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Just starting out in stop motion


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#1 lorax

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 06:47 AM

Hello, I am not sure I am in the right part of the forum.

I haven't started making Lego films yet, I am just learning how to do stop motion (there is a competition to make a music clip and I have been wanting to try it out).

Here is a mini practice:

I use Corel video studio pro 4x, and a basic slr camera.  What I would love to know is, how to make my work better, what are the best number of frames, how much movement and facial expression can we achieve and are their any tricks for doing this?  If you have a number of people in a scene, how do you remember which ones you have already moved, how do you make sure your movement timing will match any talking or music?

I have lots of questions, it is a slow, hard process, but lots of fun so far.  (and I would love to learn how to do it well).

Final video is here:


Edited by lorax, 03 November 2011 - 04:16 AM.

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#2 hueybricks

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 07:45 AM

That was really good! I thought the scene of the band playing together just before the bus hits them was fantastic, your timing there was bang on.
I'm new to stopmotion as well and haven't produced much yet but I can tell you a couple of things that have helped me.
I noticed some light flicker though out your film and there are some things that you can do to reduce/eliminate this. What settings can you adjust manually on your camera? Everything that can be set to manual should be. The most important being white gain, if you can't adjust this then you most probably won't be able to get rid of the flicker entirely. The settings need to be exactly the same for each still. I don't know what you are using for lighting but I can tell you that you should never use natural light, it changes over time as clouds go over etc and will effect your shot, always use lamps to light your set.
I use a logitech  webcam9000, all of its settings including gain are adjustable manually. The beauty of using a webcam is that you don't have to touch the camera to take a still, it is done via the pc so there is no risk of bumping the camera.

As for timing I can help you a little, in traditional animation they use keyframes where the animator will draw the initial character position then draw the character again as they want it to be seen at a particular time.  They know what frame rate they are using (24fps for instance) so they know how many frames they need to get from the initial frame to the first keyframe. They call these the inbetweens. This doesn't translate perfectly over to stopmotion because you have to shoot in sequence but what I do is go way over the top and shoot way more frames than i need using very small movements between stills, so when you start compiling you can choose your keyframes and delete the inbetweens  selectively to keep your animation fluid. I hope this is helpful to you.

There is alot of information on animation out there, i have a couple of books that have really helped and there is alot on the net too.

Edited by hueybricks, 06 July 2011 - 07:47 AM.


#3 lorax

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 07:55 AM

Thanks Huey for the excellent feedback. I am not very camera smart, so to be honest I just push the button and hope it turns out ok (which has been difficult with stop motion as I can't move the camera, and if certain objects move in certain spots it makes the focus go crazy). Looking over the clip, I think the flickering might have been the position of my body (I am using artificial light behind me, so I think I need to move out of the way before taking the photo).  

We have a remote for the camera (my husband works in the camera industry, so we have lots of stuff which would probably help me) I just don't know how to use it.  I might get him to teach me (I will wish him good luck with that).

I am going to start taking more photos than I will need, like you suggest, so I can just remove some to get the timing just right. That seems like a great solution to my timing issues.

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#4 lorax

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 12:09 AM

I have finished the clip using my initial techniques (I am too impatient a person to do it all over again  :blush: .  For my next project, I will do some reading beforehand about stop motion techniques (and probably learn how to take a better photo) so my next video doesn't have the obvious flaws that this one does.

My toddler loves Lego stop motion (ok, she loves the beer song), so I am thinking of doing some child themed ones (so dr seuss books in stop motion, maybe wiggles clips etc).  But I also need to learn about copyright laws  :blush:


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#5 fallentomato

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 06:49 AM

View Postlorax, on 06 July 2011 - 06:47 AM, said:

I use Corel video studio pro 4x, and a basic slr camera.  What I would love to know is, how to make my work better, what are the best number of frames, how much movement and facial expression can we achieve and are their any tricks for doing this?  If you have a number of people in a scene, how do you remember which ones you have already moved, how do you make sure your movement timing will match any talking or music?

I have lots of questions, it is a slow, hard process, but lots of fun so far.  (and I would love to learn how to do it well).

