There has been a recurring theme over the past few weeks as I continue on my animation journey: small projects that are only seconds in duration. Only the latter will apply to my next project, which will span two weeks! I will be creating a stop-motion animation, and I cannot be more excited.
As you read this post, you will have an overview of color and experimentation as we continue reading Liz Blazer’s Animated Storytelling book, you will see a variety of stop-motion animations that I find inspiring, and lastly, you will see pre-production assets from two very short stop-motion animation projects that I will have created by the end of this two week process.
If my stop-motion animation project is finished, click here to see it and the process I went through making it.
We continue learning from Liz Blazer and her book Animated Storytelling as she discusses color sense and experimentation (or as she calls it, “Weird Science”) in these next two chapters.
In this chapter, Liz Blazer talks about all things color. She begins by explaining that color can be the perfect storytelling tool, and it can create emotion, tension, or even change the meaning of a scene entirely based on what color you use. The three main variations you want to focus on are hue, saturation, and value. These concepts are quite important because they essentially triple the amount of color variety you can have in your shots. Hue is just the basic color choice (will your background be red, green, etc.?). Saturation is the strength of the color. Higher saturation means the color is more vivid and lively while lower saturation means duller colors and a grayish tone. Value is how light or dark your color is. You can have a very bright red or a red that’s very close to black.
Next, Blazer talks about color scripts and pre-color scripts, Pre-color scripts are your storyboards but instead of drawings, each frame is filled with a solid color that is meant to be the dominant color for that frame. Color scripts are those colors being implemented into your actual storyboards to create a livelier setting. Blazer warns not to go too crazy with the colors, just use the ones that will better tell the story you want to tell instead of focusing on the ones that will create the more aesthetically pleasing image to you. For example, I love high saturated images that are just a bit dark, but I understand that’s not the preferred style for many stories or images, and I will therefore have to use a different style entirely to more accurately tell my story instead of using the style that I prefer.
You are also encouraged to think of a dominant color, an accent color, and white space colors for your scenes. Your dominant color should be the thematic color that tells the entire story, while your accent color should provide a nice divergence from your central color. When thinking about white space, you don’t want it to be too distracting or even “upstage” your main subject. Instead, Blazer suggests to focus on desaturated colors in order to give the moving objects more attention. Ultimately, though, the color choice is completely up to you, and as long as you stay consistent with your choices, you could end up creating a truly unique style for your piece.
Next, Liz Blazer brings up the idea of experimentation, or in her words, Weird Science. As she describes it, this is the bridge chapter in her book, the chapter that separates the pre-production aspects of animation to the more technical side of actually making the thing. Blazer encourages you to go off the deep end, make the worst possible version of your product, but above all else, have fun with it, because “when you relax and stop worrying about what people will think, you’re at your most inventive and creative.” If you discover a new effect or style that looks incredible, then you can apply it to your true animation.
Blazer also suggests improving the areas of your skillset that you are particularly weaker at. If you practice with areas out of your comfort zone, you give yourself the chance to improve on it and to make a more refined animation because of it. Personal projects are also important, too. If you take your personal projects as seriously as your professional ones, and you focus on making the work you want to get paid for, there’ll be a good chance you get noticed and may actually get hired to do just that.
While you experiment, try to focus on transitions and movements, as these two aspects can separate animation from any other medium: pulling off transitions and camera shots that would be too impossible for the real world is what makes animation stand out. If you want to experiment with these features, one way to do so is to study other animations and to get inspired. In the next section I will provide a few animations that I find inspiring.
Stop-motion animation can be quite tedious work, but if you put enough care and effort into your project, you can create something truly revolutionary. Here are five stop-motion animations that are incredibly well made and quite inspiring.
You’ll see video games as a recurring theme throughout these inspirations, and for good reason: they make for some pretty darn good stop-motion videos. This is an Overwatch stop-motion video from “jriggity,” and the interesting thing about this video is that before the animation plays, we actually get to see a time-lapse of how the whole thing was made. He uses many stands and cranes to get Reaper to teleport around and fly high. Even though it was a 15-20 second animation, you can tell that the animator put a huge amount of time into it because of how many times you see him come into and out of the shot during the time-lapse to move Reaper just a little bit. I’m a huge fan of how high quality this film came out.
