Stop-motion Animation – Smell the flowers

Stop-motion animation is a beautiful hands on approach to creating whimsical and textured films.

It uses all the stages of animation but with the addition of photography to capture each frame. Stop-motion is notorious for being a lengthy process as every frame has to be captured in a single moment, taking 100’s and even 1000’s of photos just to animate several minutes. All the characters, backgrounds and sets are designed in physical spaces, whereas other animation techniques are designed in digital space. The extra work is worth it for the final animation.

I’ve always been in awe of stop-motion animation studios such as Laika, who created Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings, and 3 Mills studios, who created Tim Burton’s Corpse bride and Wes Anderson’s Isle of dogs. These are great examples of where stop-motion has been successful in telling a story full of character and breathtaking visuals. This inspired me to create my own stop-motion animation!

Stop-motion animation process and stages

Having been inspired by all the quirky and heartfelt animations created in stop-motion, I wanted to make my own. But where to start? Of course, my minimal experience compared to studios who collectively have decades of experience and many, many talented artists and animators, I wasn’t expecting to create Aardmans Chicken Run on my own within a couple of weeks – BUT it was a great opportunity to experiment and get a glimpse into the processes stop-motion studios might use.

First, I needed my idea. I did research and created a mood-board, compiling ideas and thinking what i would like to show in my animation. Thus was born ‘Smell the flowers’. I wanted to be able to design a character and experiment with lighting and textures.

Then came the storyboard and design stage. Thinking about colours, motion and composition. Bearing in mind the platforms I would potentially publish the animation on, and what their dimensions are.

Storyboard and designs for ‘Smell the flowers’ Stop-motion Animation.

Creating an Animatic for animation

Then came the animatic. An animatic is a skeleton for the animation and shows what each frame will look like, this helps gain an idea of the speed and flow of the movements, and how you can recreate them during the your shoot. This can also include any music, sound effects or voice overs.

Animatic for ‘Smell the flowers’ Stop-motion Animation.

Time to create the stop-motion animation!

Then came time to shoot the stop-motion. I had to research what materials I would need to create the set and character, as well as what production equipment I would need for the animation – this included looking at lighting, cameras, materials and even softwares. This was all piled into a Production Plan. I then needed to learn HOW to create the stop-motion. This took hours of watching tutorials and behind the scenes videos, as well as experimenting with smaller stop-motions to get used to using the camera and how to create movement that translates well when animated.

Rolling apple, Stop-motion Animation experiment.
Orange peel, Stop-motion Animation experiment.

Here is a behind the scenes time-lapse of the set up and me creating the stop-motion animation.

Behind the scenes time-lapse, creating the Stop-motion Animation.

The final stop-motion animation

After several different shoots and playing around with the lighting, I finally had some animation frames in the form of photographs. I needed to edit and compile these images into After effects alongside the music and SFX. Here is what i ended up with…

Smell the flowers, final Stop-motion Animation.

Final thoughts

Overall I loved creating this stop-motion animation and would definitely like to make one again. Being able to use my arty skills to physically create sets and characters using tangible materials was really fun and helped me to get creative! If you have the time and patience, definitely try it out yourself.

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