movement. This method will be extremely useful in my own animation as I will need consistent and realistic movement.

I decided I would create a short clip in Flash of a spinning circle. I added a line in it so the rotations would be easy to see. To fully test the capabilities of the concept I created an ease in so the circle would start slow and gradually build up speed. I set the frame rate to 24fps and did four revolutions. I then exported this as a QuickTime file and called it

Flash Animation


I then opened up a new 24fps project in Dragon and set up the scene. Lighting and framing were not too important for this concept so I basically stuck the camera in front of the subject which was in this case the reel-to-reel recorder. I put a 7″ reel on one and positioned it in the centre of the frame. I took a few test shots in manual mode and adjusted the focus and settings until I was satisfied.

The camera settings were as follows:

ISO 200
Aperture – f/3.5
Shutter Speed – 1/15 sec
White Balance – Auto
Focal Length – 18.0 mm
JPG 4272 x 2848

Test Shots


I then imported my line-up movie into Dragon and adjusted the transparency to 40% opacity. Now I had my live view of the tape recorder with the flash circle as an overlay. I resized the Flash circle and positioned it directly over the tape reel. I lined up one of the spokes of the reel with the line of the circle so I could sync perfectly.


I proceeded then to shoot the frames. After each shot, the Flash circle would move slightly and I would move the tape slightly in correspondence. The first few frames required minute movements of the tape reel. As the circle  spent four hours on this proof of concept. While it is time consuming I am extremely pleased with the outcome – a smooth, almost film-like, animation. I will have to decide what frame rate I will be shooting in for my final film. 24fps will require a gigantic amount of time dedicated to it and I’m not sure I will have an abundance of it given my deadline.

To check out the result of this proof of concept, here is the video:

I also decided that in future if there are various movements happening on the tape machine I might take the following actions.

1) set up camera and take shot of the machine.

2) bring photo into Flash and draw vector shapes of the moving parts as an overlay.

3) animate the now vector parts

4) export as QuickTime movie

5) import into Dragon as line-up movie

This way the on screen dimensions would be exact. I may return to this idea as a part 2 to this proof of concept.

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