I quickly recognized how incredible PES is at making stop-motion films. This one is called Game Over, and I immediately resonated with it because it showed a stop-motion of all of the classic arcade video games, from Centipede to Frogger to Pac-Man to a few others. The animators used food to design the characters and I think it turned out really well. I appreciate how persistent they were with keeping the animation speed accurate while also incorporating the correct sound effects. Even though the camera was zoomed in close for this film, I think it works really well and definitely made me feel a bit nostalgic at points.
This video inspires me because I feel like with enough patience and time, I can make something like this too. The basic premise of this video is that someone is riding another human the same way they would ride a skateboard. The shots are a little spread out, which gives the animation a “jumpy” feel, but besides that I thought it looked quite neat. I appreciate the use of sound effects to make the skateboard sounds more realistic, I almost felt bad for the human on the ground but I knew his body was not actually getting scraped. The final shot at the end may be my favorite just because you can clearly tell they started filming that one shot early in the morning and once it faded to black you could tell it got towards late afternoon.
This is another video game stop-motion, but now performed by humans! This Tetris, made by Guillaume Reymond, who uses what looks like a Church hall as his Tetris board. The humans did a really good job lining up row after row to stay in the same area the whole time, which helped the Tetris project feel more alive. Besides the player clearly sucking it up at the game, this animation was really well done, and having this many humans work cooperatively on a project with this low a budget is really impressive.
This last video is probably the most impressive of the bunch, if not my favorite. It is called “Shiny,” and made by Daniel Campos. This is a 3.5 minute short film about a woman losing her purse and inside her purse is a diamond, while the protagonist (a man in a blue suit) has the diamond and fights off mountains of people to return it to her. Not only are the sound effects awesome, but there are many incredible camera elements that truly elevate this project to the next level, such as perspective (when the man throws the diamond in the air), slow motion (as he’s avoiding people), and side-scrolling consistency (the camera stays fixed on this area of wood even though it feels like the man is literally walking down a street. This is the type of project I aspire to because of how clean it looks as well as how consistent and incredible a story it tells. The fact that there are no humans faces seen in this film yet I was still able to feel plenty of emotions from this piece is quite admirable.
Not only was I tasked with creating a pre-production summary for two stories that I will potentially turn into stop-motion animations the following week, but I also created a very short stop-motion animation test, just to see what the process was like before diving into the larger project. As you read my ideas for my two stories and view my short test animation, let me know what you think worked and what you think I can improve upon so I can go ahead and apply those towards my larger project and make it even better.
1. (linear story)
By clicking the download button above, you can see my pre-production brief for my linear story. It currently does not have a title, as I am not sure if this is the story I am going with, but everything else about the story is laid out. After going through this process, however, I must say that as important as pre-production is, I simply do not enjoy it as much as the actual production or post-production of a project. I honestly had more fun making a tedious stop-motion video than working on pre-production for my project. Is this because I just did it too quickly and did not give myself enough time to fully flesh out my ideas? I’m not sure, but as much as I understand the importance of pre-production, I just do not enjoy it as much.
Anyways, I chose this story because I got inspired by stop-motion shorts that Nintendo themselves did on their YouTube channel. I own a few stuffed Yoshi’s just like that so I figured I could make a story similar to what they did. Looking at the behind the scenes, however, Nintendo went through a lot of work to produce these high-quality shorts. I don’t have the time nor resources, but I do want to try my best to make something happen. Some challenges that may pop up are trying to move the faces or limbs of any of the characters I want to feature in this short. They are made of yarn and therefore do not like to change positions easily. Plus, the larger Yoshi is green so I may need to tape some objects blue and use them as small lifts to mimic leg movement. I would then key out blue colors in post instead of green so the Yoshi stays intact.
