Ian F. Hunt

Cinematographer and Filmmaker

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Short Form Video – 3 Point Lighting Techniques & Stop Frame Animation

3 Point Lighting Techniques – Tuesday 18th January 2011

3 Point Lighting Techniques

3 Point Lighting set-up

3 Point Lighting set-up

We began today’s lecture with a quick look at 3 Point Lighting Techniques a set-up familiar to everyone who has done some filming using artificial/continuous lighting.

The basic set-up consists of 3 light sources:-

  • 1 positioned behind the subject being filmed and facing towards the camera – known as the the back light.
  • The 2nd light is set-up to the left of the camera and side on to the subjects right hand side and is termed a fill light.
  • Finally the Keylight which is positioned level or just behind the camera and on it’s right side, directed towards the front of the subject.

The lights should ideally be positioned wherever possible, directing the light down and towards the subject at a 45 degree angle.

Space may dictate changes to this ideal set-up regarding the exact positioning and in some cases more light sources would be required to eliminate shadows for example a 4th light on the right side as a second fill light.

Short Form Video – The Light bulb (a Stop Frame Animation)

Our team – Group 2 was tasked to produce a film using a light bulb as the subject and employing the 3 Point Lighting Techniques set-up introduced in the morning session.

The group decided that the best way forward was to produce a stop frame animation. An important part of the animation would be the filming of the bulbs filament lighting/flashing on and off. Filming was delayed due to the lack of a suitable means of delivering power to the bulb but fortunately an angle poise lamp was secured and so filming could then go ahead.

We decided to film the bulb and angle poise lamp against a black background in the hope that the clear bulb would be more visible. We then set-up the lighting using 3 Point Lighting Techniques and it was at this point that we found that by using all 3 lights overwhelmed the subject and space in effect overexposing the video. Through testing we ended up using just one light. This was reflected off the surface of the table and against the background which helped to further diffuse the light source, reducing the overall intensity (No controller was available) and correctly exposing the subject.

Our video sequence was then edited in Premiere Pro CS5 where a suitable music soundtrack was added and the completed video was then uploaded to YouTube. The whole operation from concept to finished video took less than a few hours which I thought was impressive considering how long previous Stop Frame Animations in the past had taken to produce.

The final video owes a lot to Pixars Luxo Jr. and to the style of current Apple iPod marketing, advertising. (no copyright infringement intended)
[youtube.com/watch?v=5AtoKD9m1Xk]

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Stop Frame Animation – Editing & Output

Stop Frame Animation


The Animation ‘Books & Toys’

[youtube.com/watch?v=QJnZclHMalk]

Animation Evaluation – Stop Frame Animation

With the completed animation photographed and now stored on a DVD disk in jpeg format, these images were then imported into iStopMotion ready to be processed at 6 FPS into the video sequence ready for output to a video editor. Initially the idea was to output the file in DV format for further video processing in iMovieHD. However first attempts although successful were not of the highest quality and so alternative applications were investigated for example Windows Movie Maker. Windows Movie Maker was used to produce the animation video sequence and even though there was not as much control available over the frame rate as iStopMotion offers, however it did produce a good quality sequence ready to be outputted in AVI format. The AVI format was also found to give a better quality video sequence than that produced using iStopMotion.

Started by importing the video file into Final Cut Express for video editing and adding the soundtrack, with a regard to the runtime of the video sequence this was edited to be within the 1 minute plus or minus 10 seconds which involved cutting over 30 seconds from the original sequence. The soundtrack was then imported and added, editing for the change in the length of the video sequence. Opening titles and end credits were then added.

Running the completed animation for the first time in Final Cut Express the quality appeared to be very good and so the completed video was then exported in the PAL 4:3 and MOV file format. Unfortunately after several attempts at exporting the sequence in a variety of formats the quality of the output was not as hoped and so alternative video editing applications were investigated.

iStopmotion Screenshot

Fig 1. iStopmotion Screenshot

Fig 2. - Windows Movie Maker V2.6 Screenshot of animation project

Fig 2. Windows Movie Maker V2.6 Screenshot of animation project

Final Cut Express 4.0 Screenshot

Fig 3. Final Cut Express 4.0 Screenshot

Adobe’s Premiere Pro (For the PC) was used as an alternative video editing application to produce the final versions of the completed animation. This application has many of the features you can find in Final Cut Express and more. With full control over the editing process and with added features it is possible to add video special effects and also includes templates for titles. After adding the soundtrack the final edited video sequence was exported using Photo JPEG settings and PAL DV format with the soundtrack set to the 44,100 sample rate and 16 bit stereo. The resulting movie in QuickTime format that .MOV was output for burning onto DVD. By changing the frame size several versions of the movie were exported in different sizes for possible alternative viewing for example embedding within a website, for mobile devices etc.

