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.