Friday 1 July 2011

Clay Animation Quick Start Guide

Your Assignment: Drop a blob of clay in front of a camera and start animating at minimal expense. Here's my go at it.

Here is your shopping list:

I use iStopmotion on a Mac and have not yet tried any others. There are plenty more you can buy, but if you just want to test the waters of stop motion you might be looking for something a little closer to free. For Mac, there is SingleFramer. For Windows, there is Stop Motion Animator. I found these by goggling “free stop motion software,” which brought up plenty more options.

The requirements of your software will influence the options here. Most likely a camcorder will do. But you will need a camera with manual overrides. Autofocus will make a mess of your animation.

Since you’re just locking it down, it doesn’t need to be anything fancy. The simplest tripod from Best Buy will do the trick.

Preferably three, with one on each side and one as a rim light. Of course it would be nice to use a set of professional photography lights, but you can also use task (Luxo) lights, track lighting, or even $8 clamp lights from the hardware store.

Plastalina modeling clay from the craft or art supply store.

Surface gauge
This is something to set up next to your clay between exposures to measure the distance it moves between frames. This can simply be some wire held up by a blob of clay. The onion skin feature in most stop motion programs will accomplish much of the same thing, but the gauge is still useful.

Okay, now animate.
Which is the subject of many more blog entries, but the first principle when starting out is to make sure the action isn’t too fast. If your blob of clay turns into a creature in twelve frames, hold on the creature for a second or two before letting the creature run off. How long should it take to run off? Time the action with a stop watch first. Even just time how long it takes to imagine it running off. Then do the math. An inch a frame may make for a quick dash while ⅛” would be a snail’s pace (snails and slugs make for great clay animation characters). But the main thing to experiment with motion an metamorphosis to see what you enjoy doing. We’ll get into principles and techniques next time around.

And please share your results in the 11-Second Club forum!