Home         Portfolio           Investment           Order Prints           Video           About           Resume           Contact

Monday, June 28, 2010

Lots of Work, Little On Screen

Stop-motion animation has been used to entertain people for generations. In the 1950s and 1960s the popular Gumby Show aired which included a little animated clay humanoid figure. In the 1980s and 1990s many other videos used the stop-motion animation art form.

I was introduced in 1997 to the Wallace and Gromit stop-motion television short "The Wrong Trousers," which changed the course of my life. The half and hour short not only made me laugh uncontrollably, it also sparked my interest to figure how the entire production was created. In the next few months, I analyzed large portions of the "Wrong Trousers" frame by frame and researched the art of stop-motion animation by carefully studying the behind the scenes content on the Wallace and Gromit episodes.

Starting my freshman year of high school I started to record my own stop-motion animations using my parents working, but worn, VHS camcorder. The large camcorder needed to have the view finder held in place with athletic tape because of its age and condition. Having little experience or money to spend on my new found passion, I used my younger brother’s Duplex Lego sets to prop the camera into a halfway stable position. My first clips used a Godzilla action figure, complete with movable legs, arms, tail, and head, to destroy the local toy town. For the video capture I would quickly hit the record button on and off which rendered a playback rate of about 3-5 frames per second depending on my mind and finger’s reflexes. These first videos were extremely rudimentary but I was fulfilled to see the few short seconds of my work on screen in exchange for the long hours of work.

After creating a handful of other short stop-motion clips, I wanted to do a short story. One night I had a dream about a talking bean who meets a toad in the everglades and immediately strikes a friendship. Tragically I awoke when the bean and toad where eaten in a restaurant. Excited and inspired by the dream I could not get back to sleep but began to create a story in my head based on my strange dream. Something in my head was telling me that this was the germ for my short story. Getting up was no hard task that morning while I wasted no time telling my family my dream while eating breakfast.

Within a few days I had put together a beginning and ending to the script and started creating the simple characters, Bean and Todd. I purchased a cheap, $150 dollar ATI analog video capture card to put into my parent’s Pentium computer to enhance my production setup. Using the video editing software included with the capture card, I shot a couple of tests. Then I began filming the opening scene of "Bean and Todd" with the Bean in Mexico. Almost everything in the story was made up as I filmed each scene and all of the sets were designed with no real scale while being modified between scenes. Looking back I would never recommend starting any video project without a complete story, especially an animation project.

During the next six months with the help of my family, I would spend around 1,000 hours in the basement painstakingly animating my short film between a rate of 12-18 pictures per second of video. I learned much more than the art of animation. My patience toleration and technical knowledge also dramatically increased. A few months into production, an uncle would unexpectedly purchased me a tripod so I could ditch the Duplex Lego support system. See if you can notice where the video becomes more stable.

The completion of my first short stop-motion film sparked my interest and love for the video production world. Afterwards I went on to complete "Big Baby" while still in high school and started the lengthy project and incomplete project, "Denture Hoist." For my college education I choose Pillsbury Baptist Bible College and studied Photography, Business, and Bible. Currently I am teaching photography and video and working on my Masters degree in Multimedia Communications from the Academy of Art University. My desire is to teach young people how to effectively communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ through video and other media and it all started with a stop-motion project in the basement of my parent’s house.

Recently DreamWorks movies Chicken Run and The Curse of the Were-Rabbit have revived the art of stop-motion animation and opened the imaginations of more young people today. Check out www.animateclay.com or purchase "Secrets of Clay Animation Revealed" for some helpful tips in beginning clay animation on your own.



No comments:

Post a Comment