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Documentation for a short stop motion animation based on an excerpt from Seamus Heaney’s “Digging”.

Digging by Richard Burton and Samuel Lambert


Introduction Documentation for a short stop motion animation based on an excerpt from Seamus Heaney’s “Digging”.


Seamus Heaney Digging Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun. Under my window a clean rasping sound When the spade sinks into gravelly ground: My father, digging. I look down Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds Bends low, comes up twenty years away Stooping in rhythm through potato drills Where he was digging. The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft Against the inside knee was levered firmly. He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep To scatter new potatoes that we picked Loving their cool hardness in our hands. By God, the old man could handle a spade, Just like his old man. My grandfather could cut more turf in a day Than any other man on Toner's bog. Once I carried him milk in a bottle Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up To drink it, then fell to right away Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods Over his shoulder, digging down and down For the good turf. Digging. The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge Through living roots awaken in my head. But I've no spade to follow men like them. Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests. I'll dig with it. - from Death of a Naturalist (1966)


Moodboard Initial research ideas


Further Research With Seamus Heaney as our poet, we then started to research the works of Robin Rhode. We wanted to play around with the tangebility of objects as seen with Robin’s work. Rhode often uses stop motion animation as his main design process. We decided to experiment with this technique.


Planning & Storyboarding We did lots of draft story boarding before and during the photography stage, to work out how many words could be divided into a certain number of frames etc.


Initial Stages First of all we wanted to portray the digging of mud by using typography. Our first step was to buy some compost and sgarden trays for experimenting different stop motion techniques.


Studio Set-up The second time of filming in the studio was much more successful with 6.5 hours of shooting.


First Attempt Our first attempt at animating our typography brought us to the realization that 12 frames per letter would take to long to shoot. Also we would not fit many words in to a 90 second film with this many frames.


Second Attempt We decided to make it 12 frames per word rather than per letter, this way a word would appear quickly, and could be kept on screen to ensure the viewer is able to read it.


Further Changes After the words appeared, getting them to disappear was our next task. Again, it took too many frames to erase the words by sweeping the soil from left to right.


Text Erase We decided to erase the words shown here (bottom left) by covering them from top to bottom. This meant that we could erase a word in just 6 frames, halving the time on screen, and giving extra time to use more of the poem.


Stills From Stop Motion Shown here are some stills from our final stop motion piece.


Conclusion Overall it was a productive project which taught us many new principles and techniques.



Words In Motion Documentation