6 ways Taskmaster got it so right

If you haven’t already tuned in, I’d highly recommend catching up on #Taskmaster. This hilarious game show with a difference sees the Taskmaster, Greg Davies, sets a group of comedians a series of tasks that require them to embrace their creative competitiveness. It really is hilarious!

The show is set to return to our screens on Dave this April, so I thought this was the perfect time to take a look back at the highs and lows of the #stopmotion task they set during series 2.

Greg Davis "Let's just clear up for incredible stupid people, what stop motion is?"

Alex "Stop Motion is things like Morph & Wallace & Gromit and Poirot" (?)

Yes, those are both fine examples of #claymation both by #Aardman (other fine companies do exist), but as you can see there are materials other than plasticine available to use, such as potatoes!

1. Team task

On the show, the #stopmotion task was set as a team project, and, in the real world, all #stopmotion projects are usually team efforts.

2. Timescales

The teams had 1 hour to complete their stop motion. This isn’t very long at all, especially for beginners, but, of course, giving them a more realistic timeframe wouldn’t have made for such interesting TV!

Unfortunately, I think some clients have used this timescale as their benchmark when, in reality, a professional, high impact 1 minute stop motion animation typically requires around five days of filming.

3. Understanding the process

As comedians Richard Osman and Jon Richardson discuss the project, they feel that they know very little about stop motion. Jon Richardson exclaims that they must take 2 pictures. [Are you referring to shooting on 1s or 2s there Jon? If so, I’m impressed!]

A voice off camera keeps them on track and says “800 pictures.” “800 pictures? Have you lost your mind?” Says Osman. To which the off camera voice responds: “That will make a 30 second film”

Yes, the voice off camera is correct, but is Osman also correct? Possibly! We’ll certainly see when I start work on my latest project, where I have just 2 days to shoot 30 seconds of #animation!

Taskmaster's Richardson and Osman animate a potato using stop motion techniques.

This is how to make stop motion animation with a potato

4. Equipment

During the show, the team were using #DSLR #cameras, which is of course what I’d recommend. They had a tripod, but often chose not to use it. This could possibly have been because they were filming low down and struggled to get the tripod low enough.

As you watch Kathryn Ryan crawling around on the floor, imagine how exhausting it must be to create an #animation that way! And that’s exactly why I always recommend filming on a tall set top table.

Taskmaster's Ryan practices stop motion animation technique

Ryan practices stop motion animation technique, with a potato starring in Spectater

During the challenge, capture software wasn’t used, but I was pleased to see they had access to a remote release for capturing. This would certainly have helped to minimise any camera shake, although it’s only leveraged if the camera tripod is used.

5. #Animation principles

It’s fair to say that at least some of the principles of animation weren’t quite executed successfully!

Doc Brown recognised that their potato character was “crazy smooth”, when compared to their competitors. Osman and Richardson, on the other hand, fell into the trap of trying to animate every single minute move, which resulted in shaky looking motion, and the need for more pictures to get the potato from point a to point b. It’s surprising how large an increment you can take when applying the principles of animation!

6. Interpretation

After Doc Brown’s comments, Jon Richardson retaliated about their lack of story arc and spirit of #filmmaking. Which deserves merit, after all, we can discuss the technicalities until we’re blue in the face but above all we need to have a great story and idea, and that story needs to be executed in the most interesting way.

Richardson and Osman’s story was stronger, but kudos to Ryan, Brown, and Wilkinson. Although they lacked a story arc, they still managed to deliver the story in the most entertaining through edit, script and composition.

And, if you haven’t seen it, here’s Osman and Richardson’s "28 Days Tater", a fine example of the lows of stop motion filmmaking!

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