Creating a Stop-motion is like Watching Paint Dry
What is your favorite type of animation? From high-end computer graphics, to echo-sketch, to stop-motion, there are many unique types of animation out there. One of the original ways to animate films is stop-motion animation, whereby thousands of still photographs are taken, while the subjects being photographed are moved slightly in-between each image. The result is a fluid, moving work of art that is known as stop-motion!
I’ve produced two such animations. One is ‘The Cave: An Adaptation of Plato’s Allegory in Clay’ and the other is ‘The Shepherd Boy and the Wolf: A Stop Motion Adaptation.’ Both of of these films consist of thousands of still images that were meticulously photographed. Although each film is rather short, under 5 minutes, it took weeks to capture the thousands of images necessary to bring the film to life. For each frame, there would be slight movements in the characters’ arms, legs, and facial expressions as they went from jovial to angry or frightened. In most scenes, there were numerous things happening simultaneously with multiple characters, objects, and scenery making movements all at once. As you can imagine, it took a fair amount of patience from the animators and crew.
On my last film, ‘The Shepherd Boy and the Wolf,’ we would shoot on average 6 to 8 hours per day and would be lucky to capture 30 seconds of usable footage. There were even some days where the entire day would be wasted. I remember on one occasion, we shot hundreds of photographs in a day with a two-camera set-up capturing the characters walking up a hill. By the end of the day, we had almost shot the whole scene when a powerful roof-top air conditioner exploded above us. Its power jolted the floor holding the stage, essentially creating an earthquake in the world that we were shooting! All of the characters were knocked over and we catastrophically lost any useable footage that we had that day. There was no way to put them back into their exact positions.
That was par for the course though as the ultimate goal was to create great film in this very special medium. When you’re producing a stop-motion, it is like watching paint dry very, very, slowly. However, the end result is worth it. The look of a stop-motion animated film is so unique and bringing that type of art into the world, for me at least, gives an immense amount of pleasure.