My two older sons (ages 8 and 6) were so enthralled with my StopMotion experiments with Thelonius and the short movies that I made that they pressured me to let them produced their own movies, too. And who am I to resist that kind of pressure? 🙂
First, they made a short film about a mouse who gets chased by some creatures (including an owl who slowly emerges from a hole in a paper tree — first the beak, then the eyes, and then the head). Then, they decided to create a second movie in which the stars of the first movie get interviewed by reporters, only to find that a thief has stolen all of their money right from under their noses.
My only roles in these projects were to run the computer and help with the voices. The boys did everything else, and the older one is now (with no push from me) creating his own style of storyboard for the next few chapters of the story and he was hard at work on the writing right up until bedtime last night. (One interesting aside: one of the characters fell over during a sequence but only for a frame or two, and it led us to a discussion about “subliminal” images in movies because the three of us can see the flicker where the fall happened but it zooms by so fast that no one else would likely catch it).
Should I mention how exciting it is for me, as a dad and a teacher and a writer, to see my kids so involved in something so creative?
Here, then, is the premiere of Mouse Chase and Movie Star Friends:
Peace (one frame at a time),
Winter break is almost over and so I made one last StopMotion movie experiment with my character, Thelonius, in which he is transformed from strange-looking puppet into bizarre-looking clay figure (go figure).
Along the way, I thought about some things to think about for using StopMotion in the classroom:
- Lighting is key. I need to find a way to have consistent lighting for my students because it really effects the entire piece when lighting goes astray. I had shadows all over the place and I never really found a good set-up for the movies.
- Plan out the project. I had a pretty good conceptual idea for what I was doing but I can see that we will need pretty extensive planning. Storyboarding will be even more important with stopmotion animation.
- Be careful with your fingers. I lost an entire movie because I accidentally saved it some wrong way. Students would lose all of their patience if they lost an hour’s worth of work. I just started over again (cursing all the time).
- I think clay figures will need some internal support — wooden armetures (is that the phrase) to provide support, so that when kids move their characters around, they won’t crumble. I am using a mannequin body but the weight of the clay is tipping Thelonius over and so I need to revisit my clay structure.
- The question of how to sync narration with the video is vexing and one I will have to think about. That will take some practice. I used a mix of audio, music and text — just to see which one might work, and I am not sure of the results.
- Movement of character is slow but cool to watch when done. You really have to take it one step/one motion at a time. If you rush the movement, it shows in the movie. When I was slow and deliberate, it made all the difference in the world.
- A good site for insights into this process was put together by a friend, Glen, out in Oregon. Here is his site.
And now, for Thelonius Tranformed:
Peace (in slo-mo),
This another entry into my stopmotion animation adventure — I bought this little stick figure with intentions to turn my Thelonius puppet into a clay figure (still working that out) and decided to get the little guy movin’ to an old song of mine called “Dance Hall Fool.”
Peace (through dance),
I am once again on the road of experimentation — this time with StopMotion Animation. Every year, I do a claymation movie project with my sixth graders but to call it “claymation” is not quite accurate. They take single digital photos, add narration, and use MovieMaker to edit and produce short movies (in collaboration with second graders). Here is a link to last year’s collection of movies.
But this year, I want to try real stop-motion animation with them and my friend, Tonya, showed me some free software this summer at the National Writing Project’s Tech Matters seminar that I only now got around to downloading and checking out. (Here is a link to the wonderful site that has the software and a load of other resources for animation projects)
If I want my students to do something, I guess I better try it myself and figure it all out from the ground level (a mantra of mine — do it yourself! do it yourself! do it yourself!) So here is a character I created called Thelonius — he’s a puppet because I didn’t have any clay around the house and Thelonius is trying out a saxophone.
I hope to make a Thelonius clay figure and set him off on some small adventures with stopmotion animation.
Peace (with animation),
PS — the music is by my old band, Big Daddy Kiljoy, and that’s me on the saxophone!