HOW TO FILM STOP MOTION ANIMATION


WHAT IS STOP MOTION ANIMATION?

According to Wikipedia Stop motion is an animation technique that physically manipulates an object so that it appears to move on its own. The object is moved in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a fast sequence.  It takes 25 individual photographs to make one second of footage. The brief for this job was to create a 15 seconds of video so we do a simple calculation, 25 (photographs) x 15 (seconds) =375. This means we need to take 375 photographs to produce a 15 second video.

Stop motion is often confused with the time lapse technique, where still photographs of a ‘live’ period of time are taken at regular intervals and combined into a continuous film. Time lapse is a technique whereby the frequency at which film frames are captured is much lower than that used to view the sequence. When played at normal speed, time appears to be moving faster.

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PREPARATION IS KEY

It is essential to plan every movement in detail and also how long you want the sequence to appear on screen.  It is a good idea to draw a simple storyboard featuring the movements and timings.  Consider what you are going to animate? Will you be able to control small delicate movements over a period of time?  Try and make it as simple as possible.  In this case we had to choreograph the movement of the fruit. How could we get the fruit into the plastic pot?  We thought it would be fun if the cubed fruit formed a step, so all the other fruit could climb the steps and jump into the pot!  We also made the fork (with very big teeth!) herd the fruit in the right direction, behaving like a sheep dog!

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TAKING THE PHOTOGRAPHS

Stop motion animation is a lot of fun to film but patience is essential, this is not a quick method. Due to its nature it is time consuming. You have to be precise and methodical.  It is important to monitor the focal point throughout the filming as you may have to change focus to accommodate movements.  The great thing about working in the studio is you have total control over the lighting. You could use either flash (strobe) or a continuous lighting source.  Because of this, ‘flickering’ will not be an issue as it can be with time lapse, as the exposure will be exactly the same for every exposure.

Ensure the camera is exactly level on every plane to ensure pin sharp focus across the entire frame.  To avoid any accidental movements, fix the camera to a heavy duty studio stand (as seen in the photographs) and not a tripod.

When filming food it is essential to hire a great food stylist. Not only can they prepare the food to a high standard but they can manupilte the food on set to make it look fantastic. It is a good idea to be sat down and have everything you need close at hand to minimise the risk of moving the set or any pieces accidentally.

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POST PRODUCTION

We shoot RAW files and use Lightroom to process the images. A camera produces an image with a 2:3 ratio but the output format required is 16:9 so you will need to alllow for this when composing your shot. Switch the camera to the video mode. compose the shot, and then change back to stills mode. During post-production you can then crop the image to 16:9 knowing that you have everything you need within the crop. In Lightroom there are multiple adjustments you can make to enhance the images before you join them all together.

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