A few weeks ago I had an email conversation with Chuck Duke (instructor of the 6 month Online stop motion course at animationAteam.com) about how slow animating in stop-motion is in comparison to other animated forms, and how that affects expectations of performance when working commercially.
Recording that conversation here for posterity… (that and sometimes I need to remind myself that I’m doing well, or at least I’m not expected to go pro overnight)
Chuck (after me asking about the quality of my progress to date)
This is exactly what directors of Stop-Motion animation like to see. A shot progress with life and energy. There are no notes to give at this point.
You are moving forward very nicely. Your armatures reaction to the ball is very nice and you keep the armature interested in the action. Do not worry about how long it takes.
There were two kinds of animators on “Frankenweenie” Those that shot very fast and those that took their time. Usually the speedy animators would have to re-shoot the shots while the ones that took their time produced shots full of life. We did have some fast animators that produced incredible shots but those types are hard to find and rank more in the God like mystical qualities of Stop-Motion legends. It is the old ,”Tortoise and the Hare” story. but it’s true.
I like that you are taking your time and thinking about your moves and not just pounding through the frames to get done.
Tell me your thoughts on how things are going. Are you fighting the armature or is the action going smoothly? Are you frustrated or have you found a Zen and “Time-Loss” as you animate. Is time flying by or are you counting the minutes as you animate?
Thanks very much Chuck!
Man, I’d trade and arm and a leg to work both fast and well and still be a pleasant-mannered, functional human being by the end of the day (not sure how I’d animate puppets with only one hand but I’m sure science won’t take long to solve that for me)
On going fast: after nearly 3 weeks of trying to punch through the sequence and having to re-start my takes 4 times, figured it was best to A) try and make/find several hours of un-interupted time to work in and B) take my time.
My biggest killer so far has been waiting for the suspended ball to stop swinging (no amount of trying to stabilize it manually will work completely) so I can take as accurate a shot as possible (That usually takes a good 5 minutes, so I usually adjust the armature’s pose for the next shot while I wait.) The first two takes were scrapped partly for that reason.
[discussions on difficulties with tight an loose joints, and the finicky nature of hands]
Technical issues asides things go relatively well, if not always smoothly. I tend to be very anxious starting up, and for a while after I’ve started. Once I get going though time does tend to fly rather quickly,with the day ending faster than I’d expect. It’s rare that I lose track of time completely though, since I do check the clock to see how fast I am working. [detailing of average speed]
I realize stop-motion is by its nature (and constraints) a more deliberate/delicate process that is best taken slowly, but that doesn’t stop me from wondering if I’m taking too long. Coming from a 2D education/background I’ve always been told I animate way to slow for commercial production. What are your thoughts/experiences of producing commercially in stop-motion? Is there a relatively universal rate of production people expect? I’m not going to lie, It’s been one of my biggest nagging issues since I graduated.
[chuck recommends a looped clay sculpting tool to help pose fingers]
Thank You for that feedback concerning your highs and lows of this crazy art form.
Whenever you decide to hang something from a string, you should always be prepared to wait as gravity and lack of wind will eventually steady the action. Sometimes it is a long wait but like you said, you are through that bit now so things should move a little quicker.
I know time is a big factor in the professional world. Speed just comes with practice and time spent animating.
I am not a producer and I am not the director and Disney is not waiting for any finished shots from you right now. This is about learning to do some Stop-Motion performance. Please shoot this animation at your own pace. It is the only way you will get the feeling of Stop-motion. I know you want an idea of speed to shoot but it varies so much. On “Frankenweenie” we were expected to shoot at least 125 frames a day. Some days the quota would be met and other days it wouldn’t. On “Fantastic Mr Fox” we sometimes did 3 set ups a day. That was very fast animation. That was the look Wes wanted.
The times the animators rush to meet the quota result in some of the worst shots in the film. The thing we always tell ourselves is,”What lives on the screen lives forever,” Take your time to understand the feel of the ease in’s and ease out’s. Think of the arcs and the extreme poses. Think about making a pleasing pose a strong pose. Something that reads and is not just a shape to get from one frame to the next. OK rant over. Your excited to get some nice work out there but that kind of work takes time. So far your shot is looking great. Don’t ruin it by rushing through it.