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Stop Motion! HELP!


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#1 Ashlea Wessel

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 10:45 AM

Hey all. I am in pre-production for a short that I am doing which will be shot in stop motion. I very well versed with the equipment but I am totally new to this type of film making and I was wondering if there was anyone out there who has done it before who might have some handy tips or hints? HELP!?
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#2 Andrew Forbes

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 02:01 AM

Hi Ashlea,

I'm Andrew, I've been shooting a stop-motion series for three years called Wapos Bay (we're actually gearing up to go to camera for season V next week). There are definitely some tricks to shooting (most of which I've learned through mistakes!) but if you have any specific questions or need any advice, drop me a line and I'd love to help however I can. Is there anything specific you're worried about? What kind of system will you be using?

All the best,
-Andrew
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#3 Edgar Dubrovskiy

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 06:39 PM

Andrew, what would be the most common mistakes while DPing animation, in your opinion?
It's just I'm also in pre-prod for an animation :)

Thanks!
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#4 Ashlea Wessel

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 05:19 PM

Hi Ashlea,

I'm Andrew, I've been shooting a stop-motion series for three years called Wapos Bay (we're actually gearing up to go to camera for season V next week). There are definitely some tricks to shooting (most of which I've learned through mistakes!) but if you have any specific questions or need any advice, drop me a line and I'd love to help however I can. Is there anything specific you're worried about? What kind of system will you be using?

All the best,
-Andrew

I'm shooting on a CAnon 5D (still camera) I'm not sure really what I should be worrying about haha. that's kind of why I posted. I know there's always something that you miss when you haven't done something like that before. even if it's in the post or something like that. . . .
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#5 Rob Vogt

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 06:34 PM

Hope this helps

Also consider doing 48fps and project it at 48fps (like maxivision) to smooth out movements (This also makes your job twice as hard though.
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#6 Patrick Neary

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 09:22 PM

Hi-

If you haven't been here yet:

http://www.stopmotio.../dc/dcboard.php

there's a wealth of info!

If using a dslr one thing you need to worry about is flicker from your (canon) lens aperture closing and opening for each frame. To get around this you need to use Nikon lenses and adapter so that the iris stays at the same place (f5.6 for instance) rather than opening and closing between each shot.

Nobody shoots animation at 48fps, (where would you show it???) in fact many stop motion films (including Wallace and Gromit) use 12fps, shooting mostly on 2's rather than ones.
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#7 Igor Trajkovski

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Posted 14 November 2009 - 02:48 PM

Nobody shoots animation at 48fps, (where would you show it???) in fact many stop motion films (including Wallace and Gromit) use 12fps, shooting mostly on 2's rather than ones.


I was about to comment the same.
Doing your animation at 12 fps will suffice.

If you still want smoother motion and have time (money, nerves, patience...)
go 24, 48, 72, 96 :) , and then frameblend the higher fps material into 12 or 24fps project.

...

Have you decided which stopmotion animation software (with onion skinning and all) ?


Best

Igor

Edited by Igor Trajkovski, 14 November 2009 - 02:50 PM.

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#8 Andrew Forbes

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 12:37 AM

Hi Ashlea and Edgar,

Sorry that I'm so long in replying; the prep for the show is ... well, you know. I made a quick list of stuff that I've picked up during my time; I hope it helps!

One of the fun parts of shooting stop-motion is that you don't have to think of it like a real life show (for a whole bunch of reasons), especially when it comes to the cameras. Ashlea, if you're using a 5D, you should be totally cool for whatever you'd like to do technically, but if I can suggest getting older lenses for the. Patrick is totally right, that you'll eliminate image flicker with good lenses, but where the secret lies isn't in a high caliber glass but rather the auto aperture that all digital cameras use. You know how the aperture closes each time you fire the trigger but otherwise it stays fully open? If you get older lenses that have a bonafide aperture ring, you'll eliminate some of the problem. The other half of flicker issues are based on your electrical grid, but I'll come back to that. It'd also help to have an A/C adapter for the camera, since you'll need it and once you're into the shot it's totally impossible to change anything on the camera without bumping it - trust me! We've just switched from Canon Rebel XTs to Nikon D90s, and I can't tell you how nice it is to have good glass and a bigger raw file. Edgar, what are you using? Do you have it determined yet?

