Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stop-Motion News: Shaun the Sheep Series 2

Shaun the Sheep, the unlikely hero from A Close Shave has done quite well for himself since then. He got his own show, which won numerous awards, and he's coming back for another round with the second series of his show.

A lot of changes have been made for the new series. The first thing most people will notice is that some of the characters have undergone makeovers, some as big as Bowser's new white splotches and some as small as the farmer's scruffier face.

A cart load of new characters has also been added to the show, and some of the minor characters from the first series have been given bigger parts.

The show is now being shot in HD, and the new crispness is definitely visible!

The show is already being aired in the UK and a few other nations, but I could not find any air dates for the USA.

For more information you can check out the Series 2 Production Blog on the Shaun the Sheep website.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Stop-Motion How-To: Failure

Sooner or later, there's a time in our life when we come across something many people consider a terrible thing. Something they think life would be better without. That thing is failure.

Personally, however, I think failure can be one of the most useful things in life and in animation. A lot of you out there may be thinking I'm absolutely nutty, that failure is what brings us down, not the opposite. And that is true, it can and will bring you down. But it can only do that if you let it.

Failure is a teacher, the best one you'll ever get in this life. But you must learn to listen to it. When you fail at something, don't go into depression because you screwed up. Instead, look for the reason behind your failure, learn from it, and avoid it in the future. Often when someone has failed, he says, "I tried and failed, so now I'm just gonna quit." You can't expect to have success the first time you start something, and you also can't expect not to fail even after you've experienced success.

Trying again is often frightening. You may have put so much effort and heart into your project the last time, only to meet the grim face of failure. But I bet if you find what you did wrong and correct it, you'll do far better the second time!

I guarantee sometime in your animation career, you'll have more than a few failures. Puppet modeling, lighting, animation - none of us succeed at these things the first time. Keep your chin up, and remember that a failure isn't something terrible. It's just a stepping stone too becoming a great animator.

The video below isn't about animation, but everything in it can be applied to our craft.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Stop-Motion Fun Stuff: Wallace and Gromit Tribute

Since this year is Wallace and Gromit's 20th anniversary, I thought I'd post something to do with them and the first thing that came to mind was Andreas Francis's animated tribute. Andreas animated this for his first Stop motion assignment. The assignment was: Have a white clay ball roll in from the side, do something, then roll out again. As you'll see, he went far beyond what was required for this project!

Check it out below!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Stop-Motion News:Stop Motion Magazine!

Finally, someone has stepped up to the bar and brought together something I have only dreamed of coming to life: A stop-motion magazine! That someone is John Ikuma, and he's done a great job putting this magazine together.

There are currently two issues available, both of them containing a truckload of great information. The 1st issue includes four very inspirational interviews, a review of a new animation program, and a tutorial showing how to make a simple animation rig.

The second issue takes you on a in-depth look through the production of Titan Maximum, an interview with Stan Starwn, reviews of the programs Magpie Pro and iStopmotion Pro, and a tutorial on how to build a dolly for your camera.

As you can see, there is no lack of information in these magazines, and believe it or not, the magazine is totally free! You can download both issues here. Also, check out the newly launched Stop-Motion Magazine blog, which shows the behind the scenes and sneak peeks of upcoming issues.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stop-Motion How-To: The Effect of the Sound Effect

Something you need to seriously consider in the finished product of your animation is sound effects. Some animators may think sound effects are nice but not all that crucial to a finished animation. But in order to bring your animation to life they really are needed.

Sound effects can be just as crucial to telling a story as character voices. For instance, when your puppet sets down an object, the sound effect you choose helps identify what type of object it is. If it's a heavy object, it would probably make a loud clunk, or if it's metal, it would jingle. Portraying that the object is heavy or metal would likely be evident in the animation, but sometimes it's simpler to help the audience know what's going on through a sound effect or two. Our ears help us identify things almost as much as our eyes do.

How do you create these sound effects? Professional studios usually hire a sound-effect team to create custom sounds for the animation. But hiring such a team could get rather pricey, so I would recommend buying a prerecorded soundtrack. There is quite a selection to choose from. The biggest pack of sound effects I've seen is The Sony Pictures Sound Effects Series, which is a box set of 10 CDs with over 2,300 effects in a wide assortment of categories. The downside of the Sound Effects Series is that it costs $300-$400. If you're looking for something a tad cheaper, I highly recommend the 500+ Sound Effects mp3 download, which includes 6 CDs worth of sound effects. As of the date of this post, you can download it from Amazon for $1.99.
If you are using Windows Movie Maker, be aware that since
it limits you to one audio track, you won't be able to add any music along with the sound effects.

