Stop Motion Animation Forum Archive











Posted by it_weasel, on 2004-08-09 04:04:27

Help needed to get started

Hey guys, I was just wondering if anyone would be able to help me out a bit. Im a student in yr 11 and for my major project i'm making a commerial using stop motion, so i was wondering if anyone could 'point me in the right direction' and advise on wat scale to use and materials to make the set, etc. Thanx heaps if you could help

Posted by Strider, on 2004-08-09 05:35:57

You've found the right direction.... you're already here! Seriously, just spend a little time reading some of the messages under whatever forums interest you... you'll find vast amounts of information. It's a little difficult for us, knowing nothing about your project, to make any recommendations. If you give us some more details we might be able to help more. What type of stopmotion do you plan to do.... claymation? Funny puppet animation? or more realistic foam latex faces with wires to make the eyebrows and lips move? Without knowing stuff like this, it's hard to give any kind of advice. Will the commercial be entirely stopmo, or composited with live actors? Also, what type of set(s) do you need to build? Matrerials for a city street would be entirely different from a house interior or a forest.

Posted by it_weasel, on 2004-08-09 23:26:58

Yeah i've read a bit of the messages so im collecting info as i go. What im planning to do is make a town almost fully out of marshmellows and chocolate, or something that looks like those things. My main person walking through the town is most likely going to be made out of plasticine, so will i still be able to do like basic facial expression with that? or should i use something else? I dont really want him to be talking, but he'll be whistling i think. My main problem i think is the sky or lighting. Would i have to make the sky digitally? or is there any other way? and yeah, the whole thing is going to be stop motion, so would i have to buy a program like stop motion pro to actually create the commercial? or is it possible to just take still frames and put them all together with a camera?? Thanx for ur help

Posted by Nick H, on 2004-08-10 00:09:55

Sounds a bit like some Cadbury's commercials I've seen in Australia. (Made here I think, with the song "wouldn't it be nice", choc characters take bites out each other.) I think the chocolate characters in that might be plasticine. You can make any expression you want with plasticine, but it's a lot of work re-sculpting it a little every time you make a change. Sky: Paint it on a big piece of canvas or board. Put the set in front of it, with maybe a metre or more gap if you have the space, so you can light it separately. Buildings made from chocolate - could be cut from MDF, sanded smooth, and painted in choclatey colours, with a satin finish. Could be styrene foam cut with a hot wire cutter for nice smooth cuts. Depends on what materials and tools you have to work with. Could be sculpted out of brown clay. Could be real chocolate if you've got an air conditioned studio, choc bars for walls with roof tiles made from chocolate frogs - expensive, but you get to eat the props afterwards. You could shoot it all on a digital still camera, but it's realy hard to animate without being able to compare the frame you are about to take with the last one you took, to see how much you've moved the puppet. That's where a capture program like Stopmotion Pro is helpful. You could get Anasazi Stop Motion Animator, which is free, I think it's at Marc's clay animation site. Do you have a capture card in your computer?

Posted by it_weasel, on 2004-08-10 00:47:11

Yeah those cadbury's ads are what mainly inspired me for this project - just to do something fun and different at school. thanx for the info on the sky, i'll try it out and see how it works. im not too sure about the buildings though. I dont have that much time to do it so i think i'll just make it mainly out of chocolate... even if it drives me broke :p Im not really sure about that capture card in the computer either.. i'll have to check at school since i'll be doing it there.. what does the capture card do anyways? do u actually need it or is it just easier do have it? thanx

Posted by Nick H, on 2004-08-10 01:28:15

Ok, you need some kind of a camera to record your animation. Video cameras don't really do 1 frame at a time, so what a lot of animators do is connect a video camera to the computer - and actually record the animation in the computer. A capture card has a video in socket you can plug the video camera into. If it's a digital video camera with Firewire, and if the computer has a Firewire input, you don't need the capture card. You use the capture program, like Anasazi or StopMotion Pro, to let you see the image that is coming into the computer from the camera, and to actually take the picture. Capture cards also have a video out, so you can play your animation and record it on vhs tape. Some digital still cameras have a video out socket, so they can be used with a capture card instead of a video camera. Or, you could just record your shots onto the memory card in the camera, then connect it via USB and download all the images onto your computer hard drive. Then you'll need an editing program to assemble all your shots and turn them into a movie. Some people use a webcam, which I think connects to the computer by a USB port - someone elso will know about that, I haven't used one. Stopmotion is great, but it's not ideal for projects where you don't have much time.

