UPDATE: Presently I am desperately trying to find 2 voices to voice my lead characters in the animation. I found a designer to create costumes for the characters so those should be ready over the next fortnight. I’m probably a month away from completing the first shot but already I’ve had requests to see the movie!
I’ve been itching to make a stop motion film since July 2004 after the first Africa Animated! workshop. Now for those readers who haven’t the slightest clue what Africa Animated! is-what follows is a brief description: a UNESCO organized workshop that takes artists who have never animated before and trains them. The participants working in twos or threes come up with a one minute animated movie- in five weeks!
Before AA I had never really imagined that I’d get into animation. I sincerely thought that the most ambitious thing I would be doing would be making visually and thematically intense comic books.
I worked on a stop motion story called DING DONG written by TUF who was my animation partner on the project. TUF is a published comic book artist and has talent for coming up with good stories. When the time came to select a technique I convinced him that into shooting it on stop motion rather than using 2d animation (in Flash) which was the way to go.
We used very low-tech methods to shoot a film about a young boy with a spring for a foot who is shunned by his neighbors (they wont let him play in a soccer match) so he uses his imagination and determination to literally even the score. I found myself thinking about the techniques we used in developing that short vis a vis the final product long after the workshop had ended.
So exactly three years after that workshop I’m trying to make another stop motion movie using everything I’ve learned over the past three years to make it as well as I possibly can. What follows is a loose review of the different methods and technologies used in the different aspects of that production and the problems we encountered as a result of these methods and technologies.
I created the characters using very thin gauge iron (small quantities of aluminium or tin were impossible to find at that time), cotton bud ear-swipes for the armature, ping-pong balls for the heads, foam to fill the body, and plasticine. The characters ended up looking looked somewhat different from TUF’s designs because his drawings were made with 2D animation in mind. My rationale was that the characters had to translate to 3D and still be able to put on a performance.
The backgrounds were created using a simple materials acquired from art shops. I remember thinking that we were pushing the budget when we asked for five thousand shillings (U.S. $ 70) to shop for materials (to date Olokut has cost me much, much more than that in research and development and production.)
One of the biggest mistakes I made while shopping was to get seeds for the ground instead of sand paper. As a result we had to keep making new feet for the characters throughout the shoot. Doing a walk cycle with these guys was hell. Also, aside from the plasticine threatening to melt under the lights, the hands kept degenerating during handling. Many evenings were spent making hands and feet for replacement.
All credits to Tuf, he did a great job making the sets. Particularly the interior set. It looked really good. However, during the shoot it was impossible not to get camera shake because for starters we couldn’t fix the tripod securely on the ground. In addition parts of the set kept on moving and we had lots of issues dealing with tables and chairs falling when they weren’t supposed to in the internal scene. The walls in the external scene kept on shaking like there was an earthquake.
Lights and Camera
The lights we used were a regular light bulb for sunlight and a fluorescent bulb for the interior scene. We used regular reading lamps for these. At that time I didn’t know that using fluorescent bulbs would result in flicker. The camera we used was a simple auto-focus Nikon COOLPIX kindly donated by the then production coordinator. This (as I later discovered) compounded the flicker from the fluorescent light because the camera did not have a shutter. Add the fact that we were shooting in a room that had no curtains in daylight… and you can already see a film with highly inconsistent lighting.
Yeah, we had tons of fun shooting though!
Next week I will sum up my review of Ding Dong and the first Africa Animated!