Shooting the first of 3 stop motion exercises was a lot of fun. It’s been a long time since I’ve really worked in stop motion and it’s magical to get back into. It’s rare for me to work with a format so free and tactile. The bouncing ball exercise was a good start to reorient me with the format but I’m looking forward to working with armatures.
Stop Motion this week was a step up from bouncing balls to a performance using basic armatures. I was looking forward to this and felt confident about it going in but I ended up struggling with the timing. I think this may have been down to the fact I was going through the movements too fast for the framerate. I was attempting to get through my animations quickly so my partner and I could take turns. My animations suffered consequently and I would like to revisit them another time. I need to focus on the spine action and be patient with poses I need to hold.
This week I eventually found time to shoot my walk and change of expression. I’m particularly proud of this one. I think it looks a little bit clunky but the movements are spot on. The one thing I’m tempted to change if I get a chance to do it again is the heaving breathing after he leans over. It’s a little too fast and it could do with carrying on after he’s wiped his brow. I did manage to re-do the box lift this week however. This again I’m pleased with as I’ve improved the movement of the spine from beforehand and stayed true to my storyboard but I do think the box is a little sticky on the ground. It comes up too fast, but it’s far better than my previous attempt.
I’ve edited all my clips to make sure there aren’t any thimbles, rigs or hands in shot.
It’s been great getting off the computer and working with my hands during this project. It’s really fired me up for the mystery box project coming up next. I think I struggled to get my ball bounces just right at first, getting them spaced properly was a little bit of a challenge, but my final clip is fine.
My box pick up exercise was a challenge to begin with. I was getting the posture wrong, starting the lift with the back arched backwards. Learning from ‘The animator’s survival kit’ I realized this was wrong. My second attempt was far better as the posture was now correct throughout but it spends too long anticipating the lift. When it does finally come off the ground, the action is a bit too fast and erratic. However, I do like the way it steps back and takes the weight. The performance beforehand is also good as each movement looks fluid and realistic.
Finally, my character walk and expression change is great in terms of performance, he looks like he’s just been for a run. But looking at the final clip frame by frame now, I can see that during the walk cycle, there are inconsistencies when he brings his foot forward. He doesn’t move his foot in an arc and has his foot at varying levels from frame to frame. I thing I was too pleased with the overall performance at the time to notice. This was a problem for me, being distracted by the performance side of things. I need to focus on the fundamental goal of the exercise and not get too distracted by the possibilities.
This time I had space and time to execute a good box lift. I feel silly for framing it quit like this because you can’t quite everything going on with his spine, but I’m very pleased with this clip, but that might just be because I enjoy the performance part. I feel the box probably comes up too quickly. I need to ease into that movement.
Storyboard for this weeks exercise.
This week’s exercise was to make a short walk and a change of expression. My interpretation was a little different, but I think it fits; It involves a total change of posture and conveys a lot of characterisation.
I’m pleased with my final clip baring in mind the time constraints. I kept in mind the line of action and made sure all my poses were realistic as I went along. I feel like the timing and overall speed of clip is perfect for what I was going for. However I feel I could have spend a bit more time on the panting. They should have been deeper breaths rather than a few short breaths. The movement in the armature was a tad on the jerky side which disrupted a few of the arcs of movement, mostly in the back and knees.
Should I do it again, I’d probably have a little more walking and add those longer breaths I mentioned as well as loosen the knees and back joints.
‘A Town Called Panic’ has always been one of my favourite films from a young age, because it was so primitive and sketchy. It made animation feel accessible and got me working in stop motion for the first time when I was about 9. It just makes animating look as easy as playing with toys.
Most of the character movement relies on models being tipped (you can often see them being propped up by blutack) and pushed around but mainly by use of replacement animation. A lot of the collisions and interactions are accented by cartoon-y paper cutout explosions, like for example when indien is kicked up the stairs and bashes into the walls and clock.
It’s clunky and rigid but it’s great at conveying a few gags.
I traumatically discovered this animator in my early teens. His work still scares me even now I’m 18.
Lee Hardcastle is a stop motion animator that thinks he can do horror and gore better than the big blockbusters. He found fame on YouTube around 10 years ago when he started making parodies of his favourite horror movies like ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ and ‘The Evil Dead’. It was his disappointment from finally watching ‘Chainsaw Massacre’ to find that there wasn’t enough chainsaw violence that drove him to make one of his first videos: Chainsaw Maid.
His ability to create such horrendous and distressing gore even with clay models is unmatched but it goes beyond just a keen eye for guts; he knows exactly how to shoot an action sequence like a blockbuster with all the right angles, camera movements and compositions. He works his genre like a God.
Most of his work is in the region of fantasy horror. While pretty well all of his films have a human protagonist, his monsters are quite fantastic, one of them being a flesh eating toilet, the others being mainly zombies and aliens. When asking the question, could his work be in live action I think yes, it could. It certainly draws a lot from live action films. Lee says himself that he only turned to animation because it was the only realistic way for him to realise his visions. However, all of the appeal in his work is down to the fact it is in claymation and that’s what he’s built his audience on. The fact it is in clay makes it very comic with the contrast to the other products of this very innocent style of animation. Lee also works in short format which would be much more expensive to shoot for with actors make up and locations than just with a few lumps of clay and a small cardboard set.
