Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Making a Stop-Motion Trailer

Here's a little "behind the scenes" peek at how I made the trailer for Wink, The Ninja Who Wanted to Nap.

Step 1: Storyboard.


A storyboard not only serves as a plan for shooting the video, but it gives me a list of the characters and scenes I'm going to have to make. Since I would have to make all the characters out ahead of time, it also helped me think through some filming strategies and make scenes simpler. For example, I originally wanted two scenes of the fans chasing Wink and I wanted them running in different directions. If I had them running left to right then right to left, I was going to have to make two different sets of characters. Instead, I had them both running left to right, but I changed their angles. In the first scene they ran from the NW corner to the SE corner. In the second scene they ran from the SW corner to the NE corner. That way I could use the same characters.

(That said - I actually didn't use either of those scenes. I found I had way too much footage the first time around so I reshot everything and just included one chase scene. More on that later.)

2. Music.

You can't use any old music if you're going to put things up on the web or you'll get sued for copyright infringement. I went onto a site called Music Bakery and bought a 30 second clip called "Playful."

I think this is a great second step because the music can help you refine your ideas after you've laid your story out.

3. Prep.

Those suckers those cut themselves out.

This is Midori - and no, she doesn't have football player paint under her eyes. Those are her blinking eyes. In some cases, characters had four or five sets of eyes that I would swap out. I also had to keep one arm free so that it could move up and down as she giggled.

So, I had my storyboard. I bought my music. I cut out a bajillion characters. Now it was time to shoot.

4. Set-up.

This was my first set-up. I had my camera on a tripod facing down and my "set" on the drafting table.


You can see three different head for Wink - as he's forming the word "Yahooooo." His arms and legs are not attached to the body so I can manipulate those and there's the letters for "Yahoo." What's the big black wad of paper?, you ask. It's from the first run. After reviewing the footage I shot the whole thing over again in the basement. (I'll get to troubleshooting at the end.)

5. Shooting.


While shooting I kept my eyes glued to the viewer in the camera. And as I'm sure you all know, in stop motion you shoot for a frame/second, stop the camera, move your character, shoot again, stop, move your character, and so forth. It's tedious and requires focus, especially in scenes where there are a few things going on. I would always put things in order like: Words, Wink, Ikuko. Words, Wink, Ikuko. First I'd move the words. Then I'd move Wink. Then I'd move Ikuko - and shoot. And I did it the same way every time.

6. Editing.

My editing process was a little more difficult that it should have been. The new Mac would not acknowledge the old camera. I had to pull out the old Mac so I could upload the video. Edit it on the old Mac. Put it on a disc. Transfer it to the new Mac. Then tinker with it and add the music. It wasn't terrible but it was not streamlined editing.

But anyhoo - that's how it was done. Want to see it again?

OK - now let's talk about the problems.

1. Lighting.

With all the other things I was dealing with I completely forgot to use decent lighting. My studio is pretty bright in the afternoon so I thought it would be good enough. It was not. It was dark and then the sun changed so all the screens had different colors in them.

I added a light source, but because sunlight still creeped in, it continued to alter the colors and made the final product look uneven.

So I moved down to the basement. I'm still not in love with the lighting in the final cut - but I felt it was good enough and I'll tackle that problem for the next film.

2. Edges.

Remember how I was looking through the viewfinder of my camera to set up a shot? Well - what I found after 3 days of shooting is that the camera sees more than the viewfinder. The edges were off. So, once I uploaded my footage into the camera, I could see tape marks or the bottom of a torso. It was not cute. Not cute at all. So I had to learn to zoom in more than I thought I'd need to and extend edges farther.

3. Simplify.

I had waaaay too much footage the first time around. After I cut, edited, and sped up the tape, it was still coming in at a minute, thirty seconds. That's a minute longer than I wanted. So I cut. I cut all sorts of things. For example: the opening scene started with a black piece of paper with "Wink was a ninja who wanted to be noticed" written in white. Then some scissors come on and cut out the Wink shape. Then the paper folds back to reveal the shape. The the ninja flips over. Then I add the eyes, mouth, and hand. Then Wink jumped off the screen.

It looked good but it was practically 30 seconds on it's own.

So I cut the part about the scissors and flipping the ninja. I cut the part where Wink jumps off the screen. Now it's just: establishing shot, pull paper back, ninja face + features. Boom. Moving on.

I don't think there's any way to anticipate that kind of thing. You just have to shoot it, see how it looks, and make changes. But it is good to know ahead of time that there will probably be more than one shoot so don't lose your papers/characters!

All in all it took my about 6 days of planning, cutting, shooting & editing. It was tedious and I had to remember to stretch out my back out a lot - but the process was so much fun and I love the way it came out.

Thanks for all the compliments!

1 comment:

Angela said...

I am still amazed at your abilities. That trailer was awesome! R. Kelly should come to you for some creative help and direction.;)