Using this movie from Premiere Pro as the source file, this was then imported into the application Any Video Convertor (For PC) for conversion to the MP4 format for uploading to the Internet. Any Video Convertor is a free to use application which can be downloaded from http://www.download.com

Any Video Convertor is a free program but it does come with a limited number of formats compared with the pay for full version. The full version has more format choices and gives more control over the conversion process.

Animation Output – Stop Frame Animation

To output the animation iDVD was used to produce a DVD of the final version of the animation along with some of the trials and less successful versions of the animation.
The internet ready versions were also burnt onto CD using  Nero and also uploaded onto YouTube and embedded into personal websites including Facebook and MySpace and on finally on http://www.clickformedia.co.uk the website produced for the Website Design Unit.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 Screenshot of Animation Project

Fig 4. Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 Screenshot of Animation Project

Anyvideo - Video format conversion app Screenshot

Fig 5. Anyvideo - Video format conversion app Screenshot

iDVD Screenshot - used for animation DVD creation

Fig 6. iDVD Screenshot - used for animation DVD creation

By the end of the process several versions of the animation was produced. The first version was initially too long and was subsequently edited to run within the 1 minute guideline excluding titles. To this purpose a whole sequence was removed from the original animation but as this was similar to another sequence within the animation its removal was not obvious. The final animation is actually 1 minute 12 seconds long including opening titles and end credits.

As well as the video going through a number of changes involving re-editing a number of times before the final sequence being selected and so the soundtrack also went through several iterations before the final selection was made. Initially the animation’s soundtrack was to be a music backing track only, but it was decided that by adding individual sounds for some of the toys this would add an interesting element to the overall animation. Sounds were sourced from a variety of sources including Garageband and a number of websites offering free sound clips. Some of the sounds were eventually discarded as too many sounds seemed to becom a discordant noise, each overlapping with the backing track and so on. With this in mind the revised sound clips were limited to the key characters in the animation that is the toys.

The titles for the initial versions were produced on iMovieHD and were basic white on black scrolling titles and although displaying the information were discarded for the final animation as they seemed to be fairly uninspiring and so new titles were developed using Adobe’s Premiere Pro. The new titles were chosen to emulate the subject of the animation with its bright colours and toys theme. The titles designed included some animation effects as well which also tied in well particularly in the opening sequence.

The final animation was the product of more than a dozen variations before deciding that the original brief had been fulfilled. Meeting the requirements determined in the pre-production process and true to the original concept and to which the final animation comes very close to.

In conclusion the final animation produced which involved several trials and versions, works really well with its new sound track. The only real problem from an editing and output point of view came from the initial photography which involved the shooting of the images over a two day period, where there is a noticeable change in the lighting, which is also apparent in one of the sequences at the beginning of the animation. In addition there was a small change in the position of the camera overnight which was also slightly visible at the beginning of the animation.

The processes used and applications chosen to produce the final animation were crucial in producing a good quality animation as was the choice of output format. Choosing the correct output format made the difference between a good quality animation and a poor quality and in some cases blurred video with poor quality sound. There are some changes which I’d consider vital in the future; these are to either shoot the entire animation on the same day and with good quality lighting. Or alternatively film within a totally controlled environment in which the lighting is both totally artificial and fully controllable. Finally make every effort to totally lock the camera in position making unplanned movement of the camera impossible.

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Stop Frame Animation – Animation Research

  • Access to HE. Media Studies. CJC3FH001A
  • Unit Title: Stop Frame Animation Unit Code: KJ2/3/SO/006
  • Course Tutor: Dan Gray

Stop Frame Animation – Research

Stop Frame Animation (Stop Action) is a process where a series of pictures taken either with a stills camera or video camera, usually of inanimate objects one frame at a time and then the object is painstakingly moved in small increments so that when these individual shot frames are viewed sequentially a simulation of continuous movement is observed. The more pictures (Frames) per second the smoother the action.

From Clay models to people, Stop Frame Animation can bring movement to a usually stationary or an inanimate object or makes what seems to be an impossible movement on film possible.

Looking at the different types of animation we can see that there are advantages and disadvantages to each of the forms of animation and to the material chosen or indeed everyday object, which we have decided to animate.

 

Clay
Animation using clay models (or Claymation) is very popular.

Advantages
There are many advantages to using clay models for instance they can be made to scale for example a small clay model can be used where filming space is limited for example a cityscape set where tall buildings can be just a meter high.

