Friday, June 28, 2013

Stop Motion Animation-Behind the scenes

My awesome supervisor, David Tart, introduced me to the world of stop motion animation. I was completely charmed by the medium and decided I had to give it a try. So I decided to build a puppet and animate the audio clip from the 11 second club competition.

Here is the final video, and below I will go behind the scenes and show you how I created this piece.
Stop Motion Animation- 11 Second Club-June2013-Kelly Perez from Kelly Perez on Vimeo.

Step 1: Build a puppet

I decided to create the puppet from wire and clay. I followed a variety of videos on youtube and combined their techniques.

1. I made a drawing of my character and began with Aluminum wire to make the torso and legs. I ended up winding about 3 wires, because I was scared it might break during animation.
2. Add the arms and extra length for the fingers and toes.
3. Add some bones so the wire would stay together and also bend around joints. I used Quick Steel epoxy for this.

 4.I sewed him a pair of jeans from a pair of my old jeans that I cut up to make shorts. I stuffed him with aluminum foil to fill in the body since it's very light. (ideally you don't want your puppet to be too heavy or it won't stand up) You can stuff the character with anything you want, the point is to have tight fitting clothe or it will "chatter" when you animate it. I also added fingers and wrapped them in aluminum foil to give them mass, but mainly to not have the wire poke out when I bent the clay for animation.
 5. Then I sowed him a little sweater out of an old Christmas wine bag I had laying around and even added some detail in the neck line. Magic is in the details :)

 6. I added clay hands over his aluminum covered fingers. (This was Sculpey clay so it stay soft unless you bake it) I did not bake the hands since I needed to bend them while I animated. I also sowed on little shoes of cloth around his feet. On the bottom of the feet I had two magnets held on with epoxy, one on the heel the other on the toe.I also sowed little shoe laces, because they look cool.
 7. I created the head by making a ball of aluminum (Trying to keep the puppet as light as possible) and then with Sculpey clay modeled his face, hair, nose and eyes. I took just the head and threw it in the oven so the clay would bake and these parts would remain solid.
 8. I then added more clay to the bottom of the face which I was planning on animating, so it needed to stay soft clay. Same for the eyebrows, they are just little pieces of Sculpey clay. I also decided to buy these nice acrylic doll eyes online. (I also went to home depot and had them drill a tiny hole in the center so I can move them with a pencil when I animated them) (You can buy these online, and I recommend you buy the ones with holes already carved into them) I also bound the aluminum head to the wire with the Quick Steel Epoxy and here is the final product.
 Here are some links to the videos I used for building the puppet:

Step 2: Build the Props 

I decided I needed a pinball machine so I created one out two pen boxes, some random sink parts, some candles and I used 4 air freshners sticks for the legs. I also new I wanted to animate him releasing the pinball so I made the release lever with wire and aluminum foil. I also made a whole in the box so the lever could slide in and out. I also added epoxy and magnets to all four legs so that I could magnetize them and they wouldn't move during animation.

Step 3: Build a Set
I was lucky enough to intern at Laika and I got to see their sets.  They basically have giant black curtains around their entire set. It's the best way to control the light, so that you can shoot any time of the day and the light is not changing on your animation.
So I decided the best way to do this was with a big black sheet I nailed to the ceiling in the corner of my apartment.This didn't leave me much space inside, which was very cramped, but it totally worked.
 Here is what the inside looked like. I found this piece of fiberglass that was painted so I used that with the magnets. At first I thought this was a great idea, but I now know that screwing down the feet is a much better approach to the feet than magnets. I used my Canon Rebel t4i in combination with DragonFrame ( the stop motion animation software.
Here is are some mouth shapes I made for animation. I found it much faster to make a few shapes for the lip sync I was about to animate beforehand. So that when I started animating I didn't have to stop animation and make lip shapes out of clay.

 Step 4: Planning

Before I could animate I had to plan so here is my video reference and then my thumbnail drawings. It;s absolutely essential to know what you want to do with stop motion or else you will be wasting time and the puppet.
(For further detail into my planning process please take a look at this post:
Here is my planning on paper, analyzing my actions from my video reference.
If you notice my final animation changed a bit from the original planning. This happened due to the limitation of the puppets, which I was not aware of until animation started. Every step in the process should work to improve on the previous, so in actual animation I adjusted my planning to fit the scene.

Step 4: Animate
Animation was very tough, since I had to keep track of the body, facial and lip sync animation all at the same time. I also bumped the camera a few times, even my dog touched the tripod legs and moved the camera. So there were quite a few technical issues to deal with. I ended up re-shooting the beginning of the line twice since I completely bumped the camera and had to start over, luckily that was a good practice round. I began to get the hang of it after a while. It's very much of a straight ahead approach to animation. Also another important tip is to always wear black, so that the color of your clothe does not bounce back with the light.

 Here is a picture of how crammed it was in there, but overall it was a great experience. The biggest things I would change for my next shot would be:

-Screw down feet, no magnets
-A bigger workspace, because being so crammed caused me to bump the set and camera quite a bit
-Fully seal your background poster board, I only sealed the corners and the center would bubble up every time I sat down to animate.

Hope this made sense and I highly encourage everyone to try stop motion. It's certainly a bit of work to get this all up an running, but the final product is absolutely wonderful. I think many people can agree that there is a certain charm to stop motion animation. You are truly bringing an inanimate object to life, I absolutely loved it!

Stay inspired :)


  1. Kelly, I dunno if you remember me from your AM days, but this is flipping awesome!!! Looks like you're doing we'll.


  2. Very nice animation. I just came across your blog and looked through some of your work.It's very good! I may need you to critique a demo reel of mine. When my new one is complete, that is.