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Cheap Software Tools Give New Life To Stop-Motion Animation 111

Posted by timothy
from the long-way-from-10th-grade-projects dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The NY Times reports that a wide variety of new stop motion animation tools are making it simpler to create stop-motion movies. The new tools are helping animators run more than three times faster than they did just a few years ago. Some even say that stop motion is cheaper than computer generated animation. Tools like Dragon Stop Motion, Stop Motion Pro and iKitMovie are just a few of the tools that are reinvigorating the space."
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Cheap Software Tools Give New Life To Stop-Motion Animation

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  • Finally (Score:3, Funny)

    by Stregano (1285764) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:10PM (#33977870)
    I can finish my glorious recreation of the California Raisins singing "Heard it to the Grapevine"
    • A few years ago I completed a massive stop motion project:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nd0nQE_nw20 [youtube.com]

      which has over 6000 shots, and used a combination of webcam shots, digital camera shots and a live action camera.

      I will like to venture the opinion that the software for stop motion animation is generally terrible.

      I tried out a bunch of software and almost all of them were either :

      - Too expensive

      - Crashed too often

      - Difficult to use

      - Had practically no features
      • Um...Klay World anybody? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvqjJzuaNSE [youtube.com]

        That's the type of stuff young animators want to make, and it is way too hard for a hobby budget. The biggest problem I have with the kids stuff is matching the frames. It's not like we're building rigging and steady cams here. It would be nice if a program let you put some small object just out of frame and match it for size, position, tilt, zoom, etc as well as color and light balance between all the frames. That alone would make things

    • by Phoghat (1288088)
      Massive FAIL it's "I heard it through the grapevine."
  • by jordan314 (1052648) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:10PM (#33977884)
    There are plenty of smartphone apps out there too (several on the iPhone at least), which is a really great use of the camera and software at once. They support previous frame overlays, time-lapse, and frame-by-frame deleting and editing, which are a boon for quick creativity.
    • by jedwidz (1399015)

      Slightly off-topic, but I'd like an iPhone app to do time-lapse of my kids as they grow up. Does anyone know of one?

      I've already been playing around with some stop-motion apps (iMotion and StopMotion Record), and they'll certainly do it. But I'd prefer something with really good correction for lighting and placement, and with a workflow optimized for taking a single photo per app launch.

      If not I'll write my own and race you to the app store ;-}

  • Uhhh... Yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:11PM (#33977916) Journal

    Some even say that stop motion is cheaper than computer generated animation

    Well yes - that's why when computers were invented we didn't instantly switch to CGI for our movies, it took time to come around - Stop motion has ALWAYS been cheaper.

    The problem is: It doesn't look as nice.

    Cut out the director's and actors' Salaries from the movies, and guess which one had a higher budget: Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer or Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones.

    • by Stregano (1285764)
      There is still a director in cg and stop motion movies. Also, people do get paid a good amount of money for voice overs as well
      • Iron Maiden wanted Vincent Price to do the 15 second opening in Number of the Beast. He wanted $25000 for the recording.
        • And? Vincent Price's name, face and voice obviously was of some benefit - otherwise they would have hired some guy that looked like him and looped in dialog from someone who sounded like him. They wanted Vincent Price, they had to pay for Vincent Price. Or maybe they thought that being Iron Maiden was enough...
        • by Dogtanian (588974)
          $25,000? While hardly cheap, it's not extortionate either- even taking inflation into account, it'd be pretty low by modern standards. The fact that the opening would have been 15 seconds rather than 30, or a couple of minutes isn't really the issue- the fact that someone that famous was on the recording would likely pay them back.
          • by muridae (966931)

            And 15 seconds of audio does not take just 15 seconds of time. They couldn't just call up Price on the phone and ask "Hey, can you take a minute to say this line a few times, and let us record it?" Even for just a sample of his voice, you are talking about an hour in a studio, but that requires a day of traveling on both sides of the event, probably a day or two stay before the studio to recover from flying (my voice sounds like crap after a flight, dry air or something.). Figure in the take of the lawyer a

      • I never said there wasn't - I'm saying that when you cut out those prices, the rest of the movie production can essentially be considered what goes into CG and Stop Motion - as a Director is uniform across both platforms, as with actors (and voice actors) - but everything else is pretty different. Thats why when you cut out the salaries of the people in both types, you get whats left: whats involved with JUST stop motion, and whats involved with JUST CGI, and you can compare the dollars.

