Learning about Stop-motion: The Animation Stand

So far, I’ve written about the software and the camera needed for stop motion animation.  Next – the “animation stand” – a  special tripod for holding the camera in just the right position.  An animation stand has to be really solid, to stop any unwanted movement, and it has to hold the camra (and possilby, lights) very securely.

I needed an animation stand that would hold the camera pointing downwards, because I want to animate using paper and small objects – which is easier to do working on a flat surface, with the camera taking pictures from above.

Brendon designed the stand for me.  He based it on this very useful page on how to create an animation stand. The measurements were adapted for my needs – the shape of my camera and the size I wanted.  He also got some help from this forum thread.

Here is his final design.  The measurements were according to the camera I chose.  When the arm is at it’s maximum height, and the camera zoomed lense zoomed back, the “view area” fills the picture exactly. (To see the measurements more clearly, click on the image to view it full size)

The camera plate was tricky – it had to fit the camera exactly (you can read about choosing a camera for stop motion here).  It also had to allow for things like swopping memory cards and batteries without having to remove the camera from the stand,  and reaching all parts of the camera (like focus rings) with ease.

Obviously, these measurements suit my camera, and will have to be adjusted for whatever camera you plan to use.

One thing we spent quite a lot of time on was making the arm adjustable so it can slide up and down, to hold the camera different distances from the objects being animated.  In hind sight, this was not entirely necessary as you can zoom in and out to achieve a similar effect.  But I’m still happy that the arm is adjustable – I’m sure this will come in handy.

We got the stand manufactured in aluminium – the guy who did this fine tuned the way the arm adjustment tightens.   The yellowish plate is loose inside the tube, and the screw pushes it against the stand when you tighten it:

To fix the camera onto the stand, we had to get a special 1/4 inch screw – that is the same size as the screw on top of a standard tripod.  We fixed the aluminium stand onto a wood base, and to make sure it would not wobble during animation, we screwed it to a sturdy work bench.

So far, it’s working great.  It’s small (and the area that I can animate on is very small) but that is perfect for my needs.  I dont have a good picture of it in action – this one shows a rather “hak en tak” solution for attaching lights, but you can see how the stand works:

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Savyra Meyer
    Jun 15, 2010 @ 14:14:59

    Fabulous! I missed the day when you were all doing the photographing so had to improvise as best I could. This led to lots of wobbles and shifts so added days and weeks of extra work with removing backgrounds in Photoshop and leaving just the star of the show doing her thing. Will definitely refer to this again, and may ask you for the name of the guy who constructed your stand.

    Well done all concerned!

  2. mashadutoit
    Jun 15, 2010 @ 14:40:14

    Thanks for the comment, Savyra. Yes, that was a crazy day, and our struggles to set up a camera that points downwards (that took all day to do!) lead to me wanting one of these. Its such a terrible pain when things move when they are not supposed to, and I cant stand the idea of having to “fix” things afterwards. The stop motion process is finicky enough as things are! I’m looking for the guy’s contact details – I think Brendon must have written them down somewhere 🙂

  3. dgreatblog
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 19:31:39

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post here. It was very informative and I also digg the way you write! Keep it up and I’ll be back to read more in the future.

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  4. Amy L.
    Aug 22, 2010 @ 21:29:22

    Hello

    Thanks for the great info. Are those fluorescent lights you are using to light your animation? If so do ever get flickering that shows up on your final animation?

    Thanks
    Amy
    (I am looking into buying a lighting kit. I found a nice fluorescent lamp one but am afraid of flickering)

  5. mashadutoit
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 08:39:24

    Hi Amy Those are not fluorescents – they are LED strips. But I’ve replaced them now because they are too dim. It is possible to get LED lights that are bright enough, but I could not afford those. I’ve replaced them with two energy saving bulbs. What I’ve read about fluorescent flickering is that it can be a problem if you are using a fast exposure:

    http://www.stopmotionanimation.com/dc/dcboard.php?az=show_topic&forum=10&topic_id=9831&mesg_id=9831&listing_type=search

    I’ve only just got the energy saving bulbs so I dont know how well they work yet. So far I’m having some problems getting an even light out of them – will have to experiment with diffusers. Apparently if you give them time to warm up before you start shooting, they should be fine. LED’s have a fairly good reputation from what I’ve read – if you can get them bright enough 🙂

    Good luck 🙂

    Masha

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