Stop Motion Animation Forum Archive











Posted by prammaven, on 2008-01-20 11:51:27

Which set building method is best?

I've never asked this question before, or seen it posted anywhere. I'm starting to hunker down and really work on my film, and I was wondering which approach makes more sense: would I want to: A. make all of the sets for the entire film first and then shoot them as needed, OR B. build a set, animate the shot, take down the set, build another one, animate that shot, and so on? I am really curious about which of these most animators use on their personal projects, and why. htttp://

Posted by Nick H, on 2008-01-20 17:49:48

I usually go somewhere in between the two. I don't have the space for half a dozen sets to be fully assembled at once, but I might have two put together. And I might have made components like rocks or trees or furniture. I like short breaks from animating to do a bit of modelmaking. It is good for when there isn't enough time left in the day to complete a new shot, but I still want to get something done. But after too long a break from animating, like a couple of weeks, it's hard to get started again. L'Animateur had two main sets (the desert planet exterior, and the big closeup stage), which were both made before I started filming. The two sets were side by side in my studio, but I had to move some of the lights back and forth. Most of the puppets were made as well. I don't think the "flesh" Adam & Eve were done when I started shooting, but all the others were. The jungle set at the end was thrown together from existing backdrop, trees etc, on top of the desert planet set, just for the one shot. With my Good Riddance series, the pest controller's kitchen and garage interior sets were made, and permanently set up for the whole duration. I could just wheel them out of the way to put up other sets. But there were many different sets for all the different places where the character had to go. All the locations, like pub, roadside, streets etc were put together just before I shot those bits, then taken apart. Often the same bits were re-used many times for different sets, sometimes with a re-paint or other modification, so even if I had the space they couldn't all be assembled at once. The 1:24 city set had to be re-assembled several times, but all the buildings, pavements and cars were kept, and the base had the positions of the houses and streets marked on it so it was easy to re-do.

Posted by castlegardener, on 2008-01-20 21:20:41

I have even less room than Nick but I do have 2 stages built. I have been trying to make my films to include two major settings. I usually set up one and film, and then put it away still intact and shoot the other setting. I still have the other one intact in case I forgot something or need to add something to the original set. But basically I am just working on one set at time because of room restrictions, and number of lights, etc. Just having one would be pretty restrictive for me. I would have to completely build, and animate one setting, then stop, tear it all down, rebuild with second setting, and then start shooting again. I use the little stages from my tutorial, and just rotate between the two. One on my table shooting, one in the storage shed.

Posted by Nick H, on 2008-01-20 23:33:12

When they used to have a soap opera set up in the big ABC studio, they would have 7 or 8 little sets all around the perimeter, with the tv cameras in the middle. So they could go from one standard interior set to the next with virtually no set-up time. The lights were pre-set for each location. That would be ideal, but even in miniature scale none of us has room for that.

Posted by chestnut, on 2008-01-21 02:28:26

So far I haven't done anything that's required more than one set. Still, I've got a strategy in place: use 2'x2' pieces of 1/4"-thick hardboard for the stage floor, which gets temporarily clamped onto a more permanent frame during shooting. In theory, I can build several fairly flat floors and backdrops that just get popped into place when I need them. So far so good... Except that 2'x2' isn't nearly wide enough if you're doing a 16 : 9 aspect ratio. I expect I'll wind up building a 4'x2' reusable stage frame.... But keep the 2'x2' one on hand for when I want to do quick tests, or if I need a portable stage to take somewhere (e.g. for teaching).

Posted by prammaven, on 2008-01-21 04:28:59

Thanks, guys. [b]Nick[/b]- Back in highschool, the year 1995, I did a film based on a poem called "Paranoia" by Michael Dennis Browne. For that, all of the sets were made of cardboard, and there were 10 of them, completely covered with Plasticlay. I used that brand because I was running out of money, it was cheap, and it worked really well for building sets because it was easy to slick up and smooth down with water. No set was re-used, and I have no idea how I did so much in a week, but I had every set done and ready to shoot with a few days left for animating. Of course, back then, there were no distractions like the internet. I might have to offline for a few months to get this project going. [b]Castlegardener[/b]- My sets have always been pretty small, with the perspective cheated a bit, and I do have room to stack several [being boxes], but I think making one and shooting it, tearing it down or moving it somewhere else so it could be reused, then making another one, shooting it, and so on, would get me more focused on each shot as it comes. Not to mention the possibility of dust getting all over the clay walls. I'm probably going to stop building sets out of clay, because it's kind of ridiculous how long that takes. Maybe latex paint would make more sense. I used to be able to to make a whole bunch of sets and then do a whole bunch of animation, but my thinking approach has changed, and now I can only do one thing at a time. These days as soon as a setup is finished, I want to get right to animating it. For that reason, I have a whole bunch of random clips on my YouTube site. If I set it aside and started building the next set, I think i'd lose the momentum and have trouble concentrating. [b]Chestnut[/b]- The stage I use for animating is a permanent structure, so that limits things a bit. When I was animating on doors laid over the ladder of a bunk bed, a desk, and a card table, one door could be pulled forward, creating a gap, which allowed for placement of lights or backdrops behind the gap, and allowed me to use short cords or distance the background a bit more from the foreground. I miss that setup, but the free-standing stage I have now, which was patterned after the "It's Alive" stage in Robot Chicken, is at least high enough that I don't have to hunch over it and strain my back to get at the puppets. On the other hand, it's not very deep... I actually have a very old video from 1994 that shows the setup I had at the time, which I'll post soon. It's weird how what you just happen to have at the moment can turn out to be the best setup for the job. I was lucky that my mom did woodworking and crafts. There were always scraps to build sets out of. She would cut the pieces of wood for me on her band saw when the scraps weren't the right shape.

Posted by youneekusername, on 2008-01-21 14:01:04

It's easier for me to make all the sets first and then move on to a different area like puppetmaking and eventually animation. I think that's just for the simple reason that I really like building sets and props and things so that part is probably more fun for me than the actual animation. It probably takes longer this way because no animation is getting done for so long while the sets are being made. But I don't really mind because i'd rather spend a day making several different props than slaving over a heated set holding my breathe every minute so I don't move a puppet's body part too far. Don't get me wrong, I love the process of stopmo animation...but at times it's just a lot tougher than building things!! It also helps that i'm single so all my space is just my space for whatever I want! Ahhh...the good life! Well, I find it helps at least to keep them on stacking shelves so they can serve as display pieces and be stored away at the same time. I have a hard time tearing sets apart unless (1) it wasn't finished in the first place, (2) it wasn't that great looking, (3) it's just too big to store. -Mike L.

Posted by chestnut, on 2008-01-21 15:21:55

Ah yes... I have a suspicion that most people lean either one way or the other: towards being fabricators, or towards being animators. Myself, I'm definitely a fabricator first, an animator second. Which, I think, leads to a different approach when doing the actual animation. Rather than animate "straight ahead," going with the life of the puppet, I'd rather build a skeleton for the motion and then methodically flesh it out. You can't literally create key frames, like cel animators do, and then fill in the "tweens" -- but with digital cameras now, you can do a pretty good job of documenting what your key poses are going to be... Sort of a "pop-through" approach. Ugh... But this discussion really belongs in a separate thread. Sorry.

Posted by prammaven, on 2008-01-21 22:43:34

No, that's fine. I'd love to hear how to do a pop-through with a digital camera. Today, I finally figured out how to make dope sheets [numbered 0-9 the way LIO does it], but I'm lost as far as figuring out the key poses. If you want to start another thread and then link it from here, that would be good, because I'm very interested in your approach to pop-throughs.