Sunday, August 28, 2016

Getting Blur into Stop Motion Animation

You've met the monster named Sprocket. Now watch him eat the trash left on picnic tables. (direct link to video)

I shot this stop motion animation sequence in the food court of the county fair. There's no CGI, and no greenscreen. It's 100% shot in camera at a 1/4 sec. shutter speed.

Those slow shutter speeds put a lot of blur into the background, especially in a busy public place where random people are walking around. 

I wanted the human world to whiz by in a blur in order to convey the impression that the cartoon world exists in a different time dimension.

Blur is something that's hard to get into stop motion characters. The puppet typically holds still during the shot. So unless you blur it digitally in post, fast action is inevitable composed of a series of hard-edged poses. 

That's the case with Otis the Ocelot's walk, which doesn't have any blur. It has a strobing quality since it's shot on 2s.

But blur it's everywhere in live action film. When you freeze-frame any object that's moving quickly in a live-action, the frame is full of motion blur. Speed blur also happens when the camera moves quickly through space.

I've been fascinated by finding ways to get that blur into stop motion. When Sprocket does a fast run, the puppet switches to another one with spinning foot-wheels operated by an overhead wire. 

In the photo above on the right, he's shot with the camera tracking him. The camera is set for continuous shooting at about four frames per second. So there's motion blur and speed blur. 

If your eyes are fast, you might also notice a few frames like the one above, right after Sprocket takes off.

More images like this on the Animation Smears and Multiples blog
Those frames are inspired by the special frames known as "multiples" and "smears" used for fast action in classic animation from the 1940s.

I shot them using this weird sculpt, which I dangle from two fishlines so that it swings back and forth a little during the shot.

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Dustin Wilson said...

That's really impressive. I've tried stop motion a few times and failed dismally. They look just like those old cartoons where the arms multiply. Great job!

Daniel Mccoy said...

I made this for you.
I am hoping to do animation. I am thinking about buying Don Bluth's videos.

James Gurney said...

Daniel, thanks for that cool fan art!

Thanks, Dustin. It's fun to experiment with animation.

Shane White said...

Great lighting and fun sound design. The one character reminds me of Marsupilami.


Catherine said...

This is real nifty. :) As is often the case, I enjoy seeing this behind-the-scenes stuff as much as (or even more than) the video itself. That multiplied Sprocket is trippy -- but quite effective!

I must say, it is encouraging and inspiring to me to see you working on fun "little" creative projects like this. Never stop exploring.

Marc Is My Hero! said...

so clever! Well done James! love the behind the scenes looks.