Stop Motion Animation Techniques By William Brighouse
What is Stop Motion?Stop Motion describes the process of making a sequence of pictures play in orderat a speed which creates the illusion of movement. This is generally achievable bytaking many photos of an object, though moving it slightly between eachphoto, creating an animation.A well known example of Stop Motion would be the famous ‘Wallace andGromit’ animations. All the characters in said animation are made out ofplasticine, and are therefore endlessly pose able. For every photo taken, parts ofthe characters are moved slightly. These individual photos are known as ‘Stop-Frames’. After the shooting, these Stop-Frames are all played quickly to create theillusion of real movement, much like the different frames that make up ananimated cartoon. Wallace and Gromit
How quickly do the Stop-Frames change?This partially comes down to personal preference. Ideally, a stop motion animation wouldhold 24 Stop-Frames within each second, though some may wish to attempt higher for smootherplayback, or less with the price of more jagged animation. The frame rate may also need tobe adjusted in some cases to suit the amount of motion present in the pictures. For example,if a lot of motion takes place between only a few Stop-Frames, using a higher frame rate maycause too much movement for the viewer to properly comprehend.The best way to create fluid animation is to use a high framerate with very little movementbetween each frame. If done correctly, it can breathe life into the characters. The plasticine characters are being posed for the next Stop-Frame
Persistence of VisionStop Motion also takes advantage of human senses. If an object moves quickly, the human eyewill not process straightaway, leaving a slight after image for roughly one twenty-fifth of asecond.Try moving your hand quickly right now. If you watch carefully, your hand will still remain in it’soriginal position for a split second; this is known as ‘Persistence of Vision’. Naturally, this comesinto play when working with stop motion. By applying the correct framerate and motionbetween Stop-Frames, persistence of vision can be used to the editors advantages, as it willappear that the frames moves more smoothly than intended.This does not necessarily mean that using many stop-frames is a fruitless effort. The effect stillpersists at lower frame rates, though it appears almost lifelike when backed up by a higher framerate.A very early, yet good example would be Edward Muybridge’s ‘Running Horse’ animation, whichwe will be looking at in more in depth shortly.
What must be used in Stop Motion?What MUSN’T be used? Stop Motion is limited by no means whatsoever. In terms of objectsthat can be animated. Though plasticine is used in most professional productions due to it’sendless artistic potential and pose-ability, many other objects, even real people, can beanimated using the same method.Stop Motion is a very flexible form of animation, and plasticine can be difficult for beginners(the figures could break, be squashed, etc). Stop motion in general is good for beginners, as itis simple to understand (though not always easy to create), though plasticine is very easy tomess up, and often not easy to fix, so more simple, less poseable objects are ideal for startingout, particularly Lego as they can easily be snapped into place. Lego Stop Motion
The Pioneers of 3D Stop MotionThe conception of Stop Motion can be credited to quite a few notable names, some ofwhich were known primarily for other feats in life. Thomas Edison, for example, is knownfor inventing the light bulb, yet he is also known for presenting one of the earliest stopmotion productions in history, ‘Fun in a Bakery Shop’.The conception of Stop Motion can be tracked as far back as the 1800s, when film itselfwas beginning to see the light of day. We shall be looking at the various pioneers frompast to present who played and continue to play a large role in the industry.
Edward J. Muybridge Muybridge’s ‘horse’ animation.Arguably one of the most important pioneers of 3D stop motion, Edward Muybridge wasan English photographer of the 1800s; best known in the stop motion industry for his‘running horse’ animation.Muybridge’s initial goal was to prove the theory that a horse is airborne at least brieflyduring a gallop, which he accomplished in 1877 after successfully photographing sucha point in the horse’s motion. Muybridge further proved this theory by taking severalpictures of a horse running, placing them one after the other to create a moving imageof a horse’s gallop. This animation demonstrated exactly which point of the gallop thehorse is airborne, though this is the least of the industry’s interests; Muybridge hadcreated an animation of a running horse by simply using photographs,and arguably oneof the earliest forms of animation; an effort which can still be appreciated by today’sstandards.However, it is worth noting that this animation was not neccesarily ‘animated’ at the timeof it’s creation, but rather each frame of the animation was created. It’s thanks to anotherpioneer of the 1800s that such motion could be created…
William George HornerA ‘Zoetrope’ or ‘Daedalum’.William George Horner was a mathematician of his time, known to have publishedseveral books related to this as well as other basic subjects such as English Languageand History. Horner is erhaps best known for his conception of the ‘Daedalum’, a modernreimagining of an old device, originally created in China, known as the ‘Zoetrope’.The Daedalum generally consists of a cylinder with a series of images on the inside andholes on the outside. When spun, the pictures appear to move in succession if one looksthrough the holes on the side. This is one of the earliest, if not the earliest animation toolused in history, and it’s conception not only inspired ideas for the creation of morepractical animation tools, but most likely inspired many to try their own hand at animating.Whilst actual stop motion was not a virtue of William George Horner, his Daedalumopened up endless possibilities for others to take advantage of, eventually leading toanimations such as the 1897 short ‘The Humpty Dumpty Circus’, the world’s firstprofessional stop motion production, in which several toys come to life at the absence ofhumans and display a circus performance. (Sadly, this animation has been officiallylabeled as ‘lost’, and very little is known of it to this day).
Edwin Stanton PorterEdwin Stanton porter is known in the Stop Motion industry mostly for his early short film‘Fun in a Bakery Shop’, the second oldest application of Stop Motion animation (thoughconsidered the oldest by some due to the lack of information on ‘The Humpty DumptyCircus’. ‘Fun in a Bakery Shop’ was created by Edwin S. Porter and released in 1902 byThomas Edison; this could suggest that it was presented as a ‘tech-demo’ demonstratingthe genre’s capabilities, as Thomas Edison was known forconceiving many forms ofrevolutionary technology.‘Fun in a Bakery Shop’ depicts a baker as he procrastinates in his workplace, usingdough to create the faces of celebrities using dough that ‘shape shifts’ before the viewerseyes. As very few have seen ‘The Humpty Dumpy Circus’, this animation receivedsignificantly more media attention and is still frequently referenced as a revolutionaryinspiration for countless stop motion ventures today, as a film that blended live actionwith stop motion, much like the film adaption of Roal Dahl’s childrens story ‘James andthe Giant Peach, and MTV’s most played music video as of 2011, ‘Sledgehammer’, alsoknown as one of the first proffesional productions that contemporary animator ‘NickPark’ worked on…
Nick ParkKnown to some as the end-all master of stop motion, Nick Park has createdmany familiar titles such as Creature Comforts, Chicken Run and the belovedWallace and Gromit.Park’s early career consisted of animation for several television advertisements,as well as the aforementioned ‘Sledgehammer’ music video. His Wallace andGromit animation ‘A Grand Day Out’ was released in 1989 after nearly twentyyears of production, and won the BAFTA Best Animated Film Award a year later.Nick Park also won his first Oscar with another short animated film, ‘CreatureComforts’, which consisted of human voices from real interviews being placedover a plasticine animal speaking in synch with said human’s voice.All these animations are part of Aardman Animations, a proffesional animatingcompany known almost exclusively for their clay animations.
The Modern Stop Motion IndustryWhilst most animated films are now CGI, 3D Stop Motion is far from out of the picture.Aardman Animations are still producing the children’s television series ‘Shaun theSheep’, and a feature film is currently under development.Though Aardman Animations are well known in the stop motion industry, esteemedDirector ‘Tim Burton’ has also created two animated 3D stop motion feature films, ‘TheNightmare Before Christmas’ and ‘The Corpse Bride’, the former of which is frequentlylooked back upon as a masterpiece in animation, and holds a vast cult following for it’sunique style and memorable characters.‘Laika’ is also known to have produced the feature length film ‘Coraline’, with severalkey production members from Tim Burton’s ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’, andcurrently have another stop-motion in the pipeline titled ‘Paranorman’.Despite being somewhat overshadowed by CG-I animation, the stop motion industryis still thriving and likely will continue to do so for many years to come.
And that concludes this analysis of the techniques andHistory of Stop MotionThank you for taking the time to view this presentation!~William Brighouse