Stop Motion Animation

I find it interesting how an animator can manipulate a lump of clay or a piece of tin in such a way that they can create characters which are so tangible and emotive. Some fantastic examples are Wallace and Gromit and Nina Gantz’s film Edmond (a film I wrote about in a previous post).

Today I gave puppet animation a go for the first time. We are currently learning about quadruped walks and so we used a four legged armature to imitate the walk of a dog.

In order to create this short piece of stop motion I used:

  • An armature
  • A stage
  • Tie downs – the tie downs I used were magnetic. Tie downs keep your puppet attached to the stage to ensure they do not fall over.
  • A digital camera
  • Dragonframe – a stop motion animation software that allows an animator to take photos of individual frames, and then combines the frames in a sequence to create an animation.

This software has been used to create many notable films such as Shaun the Sheep, Coraline and Frankenweenie and has also been used in live action films such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

To ensure that the animation is looking good it is important to take some time to set up the shot. When I turned the camera on and looked at the scene on the computer I saw that it was overexposed, very blurry and had a slightly blue hue. To rectify this I went into the cinematography view on Dragonframe, and changed the focus, exposure, aperture, IOS etc..

Dragonframe also has an onion layer setting for stop motion, which allows the animator to see the previous shot over the top of the current shot. This is an important feature because the animator can make sure that the armature is in the right place to make the movement look fluid.

Usually when I draw my animations I work out all the keyframes first and then draw the breakdowns and in-betweens. With this puppet animation, however, I found it easier to shoot my frames as a straight ahead.

I enjoyed working with the armature, even though I found it slightly fiddly, as I think the final result was quite rewarding.

Scroll down to view the clip.

Thanks for reading!




The Natural History Museum

Yesterday we visited the Natural History Museum to observe and sketch some of the creatures on display there. It is fascinating to be able to get so close to these animals and to get a sense of their personalities. It was interesting to imagine what sort of characters they were and to see how certain textures, eye shape and colour influence our opinions of their character.

The benefit of going to the Natural History Museum is that none of the animals move, it would be rather terrifying if they did! Therefore, as an artist, you have the best of both worlds, the luxury of time and having a still subject, and the three dimensionality that you can capture from drawing from life (as drawings from photographs tend to look a little flat).

From our drawings and observations we then created a short storyboard of thumbnail sketches. My story was rather simple, it shows two male birds competing for the attention of a female bird. I based my characters off of an eagle I drew in the museum and a small delicate bird, which of course would be no match for the eagle.

As I develop the storyboard further I want to focus on illustrating the differences between the two birds. In order to do this I would like to include shots of the Eagle’s claws, eyes and powerful wings, as I think these are essential parts of the bird that clearly demonstrate it’s strength, intelligence and potential to kill. To show that the smaller bird is intimidated by the eagle I would like to position the camera so that we (the viewer) see the eagle from his perspective, looming over us in a threatening manner.

Below are a few small thumbnail sketches of ideas for a storyboard, based on the sketches above.