Monday, October 19, 2009

Stop Motion Video - Love Story

Earlier today Eric Mika and I presented our stop-motion movie to our Communications Lab class. This was my first ever stop-motion movie creation. We had a great time working on this project, though it was a lot of work. 

Our process included a two-hour planning session, another two hours for pre-production and casting (aka buying fruits), eight hours in production (including breaks), and four hours of post production. Here is the video that we created, followed by a more detailed overview of the process.

Stop Motion Madness

Planning and Story Development
The first activity we undertook during the planning phase was to brainstorm a few ideas. From the outset both Eric and I were interested in working with food. We explored a few other possibilities, including a herd of chairs and killer ethernet-cable snakes. However, we quickly settled on doing a food-based animation using fruits, and limes in particular.

Once our focus had been we honed we began to develop an outline of the story. We started with the idea of a lime coming to life and exploring the countertop. Then we added the element of interaction with another fruit as a means to make the story more interesting. At this point the story quickly started to descend into a love story, which was not the direction that either Eric or I had originally intended. This realization inspired the idea of a the knife splitting the lime.

We were still not fully happy with the flow of the story but we thought from a content perspective we were just about there. We briefly discussed the idea of adding a caipirinha recipe to the video but we did not commit to it until the day of the shoot. Over the next two days we collaborated remotely to develop descriptions of each scene and a list of materials that we would need for production (you can view the draft scene descriptions below, we made updates to these scenes on the fly during the shoot).


Frame 1 - Bag of limes is put on the counter: A see through plastic bag with limes is put on top of a counter that is filled with fruits, liquor bottles, sugar, a pestle and mortar and other bar-related items. The bag is put down near a cutting board. Behind the cutting board is a bottle of cachaca, the pestle and mortar and a container filled with sugar.

Frame 2 - lime rolls out of the bag and comes to life: A lime rolls out of the bag and grows a set of arms and legs. It opens its eyes and maybe its mouth, then rubs its eyes. The intent is to show disbelief and excitement. 

Frame 3 - lime sees something across the way: All of a sudden the lime notices something on the other side of the cutting board, and is visibly excited.

Frame 4 - lime thinks of "wow": Cut to shot of colorful fruit and papers creating a words that express the excitement of the lime. Words under consideration: "WoW" "Sweet" "Love". Second option - use drawing with colorful markers or pencils.

Frame 5 - cut to what the lime sees: Across the cutting board there is a strawberry or a red pepper (maybe smiling at him, or smoking a cigarette). 

Frame 6 - lime walks over to the strawberry: Cut back to the lime and follow the lime walking across to the strawberry/pepper. On the way the lime steps up on to the cutting board.

Frame 7 - lime gets cut in half when crossing the cutting board: When the lime is about half way across the board a knife comes down suddenly and cuts it in a half.

Frame 8 - pan out to see all of the caipirinha ingredients: Pan out and see all the caipirinha ingredients (and may be we could make a very fast stop motion video of me making the caipirinha).

Frame 9 - caipirinha recipe is drawn on a white piece of paper.

Supplies Needed

- DV Camera
- Lights 
- Tri-pod
- Firewire Cable

Art Supplies
- Putty (to hold up the lime, and make arms and legs)
- Wire (to hold up fruits)
- Large white paper (for background during word sections)
- Colorful paper

- Limes
- Strawberries
- Apples
- Bananas
- Basil/parsley/mint (other leafy herb)

Things we already have
- Sugar
- Cachaca 

Pre-Production and Production
We did all pre-production and production on the same day. We started by meeting at ITP, where we finalized the story details and checked out a HD DV camera, lights, a tripod, and the proper cables. We spent some time testing the camera with the iStopMotion software. We had to play with the settings on the camera for fifteen minutes before we were able to get everything up and running.

Next up we cast the two main roles, and supporting fruits, at Whole Foods. We purchased limes, strawberries, bananas, mint, and apples (the only fruit that did not make the final cut). We got back home, found silly putty (which I already had), and set-up the "stage" on the kitchen counter. Next we set-up the camera, lighting and computer. Last we had to style our stars by adding eyes and getting them to stand up properly. We were only able to solve the later problem by cutting off a small piece from each fruit.

We started filming using the frame descriptions we previously developed as our guides. Eric and I were pretty much in agreement throughout the shoot. For the most part Eric took the lead behind the camera, while I took the lead in front of the camera. We were able to keep things moving pretty efficiently and there was only one scene that we had to reshoot. About two thirds of the way through production we had to create a caipirinha on video, so we took this opportunity to have a break and a delicious drink.

Post Production
By luck, in the night between the shoot and our editing session (which was also the day of class) I found the perfect song for our video. For post production we used Final Cut Pro, to edit the video and audio, and then Photoshop, for retouching and color-correcting specific frames.

Neither Eric nor I have had much experience using Final Cut before. We partnered together to recut the movie and add sound - unfortunately we did not learn how to use the marker until our class after we were done. To retouch the photos we used the batch retouching feature on Photoshop. After we had the video almost locked down we added the soundtrack. At this point we made minor adjustments to the flow of the story to better align with the music - the ending could still use some work.

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