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Understand the techniques and development of stop motion animation

Techniques The techniques I will be researching will be in relation to stop motion animation, these being persistence of vision, stop frame, and frame rates. I will be discussing and researching these techniques so as to better my understanding of stop motion animation. Persistence of vision is referring to the thought that and afterimage can be left on the eye, for approximately one twenty fifth of a second[1]. In relation to stop motion animation, this would mean that the illusion of movement is created by a series of images shown in quick succession, thus creating the illusion of movement. An example of this illusion is seen in some old movies, for example, Jason and the Argonauts, directed by Don Chaffey in collaboration with Ray Harryhausen. This film is particularly good as an example of stop motion animation, as it contains lots of fight scenes with mythical monsters, and, because the movie was released in 1963, they did not have access to the kind of animation we do today, they had to use stop motion to make the monsters seem like they were moving. Stop frame is a form of stop motion animation, and is one of the many names used to describe animation that is created frame by frame in front of a camera, for example the fight scenes in the previously mention Jason and the Argonauts, or more modern animations such as Wallace and Gromit. These types of stop motion animations deal with only three dimensional figures because they are more effective in, for example, live action movies. Frame rates are what they sound like. They are how many frames per second are in an animation, or, in this case, a stop motion animation. For example, the Wallace and Gromit features are shot in ones, which means that for each second of screen time, there are 24 frames. By 24 frames, we mean that each model is moved the tiniest bit, and a picture is taken. This basically means that for each second, there are 24 slightly different pictures, merged together to give the illusion of movement. However, a lot of amateur stop motion features use 2’s, which is 12 frames per second, as it is easier to do, is less time consuming, and less frames are used overall. For example, Wallace and Gromit used on average 3500 frames in one feature, but if they had used 2’s instead of 1’s, then this amount would have been effectively halved. The drawback of this however is that the animation wouldn’t be as smooth. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jvOTsi3i64 an example of stop motion animation).


Development

One of the pioneers of stop motion animation is Joseph Plateau, the inventor of the phenakistoscope. He was a Belgian physicist, lived from 1801 to 1883, and was the first person to demonstrate the illusion of a moving image. This was one of the first early animation methods, which used the persistence of vision principle to create the illusion of movement. It was the precursor to the zoetrope, which is a slightly more advanced version of the phenakistoscope. It consisted of a spinning disc attached vertically to a handle.

The zoetrope, which is a more advanced version of the phenakistoscope. It was invented by William George Horner, who lived from 1786 to 1837, and was a British mathematician. There was an earlier version of the zoetrope which was invented in china by Ding Huan, around 180 AD. The modern zoetrope however was invented 1934. It runs on the same principle as the phenakistoscope, but was mounted upright in a drum which spun on a rotating cylinder, and had narrow viewing slits for the viewer to see the illusion of movement.


The successor of the zoetrope is the praxinoscope, created in 1877 by Emile Reynaud, 1844 to 1918, a French science teacher. (a slightly improved version of this, called the theatre optique, was also created by Emile Reynaud, and it let a longer roll of ‘Film’, or images to be used.) The praxinoscope used mirrors and lights instead of the narrow viewing slits of the zoetrope, so that a brighter, bigger, less distorted image could be seen. Emile also projected his first full animated film in 1892

The next advancement in stop motion animation, and indeed, animation and motion pictures in general is the zoopraxiscope. It was invented by English photographer Edward Muybridge, who lived from 1830 to 1904. He was known for pioneering work on animal locomotion. The zoopraxiscope was an early device for showing motion pictures, and was made in 1879. It could also be said that it was the first movie projector. It worked by using images on a rotating glass being projected creating the illusion of movement. This also appears to have been the primary inspiration of the kinetiscope, invented by Thomas Edison and William Kennedy Dickson.


From these early pioneer’s came such developers as Ray Harryhausen and Willis O’Brian, who produced such movies as Jason and the Argonauts (Ray Harryhausen), and Mighty Joe Young (Willis O’Brian). These movies merge live footage with stop motion animation, and there two greats were the leaders among their peers at this type of animation.

Ray Harryhausen was born on June 29, 1920 in Los Angeles, and he created a brand of stop motion animation called ‘Dynamation’. This term was coined as a merchandising term during the making of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, where more optically had to be used with the stop motion animation, because of colour shift balance problems.

Willis O’Brian was born in 1886, and died in 1962. He was an Irish-American, and a pioneering producer of motion picture special effects. He made such motion pictures as mighty joe young, and king kong (with other motion picture artists).


Along the lines of more contemporary artists, there is Tim Burton and the Brothers Quay. Both innovation stop motion artists, but both for different reasons. Tim burton, for example, has made many feature films, whereas the brothers Quay have made many short films.

Tim burton could be considered an icon for stop motion artists around the world. With productions such as Beatlejuice, and The Nightmare Before Christmas, he stands out as one of the leading inspirations for all stop motion animators. The repertoire of his films is full and wide, and he has worked with many great artists such as Johnny Depp, Danny De’vito- and Jack Nicholson. The reason that his works are so good is because of their quirkiness, and their almost flawless animation.

The brothers Quay are primarily short film makers, and have produced such shorts as the epic of Gilgamesh, and the Calligrapher. The have won many awards for their achievements in animation, including the drama desk award for outstanding set design.


Stop Motion Animation