Here goes nothing… Here went nothing? No… Actually, I did something!
This week, I’ve created my stop motion animation, titled “I Won’t Eat You Cause You’re Too Tough.” It was a full-on process, just like any project that requires a ton of planning, prep, and simply put – just to do it. Let me just say – it was so worth it!
Below I go into detail about readings and research that helped me bring my final stop motion animation to its fulfillment.
Before getting into the production of my stop motion animation, there was still quite a bit I needed to know beforehand. Chapters seven and eight of Animated Storytelling by Liz Blazer are all about sound and designing the world that your characters are set in.
Chapter seven: Sound Ideas, starts by telling the reader that sound should lead the story. Oftentimes, sound may come as an afterthought. But, the sound is truly what pulls the needle through the thread. Your storyline could become impaired if there’s no prep work on what sounds are used during the animation. Blazer starts by identifying different types of sound:
Diegetic sound – a sound that’s typically visible on screen, and comes from the physical world, i.e. baby crying.
Non-diegetic sound – a sound that isn’t implied by an action, and enriches what’s happening in the story, i.e.
Then, there are different sound features that are typical when producing a film or animation.
Sound effects are artificial – they’re not music or dialogue, but a sound used to emphasize what’s happening – like footsteps, or a “ding” when someone has an idea. Blazer recommends identifying where you might want to add sound effects in your story, then trimming the list in half – because it is possible to overdo it.
Music can also be used as a sound effect rather than a score. This would be an example of non-diegetic sound – like a “wah, wah, wah” for emphasis on a disappointing situation.
The music that belongs with the story should be well thought out. It should match the theme and personality of the characters.
There are a few other things to consider when scoring your animation. Silence may help the story just as much as music can, as long as it’s used in the right way. Additionally, scoring against the scene could be something that’s useful – like an ominous character using upbeat music to accomplish their task.
Blazer lists out a few steps that are helpful when matching dialogue to a story and character:
- Lines should match the personality of the character.
- The characters’ should speak in a natural way – instead of writing the script out in the most straightforward (and obvious) way, using subtext can help the dialogue flow.
- Dialogue should set the mood of the scenes.
The ending of the chapter reminds the reader that these steps are just as important if the animation has only an internal monologue.
Chapter eight: Design Wonderland is solely to find the setting of the animation, which the author calls the “world.”
Just like the standard “yes, and…” practice used in improv, going along with anything that helps bring the story to life is a great practice for finding the story’s world. Once again in this chapter, Blazer lays out steps to follow to help identify what this world is, and how it works.
- Be influenced – look at other stories whether they’re movies, shows, books, short films, etc., and see if you can’t find a spark of inspiration. Also, looking at our natural world is a great source as well – like religions or animals.
- Time & place – identify what time (past, present, future) and place (providing obstacles for the characters).
- Physical order – earth has gravity and a sense of time, so maybe your world should go against those if it makes sense for the story. Although, “don’t just do it because it seems cool, do it because it’s meaningful to telling the story.”
- Social order – what are the social laws in this world? Maybe everyone is nocturnal and so it makes more sense for the characters to begin their day at 8 PM.
- Visual order – after determining the above, the world needs to visually represent it. Think about the lines, shapes, and colors of this world.
Talk about the use of ambient audio, sound effects, and music. This UFO story begins with a man walking outside, where the setting’s audio shows through along with sound effects of the man’s confusion – then comes the UFO. Not long after this, the background music becomes more prevalent and follows through with the rest of the story.
This animation includes great sound effects along with background music. The background music stays constant, while the sound effects for each separate animated story change to match them perfectly – cow’s mooing, to milk pouring, then a hockey game. Not to mention there’s some intriguing text animation using the milk!
This text animation is effective because it has smooth motions – the lines that create the word “lines” are bright, shining, and come from different directions. I love how when the lines move in and out of the frame, their old – now implied lines resonate for a little while longer before disappearing.
I really enjoy this text animation as it has a story with it. The letters are balloons, beginning flat on the ground, then blowing up and coming together to form “love & peace.” The colors used in this animation are wonderful as well – the whole animation feels whimsical and peaceful.
Production & Post-Production:
Last week, I did the pre-production of this stop motion animation. With that, I created a pre-final storyboard with colors, characters, and the theme.
This week, when prepping for production, I needed to create my characters, setting/backdrop, and ambiance. Because I chose to use paper cutouts of my characters, I created them digitally to get a really nice amount of detail – which I would then print, cut, and put together. I was at the point where I had the base of my characters and props but needed to solidify the sound before printing them out in case the storyline was going to be missing anything.
Through my readings, as stated above, sounds should help lead the story – and you can’t think about it afterward. Let me just say, I’m so glad I found the right sounds beforehand. Finding my ambient sound, music, and sound effects helped me to recognize certain facial expressions or props for emphasis that were necessary for the story. It was at this point, I could finish digitizing the details, and begin the nitty-gritty before “filming.”
Getting into the production, I got everything set up, and I knew exactly what I needed to do because of all of the prep work. This made me confident to do what needed to be done. Stop motion is challenging not only because of the time needed to create them but because it’s difficult to tell if the subjects are moving consistently. I noticed that there were a few choppy areas and my camera moved once or twice, which I didn’t realize until post-production and brought the image sequences into Premiere Pro.
While those pieces of the animation weren’t intended, I feel great about the outcome! Post-production editing went smoothly for the most part – and I just had a few hiccups when some of the sound effects didn’t quite match with the actions happening in the animation.
Just like I stated in my blog post last week, this is now my second time creating a stop motion animation. And I must say, all of the processes for pre-production, production, and post-production helped me to form a much more successful story than I ever previously thought I could create using stop motion.
See my finished video below – enjoy!