Stop motion animation is one of the earliest, if not the earliest ways to animate. It’s tedious, as the process involves taking incremental photos of a subject so closely that when played in order, it looks like a moving video. Today, stop motion is still widely used because it’s so effective when done the right way.
I’ve made one stop motion animation before, and it was made the right way, but it’s not something you can learn and be good at overnight. So, my point is – it was crap. BUT there were so many things I didn’t know about how to make a successful stop motion, like how many frames per second to make, or storytelling with objects, colors, and cohesivity. Now, I’ve been able to do more readings and research to help me out again as I make the journey to creating more stop motion animations.
Chapters five and six of Animated Storytelling by Liz Blazer continue to go into depth about the pre-production process of creating animations.
Chapter five: Color Sense describes the basics of color: hue, saturation, and value. If you don’t already know, here’s a brief description:
Hue – the color name
Saturation – intensity of the color
Value – the lightness or darkness of the color
In the previous chapter, Chapter four: Storyboarding, Blazer explained what it is to create a storyboard, and what it should look like. Now, with colors – the author recommends making a color script to understand what direction to go with the color story of your animation. Color is essential for the story to tell the audience exactly what it’s meant to. And, it can be tricky.
There are a few steps that can help identify what colors to use, and when within an animation.
- What color would work best in the animation, if only using one color?
- Experiment with that one color in a color script, then find an accent color that supports it.
After identifying the color palette, there are other things to keep in mind. Here’s a list of particular things to look out for when working on the color script:
- Design for movement – make sure that what’s intended to be the focus, is.
- Limit the palette – makes it easier for viewers to process.
- Be careful with saturation – use this for more important aspects of the story, like the emphasis pieces.
- Support the subjects – use white space in the scenes, they shouldn’t be too busy and take away from the focus.
Chapter six: Weird Science is a fun chapter telling the readers how to find their “weird science” – which is creative experimentation. By doing this, it’s a great way to see if the story you’ve already laid out needs any more tweaking to make it more compelling.
To first find what your weird science is, there are a few ways that can push your creative brain. Blazer recommends these experiments:
- Make bad art – change things around how you normally wouldn’t, like making subjects the wrong colors, or move really fast and see what the outcomes are.
- Use the edge of your skillset – work in your expertise, but just far enough out that it makes you uncomfortable. It could help you find a new way to work and fill in gaps within your skills.
- Then, make the work you’d want to do for a living – refine it enough so you’re still challenging yourself, but it should be what you want.
Using these experiments and then applying them to your current animation project could help to make it that much more compelling for viewers. A good way to see if your animation needs working on before production is to take another look at your completed storyboard, make a table, and list where you could experiment with each scene. Then, if you find that any of the ideas are worth a shot, try it out and see if it helps the story.
With stop motion, there seems to be endless possibilities. You can truly use just about anything to make one – inanimate objects, yourself or others. To gain a bit more perspective on stop motion, and what can be done to create these animations, I did some research and found a few examples that helped me in my process of creating my own.
This stop motion video is extremely detailed, with so much going on. I enjoy how the fruit and vegetables are utilized as the subjects for this animation – with carvings or slices, etc. The transitions are also very notable between shots – like the zooming in and fading out at 0:25, or the colored backgrounds moving in/out of frames.
This animation uses paper cut outs to create scenes of a dog, Coco. It’s a longer stop motion video, so I know that a ton of time and detail went into it – which isn’t surprising as that’s part of the stop motion process.
Here’s another creative stop motion animation that uses fruits and vegetables (watch until 2:18). The sound effects and visuals of the foods getting shaved once hitting the edge of the pink background is satisfying to watch, making the video very effective.
Claymation is another technique typically used with stop motion. This animation is extremely smooth between each frame, and I like that the creator used different shot angles and perspectives to get the right layout.
Finally, I really enjoy this stop motion animation not only because it’s colorful and creative, but because it’s animated in a loop. This animation also moves along perfectly with the background music and sound effects, so it was some great planning on the creator’s part.
This week, I created two options of stop motion animations. One of these two will go into production next week. For both of my stop motion ideas, I put together a storyboard and pre-production planning document to help me solidify my plans.
Stop Motion Animation 1 – Linear: I Won’t Eat You Cause You’re Too Tough
I decided to focus on Halloween themes as the American Holiday is soon approaching, and it’s on my mind, as I’m sure it’s on a few others’. Halloween is such a fun time of the year, it can be colorful, spooky, cute, funny, and brings a lot of creative energy!
This stop motion animation is inspired by lyrics from “Purple People Eater” by Sheb Wooley, which say “I wouldn’t eat you cause you’re so tough.” The story I put together has a traditional linear storyline of character, character conflict, and resolution.
In my [colored] storyboarding, you can see that I would create some paper cut outs of my own version of a halloween monster, and a few skeleton extras. Throughout the animation, the monster – with it’s stomach growling – walks towards a few scared-looking skeletons. At which point, the monster reassures them by saying “I won’t eat you cause you’re too tough” (note that I changed the line slightly from the famous Halloween song).
I used color for my storyboard – while most are simply black and white – to get a better understanding of the colors to use for this animation. Yellow-green and red-purple are complimentary colors, and also work perfectly for a Halloween themed story.
This is my favorite option of the two, but I also know that it will be more time consuming and complicated as there are many movements to consider. For that reason, I’m still unsure if this will be the animation I decide to produce! I guess we’ll see this time next week.
Click below for the full pre-production planning document I made:
Stop Motion Animation 2 – Non-Linear: What is That Sound?
For my non-linear animation option, I decided to go with the beaded necklace version – which is a story solely influenced by sound.
Inspired by the last stop motion animation I found through my research, I want to make my non-linear story piece a loop.
I found some great, creepy royalty free music that made me think immediately of eyes of a character popping dramatically up away from its head. It’s harder to explain with words than it is with the visual storyboard – so below for the visuals.
From this storyboard, you can see that this monster-type character appears to be sleeping, then hears a sound, making its eyes move along with the “dings.” This goes on for a few seconds, seemingly getting a bit more dramatic before calming down when the music slows down. Then it repeats, forever.
Again, this storyboard uses color. This time, I thought the yellow and blue color combination would work well in this story’s favor, so I wanted to make the storyboard reflect the overall ideas before going into production.
For this, I would either use clay or paper cutouts as my medium.
I enjoy this option because it will be fun seeing how the animation comes to life through the music. Although, I’m positive that making the eyes move perfectly to the music will be a challenge, and it’s something I’ll need to actively work through if I decide to make this one in production.
Click below for the full pre-production planning document I made:
Create: Test Animation:
Before getting started on production of one of my two stop motion ideas, I created a short test animation to get in the right headspace. Of course, I stuck with the Halloween theme for this as well!
This animation shows a pumpkin, with little black clay pieces rolling in to create a face on the pumpkin. To best form the face, I ended up taking photos for this stop motion video in reverse, starting with the face on the pumpkin, then having them ball up and roll away. At the end, I wanted the music to continue and fade out, but I didn’t like just having a blank black screen, so I also animated a “HAPPY HALLOWEEN” for a good closure.
I really enjoyed using the sculpy clay that I’ve had forever, and have never used until now. But it was difficult when the colors started mixing together. Also, the pieces kept sticking to my fingers when I tried to move them, which I now know to prepare for.
After all of my readings, research, and my test animation, I have a feeling that when it comes to my production of one of my two ideas above, I’ll have to modify certain things as I go just out of complexity. Stop motion is not a simple task, so thinking through as much as possible beforehand is definitely necessary. We’ll see what ends up being my final stop motion piece next week!