The magical art of stop motion animation
A few months ago we were approached by our friends over at Coach to tell the stories of their products for their latest sustainability-led campaign (Re)Loved.
This project came in with a flexible brief and we spent a long time trying to work out what would be the best to approach this storytelling. We’re always trying new ways to make our creations stand out from the noise in the creative world and in most cases, the classics are the best.
One classic technique we absolutely love is stop motion animation. Stop motion has been in our creative bag since we were kids and we used lego and a video camera to craft some terribly awesome work! We’ve been using stop motion more and more in our work with little pepperings here and there but this project felt like the one to fully flex our stop motion muscles for some full films. It seemed to fit the bill and we created the pieces in our very own creative agency studios in NYC.
The stop motion animation technique
Stop motion animation is an powerful but very time consuming technique used to create animated films by physically manipulating objects frame by frame to appear as if they are moving on their own.
By taking images of the objects in different positions, then stringing them together frame by frame you create the illusion of movement.
The stop motion technique has been around for centuries, with claims of the first film using it called “The Humpty Dumpty Circus” in 1890s and it is still a technique frequently used in films, TV shows, short films, music videos, and adverts.
This classic filmmaking technique has stood the test of time, but to give you an idea of how long it can take, animation studio Laika made full-length film “Kubo and the Two Strings” with a running time of 1 hour and 41 minute and it took an estimated total of 1,149,015 work hours to complete. An average animator at Laika reportedly finished 3.31 seconds of footage per week or 15.9 frames per day.
Stop motion animations that inspired us
Some of our earliest memories of the animation style are from watching Nick Park’s Wallace and Gromit’s “A Grand Day Out”, “The Wrong Trousers”, and “A Close Shave” on British TV. There was something about the way Nick’s creations came to life that is unsurpassed in style and quality. His charming films were ahead of their time for their storytelling, production value, and animation style that truly inspired us.
If you can we recommend setting aside some time to watch the three Wallace and Gromit films mentioned above as well as the films below:
The Isle of Dogs by Wes Anderson (Movie)
Whatever your thoughts are on Mr Anderson’s work and style, you can’t deny his creativity and contribution to cinema and the film industry. Isle of Dogs is an absolute work of art both visually and with its storytelling.
Tool – Sober by Adam Jones (Music Video)
One of the coolest, weirdest, and most disturbing music videos from the 90s is Sober by Tool’s guitarist Adam Jones. As a classically-trained musician and artist, Jones flexed his creative muscle in other videos “Prison Sex”, “Stinkfist”, “Ænema”, “Schism”, “Parabola” and “Vicarious” too.
Each Adam Jones created Tool music video is breathtaking with detailed stop motion animation that inspires us to always push for unique visual experiences in every film we make.
Mary and Max by Adam Elliot (Full-length Movie)
This absolute heartwarming tear-jerker needs to be watched with caution. Based on a true story, Adam Elliot’s 1h 32m masterpiece is one of the most moving films we’ve ever seen. Its style, soundtrack, and narration are perfect and it has inspired us to be better storytellers.
These are just a few of our favorites and we’ll definitely put together an extensive list and rundown of more in future journal entries.
Capturing stop motion
There are a few ways to capture stop motion animation. The most common method is to use a DSLR camera, but stop motion can also be shot on film or video. For our Coach films we opted to make things hard on ourselves and shoot on two RED film cameras (Komodo and Raptor) using cinematic lenses with a large depth of field. We used an ATEM SDI Extreme ISO to capture onion skins to help provide us with simple guide frames as can be seen in the images below.
Some behind-the-scenes shots for our stop motion film (Re)Loved – Remade Rexy Puzzle shoot
If you opt to use a digital camera it needs to be set it up so that it takes a picture every time the object is moved that’s being animated. You can use an intervalometer, which is a device that tells the camera to take a picture at regular intervals.
Software can also be used to capture an animation. This software will automatically take pictures at regular intervals, and it can also string the images together into an animation. This is a great option if you’re new to stop motion animation, as it takes care of all the hard work for you.
Again, as we wanted a cinematic look and feel to our animations, we shot on cinema camera and lenses and captured a lot of the stuff via video. Then painstakingly pulled out the individual frames as part of our post-production process – a timelapse of which can be seen below!
Timelapse of each piece of the Rexy Puzzle for our Coach: (Re)Loved – Remade Rexy Puzzle shoot
Once you’ve captured your stop motion animation, you’ll need to edit it and add sound. This can be done with stop motion software, or with video editing software like Adobe Premiere Pro and in our opinion the key to great stop motion storytelling is in the Foley / Sound Effects used to further the story. We spent a lot of time creating the sound design for our Coach films and they really helped take our storytelling to the next level!
We absolutely love the stop motion animation process and feel that it is an art form that never gets old. We can’t wait for the next film we create using this awesome technique.
If you want even more recommendations the online film curation website Short of the Week has an extensive collection of animations and also check out our two creations for Coach using stop motion animation.