Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Stop Motion Animation

Finally managed to get my first post up! My posts will probably be a bit different from Andreas. Probably longer, and dealing with movies, videogames, tv series, or other things media. My goal is to put a spotlight on things, give you an introductions to them, and hopefully leave you with a sense of whether it's interesting enough that you want to go out of your way to sample it.

Today: Stop Motion Animation.

Stop motion animation is really a way of recording stuff, rather than a genre on it's own. These days, it's commonly recorded using digital still cameras with many animators taking pictures of dolls in parallel, but it can really be done in a lot of ways.

Here's a fun example of stop motion animation:

At 2:30 in the video, in particular, the video is very stop-motion'y, but there's also elements of slow-motion and time-lapsing, which are different photography techniques used for making video without recording video.

Generally, the sound for stop motion is added in post-production, and the general feel of stop motion films is sligtly alien while also feeling very real, since you can tell it's all pictures taken in reality, but it's mixed in a fashion that's quite unreal. The visual quality of what you're looking at really depends on the quality of the dolls and backgrounds themselves, or occasionally, on how much control the animators have over the scene, as is the case in the ok-go video.

Some of my favorite stop motion animation:

Pinchcliffe Grand Prix, a stop-motion "doll" film from 1975, produced in Norway, where it has sold more tickets than the total population. It's an absolute classic. It actually features a few parts were the dolls are live-animated, and some absolutely staggeringly impressive rube-goldberg contraptions. Particularly notable is perhaps the fact that the characters were designed in several different sizes, allowing for great detail both as the main character is sitting at his desk working, and as he's parttaking in a car race.

The Nightmare Before Christmas, a stop motion musical film from 1993, with story by Tim Burton. One of Andreas favorite movies as well, this is 100% stop motion. Blending stop motion with the musical genre was a risky idea that really paid off. I can highly encourage anyone to give this a look.

Corpse Bride, a spiritual followup to the nightmare before christmas, released in 2005, is one of the first feature films to be filmed entirely on still camera. Previous stop-motion usually used silver-film from typical movie-cameras, rigged to only capture one frame at a time, and the change shows. The visual fidelity is incredible, to the point where it's easy to doubt just how what you're watching came about.

Wallace and Gromit, a series of british claymation animation. Claymation is a specific kind of stop motion animation, in which clay covers parts of or the entirety of the dolls used. it's able to give a look of incredible polish, and allows transitions to be incredibly smooth, making the animation itself look beautiful, even if each frame doesn't have nearly as much beauty on it's own. The Wallace and Gromit name covers 3 shorts and a feature length film, and the focus is very much on rube goldberg machines and comedy.

Mary and Max, an australian claymation production, dealing with serious issues like alcoholism and mental illness. While it has tragic elements, it's probably more reasonable to call it a drama-comedy. Strangely, the claymation helps the movie from becomming too dark, and ultimately I was left feeling content and happy after watching it.

Robot Chicken, which is really a sketch-show that makes fun of anything and everything, but particularly so 80es childrens television and pop culture. It's been running for 5 seasons, but since stop motion is a time-consuming format to produce in, each new season appears a year or more apart. Seth Green handles production and maybe as much as a 4th of the voice acting himself, and the project uses around 10-15 concurrent animation booths. The show airs on adult swim, but you'll probably need to see an episode yourself to find out if it's for you, since it relies very heavily on geeky references.

And that's about it ! I hope I've helped give a light overview of what stop-motion is, and i hope you'll want to give one of the titles I mentioned a look!



  1. Wow, you really covered a wide range of stop motion films. Have you seen the whimsical Fantastic Mr. Fox? Anyways, here is a list of some other stop motion films if you are interested. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_stop_motion_films


  2. I've actually yet to see the fantastic mr fox.

    I seem to have also forgot to mention one of the best looking films I've ever seen: Coraline.

    It's very much worth a look too!