Animation Week #1 – Stop Motion Animation

Project: Stop-motion animation: A Day of A Sunflower(figuring out a better name)

Collaborators: Beverly Chou, Namsoo Kim and Xiran Yang

Software: DragonFrame

Stop motion (hyphenated stop-motion when used as an adjective) is an animation technique that physically manipulates an object so that it appears to move on its own. The object is moved in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a fast sequence.

—Wikipedia

Our Storyline:

Our story basically is about the different reactions and emotions a sunflower has during a day. When it is during the night and there is no sunshine, the flower will be sleeping; while when the sun comes out, the flower will be happy and lively.

How we come up with the story

For this assignment, three of us all want to do a character/puppetry stop-motion animation.

The group of us first met up on Thursday to have a short discussion, we came up with many ideas of how to build our character—clay, wood model, paper… But we were not so sure about our actual storyline. So after spending some time discussing, we agreed to each go back, build on our ideas and come together on Sunday to finalize the story and start preparing the set-up of our scenes.

On Sunday, I came up with the idea of a Sunny doll changing its facial expression (emotions) under different weather conditions.  And I also got the storyboard like this:

Then when I met with Beverly and Namsoo, they all liked the idea of having a character reacting to different weather conditions. However, Beverly pointed out that doing facial expression change might be very difficult to operate and she also suggested that body gestures and sound can also reflect the emotions of a character. We argued around whether we wanted to do actual facial expression change or body gesture, and finally, we feel like though facial expressions can be really powerful, it might take a long time and we were not quite sure how to best do it, we decided to move to body gesture. And to make our story more universally comprehensive, we decided to make our character a sunflower, which will respond to different weathers.

Our working progress

After we finalize the sunflower idea, we started to think about how we would set up our scene. We figured out several ways to set up different weather conditions:

  • use sunny/cloudy videos we can find online,
  • real-time weather capturing by setting the camera in front of a window for one/several day(s)
  • use paper to create cartoonish backgrounds

We finally decided to do the paper cut out because it will look more animated and also cutting paper sounds more durable.

So we went to the Blick art store to get colored papers. We hand-cut and laser cut a black paper mask(ark shape—because we think flat ark shape reminds people of the sky), two blue arks which are slightly larger than the mask, with one lighter shade of blue representing daytime and the other darker representing night; stars, clouds, the moon and the sun.

We started shooting on Monday afternoon. We got a mark 3 Canon camera, a tripod, a USB cable, a LED light and a computer with the software DragonFrame.

We tried to do the shoot from the top view and we actually spend quite a while to set up the camera. 

We taped the black mask onto the table to make sure that it does not change position. We taped the two blue arks together and used another piece of blue tape to be a marker that marks the lowest point of the whole circle.

The way we decided to change the weather is by rotating the circle made of night and sky. The scene will start from the night semi-circle and when the circle is rotated 180 degrees it will become the daytime.

Since after we finalized the sunflower idea, we did not really create a new complete storyboard, so when we started, though we have a plan, we were also trying different things to see if it works.

We decided we want the flower to face down and sleep in the beginning. I tried to move the flower gently up and down to create a “snore” movement. It was not easy to hold the flower by hand. So we used a clamp.

Namsoo also comes up with some good ideas of having multiple flowers dancing together and some clouds at the end.

Me and Namsoo went back and find some sound effects: happy music, night ambience, day ambience, snoring, laughing…

We together edited the video on Tuesday using Premeire.

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