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Stop Motion & Time Lapse

Your camera can do so much more than simply take static shots … what happens when you take a moment, and shoot multiple static shots of a slowly moving subject? Mr K explores Stop Motion & Time Lapse photography

This year I’ve started playing around with Stop Motion and Time Lapse photography. Essentially one in the same – where the illusion of movement is created through a series of fixed images. Time Lapse is where you set the camera up and let the world pass it by. Stop Motion is where you build an animation by moving objects around.

My first attempt was a simple walk test with Lego:

As you can see it wasn’t great. There was no planning, and no “gear” setup. I simply grabbed the point n shoot & started shooting. Crude – but it kinda worked.

My next test saw me sticking the lego board down, sticking the camera to the table (both with double sided tape) and thinking through more of what I wanted to do:

Actually I think my first test was better – but hey. So I put the 2nd test up on facebook & a friend saw it. Suggested that I borrow their Canon 400D, tripod & remote control. I couldn’t pass it up.

Here’s some of the shots I’ve created having their gear to play with.

Raisin Heart

This was the first one I created – very quickly, not a lot of pre-thought

Deck Walk

This one saw me “using” my 3 year old daughter as the subject .. she did really well I thought

M&M Motion Test

I tried to animate M&M’s moving around in a circle. As you can see I didn’t have enough frames & created the illusion that at one point the spin moves backwards

Animated jeans

One of the guys at work suggested I try something like this … so I grabbed a pair of jeans that were lying around and …

This is one of my favourite & an idea I’d love to build on. The cool thing is, with a remote trigger, my 3 year old was the one taking the shots, freeing me up to move the jeans. I’d move, step out of frame & say “snap” and she’d take the shot. After about 4 or 5 shots, she figured it out & as soon as I was out of frame she’d snap the shot.

Eating the muffin

I got hungry one night … so

This came out alright I think ….

Blue gets hungry

This one I “planned” loosely & built up. There are many mistakes, you’ll notice the h just comes together, rather than flowing & the smile/eyes should engage when blue goes on the rampage … they don’t opps.

Painting

Over the summer we painted the house:

Of course this would have been MUCH better if I’d done it on the first coat as the house used to be white & the change would have been much more dramatic. I totally love this though – esp once my wife shut the kitchen window and you see the clouds moving in that reflection.

The Lessons

So, I’d never done this before & of course I’m pretty much teaching myself. There’s stuff online but I was lazy, couldn’t really be bothered reading. So here’s my quick take away on what I’ve found so far.

  • Practice, practice, practice: you might be a great photographer (I’m not) but stop motion & time lapse are not as easy as they make out. You have to think ahead – esp around lighting. Shadows move & in still photography that doesn’t matter, but in stop motion that matters a lot
  • Plan, plan, plan: there is a reason why people storyboard their animations and work out the shots needed. I’ve not gone to that level yet, but a simple sheet of paper and an idea of what you want to do. If you want to animate an letter – how are the “characters” going to move into position?
  • Help …: having help .. can be a huge help. I found having my daughter involved freed me up to concentrate on moving objects. It of course had the bonus of Daddy + Daughter time :)
  • Take lots of shots: you need MORE shots than you’ll think. If you want a 30 second film to run at a reasonably smooth 10fps (TV runs at around 24 to 26fps), you’ll need 300 shots. If you are animating a character (or characters) in every shot, it’s going to take a long time.
  • Get a decent tripod: I can not emphasise enough just how important it is to have a solid tripod, not some flimsy thing – but something serious that can hold your camera steady in all sorts of positions.
  • Get a remote trigger: again like the tripod, get a remote trigger. Something that allows you to take the shot without touching the camera. This helps dramatically improve your shots. TIP: if you can’t get a remote control, then set your camera on TIMER of at least 5 seconds, line your shot up, click the shutter then step back – at least your camera will be steady when the shot goes off
  • “auto” is not your friend: cameras today (esp point n shoot) are amazing, they take all the work out of taking great photos. However changes in focus, aperture settings, or heaven forbid the flash going off in one shot – make huge differences in your movie. So learn to use your camera properly, automate some things -sure, but the flash should never be used.
  • Burst mode: in a push or in the right circumstances burst mode can be your friend. I took the opportunity to shoot a couple of kids blowing bubbles. With careful shooting and continuous mode, I made a great short clip of the bubbles coming off the ‘wand’ and the magical expressions on the kids faces.
  • Software: I’m using the Canon EOS Utility for managing the time lapse photography with the Mac Book Pro driving. This is great for time lapse – although have do have to lug your computer around with you. For stop motion I was using iStopMotion on the Mac but it doesn’t seem to like the Canon 400D, so I simply take all the shots on the camera and download afterwards. I use iStopMotion to put the photos in sequence and sort out the speed (frames per second). I then push the movie to iMovie to add titles, colour correct and add music (I’ve not really bothered to work much on this side of things while I play).
  • Share: the last bit of advice I can give you is share you tests, silly, great, funky or not .. just share them. Get comments from your friends, get feedback – ask how you can improve. This will help you get better and better.

Summary

I love photography (me on flickr) but I’m just a hack hobby nutter (who doesn’t even have his own DSLR). I love animation & movies, I love creativity. The summary of this post is quite simply this:

Point your camera at something, push the shutter, rinse, repeat

Seriously – just get out there and take photos, lots of photos. Put them in sequence and have some fun.

UPDATE

This Ice Melting clip shows you why getting the lighting right is so important – you’ll see the clip “flashes” as I walked past wearing a light coloured top – which reflected in the surfaces.

As a side note: this cube of ice took an hour to melt. At a shot every 5 seconds I ended up with over 560 shots. This plays back at 24fps

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3 Responses

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01.16.11

I enjoyed watching those. Now you make me wanna go grab my camera and do one of those.

01.16.11

Thanks @honest jay …

The are great fun to do and make – I really should buy a camera ey ha ha