    • by tacarat (696339)
      The real question is what could "Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer" have looked like if it had the time, modern benefits and budget you mentioned. Not to say it'd look as nice, but I'm sure it'd be better (assuming they don't stay with the kiddie looking format).
      • by blair1q (305137)

        Rudolph 2: Revenge of the Abominable Snowmen

      • The kid's Rudolph (Score:4, Interesting)

        by westlake (615356) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @04:57PM (#33979540)

        The real question is what could "Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer" have looked like if it had the time, modern benefits and budget you mentioned. Not to say it'd look as nice, but I'm sure it'd be better (assuming they don't stay with the kiddie looking format

        The "look" persists because Rudolph" has always been a story for kids.

        "Rudolph" began as a 1939 coloring book distributed freely to children by Montgomery Ward. Gene Autry recorded the Johnny Marks song in 1949. The Rankin/Bass special for NBC was broadcast in 1964.

        • "Rudolph" began as a 1939 coloring book distributed freely to children by Montgomery Ward.

          Right. It was Robert L. May who actually created the character, while working at Montgomery Ward.

          (forget the iBankers, the College on the Hill does turn out some very creative types... :-)

    • Apples & apples (Score:4, Informative)

      by dazedNconfuzed (154242) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:32PM (#33978224)

      Better CGI-to-stopmotion comparison is SW2 with Corpse Bride, with budgets of $115M vs. $40M respectively, which lines up pretty well accounting for subtracting non-animation costs, and considering they were made only 3 years apart and done within the same general Hollywood system.

      Even better would be pure-animation Robots vs. Corpse Bride, made same year with $75M vs. $40M budgets.

      • Re:Apples & apples (Score:4, Insightful)

        by sznupi (719324) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:54PM (#33978548) Homepage

        ...and how many of us know people who thought Corpse Bride had to be CGI?

        (I also knew some thinking the same thing about Sony Bravia San Francisco bouncy balls commercial; and refusing to accept otherwise until linked to "making of")

        • by kmoser (1469707)
          I guess the outtakes at the end of Pixar films prove that the whole thing was live action.
        • by Tetsujin (103070)

          ...and how many of us know people who thought Corpse Bride had to be CGI?

          I always thought "Coraline" had a real CG look to it.

          Of course, there's a reason for that: they designed the facial animations on a computer, and used the CG version of the faces to 3-d print a large number of interpolated expressions.

          Corpse Bride took a different approach: mechanical heads with rubber coverings. Kind of a complicated approach, and personally I thought the faces wound up looking kind of stiff...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by westlake (615356)

        Even better would be pure-animation Robots vs. Corpse Bride, made same year with $75M vs. $40M budgets.

        Robots:
        Run time 91 minutes

        Corpse Bride:
        Run time 77 minutes

        55 week shoot.

        Corpse Bride was the first stop-motion feature to be edited in Apple's Final Cut Pro.

        The puppets used neither of the industry standards of replaceable heads (like those used on The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)) or replaceable mouths (like those used by Aardman Studios in Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

      • by Dogtanian (588974) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @05:56PM (#33980300) Homepage
        First there was Alien vs. Predator. Then there was Freddy vs. Jason. But it was clear that the crossover fad had gone too far when they announced...

        Robots vs. Corpse Bride

      • > "Can we get a "-1 Wrong" moderation option?"

        Yes, but you'd get a "All comments below your viewing level" condition.

