Stop motion animation was the standard method to make movies before CGI. This stop frame technique captures a single movement at a time as physical objects are changed from one location to another. The sequence of these images is then played speedily to create the idea of motion. 2D drawn animation and stop motion are similar in their essence except for the medium they use. The basic process stems from photography, which is then translated into the physical objects in the slightest. The consecutive range of images will thus appear to be moving by themselves.
Although stop motion was in its prime before the widespread use of CGI in animation, it is still considered an appreciative art form in the filmmaking industry. Movies today can be made entirely from special effects without any human characters, but back in the day the only way to create 3D models was by using stop motion animation.
A Brief History
Considered to be one of the oldest filmmaking techniques, the frame by frame motion picture was first discovered in the late 1800s. The first person to uncover this was Eadweard Muybridge, who essentially lined up a bunch of cameras and took pictures of objects on after the other. This illustrated a trajectory of movements and was the very first stop motion technique used. The real time action of these moving images was seen properly in 1888 when Louis Le Prince was given the patented design for the first motion picture camera.
This early device could only demonstrate the basic concept of these motion pictures but in a few short years, filmmaking became an exciting new venture. That is when stop motion made its mark. The first documented film made this way was The Humpty Dumpty Circus, released in 1898. This commercial release led to the modernization of this technique. Today, television and filming techniques are widely different. There are no dark rooms for processing film, or long hours of editing and composition. The new age is entirely digital.
Is Stop Motion Still Relevant?
There are at present so many faster and easier ways of making motion pictures. However, despite the complexity of the art, stop motion is still widely being used today. The continued appreciation behind it lies in the fact that it is a form of expression that has been pushing boundaries for decades. Although it is no longer the preferred technique of creating special effects, it has been reborn in the technological advent of the 21st century. With fluid presentation, classic characterization and a meticulous process, the relevance of stop motion is still present today.
Stop Motion and Animation
The precision it takes to create a stop motion film has an unbelievable effect, which we have seen in early 2000s animated movies. Some of these films took small ideas and innovative techniques to create an art form that is still marveled at. The following are a list of successful films made through stop motion and the ideas that led to their success.
The Nightmare before Christmas (1993)
This American film was completed in three years through stop motion. Twenty five years later, it is still considered an iconic work of art. The complex puppets used by Tim Burton were made entirely from hand and did not have support from CGI or fancy set design. The models were made to move like puppets throughout the film, which meant that there was plenty of drawing, sewing and sculpting involved. The measures and proportions of each character were also significant, which made for a classic holiday film with an aesthetic theme.
A Close Shave (1995)
Aardman Animations are responsible for most stop motion animated movies in the UK. With eccentric motives and themes, the film features classic clay animation that people were used to seeing on the silver screen. The pliable materials from which the characters were made gave them an almost luminescent look. Along with adequate lighting and shaping tools, the background was focused on to ensure the set appeared life like.
Chicken Run (2000)
Another fantastic achievement of clay, Chicken Run was the exception to the computer animated Toy Story hype in the new millennium. With quirky characters made from clay, intricate set design and tenacious work put into a 2D idea, the film became the benchmark of how good stop motion pictures were supposed to play out. The trick was to employ a range of camera angles for each shot and frame, which made the objects of clay look like they were moving at a fast paced.
Corpse Bride (2005)
Burton used the digital age to create an unlikely stop motion picture. Frame by frame procedures were used in combination with 3D animation, and the manipulation of the clay puppets was made more realistic. The repositioning of the claymation was new in this upcoming age of computerization, but the thin and slender puppets were a classic testament to the style of the majority of the director’s films. Around 40 experienced designers and creators were recruited to make this movie a possibility, who all focused on incremental movements alongside the traditional design.
The first combination of old fashioned stop motion animation and modern 3D was seen in this groundbreaking film. The unusual storyline aside, the film had 28 animators create around 6,000 physical faces from scratch. It used puppet animations styles with backup clothes and parts to ensure the wear and tear would not slow down production. Fabrication of these characters to make them appear alive was done through the ball and socket joints of the models used. Their skin was wrapped in silicone substances and intricate details like the painted hair of the characters gave adequate detail and definition to the human touch of the movie.
This was the second feature film from the animation house Laika, after Coraline. The distinction of this film was in the fact that it became the third stop motion animation film made in stereoscopic 3D. Every frame of ParaNorman was handcrafted and shot over two and a half years, complete with visual effects and combinations of 2D and CG. The models were handcrafted and their look was made bolder following the success of Coraline. Physical tools were used to complement the characterization of the models, which were engineered puppets with specific features. Furthermore, stereo 3D animation was also employed for a more dramatic effect. This meant that two lenses had to be used to replicate the space between the width of the model’s eyes, which made frozen frames all the more detailed.
We live in a world dominated by computers and technology. The ratification of stop motion, however, is still persistent next to CGI and commercial films. The passion behind this art form was seen in Burton’s 2012 venture, Frankenweenie which was a resurgence of traditional stop motion animations. Filled with puppet mastery and artistic class, the film features detailed set designs, high grade cameras and handcrafted intricate models. Designers, artists and technicians were hired to create the puppet cast. The size of the characters and adjacent sets were of great import while making the film, since it followed a specific pattern and storyline. To achieve the realism within the puppet animation, designers took real life inspirations from animals and humans to really get into the characterization. The energy of stop motion combined with CGI in this film gave life to these physical objects which is considered to be the actual role of a stop motion animator.
Stop motion is a traditional technique that led to the commercial success of cinematic films. Although it started off as a way to give physical figures the illusion of movement, it is still popular today in animation films with captivating themes. The old fashioned take on film is an ode to how animation actually started, and today it is undergoing changes such as being used with 3D models and CGI.
Author Bio Section
Sarah Jay is a content creator for Vidnado, an animation video company in Australia. She has contributed significantly to the field of design and video animation and is passionate about her work as a writer. In her free time, Sarah Jay reads a lot of literary fiction and enjoys coffee and travelling.