The other nice thing about using a stills camera is that you can get a really deep depth of field, which you'll need depending on the scale of your armatures. We're shooting with something like 1/6 scale, so after some tests I did a few years ago, I found (for me) shooting anywhere from 11 - 32 worked better than keeping the aperture somewhere more 'normal.' But like I say, each project is different and we use a lot of greenscreen background replacements, not to mention the tone of the show, so for us keeping the f-stop deep like we do works for us. The best thing I'd suggest is shoot tests with your armatures and determine what works for you. Also, make sure your lenses focus up as short as possible and don't drift the focus once you've set it. We had to tape a few of the Rebel lenses whenever we looked down since the front element weight pulled the lens once it was in position.

Are you going to be using any dollies on the show? There's a whole bit that I had to learn about those, too.

Lighting the sets is actually the hardest part for me, but hands down the most exciting. When I started, I wanted everything to work the same way that it would work in real life shooting, but agonizing over how a flag is cutting the key on a face that's 1 1/2'' tall is ... agonizing. What's awesome about it is that you don't need to think of lamp wattage the same way as you would in the real world; I've been using 1000w lamps for my sun (and netting and cutting down from there)! The same lighting rules apply, just on a much smaller scale (again, depending on armature size).

If it looks like a lamp needs supplemental support, do it. Any light variance will really register on screen, and having a lamp dip halfway through a shot is really disappointing. When I'm setting a lamp, I'll usually use a beefier stand and bag everything, especially the traffic spots around the cameras and sets. If you don't have a permanent grid in place over your sets, having some 2'' aluminum pipe on hand will come in handy.

If you can, see about regulating your power as much as possible. Edgar, I don't know much about set power in England; is 220 any more stable than 110 in North America? I hope so! Wherever you are, if you can get a hold of some sort of dimmer pack or voltage regulator I'm sure it would help. Our studio is in an industrial park in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and every time someone plugs in a vacuum three buildings over our lamps dim. I did another project where we ran our house power through CD80 packs and they were fabulous. I can't praise them enough.

Our regular production roster has 12 bays shooting simultaneously, so my lighting inventory is ginormous. When I started, I figured doing multiples of each lamp so that each bay had a similar lamp count, which fell apart on Day 1. In an ideal world, you may have a chance to really spec out each set as it's being built and figure out what you'll need, but depending on the script, you may need to order buffers to cover any changes or adjustments. Right now, I'm using a tungsten combination of fresnels, zips, open face, peppers, Dedolights, Kinos and MiniFlos, Source 4's (my godsend), mini Nine Lights, LEDs, flashlights on DC adapters, Christmas lights, paper lanterns and pretty much any other source I can get my hands on. I've also gotten into the habit of keeping some ceramic bases and wiring around since often if anyone wants a lamps put inside anything you'll probably need to build it yourself. At this point, our distro is two 100A 3-phase 110v boxes that feed six bays each, where we get (about) 60A per stage, but I keep it a little lower for safety. Plus, having a 50A limit to your set means you won't bake the animators while they work and it seems to work out alright that I can expose a comfortable f16 in 1/8 sec, give or take. I also keep all my camera tethers and computers on an entirely separate leg from our 6x60 box, so if any of the bays to trip a breaker, nothing (hopefully) will fry them. As a disclaimer, I'm not a gaffer and never claimed to be; I've had to figure a lot of this out on my own. Ask me how I almost nearly blew up the studio in season IV! A qualified Gaffer will make you life a LOT easier/less stressful; they're worth the investment.

Inevitably the perfect spot for a lamp will be right where the animator needs to work, so if you can, keep some bounce cards and mirror tiles around, since they can work around the reflected light but (obviously) not the actual lamp head. And actually, while I'm on a rant, keep the inverse square law in mind, too. Falloff was a big problem for me during the first year, and I solved it by buying 12'' mirror tiles and stringing a whole bunch together. It helps beef up your output (via multiple sources) and helps cut down on the falloff, since the biggest drops within the first few feet of the lamp face will be minimized from throwing to the mirrors first.

