Just as there are different ways to eat a muffin, there are different ways to make animation. Speaking of which, here’s that behind-the-scenes of my Rubber Onion Battle post I was talking about!
May’s theme was “Poorly timed time-machine”, and I actually prepared for my “improvised” version. By prepared I mean I bought a special little tripod for my phone, and downloaded a stop-motion app. I had a very vague idea for a story, and a backup plan in case I wasn’t able to shoot the stop-motion for whatever reason.
As I previously mentioned, I gathered the rest of my animation props all over the place during our UK trip. The first bits were the buttons I got from Greenwich Market (third strip from the bottom, right, with the 4 green ones):
I got the sticky notes as back up, in the shop by our Edinburgh flat. My Plan B was traditional frame by frame drawings on small pieces of paper, shot with my hand holding the frame against exotic Scottish landscapes as background. It would take hours of preparation and drawing with a marker using the window as my light-table, so understandably, I was very keen to avoid that.
The box was a find in TheWorks, in Edinburgh as well. While I intentionally kept the one pound sticker, the bigger pink one on the bottom came as a surprise in the middle of shooting, where it was too late to remove it.
I had the most trouble with the “main character”. The very few art supply shops I found did not have the materials I was looking for. There was no floral wire anywhere! Plasticine only came in large same-colour expensive packs. I considered getting children’s play-doh, but the colours were terrible and I wasn’t sure how well it would hold the shape. At some point I was even looking for small dolls with movable bits, but I didn’t have much luck with those either. I suppose I was too stingy to spend money on a crocheting hook and colourful yarn, considering the vast amounts of them back home (I did think about bringing some with me, but that would’ve been cheating). In the end, I just mixed flour and salt with water, and found out I didn’t have enough salt. The resulting mess didn’t hold the shape well at all, stuck to everything but the things I wanted it to stick to, started hardening halfway through the shoot, and looked kinda gross in the end. But watching my friend get it all over his foot was totally worth it 😀
The whole thing was shot on the few big rocks right by the boat ramp at the entrance of the Dores Inn Beach at Loch Ness. My favourite bit about the location is that you can see the awesome place we were staying in right there in the background!
During the shoot I was faced with a number of challenges:
- I was basically shooting on the ground level. Which meant that I had to sit down in a stable position to take the shot, get up without moving or dropping the very unstable construction my phone was mounted on, move over to the rocks, crouch back down to make adjustments to the box and “monster”. Rinse and repeat for every frame (roughly 300 times). Very fortunately for me, a UK native friend of mine that joined us for this trip, got curious about 15 frames in, and was successfully recruited to shoot the frames instead, thus saving my legs.
- The beach was quite busy. There were a lot of dogs splashing about in the water and running along the bank. I was most impressed with how the owners made sure to keep them away from my shooting set, without me ever asking them to. Had this been shot in Israel, I guarantee that I’d have to start over multiple times as toddlers, dogs and possibly even grown ups would interfere with my process, knock stuff over and ask questions. All I got there were a few quiet “WTF are they doing?” and a little boy who pretended to not look while slowly edging into the frame.
- I kind of wanted to show some difference in time after the “time machine” did its few spins. That part failed as I had no control over the background, which was randomly busy with ducks, planes and boats.
- I thought it would actually show in the above image, but it illustrates my next problem rather too well: none of the text is actually readable. I’m not sure if the stickers were recognizable either.
- My biggest challenge was getting the story across. While it was obvious to me that the old, wrinkly worm-monster got into the time machine where it went back in time, and came out as a baby worm-monster, how clear was that to anyone watching the short clip?
A big special THANK YOU goes out to Mr. Dorkface who came to my rescue and did the button pressing. It would’ve taken me at least twice as long to shoot without his help, and impossible to do the ending. It is his foot that does the squishing, and his idea to animate the dough a little longer for “comedic effect” which kept me busy at the end when my husband joined, so I did not drown my spouse who thought that “back-seat directing” was a valuable contribution to this production.
I did run into a number of additional problems while editing and adding music, but I found I can solve most things by downloading more apps. I probably should have waited till I got home to mail the file to Stephen though, as I didn’t have to option to rename it properly (putting my own name in the file) from my phone, thus creating more work and headache for Mr. Brooks.
All in all I’m surprisingly happy with how it all turned out, despite all the problems. It was a lot of fun (and squats) to make, and definitely added to my UK experience. I’d love to do more stop-motion projects in the future, and learning from these mistakes is invaluable.
PS: Did anyone at all get the Marv Newland reference?