This is the second of three short claymation movies created by my sixth graders (in collaboration with second graders). I have one more movie to go, later this week. This first movie — The Haunted House — features some cool animation techniques (disappearing girl!).
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The stories are:
- The Haunted House
- Bowser’s Race Track
Peace (with monsters and cars),
Some of our collaborative claymation groups finished up with their mini-movies this week (see movie down below) and five more groups are still working. This is the first year we have tried true animation (as opposed to still images) and it has been tricky. Not because of the software but because we just can’t seem to scrap together long enough blocks of time. We have tried to juggle the schedule of second graders with my sixth graders, and it isn’t easy. But, as in the past, except for some mini-lessons, I place the onus of the entire script writing, clay creation, recording/video, and editing on the students and only help when needed. I really want them to “own” the final product for themselves.
So here are the first four movies:
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The episodes here are:
- The Lost Diamond
- The Paper Shredder of DOOM
- Island Gone Bad
- The Walking Fish
As we finish up (next week is our last full week, so we are under the gun), I am trying to reflect a bit on what has worked and what has not worked, as my wife and I are running a claymation animation camp for middle school students next month.
Here are some thoughts:
- Some kids have the patience, and some don’t. It takes patience to do animation and the more patience they demonstrate, the better the animation. It seems like a simple equation to me, but not always to 8 and 12 year olds.
- The software and webcams have worked fine (although one seemed to have gone out of focus – even though the students didn’t tell me and I could have easily fixed it), although we should have done more to ensure they were all speaking loudly into the microphones. The audio is up and down.
- We needed more mini-lessons about how to take a photo of a video image, and use that as a still image to stretch the movie to keep in sync with dialogue. This has been the greatest challenge for the kids — having the movie work with the audio.
- The students have loved using the tech for this project, even when frustrated (which happens). They have been so engaged every step of the way and are always asking, “Are we doing claymation today?” (And to which I reply, “We also have other things we need to be doing, you know,” and then a sigh from their direction)
- I wish I could have discovered the Pivot Stickman Animation program before this began because it is such a great intro to stop-motion animation. Oh well.
- We need more than 45-minute blocks of time — at least an hour, or more, would have been helpful as momentum always seemed to be stalled at the end of a session. This project began in April (yes, April!) and we aren’t done yet. Phew.
Peace (with animation),
The other day, one of my sixth graders asked me if I had ever used Pivot for animation, which led to an interesting discussion about how this freeware software could be used with MovieMaker to create a little animated film.
So I figured I would try it out and now I am hoping to let my students try their hand before the school year runs out (soon!) and also to use this very simple, yet cool, software as an introduction to the Claymation Animation Camp that my wife and I are running this summer for the very first time (gulp).
Here, then, is the premiere of The Incredibly Crazy Clocks, using Pivot to create the animation (it comes out as an animated .gif file), then I imported the file into MovieMaker where I added some original music of mine, and a title, an I got a mini-movie.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=6106772181624048098" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]
Peace (frame by frame by frame),
For a number of years (in the1990’s), I fronted a band called The Roadbowlers with some good friends — Chris and Susannah — and we played mostly in bedrooms, for an audience of only ourselves. We had a few gigs here and there, but the music we created was mostly just for the three of us.
I continue with my Dogtrax Audiocasts with a look at The Roadbowlers.
Listen to my audiocast: The Roadbowlers
As a special bonus, I created another Thelonius (claymation) movie in which the little dude investigates just what the heck a roadbowl is.
Peace (with bowling on the road),
PS — Here is the Wikipedia entry on Roadbowling for all you non-believers.
I was asked by a colleague from the National Writing Project to donate a short movie to a promotional video he is putting together for fellows at his site around the idea of a technology institute. Brett asked if I would create something that reflected upon last summer’s Tech Matters retreat in Chico, California (where I started this blog project) and so I couldn’t resist using my clay friend, Thelonius, and a dry erase board with stop-motion (plus a wide array of hats) in my movie. That’s what you get, Brett, for asking me to contribute. 🙂
Actually, it was nice to reflect upon that experience many months later and realize that more than the tools that I was exposed to, it is the network of new friends and colleagues that remain the strongest link of the week in Chico. I am still very close to a handful of Tech Matters people (Bonnie, David, Tonya, Maria, Mary, Joe, Troy, Karen, Paul A. — among others) and that is important to me.
Here it is (wow — look, I can close my eyes!):
Peace (in video),
And now for the grand finale of the claymation adventure with my 8-year-old (wait — he turned 9 today) and 6-year-old sons. With the addition of this final chapter, the entire movie is now just under 10 minutes long. I estimate it took us about five hours to do everything, over the course of four days (including a few rainy days, which was helpful). I am going to burn the movie onto DVD for family.
My kids are so proud of their work and I am proud of them, too. My role was mostly technical advisor and voice-over help (I am the cat), but there were plenty of times when the 8-year-old took control of the computer when I was busy with our 2-year-old and did it himself.
And so, here is our final installment, entitled Finding Mouse:
Peace (with clay thoughts),
My sons wrapped up their holiday break by finishing the last two segments of their claymation movie. I’ll share one segment today and the final one tomorrow.
This is called Capturing a Thief:
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),