The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation: Digital Cinematography: Part 1
As film use declined over the years and was replaced by video, the most popular method for stop-motion became using a MiniDV camcorder with an IEEE-1394 Firewire connection (Figure 4.2) that provided a live feed to a computer with frame-grabbing software. The video camera basically acts as an “eye” and feeds a constant live image into the software, so if one moves a hand into the frame, this should all appear in real time on the computer monitor as well. The software then grabs separate still images from the live feed each time the animator hits the capture button. The flexibility of this method provides instant access to the images for preview purposes and playback. However, even with an HD camera and frame averaging provided to improve the quality of each frame, the image being fed into the computer is essentially a compressed image, and there may be limits to how much resolution can be attained for high-quality broadcast. Watching the animation play back on a computer monitor might look fine, but if it is meant to be blown up on a huge screen at a film festival, the image quality might not be as strong as it should be. Of course, some software does have frame averaging and HD capabilities to help with this.
Despite these challenges to work around, using a live Firewire feed is still a perfectly valid way to shoot stop-motion. However, even though Firewire cards and converters are still on the market for installing into computers, most video cameras no longer come with the Firewire output or cable included. Video camcorders at average consumer prices (or higher) now typically shoot movies onto a hard drive, and a USB connection is used to transfer the video off the camera. Flip Video cameras operate on the same principle, allowing you to shoot video easily in the palm of your hand and upload movies as AVI files directly to your computer. From there, you can burn your videos to DVD or upload them straight to YouTube. More and more standard hard-drive camcorders also shoot in HD, which is quickly becoming standard for all broadcast media. This is all fine if you are shooting home videos of your friends, your kids, or your cat playing the piano for YouTube. However, for stop-motion it presents a problem because a USB connection from these cameras (Figure 4.3) will not provide you with a live feed for your frame grabber. Without a live feed, you cannot use the onion skin or frame-toggling features that frame-grabbing software allows you to take advantage of to help keep your animation registered.