Stop Motion Animation on a Shoestring

For a while now I’ve felt a strong desire to find ways to merge telling stories, making music and making art. It’s an urge that points towards game development, animation or film making, areas in which I lack knowledge, ability, experience and access to equipment. I started out with a fairly defeatist attitude about it, just unable to see how I could get past my limitations and achieve any kind of satisfactory result. Luckily I’m pretty tenacious in the face of despair, so I eventually decided to work out what I could do with what I have and give it a try.

Makeshift stop motion animation rostrum

One of the avenues I want to explore is using stop motion animation to capture the creation of an image, and then look at setting music to it afterwards. My first experiments involved using a free iPhone app to capture quick sketches. I don’t have a tripod so the results were very shaky, but they were enough to show me that watching an image take shape can be quite magical.

My grandiose ambitions demand something more than five second wobbly video clips, so I needed to come up with a way of working on longer projects and deal with stability and lighting issues. The obvious answer is to spend a little money – for around £70 I could pick up a HD webcam with a tripod and capture pad, or for £250 I could get a set up with a rostrum and lights instead of the tripod. However money is tight right now, and I can’t bring myself to throw cash at the problem until I prove to myself that I can do something worthwhile with this idea.

It was time to look around my home and find some way of approximating a stop motion animation studio using everyday items, and it turned out surprisingly well. I’m using my LCD daylight desk lamp (for treating my Seasonal Affective Disorder) to supplement natural light, a miniature easel to suspend my iPhone over my sketchbook, and a kitchen stepladder to support everything. I’m using an app called iMotion to capture the images, and running its companion app iMotion Remote on my iPad as a remote capture pad.

My crappy home made animation rostrum is a major step forward for me, but it’s far from ideal. Set up on the floor it makes for a very uncomfortable work position. I have the alternative of setting it up on my desk, but would have to rearrange my study furniture if I wanted to get it positioned close to the window for maximum natural light. I have no control over camera height, which means I am limited to drawing on a very small area of the page. All in all I’m happy though, as I can now do more in the way of experimenting and working on longer projects.

Check Out My Melons

Strange things happen when you stay up until 3am playing video games with strange people. You may share theories of life, the universe and everything. You may confess to something weird. You may get talked into trying Snapchat. You may develop urges to send pictures of your melons over social media just to try and get a cheap laugh.


Can they take away your Responsible Adult Card? I’m asking for a friend…

One Password to Rule Them All

I was afraid of forgetting all my passwords until I got Lastpass. Now I’m afraid of forgetting my master password and losing access to everything.

Three passwords so email messages can fly, 

Seven social profiles are never alone, 

Nine shopping carts ready to buy,

One more for Lastpass on its dark throne 

In the land of memory where the shadows lie.

One word to rule them all, one word to find them,

One word to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

In the land of memory where the shadows lie.

Apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien for twisting his words from Lord of the Rings.

Happiness is a Warm Spreadsheet

Picture a battleground on which armies of circus performers and accountants are locked in eternal combat, one side wanting to release flocks of brightly coloured balloons into the sky just to see what happens as they are caught in the wind while the other side has Definite Views on the irresponsibility of balloon release and insists that all balloons be thoroughly shredded, weighed and measured before possibly considering a controlled release scenario involving safety nets and machine guns to shoot down any balloons that get out of control. It’s a war y’all, and it’s good for absolutely nothing.

Welcome to my world, where the circus and accountants represent the two sides of my brain and their tendency to fight each other while I stand in the middle pleading with them to stop hurting me and just try to play nicely with one another. When they pull together life feels great and I do outstanding work. But when they fight? Well, I’ll just say my productivity is compromised and life does not feel good and leave the rest to your imagination.

Brains are not meant to fight like this, I’m sure. In normal neurotypical brain development one side will gain a permanent upper hand, but I don’t seem to have developed in that way. I got extra helpings of limb independence and flexible handedness, but I also got brain fights and I’ve had to do a lot of work learning to manage conflicts that seem to particularly impact self-expression. I am both the accountants and the circus, but I had to learn to step outside myself to play diplomat and get the brain factions to appreciate and negotiate with one another.

Hey circus, wouldn’t it be great if you had someone to help you work out how to break down your project ideas into steps so that you can get on with them instead of getting stuck in a muddle? The accountants are good at that kind of thing.

Hey accountants, wouldn’t it be great if you had an interesting pile of data to sort through and analyse to keep you from getting bored? Those project ideas over on the circus side look like they’re full of juicy data.

Hey circus, wouldn’t it be great if you had someone to help you stay focused so that the thing your idea becomes has a stronger relationship to what you wanted it to be? Accountants can be great at that.

Hey accountants, you know how you’re really rigid and get fixated on things then every so often feel awful because you realise you’ve been stuck on something completely pointless? What if you could use that rigidity to help the circus achieve something wonderful and feel good instead?

Hey circus, I know that for you just making something beautiful is a good enough reason to make something. But what if you set out to make something that’s useful as well as beautiful? It might be even more satisfying for you, and it would get the accountants interested because they love functionality.

Hey accountants, you know how you hate things not working even more than you hate change? I hear the circus is coming up with some ideas for useful things and could use your input on functionality. I bet if you worked together you could create something really useful, and what could be more beautiful than utility?

Beauty and utility; that’s the compromise that gets the circus and the accountants willing to work together. The conference room where they hash out their differences on any given project is the humble spreadsheet. It’s painful for the circus to hand an idea full of love and fireworks to the accountants and watch them rip it to shreds. But then the accountants honour the idea and say “working on task x now will help you move on to tasks y and z so you can meet goal a” or make practical suggestions for getting things done without spending loads of time, money or energy. And then I have a ceasefire on a spreadsheet instead of a battle in my brain, and I can feel happy about ideas turning up instead of dreading dealing with them.

Sound Ideas

Sometimes songs slide out of nowhere as lyrics and melody. It sounds simple and easy, but actually I find them difficult to work with. It’s like having an out of control kite that keeps flitting around and occasionally diving and hitting you in the face. I need to grab the kite to modify it, but how do I do it when I don’t have the kite string in my hands? I often find it helpful to force together images relating to ideas, preferably in odd ways so that they merge into something large, funny and easy to remember. There’s a song I want to work on currently called Take Out Time, and these are the sort of images that I connect to it.

Images courtesy of Victor Habbick, nuttakit, Cnaene, franky242, dan, Aleksa D, Vlado, Tina Phillips, Serge Bertasius Photography & Salvatore Vuono at