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The project was based on commercialism, thus I somehow ended up with a random Hippie named Snowflake taking on the commercial lord, Emperor Ford, within the walls of the last standing assembly line - one of the main commercialist strongholds on earth... and that's about as far as exposition goes.
Onwards to the nitty-gritty stuff: I researched quite a number of stop-motion creations of different styles - dating from Aardman & Sumo Science's 2011 unprecedented short, Dot (the smallest stop-motion animation made by 2011), to Segundo de Chomón's 1908 pixilation short, El Hotel Eléctrico. The shortlisted bunch for my research phase also included:
- A Town Called Panic (2009) by Stéphane Aubier & Vincent Patar
- Coraline (2009) by Henry Selick
- KaBoom! (2004) by PES
- Fuyu no Hi (2003) by Kawamoto Kihachirō
- Automatic Writing (2003) by William Kentridge
- Tma, Světlo, Tma (1989) by Jan Švankmajer
- The Amazing Mr Bickford (1987) by Bruce Bickford & Frank Zappa
"Right, so all the fancy inspiration, but the animation looks... bad?"
Well, yes. With the absence of a proper DSLR with a cable release (or remote) plus a tripod, I did what any artist would do - built my own animation rig:
In the end, however, the rig turned out not to be as stable as I initially though it would be (disposable wooden chopsticks can only get you so far) - which is evident in the shakiness of the animation. Nevertheless, I came to like the jerkiness, as it helped enhance the idea of a chaotic factory environment, so I didn't get rid of it in post-production.
The main idea with this animation was to get a hands-on feel for animating, and as far as that goes, I think I gained a much better understanding of timing & spacing, including its importance and the difficulty in properly executing it whilst animating. I'm not nearly where I want to be, but I'm sure that I'll get there - eventually - with some good ol' perseverance & commitment.
Furthermore, I used this project to figure out how to assemble a stop-motion animation in Premiere Pro & After Effects from an external device. I found this easiest in After Effects, thus I assembled the frames there and exported it to Premiere Pro for editing via Adobe's Dynamic Link. The intertitles were made in Photoshop, after which I added some twitching, vignette and grain (the latter absolutely killed render time) in After Effects before "Linking it Dynamically" to Premiere Pro.
By the time I sent this project off with two others to the University of South Africa (UNISA) for assessment, the animation was a pure silent film. This, however, was remedied about a month ago after I figured out how to work the MIDI sequencing software LMMS (give it a try - it's fairly potent freeware) and used the bit of music knowledge I have left from my guitaring days to make a simple yet fairly fun score for the animation.
All-in-all I would say it was a fun experience, and I would like to play around with stop-motion again at some point using objects, claymation and pixilation (not in the sense of blowing the footage up until it's all just pixels... although this might actually be a fun thing to experiment with).
Right, I guess I left out quite a lot of additional info regarding the making of Snowflake, but then again I don't want to write a whole manual about it. If you happen to have stumbled upon this post and would like to know anything else regarding the animation (or if you spot a horrible mistake on my part), feel free to comment and I'll get back to you.
On a last note, I would highly recommend watching A Town Called Panic (the French version, if possible) - it's simply too awesome.
nethernode, signing off...