This week, I took a deep-dive into stop motion pre-production. But before that, I read more about important principles in animation—color sense and “weird science” experimentation—from Liz Blazer’s book Animated Storytelling.
Color is an essential aspect of any kind of visual storytelling, but people tend to get the terminology mixed up. Blazer clarifies the definitions of some commonly used terms:
Hue: refers to the common color name (red, blue, green)
Saturation: the intensity or purity of a color
Value: how much light a particular color is exposed to
Tone: overall brightness of a shot or scene as opposed to one color
When writing a script to your story, it is important to also carefully consider how you intend to use color. This may come in the form of a color script, which is a sequential outline on how you plan to use color in your story. You can even take this a step further make a pre-color script, which is essentially a series of color bars that represent your important story beats. If you had to tell your story in just one color, what would it be? Once you have that color chosen, you choose a few other dominant colors that best match your beats.
In general, Blazer advises that you limit your color palette, as too many colors may actually take away from the story. It’s also important to only saturate colors on the most important elements in your story.
Sometimes, it’s good to be spontaneous, and this is especially true in the animation medium. Blazer recommends that you take the time to try out what she describes as weird science. Learn something new, push boundaries on the rules and principles, or try something others haven’t tried before. You should even defy the rules and purposely create “bad art.”
The big reason for all this is when you create things judgement-free and without worry about what others might think, you are at your most creative. Blazer even describes this phase in the process as “research and development” to emphasize its importance for those who are worried about wasting time. Without letting loose, your story may be missing out on uniqueness and crucial elements.
Other tips Blazer mentions include to work on the edge of your skillset (in other words, the areas that you are least comfortable with) as well as to make the work that you want to be hired for via personal projects. The key here is to get rid of the perfectionist mentality and be kind to your faults and shortcomings.
Stop Motion Research
Before beginning to experiment and set up pre-production for my stop motion, I collected some stop motion media that either caught my eye in research or have intrigued me for quite some time.
Kirby is a well-known IP in the Nintendo world, so I was curious as to how a stop-motion version of him would play out. The animations in the fight scene mimic those from the Super Smash Bros series, hence the sound effects from it. My favorite part was when Kirby made the cuts on the clay-man and the clay-man (sort of) regenerates his arm.
I found this channel of stop motion ASMR which features colorful koi fish in a series of stories, and the animations and sets are extremely well-produced. The fish meandering through the mud, one of the fish eating the food, the koi transforming into a green catfish, and the fight scene were very clean.
Of course, I can’t discuss stop motion without mentioning the skit comedy series Robot Chicken, where all of their skits use stop motion with computer-generated mouths and effects added on top of it. The show utilizes crude and sometimes provocative humor in a series of parody skits of pop culture and media, including Star Wars like in this example. This compilation of skits of the Star Wars droids demonstrates just how stop motion can be a strong foundation for skit comedy.
What I found really compelling about this short movie besides the powerful message is how the world is established, with the hill acting like a continuous rolling sphere in some shots. I am also very curious as to how they made the wind animation with the kite, grass, and clouds.
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit was one of my favorite movies as a child, and there is no wonder as to why. The Wallace and Gromit series in general utilizes stop motion to the fullest to create countless funny and eye-catching moments, and this scene is a perfect example of that. The smooth motion of the chopped carrots, the rabbits eating the carrots, the rabbits pouncing on Gromit, and Wallace being ejected from his bed are just a few memorable elements to this great scene.
My Pre-Production Ideas
For my first idea, I started by taking some old figurines that I found in my room and asked myself “what should I do with these?” Then I noticed that each figurine had some type of ‘flaw’ so to speak. The ceramic penguin figurine had a chipped flipper, a pop vinyl had a fallen ear, and the plush carnival dolphin still had its tag on. With these ‘flaws’ in mind, I came up with the theme ideas of accepting yourself for who you are as well as the mentalities of rejection and trying to fit in. I think this would be good to work with, but the challenge would be to convey certain actions such as laughter through stop motion. Maybe some sound effects will help with this.
For my next idea, I actually came up with a general nonlinear plot first. What I had in mind was a Book Ending plot where some sort of MC is presented with a choice, and then ends up going with the more popular choice only for said choice to ultimately lead to the doom of he and the others in the popular crowd. The scene would then flash back to the beginning, with the MC being presented with that choice (it was all just a vision of the future). He would then make the other choice, which brings him to safety/freedom. The general moral theme here is “what is right is not always popular.”
I would then have to come up with what is involved in this. A food concept like carrots about to be chopped would be fun, but then I remembered and got inspired by a scene in the movie Toy Story, where the aliens in a crane game were drawn to “the claw,” not knowing that it may actually lead to their demise. Therefore, I wanted to do something space-themed, and I found these cheap bendable alien toys on Amazon to use if I decided on this idea.
Stop Motion Test
Here I made a short 5-second test animation so that I’m more familiar with what to expect for next week’s production. Getting each dice to move slightly in each frame, and then making sure the camera was as still as possible on the tripod, were the most challenging parts. Because this was a short animation, there was not much postproduction work after putting all the frames in the sequence besides slowing it down a bit, adjusting the brightness, and adding background music. This was about 50 frames total, so I imagine a bigger production that’s 3+ times the amount of frames is going to be more difficult, but I did have fun in the process and hope to continue to do so.