    • Re:Uhhh... Yeah (Score:4, Insightful)

      by miserere nobis (1332335) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:56PM (#33978596)
      re: "doesn't look as nice". Actually, that isn't something you can say across the board. Filming physical models can often produce superior results. In fact, it takes a whole lot of work on a computer to produce something that looks half as good as simply taking a picture of a real-life object. I actually think a lot of the spaceship action in the original Star Wars movies looked better (where, of course, "better" is definitely a subjective, artistic judgment based on sense of "realism", sense of how much its look fits with the feel of the overall film and so on) than the newer ones which relied more on computer graphics. The difference isn't solely that CGI looks better (though it does in some cases-- think, say, a Godzilla monster, that would rely on a very difficult model or a person in a suit), but that you can do things with it that you can't do with a camera and a real scene, and that you can much, much more easily re-film a scene with slight adjustments.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Mprx (82435)
        The big problem with stop motion is the lack of motion blur. Film is still shot at 24fps, so there's normally a huge amount of blur, and stop motion looks very different without it. It's possible to simulate motion blur by moving the models while photographing each frame (Robocop did a reasonably good job with this), but most films don't bother and the stop motion looks unnatural.
        • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_motion

        • by dangitman (862676)

          It's possible to simulate motion blur by moving the models while photographing each frame

          It's trivial to simulate realistically in digital images with simple algorithms. I don't see how it's an issue.

          • by fredjh (1602699)

            IOW, using CGI....

            Then it's a hybrid of stop motion and computer animation that goes beyond things like simple color correction and aligning misaligned frames.

            • by dangitman (862676)

              IOW, using CGI....

              Only under the broadest definitions of "CGI." The imagery is not so much generated by the computer, but interpolated by it. Is a photograph from a digital camera "CGI" because it is processed and interpolated digitally?

              Then it's a hybrid of stop motion and computer animation that goes beyond things like simple color correction and aligning misaligned frames.

              Under your strict sensibilities, how is digital color correction or alignment not CGI? Interpolated motion blur is basically just color correction for motion rather than hue.

              • by fredjh (1602699)

                I guess it's just a lot more intensive, including tracking motion and doing many of the same calculations for motion blur that it would do with computer animation.

    • by markana (152984)

      Yeah, but which one had better *acting*???

      Gotta give *that* one to Rudy....

    • Re:Uhhh... Yeah (Score:4, Insightful)

      by EdZ (755139) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @04:57PM (#33979534)
      Because good stop motion and bad stop motion cost almost exactly the same: it's nearly entirely skill based (a good stop motion artist might even work faster than a bad one). Bad CG, however, is a lot cheaper than good CG, because a lot of steps are skipped or slimmed down. More tweening (fewer keyframes), simpler lower resolution textures, no normal maps, specular maps, bump maps, SSS maps, etc, simpler lighting to shorten render time, and so on and so forth.
      • by Sark666 (756464)

        I love cg but tell me why do 99% of 'photo-realistic' models have the 1000 mile stare? never mind conveying any emotion. It seems only the simpler models (e.g. toy story) can convey emotion. Yes there are some examples, but they are still so few and far between.

        • why do 99% of 'photo-realistic' models have the 1000 mile stare? never mind conveying any emotion.

          Bukimi no Tani Gensh, aka The Uncanny Valley [wikipedia.org]

        • by EdZ (755139)

          I love cg but tell me why do 99% of 'photo-realistic' models have the 1000 mile stare?

          Because good CG is VERY HARD. 'Average', 'good enough' CG is something that you can learn by reading online tutorials and playing with blender. Good CG is very hard, and requires a lot of work both on the creation and animation of CG models, but on all aspects of cinematography.
          It's no good spending weeks on a high-poly model of a robot, building a motion capture rig and compensating for the increased inertia by lowering the speed, and developing a new particle rendering system for realistic smoke and dust

      • by sempir (1916194)
        Should be fine for making blue movies then. Of course, not that I know anything about such a thing!
    • Some even say that stop motion is cheaper than computer generated animation

      Cut out the director's and actors' Salaries from the movies, and guess which one had a higher budget: Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer or Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones.

      I'm confused. I thought Attack of the Clones was stop motion.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ScrewMaster (602015) *

        Some even say that stop motion is cheaper than computer generated animation

        Cut out the director's and actors' Salaries from the movies, and guess which one had a higher budget: Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer or Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones.

        I'm confused. I thought Attack of the Clones was stop motion.

        It was. It stopped the motion of my hand reaching for my wallet to buy tickets.

    • by Trogre (513942)

      Not necessarily the best comparison.

