The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation: Digital Cinematography: Part 2
Independent stop-motion filmmakers Justin and Shel Rasch (Figures 4.33 and 4.34) have recently been working on a stereoscopic short film called Line in a studio they have set up in their garage, with the help of some consultants in the stereoscopic field. Here they re-iterate the principles of stereoscopic production by describing their shooting process in detail:
Basically we have a tripod with a little motion-control device, with incremental numbers we can type in for how far to move the camera left or right. Then there is a little button where we press positive or press negative, for the right eye or the left eye. In the Dragon software we’re using, we take a shot and then the software has an “Exposure 2” layer for a second set of exposures into a different directory. We hit the “R” button for the right eye, and the camera moves over, takes a shot, and moves back to the left. We have to remember we’ve done this for every frame.
It’s all a distance thing, based on how far your character is from the camera, and how 3D you want it to look off the screen is the distance of how far you put your camera movement, either left or right. We’ve been experimenting with it in After Effects to see what it looks like. You can also choose where you want the middle ground to be, so basically you decide which part of your scene you want to be screen depth, and everything in front of that will come off the screen. Also, in terms of what you want to be behind the background and what you want in the middle, you can choose that for each shot.
When you have the two images and you put them on top of each other in After Effects, you can find the point in your animation (where, for example, the character is coming forward) where everything lines up perfectly with your character so there’s no double image. That’s called the zero plane, and you’ll see a double image in the background and foreground, which are the parts popping off the screen. You can choose how close to the camera you want that zero plane to be, and all the 3D is based off that.
For more about Justin and Shel’s lives and work, see the full interview with them in Chapter 14: An Interview with Justin and Shel Rasch. Also check out the files Justin Rasch_3D.mov and Justin Rasch_3D_2.mov on the accompanying CD, with a pair of red–blue 3D glasses on!)
Whether shooting in stereo or not, I hope this chapter has helped you understand some basic things about how to set up for shooting stop-motion effectively. All things considered, once you know the basic fundamentals for your camera functions, you are free to be creative and play. When applying this creativity to a short film, though, make sure the effects and settings you experiment with serve your story first and foremost. Knowing how to use the technology to enhance the art and become part of the storytelling process should be your ultimate goal so that you can bring your audience through the story along with you.
Ken A. Priebe has a BFA from University of Michigan and a classical animation certificate from Vancouver Institute of Media Arts (VanArts). He teaches stop-motion animation courses at VanArts and the Academy of Art University Cybercampus and has worked as a 2D animator on several games and short films for Thunderbean Animation, Bigfott Studios, and his own independent projects. Ken has participated as a speaker and volunteer for the Vancouver ACM SIGGRAPH Chapter and is founder of the Breath of Life Animation Festival, an annual outreach event of animation workshops for children and their families. He is also a filmmaker, writer, puppeteer, animation historian, and author of the book The Art of Stop-Motion Animation. Ken lives near Vancouver, BC, with his graphic-artist wife Janet and their two children, Ariel and Xander.