If you can, have a chat with your production designer, art director and set carpenters to make the sets as versatile as possible. Not only will it totally help the animators when they're working, but having the ability to fly a wall away to get a lamp in position is invaluable makes things a lot less agonizing. Also, if you can, keep as many flags and cutters as you can. We use foamcore and coreplast for some of the 'bigger' (read: smaller than a 12''x18'' flag) cutters and scraps for really tiny edges.

If you have a chance, it may be cool to test your diffusions, too, since they'll react differently to silicone or whatever your armatures are covered in and on a smaller scale. Oh! Test your colours, too, since once you get the images into post they WILL change.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE TEST YOUR WORKFLOW ALL THE WAY TO THE END BEFORE YOU START PRODUCTION. Including all your tests. All the way to your deliverables, whatever format it may be. Between the in-camera settings, processing, conversion and conforming, it's really easy for the colours to go sideways. Especially keep an eye to illegal colours (outside the official deliverable colourspace) and try to curb them on set, since they won't come out in the timing. I've had too many crises in the timing suite to not warn about this.

In terms of software, we're on Dragon 2.0 (www.dragonstopmotion.com) and it's brilliant. Shooting 2 frames will totally work, but bear in mind if you've got to deliver in 23.98, 24 or 25 fps. If your projects are for television and need to be timed, best wishes on figuring out how many frames you need to get 24fps converted to 23.98 or 29.97 to the accurate frame, 'cause I couldn't. Your animation supervisor/animators may probably have a better idea of specifically timing the show and breaking everything down.

If you're doing any composite work or greenscreen, try as much as possible to keep spill to a minimum. Getting a studio that can accommodate a good sized working area will help a lot. We're in 12'x20' bays and frankly if I could I'd add another 4' in every direction, but there are always ways to solve space issues.

Do you have storyboards and animatics? If not, hopefully you will, since they're essential (in my opinion) to timing the show. Not only that, but they help with scheduling the shoot and figuring some rough strokes for lighting. In our case, the editor locks our animatic to time (titles and buffers included) and the post guys break it down. From there, it's a simple match up from shot to shot. In terms of the actual file formats, I'd totally recommend shooting as raw as you can, converting those to a 10-bit uncompressed 1920x1080 Quicktime and cutting from there. A lot of people will tell you .jpegs are fine, but I've seen more problems with over-compression and banding (especially in the midtones) once you start compressing a file too much. Plus it seems like the highlights burn faster in a .jpeg, but that could be just my opinion. And just since I can't emphasize it enough, TEST YOUR IMAGES AND WORKFLOW ALL THE WAY TO THE FINAL DELIVERABLE.

I hope this helps, even if it is a little long. So much for a quick note! I'd love to hear more about your projects, too; will you be updating as you go through production? If there's anything I can help with, or if you need any more info, let me know. Thanks for reading and sorry again about the replying delay.


All the best,
-Andrew
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#9 Andrew Forbes

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 12:42 AM

I was about to comment the same.
Doing your animation at 12 fps will suffice.

If you still want smoother motion and have time (money, nerves, patience...)
go 24, 48, 72, 96 :) , and then frameblend the higher fps material into 12 or 24fps project.

...

Have you decided which stopmotion animation software (with onion skinning and all) ?


Best

Igor



Or have your animator move their armatures in smaller increments - instant (so to speak) slow motion!

All the best,
-Andrew
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#10 Edgar Dubrovskiy

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 05:04 PM

Man, thanks so much!
What I gather from my current experience and research - pre-prod is everything!

So we shot test on miniDV with us acting out the characters - to time the actions and dialogue speed perfectly (as we have only 30 sec to tell the story - commercial).
Then, this week director is shooting actors on miniDV acting out, and then they breaking up the footage into 25 frames a second, and will animate the characters by looking on the screens with corresponding frames - did tests - works perfectly, and helps to catch the subtle facial movements.

Shooting on s16mm with SR3.
Went to Arri today - shot tests with intervalometer - amazing piece of equipment. Very simple and easy to use, really :)
Exposure time is fairly long - 1/2 second - so lots of light coming through - very good for deep stop.
Lit the test with 2K bounced of poly, at about 12ft from the action - got 5.6 1/2 from it (shot 200T).

At the moment testing 100T vs 200T Kodak for green-screen (trying to see if grain at 200T will be ok to key out the characters).
The ad will be shot in two parts - foreground+green-screen, then two levels of moving plates for the background.
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