The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation: Digital Cinematography: Part 2
To figure out exactly when the camera tilt should start and get the desired effect, a virtual camera move was programmed beforehand using Final Cut Pro, as explained by director of photography Chayse Irvin:
Final Cut Pro 7 has the ability to create logarithmic curves over a timeline. Basically what I did was create a sequence that was the same time as the shot. Since we were working on one's and not two's, a 23.98 timeline is perfect. I took a video-generated filter called "color," and I could manipulate the motion settings of that, using the scale function to animate the dolly and rotation function to animate the tilt. I found the beginning and end marks by physically moving and setting the camera where I wanted it to begin and end. That would give me a measurement in distance, as well as a degree in tilt. I made those values my beginning and end in FCP over the 23.98 timeline and duration of the whole shot, then guessed where I wanted it to accelerate or decelerate and applied those "curves" in the FCP motion tab. During animation I would just press the forward key, moving to the next frame. Then I would click on each text slug, and it would give me FCP's calculation of what the next frame's movement was. Then, I applied that to what we were working with physically. The movement in the shot was 15 seconds, which equaled 360 frames of animation.
For another animated element in the shot, in the background there was a large plank of wood with a light attached to the end, which was meant to represent the sun moving across the sky (Figure 4.22). A large chart was drawn on a sheet of wood to which the plank was attached and could be moved frame by frame according to the timing marks drawn on the chart. The light itself, although visible to the camera, was not intended to be the actual sun in the film. An illustrated sun would be composited over it in post, so the animation of the sun light was only there as a guide for tracking it. On the set, between the background and the camera, a circular disk on a wire was positioned to line up with the sun in each frame, thereby covering it. The end goal of animating the sun light throughout the shot was simply to give the proper light and shadows moving across the set.
Animator Anthony Scott, animation supervisor for Corpse Bride and Coraline, designed and built a camera rig of his own (Figure 4.23) for a recent stop-motion music video he worked on, a collaborative project with artist K Ishibashi of the band Jupiter One. Anthony named his rig “the LumberFlex” (which started as a joke, but the name stuck) and designed it for shots that need to get close to the set and move through it. The wooden camera base moves along a track made of two pipes on a long wooden platform, which is hinged in the middle and essentially works like a teeter-totter. It’s weighted on the opposite end with about 20 pounds of weights to counter-balance the heavy geared head for the camera as it slides forward, and a bungee cord keeps things from going flying if the camera is removed. Another device, a Model Mover (Figure 4.24), which incrementally pushes the platform upward by turning a wheel at the bottom, was added to the front for boom shots. For some tilt shots, Anthony would move the geared head and also attach a stick and a sheet of foam core to the back of the camera, marking the increments for the tilt motion on the foam core (Figure 4.25). All of the mobility for the LumberFlex, like any camera rig for stop-motion, is designed to be moved in increments frame by frame. The animation of both the camera moves and the objects on set was primarily shot on twos (2 frames per movement) for this project, which is surprising because the general rule for camera moves has traditionally been to shoot them on ones (1 frame per movement) to avoid a strobing effect. However, on Anthony’s previous animation work for the titles to United States of Tara (which won the stop-motion team an Emmy), they found that camera moves on twos actually looked better. More information on Anthony and K’s new animated music video project is included in Chapter 15: The Stop-Motion Community.