Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Stop! Motion! Action!

For as long as I can remember, I've always loved stop motion animation. Growing up in the '70s, you were never far away from a TV showing of an old Harryhausen epic and like millions of others, both now and then, I was completely enchanted by the wonderful series created by Oliver Postage and Peter Firmin such as The Clangers and Bagpuss. Indeed one of my earliest movie memories, was seeing Jack The Giant Killer and being utterly terrified by the giants and dragons conjured up by Jim Danforth.

But it wasn't until 1977 and the release of Sinbad And The Eye of the Tiger that I learnt that the linking factor between diverse favorites such as King Kong, Morph and Jason and the Argonauts was stop motion animation. A tie-in magazine I accquired from the trip to the theatre to see Sinbad going to toe to toe with the Minoton, aside from containing a comic adaption of the movie by 2000 AD's Ian Gibson, featured a lengthy article on stop motion and the career of Ray Harryhausen, which not only created my very first list of must see films, but also left me with a desire to give it a go myself...

Fast forward several decades to last Saturday night - I was contentedly making good progress through a bottle of vintage port I received at Christmas, when the phone rang. "Do you want to have a go at doing some stop animation with some plasticine?" it said. And the answer, of course was yes!

And so my painter friend (of the Reality Leaves Alot To The Imagination blog) set about the task armed with "Make Your Own Morph" kits (also from Santa's sack), my Nikon, blue tack and sketchy technical knowledge gleaned from countless making of documentaries. Admittedly we had no script, story boards or indeed anything clear in mind, but hey that never stopped Michael Bay.

So we each made a character (mine's the weird mousey/elephant thing on the left), lashed together a set on a coffee table, and then just started animating. Some five hours later we had around 500 frames - not a bad output for the time if you do the maths!

The day after was spent editing the jpegs - mainly turning them sepia to counteract the rubbish lighting and adding some oldy timey scratches and whatnot. Then slapped the whole lot into Windows Movie Maker and started hunting for some music that fitted the action on screen. And the results of this animation weekend is below...

The Magic Trick

Now I doubt Aardman are too worried by our efforts, but it was a whole heap of fun to do and hopefully will raise a smile or two. But it does show what you can achieve with very little equipment and a whole lot of enthusiasm. And indeed we are planning a second foray into the world of stop motion, hopefully with better production values too, very, very soon...