Posted by Strider, on 2004-08-10 03:23:19

I'm a webcam guy myself, at least for now. I've been more than happy with my Unibrain. If you look around in the cameras forum a bit you can't help but run into one (more likely several) of the posts where I discussed it in detail. I hesitate to keep doing it, because everybody has heard it so many times already, but I have a little page on my website that gives a nice general description of how it's done: I'm also fortunate enough to be a Mac user, so I didn't have to mess with installing a capture card. Macs already have them pre-installed. So with my webcam all I had to do was plug it into the firewire jack and start shooting. I use a framegrabber program called Frametheif that captures stills from the live video feed the camera provides and turns it into animation. There's no need to make your buildings from wood necessarily, especially if they don't need to support puppets or anything. You can just use cardboard and paper mache or pretty much anything you can dream up. Teabgs has a nice little site where he describes how he built his set from burlap and plaster: You mentioned marshmallow buildings too. I'm not sure exactly what you have in mind, if it's made of a bunch of little marshmallows stacked like bricks, or from giant marshmallows, but you could carve blocks of styrofoam and cover them with some acrylic tile adhesive for a skin. I made my forge from styrofoam covered with a plasterlike substance called Durham's Rock Hard Water Putty, which I like better than plaster, and I also made a brick wall section by peeling the fiber facings from a sheet of construction foamboard and cutting brick lines into it with an Xacto saw and facing it with the tile adhesive stuff. Here are some pictures; When I make some more walls I'll take pictures at various stages and put up a little mini-tut. I want to try to detail the process in a series of tutorials to help newbies understand how to get started. If you search around, you should be able to get ahold of some blocks or sheets of styrofoam at hobby shops, or there's also a carving foam... more expensive but takes much finer detail: Styrofoam can be cut with a sharp knife like maybe a big steak knife or a small hand saw.... if you want the surface rough you can even just sort of tear it with your hands. Hope some of this helps :-)

Posted by it_weasel, on 2004-08-10 04:58:08

thank you guys sooo much!! you've been a major help. I'm going to be experimenting a bit tomorrow so if i get stuck.. watch out for me coz i'll be asking heaps more questions :p thanx a bunch.. i owe u guys :P

Posted by claymationrules, on 2004-12-29 17:10:27

Hi everyone im new to stopmo but i am very interested. I have bought plastacine, solder wire- for the armature and my dad made me a box for a set that is painted white and has no front and no roof. 17" high 23.5" wide. I am having trouble in how to make sets: what materials, how to make them, lighting and more of the basics in set making. If any of you could please give me some pictures, pointers or any help I would appreciate it. Claymationrules

Posted by Strider, on 2004-08-10 08:16:32

I think if I was pressed for time, I would definitely go for a very crude claymation type of look, so everything can be tilted and sloppy and doesn't need to be tightly finished. There's a technique model train people use for building terrain where they get big sheets of styrofoam and lay them in stacks and cut them into shapes like the sections of a contour map, and then surface with some type of putty (like the Durham's or tile adhesive... make sure to get adhesive and not tile grout, which wouldn't work). Or you could tape wads of crumpled kraft paper onto your table to build up terrain and paper mache over it, then putty over that. Cardboard boxes could be used to build up large foarms. But you want to be sure to keep any areas where the puppets need to walk pretty much flat. A few helpful links you might already know about: (actually check out Lionel's entire site, but this page deals with framegrabbers) Nick's site. At the bottom of the page is a tutorial about tiedowns. There's a lot more to his site, but I can't figure out anymore how to access it (Nick, a little help here? ;-) )

Posted by Nick H, on 2004-08-10 20:27:07

Strider - You can go to Links at the bottom of this page, then to Production Artists, then to my name, and that shows all the albums. Or just go to to get there. Then go to the Making Puppets album, or any of the others. From each album there should be a button near the top of the left hand column, above the thumbnails, that says Other Album Pics. I just tried the link in your post and got a blank page, could be a temporary glitch. Marc's animateclay site will be the most useful for clay stuff. I don't think you can get that putty in Australia, there's something here called Agnew's Water Putty that might be similar.