I also decided to add cuts in this animation. I do not know if cuts are permitted for stop-motion. I feel it may be easier to include cuts but if not I will likely use a wide shot to make the whole video happen in one take.
2. (non-linear story)
I had no idea what I wanted to do for this story for the longest time. I thought I’d start with identifying the type of story I wanted to make. The only reason I went with “the countdown” is because I thought it could be interesting and I felt that the “book-ending” may be a common option, so I wanted to try something different. This film also includes cuts, but I honestly may be leaning more towards this film because I think it could be a lot easier to pull off. Plus as someone who is very inexperienced with stop-motion animation, I figured a chase scene could work because a common mistake I tend to make is that I make my frames go by a lot faster than they should be going. If I made a chase scene, I figured I could potentially hide that mistake.
Out of these two stories and plans, which one would you want to see me make? Let me know by posting a comment below! Now go ahead and take a look at a test animation I did below to prepare for the larger stop-motion project this week.
This was a very interesting stop motion animation video to create. Because this was a test animation, I was not too focused on set building, as you can see with the carpet floor and a blanket being used as a backdrop. I don’t know how I came up with this idea, but I knew I had my toy cars from about a decade ago and a huge R2-D2 figure from a while back, too. I lined up the cars and then got ready to make my stop motion video.
I grabbed my Insta360 One R camera and used the 4K lens with a wide field of view. The reason I thought this camera would be the best is because it has an app where you can use your phone as an external view and can take pictures without having to touch the camera. I thought this would be most effective for getting motionless stop-motion footage. I initially had my camera on a tripod pointed down, but the tripod on its lowest setting was still too high so I took the camera off the tripod and rested it on a book, which seemed to give a better view. I also changed the photo settings to manual because I figured it would be better to preserve settings instead of relying on auto, which could change the exposure on me without me knowing. I also had my camera charged in the whole time because my camera has not been the most reliable when it comes to battery and I didn’t know how long I would be filming for, so I had it plugged in for the entire shoot just in case.
168 photos later and I had my animation. I don’t know how I got 168 shots on the dot, which comes out to exactly 7 seconds if you use 24 frames per second. When I imported my images into Premiere Pro, however, the images did not come out as an image sequence and instead the first photo imported. I had clicked image sequence so I did not know what was up. When I looked online, I found out that the file names had to be exactly the same preceding the number at the end, but my Insta360 included not only the date in the file name, but the time the picture was taken, which messed up the image sequence. So I had to go into all 168 shots and remove the time so the file names were all the same besides the numbers at the end. This ended up working, and I got the image sequence I wanted. It turned out to 4.5 seconds at first, but I quickly realized it was set to 30fps instead of 24, which I changed before adding it to the sequence. Once I added it to the sequence, I knew some work needed to be done with it, even though the “stop-motion” part of it was done and I could’ve sent that in as my test already. I went on YouTube and downloaded audio tracks to add a bit of sound design to the animation, and I also gave the image a basic color correction because the images came out a little dark from the camera.
Once that was done I exported it and took the video into Apple Motion. I would have used After Effects to remain within the cloud but I am currently more comfortable in Motion, and I thought it would be much easier to find the effects I needed in Motion rather than After Effects. This did not take long, and I successfully exported the video and uploaded it to YouTube, where you can see the video above!
This test was very important to learning how I am actually going to pull off my full animation. The 168 images took about a full hour of non-stop production to complete, so if I am to make a project 3-4 times the length, I may need to dedicate a full day to this, which I am not afraid of, and am actually looking forward to.
Some things I need to keep in mind are to remove my shadow from the background, create a more realistic set and to maybe use a different camera (though I have not decided yet. I like how easy it is to take hands-free pictures with the Insta360, but I may need to go with my slightly outdated DSLR if I want a higher quality photo, especially indoors.
What did you think of my test animation? I hope you thought it was short and funny. I also want to know what you thought of my two story ideas for my full project next week. Comment down below and let me know which one you think I should go with!