Maybe you have been inspired by the adventures of Wallace and Gromit and would like to produce your own animated plasticine films. If you are wondering where to start here is a complete beginner’s guide to plasticine animation (also known as Claymation).
First some advice from amateur animator Fred O’Neil (writing in Animator’s newsletter issue 4): “Try putting a ball of plasticine in front of the camera, set the camera to single frame, and take one picture only. Taking care not to shift the ball from its original position, squeeze it very slightly, and take another picture. Continuing in this way, the ball you began with will assume various shapes, and in this way you can obtain inspiration. Work patiently and slowly for the whole effect can be spoiled large movements.”
Professional animator Peter Lord interviewed at Aardman Animations spoke about his Morph puppet: “The model was simple to animate and that was the factor that endeared him to me. He is the ideal animation shape and the size is good. Anyone who works in plasticine knows that the larger the model, the more difficult it is to keep upright. When you do puppet animation you are constantly fighting against gravity. You are trying to make the character move expressively but what you are actually doing much of the time, is making compromises with balance to keep him from falling over”.
If you are new to animation you are probably wondering where to get a camera that takes single frames. If you, or someone in your household, has a webcam or a digital still camera then you already have such a camera. It is just a matter of getting the single frames taken on the web cam or digital camera into your computer and make them into a movie. Software, such as Stop Motion Pro, will capture your images and enable you to convert them into movies. It can be used with a video camera, webcam or digital still camera and is compatible with Windows from XP onwards. See the links at the end of this post for more details.
Now that you have your camera set up you are ready to learn from the experiences of some other animators. Lewis Cooper tells us “You’ve decided to make a film one frame at-a-time. To make it you’ll need lights which get very hot but the substance you have chosen to use slowly melts under those lights. Not only that, the substance has the alarming tendency of falling over at regular intervals, thereby flattening the features you’ve carefully modelled. Even if you can achieve the impossible and prevent it falling over, the very act of manipulating the substance to get your animation slowly disintegrates your model. You’ve guessed it – this melting, squashing, disintegrating substance is plasticine. It is also an excellent medium for the animator to work in. These statements side-by-side indicate the basic requirement for all animators. They need to be a little nutty. Having established that fact, let’s talk about animating plasticine.” You can read the rest of the article in Animator’s newsletter issue 3 page 14.
David Coleman recalls his first experience of plasticine animation (writing in Animator’s newsletter issue 5 page 20): “All went well during-the first twenty-eight hours of shooting. I did not have to do as much re-furbishing of my huge and heavy, white horses (more than a 500g pack of plasticine in each of them!) as I had expected. One nomad did seem determined to get a new nose job every few hours, but I was in time to catch most of those suicidal characters who tried to dash their faces against the chipboard of the square. People say plasticine figures are less temperamental than real actors but don’t you believe it!”