STOP MOTION ANIMATION LEVEL 1
Equipment, Materials and Stuff for the course.
This is an overall look at what you’ll need for the class. Magic of stop-motion is that you can do it with relatively few things.
The first lesson in Stop-Motion Level 1 focuses on your personal setup, but we felt it was a good idea to go into more detail now so you can prepare before getting started. Some things you will find in art and photography stores, other things might just be laying around your place.
We’re constantly expanding our gear, so we’ve included what we currently use. The reality of stop-motion is you will always be on the lookout for new gear and strange gadgets that might make your life easier when animating.
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How the puppet looks on the exterior is really not our concern with these assignments. They can even just be naked armatures, but if you do want to dress them or have some skin, just make sure its not going to fall apart or interfere with your animation. No need to get fancy yet, the armature is more important at this point.
Students get 10% off at AnimationToolKit and they have many options of armatures.
Wire: If you want fast and cheap, this is the way to go. And in all honesty for the Level 1 course, a wire armature is all you need. There are lots of ways to make one, we really like this video by Edu Puertas Just remember, the better the armature, the less you’ll be fighting the puppet. The wire gauge is really important, so test out which wires are strong enough yet flexible without kickback. The Anibild ONE looks really simple and affordable.
Ball & Socket: A ball and socket armature is definitely the ideal type, they’re very resilient, the motions are focused on the joints (no spaghetti arms) and the joints can be tensioned. They can also be quite expensive, especially if you have a custom one built. There are quite a few pre-built Ball and Socket armatures available online, but keep in mind that they can also vary quite a bit in quality. Armatures are another extensive area we will go into greater detail in the future. The Anibild THREE or the Aardman armature would work nicely.
Stickybones: Most of the students have been using a Stickybones and have been really liking them. They’re perfect for our assignments and reasonably priced. They have ball and socket joints made of a really durable plastic, so you can assemble it quickly. The fingers are a bit finicky, but overall you can’t go wrong with them.
Objects: Often we’ll be animating simple objects that you already have around the house, like an apple, a coin, small pieces of paper. It will depend on the particular assignment.
Rigs and Wire: In stop-motion, you're typically working against gravity, so rigs are going to be a big part of your animation life. Rigs in stop-motion are also different than in CG. Rigs for us are external wires, winders and rods that are holding or supporting our animated object. They’re also removed in post-production (which we won’t worry about right now) or they’re hidden behind / under the character. You typically won’t need to rig up the puppet for these assignments, we only need to be concerned with the objects, so aluminum wire is going to be our best bet.
Aluminum wire: Fairly flexible, but strong enough to hold small items up and doesn't have too much kickback is what you’re looking for. Amazon Link. The tricky part with wires is that the gauge numbers vary tremendously between stores and manufacturers or it’s not even labelled. So we’ve collected tons of different gauges of wires over the years and are always collecting new ones because it’s all about how it feels, so it can be challenging purchasing them online. Check our your local craft or art store to see what they have. Sometimes you can find the same gauge of wire way cheaper in a different department, compare the floral, sculpting and jewellery departments. You can even twist and double up the lighter gauge wire.
For the assignments get about 2 types: 18 gauge (1 mm thick) to animate things like small pieces of paper falling to the ground - soft and very easy to move. 12 gauge (2 mm thick) to hold up slightly heavier things like a ping pong ball or a pen.
COMPUTER & SOFTWARE
Mac or PC. Laptops can be great cuz they’re very moveable, but have a small screen. We’ve used Apple Imacs very often on productions cuz the monitor and computer are all in one, but the monitor isn’t posable. In the studio we use a mac mini and the monitor is on an extendable arm.
Stop-motion Pro is a nice alternative that I know some people like, or there are a few Smartphone Apps.
Regarding Smartphones: You can still complete the course using a smartphone, there are a few decent apps and there’s a tether app for Iphones to use Dragonframe with. BUT if you want to really improve the look of your animation then you will eventually need the capabilities of a DSLR and lenses.
Digital Camera: If you do go for a real camera, there are many compatible cameras with Dragonframe and Stop-motion Pro. We use a Canon 7d and 5d mk2 which are a bit older now, and you can actually find them used for cheap. We've had our eyes on the Canon D50 Mirrorless kit.
Lenses: Whatever you have will work for our assignments, don’t feel obligated to go crazy here. But FYI, we have a few: the 17-40mm is a nice wide lens without very little distortion. The 24-70mm is a longer lens, but also gives us most of the other focal lengths we need in stop-motion.
TRIPOD & LIGHTS
Stability is going to your friend. In order to focus on just the animation, you can’t be worried that the camera is going to move on its own. So a tripod is essential, even with a smartphone. The assignments will be shot in two shooting positions: Regular setup for the puppet shots and Tabletop the rest, we’ll mostly be working in tabletop so having an adjustable tripod head to look down on the table will be vital.
Almost all tripods have 3 axis of rotation, so looking straight down should be possible. Some tripods have an arm that will stretch out, allowing the tripod legs to be off screen. We really like Manfrotto tripods, but we recently have been very impressed with the Neewer brand tripods.
A light or two: Lights range in all sorts and prices, but for these exercises all you will need is a desk lamp or light from a window, doesn’t have to be complicated. Lights are a huge subject that we spend some time in the future, but we have been really impressed with the Godox SL-60W
C-stands: If you have the space, we highly recommend getting a few C-stands. They quickly become indispensable to hold up lights, white bounce cards, rig the puppet, hold reflectors, support backdrops, even hold the camera. The uses are endless and surprisingly for the price, the Neewer C stands are fantastic.
Table: An office desk, kitchen table, etc. A good solid table is key, so watch out for flimsy Ikea table legs.
Space: Somewhere that won’t be disturbed while you’re shooting. Most of the assignments should only take an hour or two to complete, so it doesn’t have to be a permanent space. We’ve setup a studio in our basement, hard concrete or ceramic floors are best. Wood floors and carpets can be problematic because walking around can move the set or camera.
Butyl: This is some strange stuff, i think it’s normally used for plumbing because it's still sticky underwater, but for props and paper objects it’s the best. It will possibly rip paper and is not good for clothes. Quick tip, use butyl to remove butyl. Grey is quite sticky and stretchy, the black variety is even stickier. Can be reused a few times. Amazon Link
Sticky Stuff: We talk about a few great sticky things in our “Before you animate stop-motion, do these 3 things” video, but here’s some info and a few links to them online.
Fun-Tak or Blue Tack: really easy to find in stores. Not very sticky, but could leave oily spots. Can be reused, but will dry out if not used for a while. Amazon Link
Hot Glue: Whoever invented the hot glue gun sits among the stop-motion deities. It’s one of our most beloved tools around the studio, especially for locking down the tripod legs. Amazon Link. Check out our “Before you animate stop-motion, do these 3 things” video, for a few more tips about the glue gun. Don’t forget to turn it off when finished!