Since audios and visuals are the only two senses that can be applied to the motion picture, you should not only use sight to it's full extent but sound too.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stop-Motion Fun Stuff: Human Skateboard

PES Film made a neat commercial, as an advertisement for skateboarding shoes, using pixelation.
check it out below.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Stop-Motion News: Frankenweenie

It seems Tim Burton will be again stepping back into the magical world of stop-motion to make his third full-length stop-motion animated film Frankenweenie.

Frankenweenie will be remake of a live-action film Tim Burton made in 1984. The story, loosely based off the classic tale of Frankenstein, is about a young boy who brings his dog back to life.

Frankenweenie is being made by Disney studios and will be bringing back many of the animators and crew who worked on Corpse Bride.

Frankenweenie is scheduled to be released sometime in 2011

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Stop-Motion How to: Taking A Closer Look

Paul from StopMotionPro made a video showing a neat way to zoom up on your capture window using any program on your PC.

Zooming up on your capture window is much more useful than it might sound, especially when it's difficult to see your parts of your puppet, due to your lighting or set.

You can check the video out below.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Stop-Motion Fun Stuff: Legolibrium

Keshen8 from YouTube made a neat animated Lego spoof off a fight scene from the movie Equilibrium. This is probably the best fight scene I've ever seen in stop-motion animation. Check it out below!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Stop Motion News: The Fantastic Mr. Fox

20th Century Fox has announced they will be releasing a new stop-motion animated movie based on the best-selling children's book The Fantastic Mr. Fox by British author Roald Dahl (who also co-wrote the movie script with Noah Baumbach). The movie includes an all-star cast including Owen Wilson, George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, and many more. The movie will be released 13 of November.

In the movie Mr. and Mrs. Fox live an idyllic home life with their son Ash and visiting nephew Kristopherson. But after 12 years, the bucolic existence proves too much for Mr. Fox's wild animal instincts. Soon he slips back into his old ways as a sneaky chicken thief and, in doing so, endangers not only his beloved family, but the whole animal community. Trapped underground and with too little food to go around, the animals band together to fight against the evil Farmers -- Boggis, Bunce, and Bean -- who are determined to capture the audacious, fantastic Mr Fox at any cost.

Check out the trailer below.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Stop-Motion How-To:The Power Of the Unexpected

I'm kind of a dull person to watch movies with, since I really don't get too emotionally drawn into a movie. But I have noticed that the one thing that seem to provoke my feelings the most is the unexpected. When someone in a movie is sick and it's obvious he's going to die sooner or later, I rarely find myself saddened when he dies. But in a movie where the story seems rather predictable, and then suddenly one of the likable characters dies I find myself shocked and saddened by this new turn of events.

Or, to look at it from the other side of the coin, a gag can become much funnier when it's unexpected, such as in Aardman's short Aardman where a guy dressed up as a superhero walks up to what looks like a hole in the ground. He walks over the hole and nothing happens, but when he gets a couple steps past it, he falls through the ground, turning somthing that would have been a cliche into somthing that surpises the audience.

Of course, you can't use the unexpected too much, because it will soon become the expected. For instances, in M. Night Shyamalan's movies, people have come to expect a big twist in the end and often are disappointed because they wanted a epic twist when it was just a good one. Try doing something unexpected in your animations. If you do it right, you'll get some good reactions.

To illustrate my point, check out the video below.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Stop-Motion Fun Stuff: Super Mario World Stop-Motion Japanese Commercial

A couple days ago I stumbled across this rare stop-motion Japanese Commercial for the SNES 1990's Super Mario World. I have been a fan of Nintendo's Mario games for as long as I can remember, and it was cool to see Mario do his stuff as a stop-motion animated figure. You can check it out below.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Stop-Motion News: Aardman Announces Two New Full-Length Animated Movies!

Aardman Studios (the creators of Wallace and Gromit) have announced they will be bringing out two new animated movies. Arthur Christmas which will be done in CG, and Pirates will be shot in stop-motion animation. Arthur Christmas is about how Santa manages to get around the whole world in one night. Pirates is an adaptation of Gideon Defoe's book The Pirates! in which a hapless band of pirates compete for the Pirate of the Year award. Arthur Christmas is scheduled for release some time in 2011 and Pirates in 2012 . Both movies will be distributed by Sony Pictures. For more info about both of these upcoming feature films, check out this post from the official Wallace & Gromit site here

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Stop-Motion How To: Making Puppets Talk, Part 2 of 2

In Part 1 of this post we talked about the different ways to create the lip movements for your puppets. You can check that post out here.

