Action-Reaction: Insight Into Moviemaking

Action-Reaction: Insight Into Moviemaking

By: Gavin Warnock, SCI Maker-in-Residence

Here at the Science Center of Iowa, we recently hosted two workshops on stop-motion animation. We made one movie during our drop-in workshop for teens and another with the family night cohort.

In both settings, we had a fantastic time, and I know this is something I would love to do again with any group I am a part of. Now that we are able to share our products with every one of you visiting SCI’s blog (see below for links), I would like to explore how this type of media works.

All About Animation

First, I would like to talk about animation.

Merriam-Webster.com graciously provided the definition of animation as "a way of making a movie by using a series of drawings, computer graphics or photographs of objects (such as puppets or models) that are slightly different from one another and that, when viewed quickly one after another, create the appearance of movement."

That’s a long definition, but a straightforward idea: We move something little by little to make it appear to be moving.

Now, how does this work? Why can we not tell a quality animation is a series of images?

A common misconception about animation is that "persistence of vision" is the whole story. Simply put, persistence of vision comes about because our eyes work by taking a bunch of pictures and blurring them together. This is why, if you hold your hand or a pencil in front of your face and wave it about quickly, it will look like you have two of the object you are waving.

This is not the secret of animation! Persistence of vision is, however, the reason we do not see the black spaces in between images on a film strip during a movie (Like a film at the Blank IMAX Dome Theater)!

The real secret to animation is referred to as the phi phenomenon. As unsatisfying as it may be, the phi phenomenon is described as the phenomenon where one perceives movement when shown objects in rapid succession. So, if you have a circle of lights turned off, and someone is flashing them on one at a time in order at the correct rate, it will appear as though one light is moving in a circle. A great .gif example similar to the one I just described can be seen here.

Creating a Stop-Motion Film

On to the creation!

To make our animation, we used a process as simple as we could for a greater chance that everyone might have access to the tools we used. We started with modeling clay. We used this clay and some other craft supplies to create characters and sets.

After we had a storyline, characters and a set, we were ready to start filming. We used a variety of cameras and took pictures as we moved our characters slightly with each image.

After we were done working, we inserted the images to a PowerPoint presentation (Yes, PowerPoint!) and changed the transition time between slides to be automatic after .04 seconds to meet the industry standard 24 frames per second. Finally, we experimented with this transition time until our videos came to life!

The Finished Product

Before you go out and create your own stop-motion animation, take a look at some of the films we've created this summer during Make@SCI!

This first one is from the drop-in Wednesday Workshop on July 16:

The rest are from the Member Family Workshops on July 11:

Category: Make@SCI