‘The Wizard of Speed and Time’ is a totally nuts short film created Mike Jittlov in 1979. It was created for a Disney TV feature called ‘Major Effects’ after Jitlov found himself sucked into the Disney scene. I thought this was a very different use of stop motion so I’ll have a look into it.
Originally, he was a Maths and Languages student at UCLA but was taking an animation course as an art requirement to graduate. However, he became fascinated with the process and ended up getting himself on the film festival scene. Somewhere down the line, he caught Disney’s eye and they had him make them a short for Mikey Mouse’s 50th birthday celebration.
Each of these films was created using a technique called pixilation where live actors are used as stop motion puppets (as well as conventional puppets in Mouse Mania). Other effects include some basic picture manipulation shot on a $200 homemade multiplane in his grarage.
I tried to find some insight fron Jittlov on the production processes but only found some advice on how to drink your coffee to maximum effect:
“Well you have to make sure you’re using caffeine effectively. There’s four things you need to do. First you need to take a Vitamin C supplement alongside the coffee. Coffee actually uses the energy up quicker so you need to counteract that with the Vitamin C. Secondly, the coffee needs to be hot. These energy drinks kids are drinking, they drink them cold, or those caffeine tablets that truckers take, they’re more effective taken with hot water. Third, you need to make sure there’s enough caffeine. 200mg is effective. I drink my coffee through a straw. It looks weird but it protects my teeth from staining. Finally you need to exercise as soon as you’ve drunk the coffee. Twenty squat stands or lie in bed and do stomach crunches. You should be energised for about 5 hours. When my brother was first looking after my mother, he was exhausted after a few days. I was doing hundred day stints. I was like a walking zombie, but I got by with caffeine and Vitamin C.”
I also found that pixilation had been used to integrate live actors in Dave Borthwick’s stop motion film ‘The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb’.
In anticipation of our upcoming mystery box project, I went on a hunt around Norwich for the cheapest place to buy certain armature supplies after watching an interesting video on YouTube by character animator Michael Parks, whose resume stretches from Robot Chicken to Pixar. His advice was to build an aluminium base and build on that first with epoxy putty for the bones and then strips of fluffy upholstery wadding wrapped in pre-wrap for joggers.
I really like the finish he’s created using the pre-wrap over the fluff, changing how tight he wound it round to give the limbs shape.
Another thing I noted was how he crafted the armature’s hands, the same way I’d been shown at the BFI Animation camp. The interesting thing he did was attached the hands by creating two hooks out of the two lengths of wire used to make the arms and poking the fingers through them before clamping them in tight with some pliers.
On my mission round Norwich, I found the cheapest place for Milliput (green grey) was Thorns for £2.50, a whole pound less than Jarolds across the road. Thorns also worked out best for pre-wrap equivalent tape in the end as Boots and Superdrug only supplied premium stock. Superdrug, however Superdrug did pick up the slack with some good cotton fluff strips in place of wadding.
Today’s exercise was to use some basic armatures to perform a box lift. I found it difficult to work with these particular puppets because they were so flimsy, but that might just be me trying to find excuses. The thing I found most difficult was the bending over. It seemed like his shins were touching his toes before he’d even managed to reach the box. It may have been because I stood the puppet too far from the box in the first place.
This is my first attempt. I probably put too much time into the performance at the beginning that initiated a slow work flow though out the rest of the session. I simply didn’t have enough time to execute the actual lift. What I did get though, I’m quite pleased with. However I think I may have got the posture of the back wrong as he was trying to lift it as it should have been bent forward as he raised the box. But as he drops it, I like the follow through with the head.
This ones performance is a lot shorter which is good. What’s a shame is I chose the wrong angle to shoot it from as you can’t see the puppet’s spine, but it does frame the initial performance quite well. I spent as lot of time on the swing of the arms at the beginning. However the final lift feels quite empty after all the anticipation. I should definitely have extended the duration of the lift and added a bit of time at the end to see the final position.
This one we just had fun with.
This one spends too much time on the ground and is possibly a bit too slow.
This one is better but was supposed to fall from off screen but because I spaced it badly it just flashes out for a second. I decided to scrap the off screen idea.
This one is my favourite but looking now, it’s a tad fast on the ground. Perhaps two frames is okay for being on the floor?
This is rare footage of an armature on break.
More stupid fun.
A GIF of the animation I made with Tine Kluth’s puppets rescued from the bins outside Trikk17’s studios in Hamburg.
I was impressed with the intricate features that the pig puppet had. There was wire in its lips, ears, snout and for each individual hoof. I thought it was well rigged for a puppet that was apparently only in the background according to Tine.
For reference in the future, I found Nick Hilligoss’ guide on how to craft foam armatures so perhaps in the next unit, I can have a go at making my armature in a similar fashion to the Tine’s pig.