Pivot Animation: Icarus Climbs Up

I am curious if I can upload and embed an animated GIF file that I created this morning with the Pivot Stickman Animation program from my Flickr Account. (I’ve been reading aloud the latest in the Lightning Thief series with my kids, so Icarus came to mind for a title of this character making its way up into the sky)

I guess it does work, although you have to be sure to grab the “original image” code from Flickr, otherwise it is just a flat picture with no animation. I also needed to change the size within the post. Interesting — I am going to have my students work with Pivot today and tomorrow and sometimes we try MovieMaker, but it does not like Pivot Gif files and can crash.

I made the background in Paint and then brought it in, as I want my students to do.

So, Flickr may be an alternative to sharing the movies out at our classroom blog site.

Peace (in frames),
Kevin

Claymation in the Classroom, part one

As I did with my Digital Math Book reflections, I am going to break my reflection about our recent claymation projects down over a few days.

With the school year ending in just a few days, my students were rushing to finish up their Claymation Movies this past week. More time would have been helpful and I was frantically carving out small blocks of time here and there just to get them some space for editing and adding audio. It didn’t help that we had a few kids absent on a few days.

But eight small movies are now done, with mixed results, I think. On one hand, my sixth graders loved working with the clay and with the stop-motion animation software. They “got” it pretty quickly, although my constant preaching for patience doesn’t always resonate with all students. Patience is key to claymation and the more raw video they can gather, the more flexibility they will have later.

The theme this year was Climate Change and I will detail a bit further how we went about things in another post. Essentially, they had to work in some aspect of the environment into their stories. In the past, I have had groups of students work collaboratively with second graders, but that didn’t work out this year due to scheduling difficulties. So we were on our own.

I also experimented with a different approach: I let the students create characters out of clay first and then they developed the story second, via storyboarding and concept mapping. I had hoped that the characters might infuse the stories and I do believe that happened, for the most part. I wish I had forced more time on them to develop scripts, but I wanted to see how it would turn out if I was not quite as vigilant. That didn’t work out so well, I think, as the stories in the movies seem weaker than usual this year. The script-writing process gives them focus.

I will detail the unit planning and the resources, and how we publish the movies, a bit further later this week. Plus, I will give a lowdown on a summer camp for kids that I am helping to run again this year that focuses on stop-motion movie making.

Here is one of the movies from the classroom:

Peace (in stop-motion),
Kevin

Capturing Claymation Activity

We spent a lot of time working on Claymation Movies yesterday and, with a couple of exceptions, the students were really focused. Much of the work was just capturing the raw video, which requires patience and teamwork and a vision of how the stories might unfold. The theme this year is Climate Change, and I am going about the movie making process a little different than in years past (I will reflect later).

But as I was helping the groups, I took a couple of pictures of them at work, and made this collage.

I love their little creatures!
Peace (in multicolored clay),
Kevin

Slice of Life, the weekly series, Chapter 8

(This is part of a weekly feature called Slice of Life Project)

Bryan and I have been in somewhat sporadic contact since the fall when I received an email out of the blue, asking me if I would consider being his “virtual mentor.” Bryan is a senior in Kansas and his senior project was around claymation. I guess I never asked where he got my name. I just assumed it was from some folks in the National Writing Project or maybe it was through some various online activities around stop-motion animation that I have done.

Bryan wrote:

“Seniors are required to research a topic and complete a 2500 word essay. Also, we must have a demonstration of knowledge. This project will be time consuming and will take most of the school year to complete. I have decided to study claymation and filming a claymation movie. I was informed that you may be familiar with this topic and wanted to know if you would be my outside mentor. This may sound like a big responsibility, but it really is very simple. I would email you about twice a semester with any questions I may have on this topic and it would be fine if you didn’t know all the answers. I just need an outside source who knows something about my topic.”

I was flattered and I loved the idea of trying to help someone get deep into claymation movie making, even if it was from afar. Bryan is a thoughtful student, it seems to me, and quite interested in exploration. I like that Bryan and his class have to find a virtual mentor to help them delve deeper into a topic of interest. This seems to me to be yet another way to tap into the strength of connections through the Web World.

Every few weeks, I would get an email from Bryan, asking questions and advice on:

  • the type of webcam to get;
  • the editing program I use;
  • how important the lighting is to the final movie;
  • what kind of clay to use;
  • the process of creating a movie;
  • where to share it.

I did my best to guide him , although it is clear now that he had plenty of ideas of his own and that his investigation into claymation was really a love of his this year. I tried to share with him some different stop-motion animation sites and movies that I found that seemed to be good examples of how clay can be used for creative expression.

