Stopmotion Explosion

HD Stop Motion Software: Stopmotion Explosion Animator (Windows)

After supporting Stopmotion Animator (SMA) for many years, I decided it was time to re-write the software and create a better stop motion app for the 21st century.

Today, you can download the new Stopmotion Explosion Animator application, and instruction guide from the Downloads page (Windows only).

FEATURES

  • HD webcam support!
  • Import existing frames
  • Basic timeline
  • Adjustable onion-skinning
  • Flip between live video / last frame
  • Resizable video window
  • Delete frames
  • Save frames as .BMP / .PNG / .JPG
  • Export .AVI / .MP4 video files
  • Multiple codec options
  • Adjustable export bitrate

Good news is, if you've recently purchased an Animation Kit, or one of our Stopmotion Cameras, you'll find that Stopmotion Explosion Animator unlocks their HD potential. Using the Camera Resolution menu, you should be able to select higher resolutions than were previously available in SMA.

As always, questions and feature requests should be directed to the Helpdesk. Thanks!

OS X HD Support! FrameByFrame 1.3 Released

Head over to the download page and grab the latest and greatest version of this OS X animation program.

NEW FEATURES

  • HD Enabled! If you're an OS X user, and you purchased the animation kit after January 15th, this update will unlock the HD resolution of your camera. Simply download, plug in the camera, select the maximum resolution, and you're ready to go! (If it's working, you'll see 1280 x 720 in the bottom left corner of the application).
  • Switch camera resolutions. Choose either Medium, High, or Maximum levels to ensure you're capturing the quality footage your project needs.
  • See current camera resolution in the main animation window.
Since this is a new release, I want to stomp out any bugs if they exist. Please let me know if you encounter error messages or crashes, via the Contact Page. Thanks! 

Fan Feature: How to Animate A Short Stop Motion Film

Once you move beyond animating simple stop motion doodles, and start stringing dialog and action together, you're creating short films! The longer your film is, the more time should be taken to plan ahead, writing a script, drawing storyboards, and ensuring that the story is told well.

Brickfilmer Jared Nesbit has been posting movies to his YouTube channel for several months, and recently won the Harding University Five Minute Film Festival with his film "Darth Vader's Birthday".

I've asked him some questions about his film Super Duck, which is almost 14 minutes long. His answers will be helpful if you're attempting a longer project, and are wondering how to begin.

First, watch the film!

INTERVIEW

Q: Super Duck is a classic superhero film - ordinary guy becomes extraordinary and starts saving the world (or not). How did you come up with the idea for your movie's story?

A: I always though that it would be fun to make a film about what it would REALLY be like to become a super hero. In the movies, everything seems to work out perfectly for the hero, so I decided to do something different.

Q: How long did it take you to make the film?

A: I animate really slowly (because I'm lazy and I get distracted easily), so it took me about 8 months. One month to write the script and get voice actors, another month to animate the first scene, another month to be lazy and not do anything whatsoever, four months to finish animating, and one month to add effects and audio.

Q: Do you do any sort of planning ahead of animating? Do you write a script, or sketch out any storyboards?

A: When I first started making Brickfilms, I thought "I don't need to write a script, it's all in my head!!". But after I got the Stopmotion Explosion book, I decided to give script writing a shot. Since then, it has really impacted my films for the better. Especially for long movies like Super Duck where I easily forgot what I was going to have in a certain scene, it was really nice to be able to look at the script. I have never story boarded any of my films. Honestly, it seems like a waste of time to me. If I ever try, it will probably follow the same course as the script writing, which I don't want because I have enough work already.

Q: What order do you like to film your shots? The entire story from start to finish? Or do you film parts out of order?

A: I usually film scenes in order if interesting-nes. If there is a really action-y part of my film, I want to do that part first, just to whet my appetite for animating other scenes.

Q: Did the story change while you were making the film? If so, how?

A: A little bit. Originally, I was planning on having a villain. But If I had added one, the film would have been 30:00 long. I decided to save the villain for the sequel. I also added little bits of extra humor as I went. Several of the more random scenes were added after I had finished the script. There were just some chances for hilarity that I couldn't pass up.

