This is the second part to a two week stop-motion animation journey I went through in order to create the best short animation I can create. In this post, alongside the usual reading overviews and inspirational examples, I will show off my completed stop-motion animation project and explain my entire process to shooting it and editing it together.
That being said, if you have not read last week’s post, where I discuss my pre-production plans for this project and show off a bonus test animation (it’s hilarious!), then I would definitely recommend reading this post before continuing here.
I continue to read Liz Blazer’s Animated Storytelling, where the next two chapters focus on sound and environment building, respectively.
Sound, according to Liz Blazer, is just as, if not more, important than the visuals themselves when it comes to animation. She uses the example of Bug Bunny and Yosemite Sam making their way through a pitch black cave, where the sound completely tells the story because there is nothing to look at. She believes it is important to use the sound as a leading force in your story, even when writing your script. She brings up the two types of sound: diegetic (sound that can be heard by the characters and is present in their world) and non-diegetic (sound such as voiceovers and score which occur beyond the film’s world and can only be heard by the audience), and explains that they can be used while thinking about the three main elements of sound: sound effects, music, and dialogue.
Sound effects are small bits of sound that can liven-up objects and their interaction with the real world. While they are practical, Blazer suggests to cut as many as possible because overusing them can actually provide a distraction from the film’s story. She also points out that creating sound effects from your score can also be beneficial in tying everything together. Music (or the film’s score) can have a lasting impact on your project, and should be taken seriously as it drives the emotion and narration of your project just as much as the visuals. Blazer recommends finding temporary tracks that fit your film’s theme, your main characters, and the major situations they face. The music will later be the inspiration for the final music you create or acquire. Blazer also points out the importance of silent or atmospheric music, as it gives the audience a audible breather while still advancing the story. Lastly, while Blazer herself enjoys quality dialogue, it is recommended that you try everything in your power to express something visually before considering using dialogue. In this case, the best move may be to play with subtext, where the character makes a remark that is not directly on-the-nose, and the audience feels much more engaged because they have to figure out what exactly the character was trying to say and in what tone it was portrayed in.
Overall, Blazer recommends that the score or sound effects not compete with any active voices speaking on screen, while the dialogue in any scene is so simple and brief while removing any unnecessary words.
Blazer also spends a chapter talking about world building and environment creation. All of Blazer’s advice can be shortened to one word: consistency. Once you have created your world and all of its rule, you must adhere to them, or else, as Blazer writes, you’ll lose your audience entirely. When you think about making your own world, you want to establish a time period and location, followed by identifying any physical, social, and visual laws.
When first thinking about time period and place, Blazer recommends not to stray too far from Earth, and to be accurate with available technology and other factors depending on the decade or century you decide to place your world in. As for changing your physical, social, and visual laws, it is best to look at today’s laws and study them. What are the physics here on Earth? What societal norms do each species follow? What color and texture are certain objects in our planet? Blazer encourages you to make your world as original and unique as possible, but also warns that you should only change the elements that will enhance the story or push it forward in some way, because if you change way too much, you risk not following every single rule you made for your own world, and therefore you’ll lose all audience engagement instead of potentially getting them to follow along with the rules in your world.
Blazer finishes by claiming that this strategy works for clients and the motion graphics industry as well. The company will have a specific set of themes, values, and even colors they associate with, which can all be implemented in a custom world that represents them and what they stand for. By creating beautiful, unique and original worlds, as long as we stay consistent in following our own guidelines, our stories will grow and become much more memorable because of the world we have created.
Before I show you all my completed stop-motion animation project, I first want to take a good look at a few examples of some inspirational scenes and videos that either show an effective use of audio (on all fronts: ambient, SFX, and music) or feature some high quality text/logo animations. Both audio and text animation are featured in my final stop-motion project, but before looking at that, you should take a look at the scenes I find quite inspiring, even if I cannot currently pull them off to the production level that they have.
When I first saw this scene from Spider-Man: Into the Spirderverse (2018), I was immediately blown away, the animation was superb, but the audio elevated the scene to a brand new level. The use of rap music is important here because nowadays, a lot of children and teens are making raps in order to “get out of their shell” and express who they really are. When Miles puts on the suit and takes his leap of faith, he is expressing who he is, and having rap music play in the background, specifically aligning to his character growth by including lyrics such as “What’s Up Danger?” is not done by accident. Any background audio included ambient SFX of glass breaking, web-slinging, traffic ambience, and people talking. Having these effects in the scene helped make it feel more alive and introduce some diegetic sound into the mix because while the music is the dominant source of audio in this scene, having no background audio to accompany the world Miles is slinging across would feel a little off.
