Friday, July 26, 2013

Simple Play, Sophisticated Tech

My boys and I are playing around with stop-motion animation this summer while they are out of school. It makes me realize how much the technology has changed since we moved to New Hampshire a dozen years ago.

Stop-motion used to be a big deal. When we were doing animation workshops in 2002, we had to either use the low-resolution Lego camera (and the accompanying software) or a special program that ran on my Mac and used my camcorder in order to do stop-motion.

Now we just shoot the frames as pictures on our family digital still camera, and I can assemble them into a movie with Quicktime Pro. My youngest son Danny did some tests last week, and I had them up and running for him to see in about ten minutes. And it's footage I can crop to 1080p HD if I want to (though I probably won't bother for this summer's playing around).

Unlike the old days, when we did these things on film, if someone gets a finger in the shot by accident (always an issue with any animator, and even more so if the animator is ten), I can just delete the bad frame and shoot the frame again, and no one will ever notice in the finished product.

Not only that, but I am not obligated to shoot all the scenes at the same frame rate. If a scene calls for a very smooth motion, I can shoot for 30 frames/sec. If the motion is not so subtle, 10 frames/sec will do. And the scenes will cut together as if they'd all been shot the same.

And I can use solutions I never could have dreamed of working in film (at least, not on the budgets I had at the time). Danny want's his scene shot against a starry background. In the old days, I would have painted one, and torn my hair out trying to light it properly.

Now I just use a green screen and composite using iMovie. Just like that.

An old guy like me might wax a little nostalgic for his days behind a Super8 camera, clicking away frames with a cable release. But really, if I'm honest with myself, I like this new way better.

A lot better.