Q: You worked with other "voice actors". How did you find them, get them to work with you, share the script / audio files and so on?

A: I got many of my voice actors from an online brick filming community called BrickInMotion. I made a thread on the forums requesting some people to do voices for me. I then sent everyone the script via email, and they sent me the lines I needed on a WAV file. Being able to get people from around the world to do voices for me is nice, but I don't like having them do any of the main parts. It is the internet after all. That's why my brother played the Psychiatrist. (Nate's note: If you have to share files between several people, I recommend using a service like Dropbox).

Q: If you made the film over, what would you do differently?

A: I would animate the first half better. My skill as an animator improved dramatically over the making of this film. And it shows, especially when the Psychiatrist is talking. I would also probably change the look of the hero. I think his hair and torso are too plain.

Q: What advice would you give people who wanted to make longer stop motion films with LEGO, or other materials?

  1. Write a script. You can go back and change it later but you need some things to remain constant.
  2. Add audio as you animate. Don't wait until you are done with 100% of the animation to add sound effects. When you add all of the sound effects at once, you tend to be lazy with them and they don't sound as good.
  3. Don't be lazy. Your film is only as good as the work you put into it. If you bump the set, you should probably re-do the scene, not try to put it back where it was before. I was lazy a few times in Super Duck, and it's pretty obvious.
  4. Have fun: What? You didn't see this cliche coming? If you start to get tired of animating, give it a break. Your films will seem forced if you aren't enjoying making them.

Thanks again Jared for taking time to do this interview. Looking forward to seeing your future work! You can subscribe to his channel HERE.

Is The LEGO Movie Stop Motion or CGI?

Hey everyone!

Like many stop motion animation fans I’m really looking forward to seeing The LEGO Movie coming out on February 7th. If you haven’t seen the trailer make sure to check it out!

Pretty awesome huh? Looks like an amazing stop motion movie. Or is it? If you look closely you’ll see that some scenes from The LEGO Movie trailer look digital, while other scenes look like they were animated using actual LEGO bricks. Some look like a mix of both. What’s going on here? I’m not sure. In fact, not too many people are sure whether this is a digital movie or a stop motion movie.

Because I was curious I did some research and found out that people have been asking the directors of The LEGO Movie about this for quite some time but the directors haven’t been very clear about it. Check out this panel from the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller answer the question in the first couple minutes of this video:



I also found some tweets by Chris Miller from back in June that seem to confirm a hybrid animation style.

So the answer to the question “Is the LEGO Movie stop motion or CGI?” actually could be both! And from the sound of it the Directors don’t want to let us know exactly what parts are CGI and what parts may be stop motion. Either way it’s still pretty cool to know that at least some parts of this movie may be made from real LEGO bricks. That’s a win in my book!

Update 02-07-2014

On the day of the movie's release, more information is coming out about the production process. Here's another tweet from filmmaker Chris Miller

The film was made using mostly CGI. Special care was taken to ensure the LEGO world reflected the dynamics and appearance of real LEGO bricks. The creators examined parts under microscopes to better understand how they wore down over time. Animators experimented with different levels of dust and dirt on surfaces, and added imperfections to models, like tiny gaps between bricks.

It's great to have confirmation of something we suspected all along. The creators of this movie were inspired by watching actual brickfilms.

Here's an article in the NYT with more coverage of the production. This article at CGMeetup has a few more images from the studio. Check out the images of Emmet's expressions, video of the CGI animation process, and a real LEGO mock-up of a ship in the film in the video above!

Support the ModiBot Kickstarter Campaign!

The ModiBot Kickstarter Campaign has successfully funded. Thanks for your support! Preordering now unlocks additional figures.

I'll take care of this

A few weeks back, I met Wayne Losey. Wayne and his partner Tucker Johnson have been working on an exciting project that stop-motion animators are going to love.

IMG_3261

The ModiBot is a brand-new posable figure. Like other building toys, ModiBots arrive as a pile of parts that snap together quickly. One ModiBot kit can be combined with other ModiBots to create new figures. Due to the flexible design and large assortment of accessories, the ModiBot is going to become a favorite character for animators everywhere.