A few weeks ago, Bryan informed me that he had finished his final project — a collection of short movies that he had made throughout the year. Now, we struggled with how to get the movie to me. My online storage site did not allow movies that big to be uploaded by a guest. I suggested a few video sharing sites, but I urged him to get permission from his parents first (and to check in with his teachers).

Finally, the email arrived, and he gave me the link to his claymation collection on YouTube. Oh. I love it. I think it is fantastic and since this is the first time I have seen Bryan’s work – after all those emails — I feel proud to have been able to give him some tidbits here and there, if it helped him. Maybe he just needed a sounding board from time to time. Whatever.

Here is Bryan’s Claymation Movie Collection:
I have now turned the tables on Bryan, asking him to become a mentor to my sixth graders as they begin filming their claymation movies around climate change. I have asked Bryan to write up some advice for my students, using his experience for reflection. Will he do it? I hope so, but I know that graduation and other things are now consuming his time.Good luck, Bryan. It was great to be your mentor this year!Peace (in movies),
Kevin

Creating with Clay: I give it a try

This afternoon, as my three year old watched and tried to stick his fingers in the mix, I created a build-it-from-a-blob claymation figure. This is the assignment I had given my students yesterday and I should have tried it myself first (one of my mantras).

I could have used some more patience, too, but my excited audience of one made that a bit difficult. You can see it in the change of lighting, as he leans over to get a closer look at my little man. The NWP reference at the end is the National Writing Project, of which I am a technology liaison and an avid supporter.

Here is my strange little man coming to life:
The music is my own, created using the JamStudio music site.Peace (in stopmotion),
Kevin

Creating with Clay

Yesterday, my sixth graders began making clay characters for an upcoming claymation animation project. I had a brainstorm in the morning that it would be very cool to have them use the software and webcams to capture the creation of their characters — from blob of clay to full characters. This would give them more practice with the software program (which is pretty easy to use but I want to expose them to it as many times as possible).

This collection of their videos is the result of that work:
They worked in small groups and some listened to directions more closely than others (the Friday afternoon syndrome). I had visions of these cool videos that begin with a hunk of clay and then slowly, something is formed in front of our eyes. If I had time, I would have done an example myself to show them. I still might.

There is an interesting mix of strange creatures, that’s for sure. A few of my students clearly have an artistic gift.

One lesson that I continue to learn is that I need to push the concept of patience, patience, patience, and more patience. The slower they can move their character and capture those movements as frames, the more lifelike it looks on the video. Some of them still want to leap ahead with movement and the video then looks all jerky. For 11 and 12 year olds, that concept of patience is a hard lesson to learn, but I am hoping that they will see the results of that patience in the quality of their movies.

Another variation in this project is that this year, I am allowing the students to build a character first, and then work on the story (around climate change) second. Usually, it is the other way around — the story informs the characters. This year, the characters may inspire the story. I am not sure if this approach is better or not, so I will have to see how it goes. I do know they were incredibly engaged in what they were doing for the entire 40 minutes of stop-motion and clay creation yesterday. So many came up and told me how much they love doing the stop-motion and they wanted to know when we can do it again.

More to come as the weeks progress …

Peace (in clay),
Kevin

Stop-Motion Lego Exploration

Yesterday, I finally got some students working on using our stop-motion software (it’s free for PC!) on the laptops. I carted in a HUGE bucket of Legos from my kids’ closet (don’t say a thing … top secret) and let my students just explore the use of creating short stop-motion movies.

In about 30 minutes, all five groups had created something and most had begun to understand how to capture frames, how to get your hand out of the way (crucial) and how to be incremental in your movements of objects.

This will all lead us to a Claymation Project very soon (this year’s theme: climate change).

I uploaded two small Lego Movies via Flickr and share them here. These are raw — no sound or anything. So, hum a little song in your head as you watch, OK?

Peace (in ssssslllllllloooooooo mmmmmmmooooootttttiiiiioooooonnnnnnn),
Kevin

Behind the Scenes of Stop-Motion

I just found this pretty neat video that brings us behind the scenes of the making of a stop-motion animation movie. I got the link from a great site called AnimateClay, which always has interesting resources for those of us interesting in exploring the world frame-by-frame.

Peace (in frames),
Kevin

Wow! Peter and the Wolf, in Clay

This is an amazing claymation production from Poland of Peter and the Wolf as claymation. Another wonderful YouTube discovery. The movie, nominated for an award this year, comes in three parts.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/P1SzWa3g0Nw" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/anfDudtwPNo" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/L3gYD00_k0I" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (in music, storytelling and claymation),

Kevin

How to Stop-Motion Animate

Wow

This video from YouTube is exactly what I have been looking for as an introduction to my students about stop-motion animation. I love the world of viral videos!

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/ZuUGO898_GU" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (in frame by frame by frame),

Kevin