Stop motion experiments

One of my favorite shows when I was a child was Gumby Adventures, the 1980s revival of the original The Gumby Show from the late 1950s.  I’ll save my lament of today’s kids for not having the foggiest idea who Gumby is for another time.  What I will talk about is the totally tubular claymation that made the show what it is.

I won’t lie: I was honestly scared of the blockheads. They seemed so real!  But that is part of what made this show so neat.  What fascinated me was that the animation was not just drawings on a page, but animated clay.  To me this seemed to make Gumby and Pokey come alive more than ink and paper would have.

Let’s fast-forward to this past year, when a new song from a new artist emerged.  The music video for Oren Lavie’s Her Morning Elegance was shot entirely in stop motion and took the internet by storm.

Personally, I think the video is tremendously clever.  It must have taken forever to shoot.

My first real education in stop motion came shortly after my exposure to Gumby, on an episode of Muppet Babies, when Nanny gave the kids an old video camera.  Before recreating an abridged version of Star Wars, Skeeter showed the others how to animate clay by making a sculpture, pushing a button on the camera, moving the sculpture a tiny bit, pushing the button again, and so on.

This weekend I decided to try a little stop motion of my own, just to see if I could actually make the theory work.  My first experiment, subtitled Sock Porn, was shot with my regular, everyday point-and-shoot Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS.  There were 118 photos total, it took about a half hour to shoot and was edited together in iMovie HD.

In general, I’m pleased with the end result, especially since I had never done this before.  There are a couple obvious errors, like my leg showing up in the last few frames, but that’s the sort of thing from which we learn.  The most blatant issue, though, was the fact that the camera, despite being set up on a tripod, would move ever so slightly whenever I pushed the shutter button.  The result is a shaky, nausea-inducing film that I am thankful lasts only 22 seconds.

My second experiment was a return to my Gumby roots: I used clay.  I also changed the camera. Because I don’t have a remote control on my PowerShot, I had to find a camera that wouldn’t move when the photo was taken.  That’s where my laptop came in.  Using the built-in camera atop the monitor of my laptop, I shot all the photos for this experiment using Photo Booth.

I want to make it very clear that I am not an artist.  My days of playing with Play-Doh are long gone, so I am sorely out of practice.  But the goal of this experiment was not to create a masterpiece worthy of the Louvre.  I’d say this experiment turned out quite well, indeed.  The neutral tone of the clay showed up (all I had lying around), the camera was steady, and I even like the grainy quality of Photo Booth’s photos.

I’m totally into this stop motion filming.  Eventually, I’d like to get a camera that works well in the capacity for which I would like to use it.  Meanwhile, I think I’ll stop by the store and pick up some Play-Doh this afternoon and practice for next time.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. raggray
    Jun 08, 2009 @ 15:20:04

    Words I never I thought I’d hear myself say: Sock Porn is terrific!


  2. In10Words aka "Galileo"
    Jun 08, 2009 @ 17:33:15

    I’m actually fond of the jerkiness found in amateur stop-motion. Sure, not everyone is Harryhausen, but these were good!

    As for Gumby, yes I’m saddened that kids don’t know who he is, but many of his early stuff have not aged well, like the MST’d “Robot Rumpus.” Then there’s his first cartoon, “Gumby on The Moon,” which is actually quite creepy. Imagine the clay vid you did, but with no music whatsoever, and some weird “shaking cracker jacks in the box” sound made for the non-Gumby clay figures moving and see if you can sleep tonight.


  3. nutmegnanny
    Jun 09, 2009 @ 22:34:17

    I think it looks really cool. My little brothers girlfriends son made his first stop motion fill not to long ago. He was super proud. He did it with his little lego men.


  4. Thomas
    Jun 10, 2009 @ 18:03:06

    Bravo! Do some more, that was great!


  5. Matt
    Jun 25, 2009 @ 06:15:02

    I like it! Keep going with this.


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