Venture kit parts

ModiBots can currently be ordered from the Bot Shop at Shapeways, the 3D printing store. After meeting Wayne, I placed an order. It takes around ten days for the figures to be printed and shipped, but when they arrived, I made this quick video of unboxing and assembly of the ModiBot Mo- Poseable Venture Figure Kit.

I'm pretty happy with the design. While the nylon plastic Shapeways material creates high amounts of friction in the ball joints, I've handled one of the new molded plastic figures, and this friction will be a non-issue going forward. The joints have a perfect balance of friction and movement.

ModiBot proto shoot

While the final ModiBot design will be built from molded plastic, the Shapeways figures are "printed" from a textured nylon plastic material. The goal of the Kickstarter campaign is to help bring the new molded figures to market. This is a great chance to pre-order a very cool toy with huge animation potential.

Kickstarter Link

FrameByFrame OS X 10.8 Update & Bugfix

Some of you were experiencing a mysterious crash when using FrameByFrame with OS X 10.8. After some testing and dead ends, I'm happy to announce a fix has been released on the Downloads page (link below).

The problem was caused by a bug in OS X, where a scrollbar appearing in the timeline would cause a crash to occur. If for any reason you wish to circumvent this bug and run an older version of FrameByFrame, open your Mac's System Preferences. Click General. Underneath "Show Scroll Bars" check "Always". Then exit, and launch FrameByFrame.

If you're installing FrameByFrame for the first time via CD, please check and ensure that you're running version 1.11. If not, delete the current version, and download the latest from our website, via the Downloads page.

The Stopmotion Explosion Mailbag - Answers to Your Questions

Happy New Year!

Over the past few days I've been emailing back and forth with Stopmotion Explosion animators, answering questions. I'd like to share some of my answers, in hopes that you might find them useful in your own animating adventures.

Q: (A Mac user) What's this Macam application? I can't animate with it, and it doesn't recognize the camera..
A: Macam is used to connect non-OS X compatible cameras to the animation application. However, if you're using the Animation kit, you don't need to use Macam, since the camera already has plug-n-play OS X support.

Instead, you want to be animating with the FrameByFrame app. The fastest way to get started with FrameByFrame is to visit the Downloads page, input the password from the book, and download the app installer.

Q: (A Windows user) I can't get the camera to work in SMA. However, I can see an image in AMCAP. What's happening?
A: Windows Vista, 7 & 8 have an irritating tendency to automatically install (wrong!) drivers when the camera is plugged into the computer for the first time. This is usually avoidable if you install the software CD before plugging the camera into your computer. Otherwise, do the following.

Test the camera by plugging it into your computer and launching AMCAP (this application is located on your desktop, or can be found by running a quick search via the Start Menu). Make sure no other applications are running. If you can see an image in AMCAP, then exit, and launch SMA. If you don't see an image there, do the following:

  1. Unplug the camera
  2. Insert the software CD
  3. Run the installer again.
  4. When the camera driver installer pops up, make sure to install it again.
  5. Restart, and then launch SMA.

98.7% of the time, this fixes the problem. If you don't see an image after following the instructions above, contact me.

Q: The camera focus ring seems stiff when I try to turn it. Is it broken?
A: You're focusing the camera correctly. The "stiffness" you're experiencing is lubricant on the focus ring, preventing the camera from loosing focus easily if the camera is jiggled. If you twist the ring left and right a few times, it should loosen up. There is a lot of room inside the camera for the focus ring to turn, so don't be afraid of breaking it

Q: I've made an amazing movie, and I want to add some sounds! How do I do this?
A: The process of adding sound effects to movies is covered in Chapter 12. Editing video can take some time to learn, but the end result is well worth it.

If you insert the CD into your computer drive, you'll find a folder labeled Sound Effects. These can be added to your film using Windows Movie Maker, or you can follow the instructions in Chapter 11 for recording your own sounds.

I also really like the sound effects on http://www.freesound.org/ - these are usually very high quality, and there is a large selection to choose from.

I prefer using Windows Movie Maker 2.6 for editing, since it has more features than newer versions. You can download this version from Microsoft.com HERE.

Got a question of your own? Contact me via the support page!