Stop Motion Animation

My favorite definition of Animation is ‘The act, process or result of imparting life, interest, spirit, motion, or activity.’ One of the more interesting techniques is Stop-motion animation. Stop motion is an animation technique of manipulating physical objects into appearing to move on their own i.e. the cinematic process by which an armatured, pose-able puppet is brought to life by breaking motion into increments and filming one frame of film per increment. The objects are moved in small increments between individually photographed frames thus creating an illusion of movement when all the frames are played together in a continuous sequence. Clay is used often to create figures that are used in stop motion since clay allows for easy repositioning. This sort of motion animation using clay is called clay animation or claymation. One of the most monumental examples of stop-motion being used in mainstream cinema is King Kong, a milestone made possible by stop motion animation.

Types of Stop Motion Animation

1. Stereoscopic Stop Motion

The first stop motion short films shot in stereoscopic 3D was In Tune With Tomorrow (also known as Motor Rhythm) in 1939 by John Norling. This was followed by The Adventures of Sam Space in 1955 by Paul Sprunck. The third and latest stop motion short in stereo 3D was a film by Elmer Kaan and Alexander Lentjes in 2000; The Incredible Invasion of the 20,000 Giant Robots from Outer Space. The credit for the first all stop motion 3D feature film is Coraline (2009), based on Neil Gaiman’s best-selling novel.

2. Go Motion

This is a complicated variation on stop motion co-developed by Phil Tippett and first used in The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Dragonslayer (1981) and the RoboCop films. Go motion involves programming a computer to move parts of a model slightly during each exposure of each frame of film in combination with traditional hand manipulation between frames, to depict a more realistic motion blur. The process was used extensively in Prehistoric Beast, a 12 minute long sequence depicting a herbivorous dinosaur being chased by a carnivorous dinosaur. With it’s success, Phil Tippett went on to utilize photo-realistic use of computers to depict dinosaurs in Jurassic Park in 1993.

3. Computer Generated Imagery

The almost universal use of CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) has almost rendered stop motion obsolete as a serious special effects tool in feature films today. 3D modeling, animation and VFX (Visual Effects) are the rage today amongst aspiring animators. Yet the unique “look” and “feel” on film and low entry price means stop motion is still used on some projects such as in children’s programming for television, as well as in commercials and comic shows. The argument that the textures achieved with CGI cannot match the way real textures are captured by stop motion also makes it valuable for a handful of movie makers such as Tim Burton, whose puppet-animated film Corpse Bride was released in 2005.


Creative Ideas

While the techniques for stop motion animation are few, there are many things that one can do. You don’t have to draw a picture of a person about a thousand times with each drawing being just a little bit different than every other drawing. There are lots of other creative things you can do using a dry erase board so you can easily draw and erase as you animate. Just about anything in your every day world can be transformed into something extraordinary with a little bit of animation magic and loads of creativity. Just look around you and you will discover lots of great ideas.

Text

A story can be told through words and the writing is on the wall after all isn’t it? Use text creatively to tell your tale either typographically or with just narrative.

Background

Backgrounds don’t move and they can be simple and uncomplicated if you choose or elaborate if you wish to binge.

Simple motion

The very basics. Simply draw an object, take a picture, erase it and draw it in a new position simulating motion.

Lines & Patterns

Add lines and patterns to simulate growth or expansion such as speed or explosions. Remember that erasing lines, patterns or objects is animation too!

Expressions

Human or animal shapes help to express emotions, actions & thoughts in ways that may otherwise appear difficult to communicate.

Cadence or Pace

Vary the speed or tempo of your animation so that everything doesn’t move at the same exact pace.

Perspective

In other words; Cinematography. Vary the camera angle and zoom in/out or pan around even without ever moving your camera or your drawing board. You can also move the camera as you take a series of pictures by either zooming in or out or panning from side to side.

Multiplicity


If there are more things happening in a single frame, it can be real interesting to look at and at the same time offer you a new dimension of story telling.

Music

Melody makes for an interesting background to the narrative and you can use sound effects or music very effectively so ensure that your animation is timed properly and synchronized to the sound/music.

Long live the King

Tell a story. The story is King! This is the real point of any animation or expression even. What is your story? Don’t get so caught up in the technique that you forget the story that is eager to be told!

Featured Artist – Vaibhav Kumaresh

Vaibhav Kumaresh is no stranger in the world of Stop Motion animation today and is a rockstar animator in his country. While he studied the Fine Arts as a college student, he was introduced to animation at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India in 1995. He grew as an animator creating everything on his own: the concept, script, character design, storyboards, key animation, in betweens, coloring, editing, sound recording, music, everything! Having gone through this process several times, his excellent grasp over film making and storytelling is apparent in his work. Vaibhav is of the belief that you need to be a good storyteller in order to be a good director/animator. Animation film making is a very specialized task and experience of the production process is a must for one to direct films. He really likes the physical, tactile and ‘hand made’ feel of stopmotion/ clay animation which is something you need to struggle hard to achieve in CG 3d. Aptly put, his words of advice to aspiring animators is “You have to know fundamentals of movement. There is no software called dance.”

Vaibhav has been influenced by Paul Drissen, Fredrick Bach, Bill Plympton and Aardman Studios and suggests that you watch these films. You can also search for ‘Vaibhav Kumaresh’ on YouTube to see some of his own award winning work.

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Ritesh Reddy

Dr. Ritesh Reddy, PhD aka Reddy2Go is a Creative Generalist, who uses the magic of the written word and the allure of the visual medium in conjunction with bleeding edge technology to creating communication collateral for the New Media. He believes in the power of the individual & inspires independence through the Freelance Firestarter. In the spirit of selflessly sharing knowledge with the community for the betterment of society, he does not charge any fee for the same.