I love animating with a stop motion technique, however I hardly ever get to be a stop motion animator director for what story I choose and also for the love of it, as I mainly work on other people's animations for them. So this time I was able to be creative and focus on some stop motion character animation performance and some cuteness! As well as test out the possibilities that will feedback into client projects. Let me talk you through some of the stop motion process' behind the scenes.
The stop motion character animation was created as part of the Zho film challenge, as it is useful to have a deadline to work towards and its nice to finish the animation with a celebratory screening. It was also screened as part of the Chorlton Arts Festival. And also screened at Manchester KINO, check out this interview after the screening about my stop motion animation director film.
How it was made
I had an Armature from Armaverse that I wanted to try out and see the limits of. I picked it up whilst working on Frankenweenie and was aware that it might have its limits which was relative to the cost. (Professional armatures costs £1,000's this is under £100). I also have a very talented knitter in my family, so I wanted to explore the possibilities of creating characters this way too. On top of that, I had this great knitted toys book as a starting point.
I had my set top dressed to look like a children's room and populated it with props from my niece's toy collection. Next I was awaiting my prop from Zho- part of the challenge is to incorporate a random prop into the story. I think they were very fair on me as the gave me a hat and said I could make a miniature replica model version. As you can see my prop was a hat that I decided to incorporate in a life size way.
I filmed using a cannon camera and captured using my favourite Dragonframe software. It was initially filmed over a 48 hour period as per the film challenge, but I did go back after a refine some shots. Cannon cameras are great as Nikon tend to overheat as they are required to be on for say at least 8 hours non stop and are often in a room that is full of very hot lights.
The armature was as expected, the joints could not be tight enough as the metal is too malleable and bends as you tighten. I think it would work great permanently rigged, which would reduce the need to have the joints as tight, but then there is a problem of having a suitable rigging point, which I can do for next time. Of course having a rig on the character constantly means completing clean back ground plates and creating more work in post production clean up.
Stop motion animation is achieved to its best with quality materials, everything changeable has to be as constant as possible to achieve the best motion. This is why its important to keep consistently tight joints on the puppet.
Manchester based animator Kim Emson has been given a unique opportunity to showcase her talent by working on Skins, the controversial teen drama based in Bristol, which will be back on our screens on 27th January 2011.
Kim set up her Manchester based production company Seconds that count three years ago; the company’s specialism is Stop Motion Animation. This form of animation has been around since the late 1800’s and is widely used in children’s programmes. The challenge now for those involved in this form of animation is to show that stop motion is current and relevant amidst the growing popularity of 3D computer animation. Another challenge is the trend to outsource animation overseas to countries such as India or Japan. It is therefore a great boost when companies choose to support the homegrown talents of our UK animators.
So why did a modern, cutting edge programme like Skins, choose to use a form of animation that’s around 100yrs old over the popular computerised animation? Stephanie Oakley, Art Director for the series said “The main reason we chose stop animation over computer generated imagery was that the writer had created a character (animation student Franky) who made her own animated films from her bedroom, so it was an integral part of the storyline.”
The inspiration behind the Skins animation sequences was the 2006 film, The Science of Sleep by Micheal Gondry, which uses stop motion animation with live action filming to depict the main character who mixes dreams with reality.
For the creative team it was a visually more interesting project to have a stop motion set in the characters bedroom than just a computer. The inspiration behind the Skins animation sequences was the 2006 film, The Science of Sleep by Micheal Gondry, which uses stop motion animation with live action filming to depict the main character who mixes dreams with reality. About the Skins character, Stephanie Oakley says, “(Franky) interacts throughout the episode with her mannequin, which she takes with her at all times. The animation sequence quickly and succinctly represents the emotions of the character in the story, through her mannequin.”
Kim Emson got her break working for CBBC producing children’s programmes notably Bob the Builder and Ooglies. Of her opportunity to work on this high voltage teen show Kim says that, “I think it’s brilliant that they chose to have a character showing an interest in stop motion, instead of computer animation. It’s also great that they would champion the medium of stop motion. It’s a popular show amongst young people today and hopefully now stop motion can still be seen as ‘cool’ as it taps into a different audience.”
The chance to be involved with a show like Skins has been a great opportunity to do something that is far removed from her work on children’s programmes. “Franky has a lot of issues from her past and is using animation as a form of therapy in a way. I’ve learnt a lot about stop motion’s capacity to translate complex emotions, albeit in an abstract way,” says Kim.
The desire to attract a wider audience and show that stop motion is still a powerful creative tool is what drives STC to take on projects like this. With talented stop motion animators such as Kim, the use of this medium is not going to go away any time soon. Download STC's 7 point guide to stop motion here.