Lip sync is the process of making the lip movements you have animated match up with the pre-recorded voice. When I originally started lip syncing, I thought I could just switch the mouths around while animating, and then after I finished try to match my voice to it by adjusting the speed of my speech. That process didn't work at all. It always turned out looking horrible. I later found out that studios record the voices before they do any animation with lip movement in it. Once the studio has the recording, they slow it down to discover how much of the sound takes place in one frame and then note it on x-sheet for the animators to use later.

Thankfully, programs have been created for just this propose. Magpie is probably the most popular lip sync program. It's been used in a number of professional productions, including Corpse Bride and Creature Comforts. It's a great program, stocked with great features. The single license download costs $250 USD, and you can check it out here.

If you're unable to spend
that much money, you can download JLipSync, a sweet free lip sync program for the PC and MAC. This program can be really confusing to download (at least it was for me), but luckily Marc Spess made a video tutorial outlining the downloading steps. You can check that out here.

Making your puppets talk can be a long and hard process, but if you're willing to commit your time and effort, I assure you it will be well worth it!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Stop-Motion Fun Stuff: One of my own animations

For this Fun Stuff post, I'm going to post a video I made while messing around with some blobs of clay the other day. Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Stop-Motion News:'s may animation challenge has been doing a monthly animation exercise for the past year. The exercises were started to help animators keep their animation skills fresh. Castlegardener (the director of the exercises) noticed that a lot of the people on the site were great animators but were in need of a good puppet. He made a neat alien puppet to be awarded to the best entry in this month's animation exercise. If you're a good animator in need of a little help with puppet making, check out the challenge here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Stop-Motion How To: Making Puppets Talk, Part 1 of 2

Over the years, many ways have been developed to make a stop-motion puppet talk. One of the earlier and more difficult methods is one in which the animator re-sculpts his puppet's mouth to the desired shape while in the middle of the animating process. Doing so doubles or triples the time the animator spends on a scene. This technique can look great if you're good at re-sculpting, but it isn't a good idea to have your focus on sculpting when it should be on animating.

Probably the easiest technique is one in which the animator creates a puppet whose mouth can be opened and closed and then animates his speech by just propping the mouth open and then closing it, without worrying about the lips, teeth, or tongue. This technique is easy to accomplish, but it usually makes the puppet look like a weird robot from a B horror movie. Unless that's what you're going for I would strongly recommend avoiding this technique.

The best technique I have seen uses the the replacement mouth method which has been adopted by almost all of the larger stop-motion studios. In the replacement mouth method, the sculptor cuts out the puppet's mouth and sculpts replacement mouths that fit where he cut out the original mouth. After he's finished sculpting all his mouths, he gives them to the animator, who then inserts the correct mouth shape in each frame in order to shape the words his puppet is saying. This way, the animator and the sculptor have plenty of time to add as much detail as they want. When I first heard of this method I thought it would take a tremendous amount of time sculpting 26 different mouths. But I was soon enlightened to the fact that the mouth only needs to make 8 basic shapes to speak fluently. Check out this paper, which shows which mouth shapes sound the same and how to sculpt them.

A technique similar to replacement mouths is drawing the mouth shapes on a piece of paper and adhering it to the puppet's mouth area. Surprisingly, this method tends to be quite cartoonish and funny looking.

One of the hardest things in the process of making puppet's talk is getting the recorded voice to match up with the lip movements. In Part Two of this post, we will look into some of the ways to archive lip syncing.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Stop-Motion Fun Stuff: The Animated Animation Tutorial

Check out Battenball's cute very basic Animated stop-motion tutorial.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Stop Motion News: MorphMation Contest

Aardman has teamed up with for a new stop-motion contest. The animation must be focused on the world of Aardman's Morph and be two minutes or less.The contest is open to all ages and will end April 30. Firebox will pick the five best animations, then post them on Aardman's YouTube page. From there Aardman will pick the best one out of the bunch.

First place prize is a framed, signed sketch by Peter Lord of a scene from the winning film. The second place prize is a copy of Stop Motion Pro6.5 High Definition software (as used by Aardman), and an Animation Station. The runners-up get an Animation Station.

You can check out the the official rules and the entries here.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Stop-Motion How to: Illusion and Delusions

Animation is really all about creating illusions and even delusions. The illusion, of course, is the process of taking an inanimate puppet and making it an animated puppet. Creating the delusions is a bit trickier. What I would define as a delusion, at least in this case, would be when you're sitting in the theater watching an animated movie and, in the middle of it, you forget you are just watching an animated movie. You forget the person on the screen is nothing more than a sketch on a paper, a CG model, or a lump of clay. You forget that he doesn't even have any feelings or thoughts. You forget all these things, and, because of that you love, hate, abhor,despise or adore them. That is what i would define as a delusion.