      Yes, the Star Wars prequels had a tonne of CGI, but a very large amount of scenery, sets, etc were built or sculpted as models, photographed and composited into the scene. Most (not all) of the space stuff is obviously CGI, but most of the rest was practical elements, even if the actors were shot on greenscreen.

      As an aside, both lead Mythbusters and 2/3 of the build team worked on practical effects for the prequels.

  • How can it be cheaper to do stop motion on a computer? Without a computer it is a process of move the model, snap a frame. What is a computer going to do, move the model for you? Snap the frame for you?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by EvanED (569694)

      What is a computer going to do, move the model for you? Snap the frame for you?

      Um, yes. That's the idea behind setting keyframes: you only specify where things are at certain points, and the computer interpolates for you.

      It also means that if you messed up a shot in some way you don't have to go all the way back and reshoot: you can just fix it and rerender.

      It also means that you don't have to build physical models or buy a camera.

      • by Hognoxious (631665) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:31PM (#33978218) Homepage Journal

        Um, yes. That's the idea behind setting keyframes: you only specify where things are at certain points, and the computer interpolates for you.

        Speaking as someone who's heard of Ray Harryhausen, that's not stop-motion. That's some kind of half-assed CGI mashup.

        Now get, in a slightly jerky fashion, off my lawn.

      • by nlawalker (804108)

        Keyframes, interpolation, rerendering, not building physical models - what you are describing is not stop-motion animation.

        • Keyframes, interpolation, rerendering, not building physical models - what you are describing is not stop-motion animation.

          Take out the "not building physical models" part and you have go motion animation. The animator sets the keyframes, and then a robot moves the models.

    • by MeanMF (631837) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:19PM (#33978038) Homepage
      RTFA... "To simulate movement and expression, animators bend or twist their objects ever so slightly between shots, a painstaking process that makes it difficult to achieve consistency from frame to frame. But now, software can help remedy that, with programs that help check the alignment of the camera and the lighting of the scene while letting the animator flip between recent images to see if the items are moving realistically. That part of the process — synchronizing the shots — was what made it difficult for amateurs to make a good movie."
      • by westlake (615356)

        That part of the process -- synchronizing the shots -- was what made it difficult for amateurs to make a good movie.

        I think that goes a little too far.

        It will never be easy to bridge the gap between your basement production of Lego Star Wars and the sophisticated puppetry of Corpse Bride and Coraline.

        For the character of Coraline, there were 28 different puppets of varying sizes; the main Coraline puppet stands 9.5 inches high.

        At one point in the movie, Coraline shows 16 different expressions in a span of

    • How do you plan on composing all your snaps into a film ready format?

      Thats what the computer does. (Which is entirely what they're talking about)

    • How can it be cheaper to do stop motion on a computer? Without a computer it is a process of move the model, snap a frame. What is a computer going to do, move the model for you? Snap the frame for you?

      In addition to the features cited by MeanMF from TFA, would interpolation be feasible? Ya know, so the animator doesn't have to make such minuscule changes.

  • Toonloop (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Free python software: Toonloop [pygame.org].

  • Plug: iStopMotion (Score:5, Informative)

    by SillySilly (843107) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:33PM (#33978262)
    I've used iStopMotion [boinx.com] -- and loved it. Only a customer, not connected with the company in any way.
  • Lego stop motion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mischi_amnesiac (837989) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:35PM (#33978282) Homepage
    Two weeks ago I spoke with a man who shot the last harry potter book as lego stop motion. Here is the english trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xedFmxo7hc0&feature=channel [youtube.com]

    He uses 25 pictures per second of film. It is a hobby of his and he spent two years making it. Every evening during the week and the complete day on weekends. In my opinion it nearly looks as good as rendered.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's not shot at 25fps

  • It seems we are so used to inexpensive (but of very good quality) digicams that TFS doesn't even mention how connecting them to a PC running said software is what ultimately enabled this renaissance?

    And since this is /. - what about OSS tools? (I was thinking about something basic to display neighboring frames via transparent overlay, useful for one pet project I keep postponing; but something tells me some tools are out there already)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by pimp0r (1030222)

      And since this is /. - what about OSS tools?

      http://developer.skolelinux.no/info/studentgrupper/2005-hig-stopmotion/ [skolelinux.no]
      Available from a ubuntu/debian/etc repository near you.