That's really excellent work for your first animation! I like the way you used different face to give him some expressions (my favorite was the one when he's on the toilet :pir-cry_sad: ) and I like how the building is timed to the music at the very beginning.

There are many different groups of though about how many frames per second you should use. 15 is what I typically do and I think you get really smooth animation with that, but I've also done 5, 10 and 30. I don't recommend 30 unless you're doing a really short clip or have a lot of time on your hands  :tongue:

When animating crowd scenes, I usually pick one side of the screen and always animate characters from that side to the other side. Sometimes I'll leave little markers using LEGO pieces outside of the view of the camera to indicate who needs to move and what leg they are on. If you have animation software with onion skinning then you can view your last frame overlaided on your current live view and compare to see which ones you still need to move.

To get animation to match timing you need to go through your soundtrack (be it music or dialogue) frame by frame or word by word and decide where the important beats will be. When I'm doing stuff I make handwritten notes about how many frames each point of emphasis will be and what the character is saying at that point so I can match it up. There are also programs that will take your audio and split it up into frame counts for you (I'm about to test one out for my next animation).'

Some people use computer programs to add mouths and facial expressions to their LEGO characters, but I think that's cheating. :classic:

Hope this helps you out. Looking forward to seeing more videos from you in the future!
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#6 lorax

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 08:21 AM

Thanks for that Fallen tomato (I had just looked at some of your work today on youtube, you do some brilliant stuff).

I am going to try and work with more frames per second, I will need to practice how little movement is needed to get the movement at the right speed (otherwise everyone will be running around, when I want them to walk).

I will also try working from one side to the other when working with a crowd of minifigs.  (Sometimes I forgot to move minifigs (for example, the surfer in 1:14 to 1:17 just stops walking  :laugh:  because I was so focused on other movement in the scene.

I might also set up my laptop in my Lego room and work from that so I can get some instant feedback as to whether it is working.

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#7 Darkdragon

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 03:31 PM

Great to see more women getting into stop motion. I've loved it myself since I was in middle school and use to do it with a Hi8 video camera and edits with a VCR. Nothing like spending a week on a 15 second animation!

I'm just getting started with Lego animation, and animating people in general (all my old stuff was cars and space ships). However, I thought I would give you some links to books that really helped me learn timing and techniques. Most animation books are geared to drawing and most stop-motion books are geared to clay but the general ideas are still very valid.

Stop Motion: Craft Skills for Model Animation (ISBN-13: 978-0240520551)
This is a small but very helpful book. It covers everything from planning, to building characters, to animating. For stop-motion folks, the most helpful bit of this book is when it talks about adding weight to items by the way the character moves and facial expression. I highly recommend picking up this book.

Timing for Animation (ISBN-13: 978-0240521602)
IMHO, the most important part of animation to grasp is timing. Without proper timing you don't really have a good animation. This book is dedicated to timing and even though it is geared to drawing, the techniques are directly translatable to stop-motion.

The ILLUSION OF LIFE: DISNEY ANIMATION (ISBN-13: 978-0786860708)
This HUGE book is overall a great reference to have on your shelf. It has some very useful bits of knowledge in it. There is nothing here that is geared to stop-motion but if you can find this book at an affordable price sometime, I recommend picking it up. I don't use it as a "go-to" book but I have garnered nuggets of useful info from it.

Edited by darkdragon, 08 July 2011 - 02:53 PM.


#8 lorax

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 09:11 PM

Thanks darkdragon, especially for the book links.  I didn't know where to start, so I have now ordered, Stop Motion: Craft Skills for Model Animation.  It has good reviews and I think is a great place for me to start.

Now I can't wait for it to arrive.

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#9 hueybricks

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 03:27 AM

I think that your clip is very good, it fits the tempo of the music well.
Once you read a few books on animation and start to learn new techniques you will never watch a cartoon the same way again. :laugh:

#10 Red Bricks

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 07:24 PM

I can't believe this is your first time! That's great! :sweet:  I once tried to do stop motion, what a fail it turned out to be  :laugh:

#11 lorax

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 01:26 AM

Thanks Huey and Red bricks.