Without these delusions, you would not care about what you're watching. Therefore, these delusions are just as important as the illusions. The delusions come from big things as well as small: the voice of your character, his facial expressions, his posture, his walk, his gestures, his twitches. Quirks are all these things smashed together to match your character's attitude. This is what creates the delusions.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Stop Motion News: Lewi Bolton's The Great Hat Heist

While looking through KramerKlaymation's blog I came across a very interesting post about 15-year-old Lewi Bolton, who made a fantastic 8-minute short film entitled The Great Hat Heist. The animation and story are both extremely well done, and the whole article was very inspiring. I really recommend you check it out for yourself here. Also, make sure to watch his short either at the bottom of this post or on Kramer's blog.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Stop Motion Fun Stuff: Aardman's Weetabix Pirates.

Done in 2D clay animation Aardman's Weetabix pirate commercial could possibly be one of my favorite stop-motion videos on YouTube. It features great stylized characters and a song that you will be humming in your head for the rest of the day. Check it out below:

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Stop Motion How-To: Rigs

Have you ever wondered how animators suspend a puppet in midair? The answer is a handy device called a rig. A rig works like a crane; it anchors the puppet in the sky. Most of the more pro rigs look and work like a large ball and socket arm that attaches to the back of a puppet. After shooting the required frames, the rig is removed digitally with a program like Photoshop.

Unfortunately, because most professional rigs are hand built, much like ball and socket armatures, they can be expensive. Armature animators, like me, who can't afford the pro rigs have to resort to making cheap home made rigs. These rigs will work, but you can bet you'll develop a headache or two while using it.

A good way to make a rig is to take a heavy weight plate (the kind found on a dumbbell), some kind of pole that fits securely in the weight's hole, and a long strand of wire strong enough to suspend your entire model. Stick the pole in the weight's hole and wrap about half of your wire tightly around the pole, leaving the other half hanging out.

The tricky part is finding a way to attach the wire to your puppet. A simple way to accomplish this is to create a separate model for the suspended shot using epoxy to secure the wire to the the back of your armature. Make sure you still have enough wire to suspend your model in the air. If you can shoot against a green screen, I would recommend painting the wire green also to make the subsequent Photoshop work easier.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Wallace & Gromit Win BAFTA Award

Yes, that's right Wallace and Gromit, the bread-making duo, have done it again, winning Best Short Animation at the 2009 BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Film Awards for their latest 30-minute short A Matter of Loaf and Death. Check out the post on Aardman's site here. Also take a look below at an interview with Nick Park just before the awards.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Stop Motion Fun Stuff: Western Spaghetti

Pesfilms on You Tube posted a really neat stop-motion video in which they animated normal everyday things you find around the house.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Stop Motion How-To: Creating a Flip Book

Have you ever wanted to have your short animations in your pocket to show your friends and family? Boinx, the creators of Istopmotion (a capture program for the Mac), has posted a simple tutorial on there website, explaining how to make a little flip book. The tutorial was specifically made for their Istopmotion program, but you really don't need the program to use the tutorial. The only setback I can see is that your printer probably won't number the pics!

Follow all the steps on Istopmotion's website here, and you should end up with a great little flip book!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Stop-Motion News: Justin Rasch's New Stop-Motion Animation Short!

Having completed Gerald's Last Day, Justin Rasch has now started work on a new stop-motion sci-fi short. Nothing as of yet has been revled about the story, and it is still to be titled. But judging from the pictures of the models that have been posted, it's going to be a stop-motion short to remember! You can check out the official post on Justin Rasch's blog "Stop MOTION Mission" here.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Stop-Motion Fun Stuff: "My Baby Just Cares For Me"

In 1987, Aardman Studios made a music for the song "My Baby Just Cares for Me," sung by Nina Simone (in 1958). I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Stop-Motion How-To: Books on Animation

There really isn't an abundance of info on learning the art of animation out there (although I'm trying to do my part in improving that). The most useful info is usually found in books. Quite a variety of subjects are available to choose from, ranging from timing to the history of animation. Even books about cell or CG animation, still more than likely include a lot of information that is quite useful in stop-motion animation. Check your local library for books on animation. You can also check out Amazon's selection here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Stop Motion News: Marvel's Ani-Movie

I came across this cool product by Marvel called Ani-Movie. Ani-Movie is a simple all-in-one stop-motion animation studio. It was created for 2D stop-motion paper animation, but if you can get a 3D puppet to stand on it, it should work for that too. It comes with a camera capable of connecting to a TV for live feed, movable 2D paper models, an SD memory card slot, and two paper backgrounds. You can check out all the features at the official site here.

This stop-motion setup probably won't work the best for an experienced animator. But for someone who is new to animation I would recommend that they give this a try. Check it out at, or you might be able to find it cheaper on