Posted by it_weasel, on 2004-08-13 03:51:07

thanx for ue help guys... can i just ask... how big (in cm if u can) am i supposed to make my houses?? like if i want a man to be walking through the town, how big do i make him and the sets? i've made most of a house so far out of marshmellows, but my door is only like maybe 10 cm high. Is that too small?? im thinking it is but its only an experiment so all can be changed. uhh i dont think i have anything else to ask for now, so im outa her...

Posted by Strider, on 2004-08-13 05:03:25

The size you make everything is completely up to you. It might be a good idea to make your puppets first and make sure they're a good size to animate, them build the set to the right size for them, but it would work the other way around. 10 cm is pretty small... the puppets would have to be a little smaller than that to really fit through the doors. Generally puppets would be made a bit bigger than that... mine tend to be about 25 cm tall. At a small size like that you wouldn't be able to get much detail on them, but of course by the same token you can make your set relatively much bigger, without actually taking up more space (if you get my meaning). Often people will make two sets of puppets (and sets), one small for those long distance establishing shots, and a larger set for the close up shots. For something like what you're doing you could maybe just make your marshmallow cityscape set at a very small scale... maybe smaller than it currently is, I mean so the doorways would be only about 2 or 3 cm tall, and then just use that set for one or 2 establishing shots, you wouldn't need puppets in those shots if you set things up right. Then also make just a small section of the town at a larger scale, say for puppets like 15 to 25 cm or so.

Posted by Strider, on 2004-12-30 01:41:50

Too vague and broad of a question. It's kind of like asking "could you tell me how the world came into existance, and the meaning of life, and what happens after we die?" And just like with those questions, you'll get as many different answers as there are animators. At this point the best thing you can do is just read through the forums and take notes of everything that sounds good to you. Look through the books and videos Anthony has listed in the Library section and get some of them. One of the best books you can get is Craft Skills for the Model Animator. You should also pick up some books on animation, like The Animtors' Survival Kit or The Illusion of Life. Then, when you have some mopre specific questions, pop in here and maybe we can help out. Good luck! :7 P.S. That box might be a problem. It would be hard to light things with those side walls in place, and also could be hard to reach in and animate. I know he was being helpful, but you might need to pull those sides off. Does the box sit up on legs high enough so you can drill through the floor for tie-downs? You might go to him and show him some pictures of how tie-downs work, and explain that the sides will be in the way for light, and ask him to do a little modding. Don't tell him it sucks or anything... appeal to his Toolman nature and present it as a supercharging challenge. ;)

Posted by claymationrules, on 2004-12-30 20:06:37

Thanks Strider. It looks like you are very good at stopmo. Could you please send some photos of claymation set examples and things to work towards if possible because I have never seen a stopmo set. Thnx In advance :D

Posted by Strider, on 2004-12-30 23:27:24

The only set pics I have are of my set from Terror in the Pumpkin Patch. It's posted on my site: But basically for a set you don't want a box... you just want a flat surface like a table top, and maybe a back wall, which could be removeable. Often people will drill holes in a piece of aluminum angle stock and put some screws through it to make a sort of corner bracket that you can screw an upright to. What I'm actually doing, since i don't want to drill holes through my table, is I have a piece of plywood laid on the table and slid forward so about half of it hangs over the floor. I clamped it to the table so it won't budge, and I drill holes through that. Read through some of the topics under the sets and miniatures forum... you should get lots of good ideas.