Week Four – Overview

I met with Kendall Richards early in the week. Kendall offers academic support and I wanted to ask about the mechanics of a literature review. He clarified some confusion I was having regarding references and citations. He also showed me some useful tricks and online resources for information searching.

I returned the Sony DV camera, unused. Luckily the university have a few Canon 550D DSLR’s and I requested to borrow one. I met with Digital Media lecturer John Morrison on Tuesday who gave me the 550 and also had some useful advice on photography. I saw an opportunity and I’ve arranged a meeting next week and I’ll pick his brains about some of the photography elements of the stop motion process.

I recently discovered that Dragon Stop Motion lets you import line-up movies. This solves the problem I have had of how to make sure the animations run smooth in equal increments. By loading a picture of the tape machine into Flash, drawing and animating the moving parts in vectors and exporting this new animation as a QuickTime movie, I can then import it as a line-up movie to match my stop motion to. If this makes no sense, have a look at my post on ‘Proof Of Concept – Line-up Movie’ which I did this week.

I also re-drafted my Learning Contract and emailed it to Richard for review. I am having a meeting with him and my second marker next Thursday where it will be signed by all. It goes a little something like this:

SOC10102 Honours Project (60 Credits)

Learning Contract

Working Title

‘Breathing life into an inanimate object using stop motion animation techniques’

1. Nature of the Project 

The aim of this project is to explore the art of stop motion animation. To do so I will dissect the production of stop motion animating and examining each constituent part. The project will culminate in the production of my own animated short film which I will be submitting as my additional deliverable.

As a fourth year student of Digital Media, I have found myself being drawn closer and closer towards animation. I first studied digital animation four years ago using Macromedia Director and have followed this up with almost three years of experience animating with Adobe Flash. These programs have provided me with a passion for animation. I also have a background in digital image manipulation with Adobe Photoshop and vector design in Adobe Illustrator. Currently I am studying motion graphics and using Adobe After Effects, which seems to employ all these skills and allows my imagination complete freedom to be creative. I have also possess many years experience of sound engineering and design which is an essential element to giving on-screen movement the necessary depth. As wonderful as modern animation software is, some of the techniques that are at the very heart of animation are almost too easily recreated with a simple click of the mouse. This, I feel, is the perfect point in my animation education to step back to learn and appreciate the very basics that digital animators now take for granted.

I will begin by looking at pioneers of the craft and the birth of stop motion. Then I will talk about how stop motion has been brought into the digital era. There are many different software tools and programs that are used for stop motion and I will provide detailed information about some of the most popular ones. As the main aim of my project is to ‘breathe life into an inanimate object’, I shall be looking into anthropomorphism in the context of inanimate objects. This will require reviewing and discussing previous work along with research into the field of object-orientated anthropomorphism.

I will look at the various procedures and components used in the actual filming of a stop motion animation and research the most suitable implementation of each with reference to my additional deliverable. Notable amongst these components are the photography, lighting, filming techniques and set construction elements. To support my progress through this project I will produce a series of proof of concept animations that demonstrate my findings.

As my final deliverable will be a short film I feel it will be necessary to examine storytelling techniques with specific attention paid towards short film.

I plan to seek out interviews with established stop motion animators. I will do this by email or written letter depending on the contact information I can obtain. In each correspondence I will state the nature of my project. I will write each person a tailored set of questions relating to their own style and contributions to the field of stop motion animation. I will also ask a same set of questions to each animator to compare and contrast the answers.

To conduct my research I will be watching plenty of stop motion animations ranging from commercial films to internet-based short animations. This will help me gauge the scale involved in the production of this kind of animation. I will be simultaneously be researching many published works which may be useful in learning about stop motion animation. Some of titles include:

  • The Art Of Stop Motion by Ken A. Priebe
  • Stop Motion, The Art Of Passion, Process And Performance by Barry C J Purves
  • Stop Motion – Craft Skills For Model Animation by Suzannah Shaw
  • Animation – The Mechanics Of Motion by Chris Webster
  • The Human Figure In Motion by Eadweard Muybridge
  • Animation Writing And Development by Jean Ann Wright
  • Adaptive Motion of Animals and Machines by Hiroshi Kimura, Kazuo Tsuchiya, Akio Ishiguro, Hartmut Witte
  • Who Needs Emotions The Brain Meets the Robot by Jean-Marc Fellous and Michael A. Arbib
  • How Robots And Humans Move In An Unstructured World by Vladimir J. Lumelsky
  • Motion Graphic Design Applied History and Aesthetics by Jon Krasner
  • Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson

There is an abundance of information and material on the internet and I will seek out reputable sources and animations to base my research on.

2. Interim Deliverable: Week 12 Report 

I will deliver a literature review for the week 12 report which will cover the following areas:

  • Types/styles of stop motion animation
  • History
  • Modern stop motion animation
  • Software
  • How to photograph stop motion
  • How to light a stop motion film
  • Stop motion filming techniques
  • Construction of a stop motion set
  • Anthropomorphism of inanimate objects
  • Storytelling techniques

I will also give and update and details on how I have been conducting my correspondences with the experts in the above field

By week twelve I will have a draft script and storyboards prepared for the additional deliverable.

3. The Additional Deliverable 

I will submit a stop motion animation as my additional deliverable.  I will take my findings from the literature review research and apply those techniques to my animation. The inanimate object that the animation will focus on is an old reel-to-reel tape recorder. With it’s vintage electronics and intricate moving parts it is a perfect candidate to life using my newly learned skills.

The film will be around five minutes in length. It will be rendered in QuickTime format making it accessible for most interfaces. Research will have to be conducted to determine the frame rate and size of the animation, as it will rely on investigating image formats and individual picture byte size.

The preproduction work will consist of a script, storyboards and an animatic. The animation movements then be created in Flash and exported as a QuickTime file. It will be imported into the appropriate stop motion software as a line up movie to ensure smooth animation will result.

I will include a detailed report with this piece describing the process and outcomes of the deliverable.

I will submit all my animatics, storyboards and proof of concept animations also.

I aim to produce this film to a professional standard. I want to show that stop motion is still an incredible means of communicating a story and can do so in a unique and unrivalled way. I am hoping to not only inspire my peers with this piece, but also to show that whilst digital animation software such as Flash can do wonderful things, it seems to lack the soul and finesse that gets weaved into stop motion.

Also I drafted a mindmap to help me visualise my project:

 

Mindmap

Mindmap - 1st Draft

 

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  1. March 2nd, 2011

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