In my film, I think the music makes the difference, when you watch it without music, it actually looks quite lame.

I am going to experiment with techniques as I learn them (before I start another project).  My husband has already taught me how to change where the camera focuses so things will be a little more in focus next time  :laugh:

I am also going to play with Scala and Belville Lego dolls because they have more movement I can work with.

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#12 Darkdragon

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 02:47 AM

View Postlorax, on 09 July 2011 - 01:26 AM, said:



I am also going to play with Scala and Belville Lego dolls because they have more movement I can work with.


Scala don't have wrist/ankle articulation which will make it difficult. The Belville is great though and I'm working on something with them. Also check out the Technic Figures if you haven't yet.  :classic:

#13 lorax

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 06:06 AM

View Postdarkdragon, on 09 July 2011 - 02:47 AM, said:

Scala don't have wrist/ankle articulation which will make it difficult. The Belville is great though and I'm working on something with them. Also check out the Technic Figures if you haven't yet.  :classic:

That is a good idea, although I would need to source some (I don't own any technic figures). You are right about the scala figures, they only move at the knee, elbow, shoulder and hip (I only have two anyway) whereas I have quite a few belville.

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#14 legodac

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Posted 11 July 2011 - 09:29 PM

I have always wanted to do a stop motion ever since I saw my first one. I believe I have the patience though time is always a defining factor when taking on something like this, perhaps when I'm retired or I become #9.


My hat is off to all those who have managed to create such a wonderful and unique form of art and entertainment. Even if you are just getting started.


I myself believe that this media will become just as popular as Hollywood movies one day.

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#15 Kinz

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Posted 21 July 2011 - 07:12 PM

That was pretty good, watch your lighting though, I saw a bit of light flicker, and try taping down your set, since I saw it shake a little, but other than that, nice job!

#16 Dick McJohnnson

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 07:35 PM

Is there a good method avoiding light flicker?
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#17 Ben Blackman

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 08:18 PM

Make sure you're in a room without any other light sources, eg; a basement. Light will flood through the windows.
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#18 Dick McJohnnson

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 07:42 PM

My energy saver bulbs (Philips Tornado 23W) give me worries. I believe they give enough light. But there is flicker all the time.
Could it be of help if I used more than two? (4 to 6).
I made this video with my Logitech Webcam Pro 9000 and two lights.


I'd like to do more animations, but I am not satisfied with my lighting.
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#19 thelegoguy

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Posted 12 August 2011 - 12:13 PM

use more pictures to make the animation more fluid , otherwise this is awesome ! nice job  :classic:

#20 Dick McJohnnson

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 09:07 PM

Next time I will try using 25 pictures. The Problem is that I have no software that is capable of onion skinng and HD resolutions. (At least 720p).
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#21 Darkdragon

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 01:26 AM

View PostDick McJohnnson, on 23 July 2011 - 07:35 PM, said:

Is there a good method avoiding light flicker?


Higher quality light sources. The good daylight balanced compact florescent start around $9 each.

#22 Captain Jack

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Posted 25 October 2011 - 09:19 PM

About as good as I do.
Try doing something to keep things in place, like buildings.

#23 lorax

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Posted 26 October 2011 - 08:11 AM

In the next few days we are getting a new SLR with live view (to allow me to use onion skinning), I have also bought two lamps for even lighting and some blu-tak to hold things in place.  

So hopefully that helps minimise some of the issues my first video had.  I have also finished reading the Susannah Shaw stop motion book... So now I should be ready.  Thanks for the feedback on my video  :classic:

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#24 Captain Jack

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Posted 26 October 2011 - 09:08 PM

You could always buy a big wood board and glue your set on.

#25 Hiawatha

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Posted 27 October 2011 - 10:30 PM

Excellent job! I really like the stuff you built for the animation! :thumbup:

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View Postefullner, on 06 October 2011 - 12:28 AM, said:

I can figure what Dey will say when he meets with Hiawatha.

Hiya, Watha!



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