This is a music video from my favorite artist that came out around this time two years ago. While it is a visually appealing video, taking place in an infinitely looping washing machine and involving editing effects that I wish I can learn how to incorporate into my own videos, the audio is just as captivating. Because this is a music video, the music is going to be the dominant force throughout the entire video, There is some ambient noise throughout the beginning of the video, before the music starts, such as the city ambience at night, the bell ringing when the man enters the laundromat, the footsteps he takes, the opening and closing of the washing machine, and a few more tiny details that make the intro scene more lively. Because this is a collaboration with Axe, the loud sound effect of the man applying the Axe body spray onto himself is necessary, and adds to the story in his attempt to woo over the girl that is there too. The rest of the audio in this video is primarily the music, with one cutaway to the still from outside the laundromat where the music muffles up and makes it sound like it’s diegetic sound and is coming from inside the laundromat. Having this cutaway during the song can force the audience to try to interpret the situation and question whether it’s real or just a dream, thus proving as an effective use of audio.
This logo/text animated motion graphic comes from the YouTube channel Linus Tech Tips. I’m a huge fan of tech YouTubers, and have been watching his tech content on and off for a few years, but when it came time to find an effective use of text animation, I figured using his graphic towards the beginning of his videos would be a perfect thing to showcase. It starts out with a dice block of his logo, which glows orange and pops up and forms into many tech devices, including a desktop computer, a tablet, and an entire RGB gaming setup, before turning into a smiley face with headphones before having the Linus Tech Tips words fall into the center of the screen, bringing bits down with them. The jingle is catchy, the animation is very fast and very smooth, and captures the essence of Linus’s channel in under 10 seconds. It is one of the best animated openings to a YouTube channel and is something I aspire to create for my own channel one day.
While this may be more considered a logo animation rather than a text animation, I, once again, find this 3D style of animation absolutely stunning. It perfectly captures the essence of Dude Perfect: all things sports trick shots. Their logo is fused from various sports items breaking apart and joining together and having the football spiral and billiards ball roll across the screen is a really nice touch. While this may have taken a whole team of people to create, I wanted to include it here because I really enjoy the animation and can get inspired to work with 3D text more often because of it.
Below is my final stop-motion animation project. Give it a watch, comment below what you think, and once you’re done with that, keep reading to learn all about my process on creating this thing: from production to post!
Holy cow, I am so incredibly proud and happy with how this stop-motion came out, I almost cannot stop watching it myself. There’s a whole lot to unpack about this video, so let’s start with what I could’ve fixed: the shadows. Each time the shadows changed, it was due to me laying on the bed or right next to the camera so I did not have to move far to get to the next shot. I had all of my windows closed and shades up, and even stopped my ceiling fan to keep shadows consistent, but I completely disregarded myself, a note which I will take into future stop-motion projects.
As you can see, I went with my non-linear idea. I also gave it a cool name: Flash (get it? Because of the secret flash drive? No? Okay.). Anyways, I decided to work on this idea because I like using tense action music (and I figured this story was perfect for that), and I thought it would be a lot easier to make.
Well, eight hours and 828 photos later, I have a stop-motion film. I used my Insta360 One R camera to take these photos and the main reason for it was because it is so tiny, lightweight, and I can take the pictures from my phone, and therefore do not have to touch the camera while it is taking photos. There are a few hiccups here and there where the camera moves just a little bit, but those are few and far between.
One element of the film I really wanted to experiment with was a moving camera shot. I did this a few times but I think the most impressive moments were the follow shot behind the mouse and the flip-over-to-the-side shot at the climax of the film. I thought of these shots after designing the storyboards and I figured they add quite well to the action sequences I was looking for.
The last few shots were cool, too, as I had to use my hand to lift up the mouse wire and make it seem like the mouse was really using a grappling hook to get onto the desk. I initially was going to use a 2×4 ramp to get the mouse up there but it kept sliding off so that idea went out the window real quick.
I had a lot of fun in the editing room. Once I imported the image sequence, I trimmed, slowed down and freeze-framed a few shots to get the timing right with the music. I then went into After Effects and created the Self-Destruct countdown and the Flash logo animation. I know it’s not technically text animation but I like these blockbuster type reveals and I thought messing with 3D space and cameras inside After Effects would be a nice substitute. I would’ve liked to add a bit more to the text but this is only my second time messing with After Effects since taking the undregarduate animation class last fall, so I did not want to get frustrated with the software, as my time was limited.
I lastly imported all of the sound effects into Premiere and placed them where they needed to go. I know the sound chapter emphasized not to overuse sound effects but I felt like the film would be empty if there was not a sound effect for pretty much every part. I downloaded all of the sound effects from YouTube with the exception of one, which I recorded myself: the wood blocks clapping.
And 45 seconds later, I have a completed stop-motion film! I really hope you all enjoyed watching the video and reading my perspective on what the process was like. As painful and excruciatingly complicated this was, it really did test my patience and I enjoyed the process thoroughly, and I am looking forward to the next opportunity to create something like this.