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Posted 11.12.15

Animation lecturer Chris Eales’ six top tips on making your own stop-motion film

By Jake May

Behind the scenes production shot for film by student Jessica Mehler.

Our creative college community is full of talented artists, designers and makers. 
 

From fashion designers to print-makers, fine artists to photographers and much, much more, our lecturers, technical demonstrators, programme leaders, visiting artists, guest lecturers and students are all experts in their specialist field... So we decided it was about time we asked them to contribute some guest posts.

Kicking off this new series of expert blogs is Chris Eales – BA (Hons) Animation lecturer in the college; freelance stop-motion animator, illustrator and filmmaker outside.

Here Chris, whose recent film Two Films About Loneliness co-directed with Will Bishop-Stephens and starring Tim Key featured at film festivals across the globe, shares his six key expert tips on making your own stop-motion animation film...

Chris Eales – BA (Hons) Animation lecturer and freelance film-maker, stop-motion animator, and illustrator.

I always liked the idea that one person or a small team could make their own films. 


For me, stop motion has a real magic about it. You know there’s an everyday object there, but you can see it come to life. Its appeal goes back decades and decades.

As a filmmaker and lecturer, here are my six key tips for anyone thinking of making their own stop-motion film (which I'd recommend you all have a go at!)...

1. Space


Find a space that you can work in where nothing matters other than shooting your sequences. Do everything you can to immerse yourself in the world you are making.

That means no distractions, no internet, no emails, no phone calls, no texts. Music, radio and podcast can be good company though.

Two Films About Loneliness – directed by Chris Eales and Will Bishop-Stephens.

2. Equipment


You don’t need much. The essentials are a stable table that doesn’t wobble, lights (new LED domestic floodlights are a cheap alternative).

Try to invest in a good camera if your budget allows. Stop-motion and photography are closely related.

It will help if you can download stop motion software that will load the images from your camera onto the computer and allow you to watch back your sequence immediately.

Dragon Frame and Stop motion Pro are the main programs used in the industry but there is also free software available online.

Stop-motion apps on iPads and other tablets are a cheap alternative, especially if you are just starting.

Character design by Sofia Beale, BA (Hons) Animation grad, for her 'PLYMOUTHLAND' film.

3. Animation


Start by moving an object in small steps at a time. Get a feel for how much you need to move an object to animate it.

When starting out, lots of small steps are helpful. It’s important to imagine your object as a character with an inner life with hopes and desires. 

Find an everyday object and imagine which character it could be. In the old episodes of ‘Morph’ (Aardman Animations, 1977) his pet dog was simply a nailbrush.

Think: what does the character you have found want to achieve in your sequence.

Don’t be afraid of stillness – it will help to break up the action for the audience

Two Films About Loneliness – Trailer by Will Bishop-Stephens and Chris Eales.

4. Sound


Record your own sound. It’s fun! An inventive or playful approach to sound can turn a low budget film into something special.

Half-hearted sound made at the last minute will drag down the best animated sequences.

5. Look, Watch, Listen


Be curious. Look at everything. Watch people, animals, films, animation (of course). Don’t just watch the obvious. 

Wallace and Gromit are fantastic, but there is a whole world of exciting, hidden treasures out there.

Blogs and websites that regularly showcase exciting new talent like It’s Nice That, Alpha Channel.tv, Animate Projects and Skwigly (Online Animation Magazine) are great places to start looking.

Lecturer Chris Eales with BA (Hons) Animation graduate Sofia Beale.

6. And... Simplicity


Remember – keep it simple. Take it one step at a time.

You don’t have to build props, sets and puppets immediately.

If you can turn a block of wood, or a glass or a nailbrush, or any other everyday object into a living character, then you’re animating.

www.christophereales.com

Interested in stop-motion? Find out about studying on our BA (Hons) Animation programme.

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