Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Low Tech Meets High Tech

Stop motion animation is a process where someone creates an armatured, poseable puppet that is brought to life in a movie by slowly moving the puppet in small increments and filming one frame of film per increment. Sound’s hard doesn’t it and a little boring.

But there are several excellent films that have been created by using armatured, poseable puppets. Two films were produced by Tim Burton, Nightmare Before Christmas in 1993 and Corpse Bride in 2005. Recently Coraline was released as a new 3-D stop motion animation movie based on a Neil Gaiman novella.

So why use stop motion animation? It takes years to produce a movie, lots of building miniature sets, and lots of puppet parts. For Jack Skellington’s face there were at least 25 different heads each with a different facial expression. The small scene sets have to be created in detail and filmed from every angle. Some of you may wonder why people would work for several years just to produce one movie. People like Tim Burton do this type of work because they have a passion for animation and ways to bring animation to life. Every child has had a doll, animal or toy that they brought to life in their mind everyday when they played. Disney has brought many animated characters to life in movies for children and adults to enjoy.

Today the low tech aspect of creating poseable puppets or spending hours drawing animated characters has blended with high tech computer graphics and digital medias to produce visually entertaining 3-D movies like Coraline and Shrek.

So what does all this mean for students today? In North Carolina there are two good film schools for students. The University of North Carolina at Wilmington has a film studies program that prepares students for careers in film production. This program is the third largest film production center in the United States, which is also a part of EUE/Screen Gems Studios, the largest film studio outside of Hollywood. The University of North Carolina School of the Arts also has a School of Filmmaking which prepares students for careers in traditional film production and digital medias.

For students in Forsyth County, Reynolds High School will be offering a new “Arts for Academics” program this fall that will teach animation. The three courses are:

  1. Animation – to introduce students to the many types and techniques of animation
  2. Introduction to Art / Foundations (Art One) – to provide an overview and emphasis on the elements and principles of art and design.
  3. Electronic Media – to show students how the computer may be used as an art making tool through programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash.

Any student can learn about stop motion animation through websites like

Clay Animator that teaches about clay animation and stop motion animation. Students can learn about the art and science of creating, animating, and editing clay and stop motion animation projects. The website also demonstrates the stop motion animation techniques by using interactive tutorials, lessons, pictures and videos and the site offers a list of suggested animation software. Check it out the dancing figure at

Images found at

No comments: