Saturday, December 13, 2008


I maintain a YouTube channel, called "SheridanStopMo". I put up various exercises, and add some educational text to go along, to help people practice stop motion skills.

It's a bit like what I cover in the stop motion animation course I teach at Sheridan. There is a LOT of stop motion on YouTube. I think in part because it lets average (ie, non professional animators or film makers) imagine fantastical worlds and stories, and then make them in their own homes, in miniature. In other words- it's DAMN fun.

But what often makes typical YouTube stop motion film less than easy on the eyes is that few people know much about the principles of animation. So it's a nice thing (I think) that if someone watches and studies the clips I'm putting on YouTube through this channel, they will have better quality animation in their next "home made epic" stop motion film.

It always strikes me as such a shame that someone would spend so much time (and love) making sets and puppets, but such little time achieving effective animation. I think a lot of people just get that initial satisfaction from just seeing the puppet move on screen, and are satisfied with that (or worse, think that's all they are capable of, because they aren't "real" animators).

The makers of "home made epics" CAN learn to do better animation, but it means putting all the nice sets and fancy puppets aside, and focusing on the basics. But it's worth it to achieve more effective animation!

A final note on puppet making. Some of the puppets in the clips are "fancier" aluminum armature puppets. They are pricier, and harder to make. But the puppet in the clip below (and in another clip that has the puppet stomping on a clay ball before being attacked by another) is SIMPLE, CHEAP, AND EASY TO ANIMATE EFFECTIVELY.

It's made from "plumber's epoxy," available at Home Depot in the plumbing section, and armature wire (1/16", from any art store). That's it. It's so light and small (it stands about 5" high) that it stands up with just some sticky tack on the feet. So you can animate it on any desk, with a desk lamp for consistent light, a webcam, and whatever free/cheap software you want to use to grab frames. I really don't think it gets much easier than this.

This little puppet costs about $1, takes about 30 minutes to make (max), and can REALLY be animated. It's a perfect way to practice your stop motion, without getting into more complex and pricey puppet making techniques.

Now go make a puppet!