Stop Motion Experiment: Marvello

Here is my first stop motion animation.  Very basic!  Brendon made the sound track:

Now I will have to do another one.

(I’ve been documenting everything I’ve learnt so far about stop motion animation, from how to build the animation stand to what camera to use.  You can find all the posts under the stop motion category of my blog.)

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) More

Learning about Stop-motion: The Camera

One of my most difficult decisions in setting up for stop-motion was choosing the camera.

Most articles on stop-motion for beginners recommend that you start with a simple web-cam. It’s cheap and effective.  But I already knew that I wanted to be able to be able to zoom into detail areas, so the images need to be fairly high res.   Web-cams produce low resolution images, and so do most other hand-held video cameras.  Also – a decent entry-level video camera is much more expensive than a good quality digital stills camera.

So I started looking for a digital still camera.  These are the things to look for when buying a digital still camera for stop-motion: More

Learning about Stop-Motion: The Software

In my previous post on stop-motion animation, I got a little ahead of myself and jumped straight to showing my first experiments.  I want to back track a little and start with what I learnt while creating a stop-motion setup.

Today’s post is about the software choices for creating stop-frame animation.

I’m using something called frame-grabber software.  Frame-grabbers help to take the guesswork out of creating a stop-motion animation.  When animating without a frame-grabber, you take a picture, move the object and take another picture.   You need to guess how far to move things, and remember which direction you’ve just moved them in.  Sounds simple until you have multiple things moving at different speeds!

Frame-grabbers work like this: More

Stop-motion Experiment Day 1

After many weeks of teaching, I’ve taken some time off to focus (at last) on learning how to make a stopframe animation.  Brendon set up a basic animation rig for me, but I’ll write about the rig, software and equipment in a future post.

Today was all about remembering how to use the camera and the frame-grabber software, and fine tuning the animation stand, so I just made some very rough animations using salt on glass.

For the uninitiated, stopframe animation is when you animate objects or drawings by  taking a picture, moving something, taking another picture, moving something again, and so on.  This job is made a lot easier by using frame-grabber software that let’s you preview how to move the object before you take the picture.  The camera sends a “live feed” image of the scene you are animating to your computer, which is what makes all of this possible. But.. I’ll explain how that works in the upcoming post on the software setup I’m using. 🙂

Lessons learnt today: More

Improvisation in Sand – César Díaz

My post on  Caroline Leaf’s “Owl and Goose” has lead me to another interesting animation.   Spanish musician-animator César Díaz used the same sand on glass technique to create this animation for the song No Corras Tanto.

César is a musician as well as an animator – in fact, he is one of the musicians in El Combolinga, the band responsible for this song .  He was kind enough to answer some of my questions.

Firstly – the imagery in the animation was entirely spontaneous and improvised.  César says: More

Story in Sand:Owl and Goose by Caroline Leaf

Here is another stop motion animation, this time created by drawing pictures in sand on glass. Caroline Leaf based “Owl and Goose” on an ancient Inuit story about an Owl’s unrequited love for a goose.  As told in this interview she worked with Agnes Nanogak, an Inuit artist who created the animal silhouettes necessary for sand animation.


I found no information on Anges Nagonak, but did find this image by her from the Montreal Museum’s website: More

Suzie Templeton’s Peter and the Wolf

There is something  deeply satisfying about a familiar story told from a new angle.  This is the case with Piotruś i Wilk – or Peter and the Wolf – a puppet animation adapted and directed by Suzie Templeton.  The story and music is the original Sergei Porkofiev’s Peter and the Wolf but in a contemporary setting and with a surprising twist in the end.


You can watch the animation itself here – I’ve included the youtube versions below. It’s been separated into four sections.  Small warning – dont get too emotionally attached to that duck… More

Pin Screen Animation – Jacques Drouin

I’ve been meaning to write some posts on some of the lovely animations available on-line.  I’ll start with one of the lesser known techniques – “pin screen” animation.


detail from Mindscape by Jacques Drouin

Pin screen animation is made using a screen pierced by thousands of headless pins.  The animator creates images on the screen by pushing the pins into the screen.  When the screen is lit from the side, each pin casts a shadow – the deeper the pin is pushed, the smaller the shadow, which made it possible to create images with the subtlest of tones, rather like a delicate charcoal drawing.  This techniques was invented by Alexander Alexeieff and Claire Parker in the 1930’s.


detail from Mindscape by Jacques Drouin

As you can imagine, this is a very time consuming process and Alexeief and Parker made only a handful of films – and they are worth watching. But the animation I want to show you is by a contemporary animator – Jacques Drouin. More

Stories Without Words – An Ocean World by Peter Sis

Some books touch your heart.  ” An Ocean World” by  Peter Sis is one of these.  It tells a simple and powerful story about a whale’s search for friendship and love.   Apart from the writing on the postcard on the first page, the entire story is told through the images- the evocative watercolour marks and the muted colours. We meet the whale for the first time in baby picture that has been turned into a postcard:


On the back of this card we can read a message from Peter Sis to his children: More

Work In Progress – Sneak Peek of what happened during my leave

I’ve just returned from a long research leave during which I worked on an exhibition. I dont like showing my work before the opening night, but here is a sneak peek.

My exhibition is in three parts. First, I wrote some very short stories. Then I created the characters in these stories as puppets. Now I am creating small drawn animations of each of these characters. I am going to show you a bit of two of the characters. There are five of them at the moment.

Here is Benjamin.

His story starts like this: More

Miyazaki remembers

How well do you remember the things that happened to you in childhood?  Do you really remember what it was like?  I think we mostly forget, and so do not realise how much children understand what is going on around them, and we underestimate their inner lives.

I have just come accross this interview with Hayao Miyazaki in which he touches on what motivates him to make the kinds of movies he makes.  He was a child in Japan during World War Two, and he recounts an air raid that happened when he was four years old.  The most traumatic part of this experience is not, as one might expect, the running away, or the bombs falling, or the fires they caused.  What he remembers most painfully is this:  His family were fleeing the fire bombs.  There were fires everywhere and they got to their car – one of those old fasioned cars that start with a crank.   They got it started easily “since it was warmed well by the fire”.  Little Miyazaki was hidden under a futon because they would have to drive through the fire. Before they could drive off, a neighbour, a woman holding a small girl came up to them and asked if she could leave with them.  But his parents just drove off, leaving her running after them, calling for help.

This woman and her child survived.  But Miyazaki says:

“…the fact that we ran away riding a rare gasoline truck while others were dying, deserting even those who were asking us to take them with us, those facts remained as a very strong memory even for a four years old child. That was very difficult to bear, when you think about what people say about living right or being considerate toward others. And as a small child, you want to believe that your parents are good people, the best in the world.”

He goes on to say that he creates movies in which a child would speak up, and tell the parents to stop and help others.  He wants to believe that such a world may be.  Think of “Laputa – Castle in the Sky” with its terrible war robots that have turned into gardeners.  Or the war images in “Howls Moving Castle”.

How often do you think of the impact of your actions or words on a child as small as that?  That a small child could be so aware of injustice?

interviews with Miyazaki

I found these fabulous interviews with Miyazaki on – the best Miyazaki resource I have found.


This is a conversation about Princess Mononoke. It gives away many of the movie’s secrets so dont read it if you still intend to see it.


Princess Mononoke

Am once again overwhelmed by the films of Miyazaki – this time “Princess Mononoke”


Like Spirited Away, the movie drew me in. The Deer God’s forest is a manifestation of all that is disappearing or already missing from our world. More

Another Airside Lemon Jelly video

another airside video – this one is called “only time”. Very cool minimal vector work. Click on the link to see the video…


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