      • I used this, and it's a bit hinky. It would work, and then require the camera to be unplugged and plugged back in. It was also very picky about which camera it would work with. I've got a box full of webcams that can be made to work with Linux, but it only liked one or two of them.
    • by i.r.id10t (595143)

      I've been doing the odd stop motion stuff for years w/ webcams, linux, and hte mjpeg tools from Berkeley. Things like an empty conference hall being set up for a large education conference, building construction, etc. Set up a cam on a tripod or other fixed mount, take one pic every minute or 3, save w/ sequential file names. Slam 'em all together at the end using the mjpeg tools.

  • I will either name it:

    Cyborg Swan

    or

    Android Duck

    Any ideas?

  • by Eponymous Coward (6097) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @03:59PM (#33978652)

    One boring Saturday, my kids and I made a couple of stop motion movies using their toys, our crappy point and shoot camera, and iMovie. We put the camera on a tripod and moved the toys around in front of it (it was a chase scene). Take a picture, move the toys a bit, take another picture, etc... After taking hundreds of pictures, we had iMovie make a slide show with them, showing each picture for 1/10 second (at the time, that was as fast as iMovie would go), then burned it to a DVD. The movies were only a minute or so long, but it was fun and easy.

  • What has worked out really well for me is a simple Python script that uses QT to generate movies from individual frames. I've used it for time-lapses, but it could probably be used for stop-motion movies too. Of course, you don't get all the composing features of these tools, but it's free and works exceedingly well.

    http://www.ecogito.net/anil/2010/09/howto-create-a-time-lapse-movie-from-a-sequence-of-images/ [ecogito.net]
  • Can anybody recommend some FOSS or at least free-as-in-beer equivalents?

  • The Caliris (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Schafer (21060)

    I know something of Jamie and Dyami, the brothers behind Dragon Stop Motion. Jamie and I were introduced by our sons on a bike ride in 2004.

    Jamie has a long history of directing award-winning stop-motion animation, from music videos to Super Bowl ads. On top of his visual aesthetic skills, he has a long history of craftsmanship (builds his own camera motion systems, creates beautiful stereo-optical systems of glass, wood, and brass). I think the artistry runs in the family.

    By the time he started working on

  • The process of producing stop motion video is very similar to producing time lapse, which I have much more interest in. I wonder if these tools would work well for time lapse as well ...

    • by dangitman (862676)

      The process of producing stop motion video is very similar to producing time lapse, which I have much more interest in

      Not really. All you need for time-lapse is an intervalometer (timer) whether an external unit, or one built into your camera; and some way of stitching the shots together into a movie (video editing application).

      The tools are common and easily accessible, and in little need of improvement. You just need to go out and do it.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Hello,
    You should try Toonloop, it's a free software I wrote with the help of other talented developers such as Tristan Matthews. I currently works on GNU/Linux, but should be easily ported to other platforms as well. The main difference between Toonloop the software you list is that Toonloop constantly displays the resulting animation is a constant loop.

    Find out more at http://toonloop.com/

    Best regards,
    Alexandre Quessy
    http://alexandre.quessy.net/

    • by Tetsujin (103070)

      I am interested in stop-motion animation and committed to doing the animation work on Linux... I look forward to trying your software!

      (...There's a way to get a DV camera to appear as a V4L2 device, right?)

  • interested software tools here it's use that more learn about the software how can operate .. Xtreme No [articlesbase.com]
  • Curious title for the software, considering it's a WinDoze only product.
  • Perhaps not unexpectedly TFA doesn't mention licencing of the software but there are several free software stop motion applications [sourceforge.net] available. I've not tried them all but I've posted that link here if people are interested.

  • You can see it too, when you look at how crappy some of the cartoons being pushed out for tvshows on Teletoon, and such....quicker garbage spewed out, is still garbage. ..it just means you pay less for it as a tv station.
    I can not see any real difference in the kids attention span from the old shows from hanna barbara,
    you still capture the kids imagination, so how come we need to push so hard for an industry that is really never changing.

    The bucks saved by the big cos never really end up seeing the employee

  • ...seeing a remake of Neverhood Cronicles.

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