Clay models are relatively easy to make and most importantly easy to move into position. They can be made to represent any object or person. Instead of using clay you could use a Figurine examples being a wooden artists mannequin or say an old action man. All you would need to do is replace the head and hands with clay as this will be easier to animate. These would work very well if the model needed to be clothed.

Disadvantages
They do have some disadvantages; the most obvious is that they will look like clay models. Fine movement is not easy unless the model is made with ball joints. They also take a relatively long time to make and require maintenance as the heat/lighting dries them out.

Audience
Defining an audience for clay models in general is not possible but they do tend to target a younger age group but there are many examples of adult animations using clay. Clay animation also does not generally seem to be gender specific or target a specific ethnicity or demographic it is the subject matter which will set which audience the animation will be most suitable for.

The following example was found on the excellent video source Youtube and shows the highly recognisable Morph character, definitely one for the younger age group but still interesting for adults as its subject in this film is cheating at cards.

Drawings
Animation using drawings seems to offer unlimited possibilities; if you can draw it you can animate it. An excellent example of this type of animation is the Simon’s Cat series of animations by Simon Tofield.

Advantages
There are many advantages to the drawing form of animation; it’s relatively simple to do requires’ few resources and space to produce. You can draw on paper then cut around for example a figure and animate the cut out itself.

Disadvantages
Some of the disadvantages would be you probably need to be able to draw and it’s 2 Dimensional only. Also you would need to do a lot of drawings a quick calculation based on a 5 frames per second frame rate means you would need 300 drawings. You could cut this down by photocopying the background first but it is still a large number of drawings.

Audience

Again hard to put all forms of this animation type into a given age range or demographic as the subject can be anything and it would be this that determines the audience that it would appeal to. The example chosen however appeals to all age ranges particularly if they are cat owners.

Lego
Using Lego for animation is very popular it even has its own name Brickfilming and is termed for animation done with Lego or other brick like objects. Examples can be found at (http://www.brickfilms.com) .

There is a huge range of Lego products which include figurines’, vehicles and architecture. All of these can be combined to build models and sets for animation films which is a major advantage.

The example animation chosen from Youtube demonstrates the use of Lego in animation but it also shows how to animate in general and includes examples of the differences between frame rates that are the number of pictures taken per second of film.


Advantages
Huge range of Lego products offers all kinds of possibilities for animation there are even specific products based on Films or TV series’ for example Thomas the Tank Engine, Pirates, Space etc. Lego can also be used to build the set.

Disadvantages
Of course one of the obvious disadvantages is that the finished animation will look like Lego. Due to it’s square, sharp edge design it would be difficult to achieve a natural movement for example the movement of a tree in the wind.

Audience
The audience would tend to be younger and really most probably for younger children who actually still play with Lego but there will almost certainly be exceptions to this. For example the animation right whose subject matter is about drinking Beer.

People
Using people in animation could be seen to be an easy option as all actors would have to do is hold position while the shot is taken and move position themselves for the next shot following direction and so on for each subsequent shot.

Advantages
Using people as animation subjects mean that they can do their own movements following the requirements of the films director. The animation will be more lifelike and can tackle real issues and stories.

Disadvantages
It’s hard to keep people still and so continuity could be an issue but this could also add to the overall effect and therefore not be a disadvantage. Another disadvantage could be that it may be difficult to have exclusive access to an external location and so other people may get in the shot although this could also add to the effect so it maybe an advantage for some animations.

Audience
This type of animation more easily lends itself to an adult audience and reach across the whole demographic depending on subject.
Cutout Animation
Similar to Drawing but the pictures are then cut out and it is these cut outs which are then animated. Examples would be Captain Pugwash and of course the title sequences for Monty Pythons Flying Circus.

Captain Pugwash

Monty Python

Advantages
Compared to say drawing animation one of the big advantages is that you draw the cutout once and then move the cutout to get the animation, you can also add movable parts to give more flexibility for instance Captain Pugwash animations had moving arms which pivoted up and down.

Disadvantages
You still need to be able to draw and the movement is less fluid than for some types of animation.

Audience
Like drawing it’s across the board the examples chosen indicate some of the range of appeal. Captain Pugwash for instance is definitely one for the children and Monty Pythons Flying Circus is one for the Adults.

Conclusions
Animation appears to be one of the few Art forms that have an appeal which reaches across the board; all age groups, gender and ethnicity are all covered. It seems to be the subject matter which determines the audience more than the type of animation used be it Clay, Drawings, Lego or animating people or indeed any object. An animator will have a personal choice of which medium suites them best and this can be worked to be able to target a particular audience by choice of subject matter, style, narration and music chosen.

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