Before modern “visual effects” were used post-production in films such as Transformers or Iron Man, stop motion was used to create “special effects” during production.
Stop motion is an animation technique used to make physically-manipulated objects appear to move on their own, by moving them in very small increments between individually captured frames. Dolls or clay figures are most popular for this type of animation because of their ease of repositioning, but any object can be used, such as paper, stuffed animals, even cereal! Simply put, anything shot live, frame by frame by a camera is called stop motion.
Examples of true stop motion are Georges Mêlées’ A Trip to the Moon (a personal favorite of my family’s), Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans, Coraline, and Corpse Bride.
Clay animation or clay-mation is the most popular and most easily recognized in the stop motion category. In clay-mation, each piece, character or background is deformable, usually wrapped around a wire skeleton. The object is arranged and then moved slightly by hand. As you can guess, clay-mation is an extremely laborious task. With the standard 12 position changes per second of film movement, a 30 minute movie has approximately 21,000 stops and repositions.
Examples of clay-mation include The California Raisins, Robot Chicken, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Rip Van Winkle.
Pixilation, not to be confused with computer pixelation, is a form of stop motion animation technique in which live actors are used as a frame-by-frame subject, repeatedly posing while a frame is taken. The actor changes poses very slightly for the next frame, and so on. The actor becomes a living puppet, as clay figures are in other forms of stop motion animation. Once the frames are strung together in a sequence, motion is created. Pixilation is a technique often used when blending live actors with animated ones in a film. It is often considered to be the beginning of animated special effects in movies.
Examples include the Bolex Brothers’ The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb, Norman McLaren’s Neighbors (an Oscar winner), Monsieur Pointu, and Mike Jittlov’s short The Wizard of Speed and Tim.
At Austin Visuals, we appreciate the evolution of stop motion because each technique allows creativity to be explored using a myriad of possibilities. As we have learned and mastered animation concepts, we have found creative solutions for our own clients, giving them a unique product when complete.