Even though the overall process took about 13 hours total (5 hours filming, 5 hours editing, 3 hours rendering and finalizing), I had tremendous fun with this assignment. This was my first attempt ever at stop motion, a medium I’ve held a secret fascination and appreciation for (think of Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Nightmare Before Christmas). The general thought of having to move an immobile object for every frame in a film is generally mind-boggling in scale and effort; imagine having to move a figure about 24 times for just one second of footage.
Luckily, I only had to manipulate one object: a piece of paper; however, a sheet of paper is considerably less malleable and form static than a clay or wire figure. I ran into numerous problems with trying to keep the paper flat or in the next position that I wanted it to be in. Let me give a quick shout of thanks to E. Turpin for supplying scotch tape, which saved my life in these situations (she also provided the lamp).
The whole set up process for my makeshift studio, I feel, generally shows that anyone can really do any kind of project as long as they have the creative mindset. Despite not having any dedicated photography space (particularly for stop motion), I dissembled a camera rig, propped a board against it, and carefully laid out a graduate student’s discarded presentation poster for the white backdrop. For those curious, a general sense of the set up can be found in the Behind the Scenes photos further down in this post. The shooting process involved moving the paper an inch or less and then taking a photo. Fold paper an inch. Take photo. Rinse. Repeat.
As I began filming, I completely forgot that I hadn’t really planned out the camera angles and general orientation of what I was folding. I spent about one hour trying to figure out the best way to get the paper to “fold itself” in the most convincing manner possible. Once the studio rig and general plan for folding techniques had been set up, I began several test runs, checking the camera preview to see how convincing certain paper rotations were. The camera was set to manual as to avoid the camera refocusing and re-white-balancing for each take (this would result in really seizure inducing hue changes every frame). Quick shout out to T. Park for helping me move the elephant family across the screen. It was slightly frustrating watching my elephants keel over constantly because I hadn’t folded their feet very well.
Once imported in the computer, the photos were numbered, sequenced, and rendered into Adobe Premiere Pro. The first step was to set up the general ‘feel’ of the short, so that involved color correcting the warm hues and pumping some shadow values. Afterwards, accruing all the desired sound effects (elephants, safari sounds, and paper folding) mainly involved googling such terms and importing them into the project. Once the audio files were synced to the project, the next step was to master the mix and adjust each channel’s decibel levels to not remain too prominent at any point. Once the meat of the animation, in both the visual and audio department, were complete, then the title and credit sequences were added, and all transitions/cuts were given bezier curves to create snappier and smoother effect changes. At the very final stages, specific frame issues were addressed, such as individual stutters and outlier picture hues.
In retrospect, there are definitely certain ways in which I could improve if I were to do something similar to this in the future. For one, I completely botched the family running up to the baby elephant at the end, pushing them slowly to locations that were not in the center of frame. I ended up having to pseudo-slide-shift them awkwardly across for a couple shots to reorient them. Which secondly relates to how I probably should have planned out the animation storyboard a little earlier, fleshing out the project’s purpose so I could develop an animation that consisted of generally a more interesting premise or thought-provoking idea. What I ended up with this time was a generous 30-second animation with 214 frames and just a fairly mediocre stop motion folding animation. All in all, however, I’m quite happy with the result, despite most of it being ad lib. In actuality, I had planned on folding a dragon, swallow, or pack of wolves, but after struggling for several hours into the night trying to just fold one, a simple lowere-level intermediate elephant design seemed to suit the project’s approaching deadline better. I actually practiced folding the elephant about 20x the night before shooting to make sure I understood how the paper would contort on screen and that I wouldn’t forget how to fold it while I was filming.
All in all, I really enjoyed this experience and would love to do another, larger project, using this technique. Ideally, there’d be a bigger set and more time to do something of a larger scale. For those interested, I’ll provide some related videos of professional origami artists and the awesome things they’ve developed in a future blog post.
To watch the final video, visit the portfolio entry.
You can find photos from the recording process below:
Animation Process: Makeshift Studio Area
Animation Process: The Camera, Lamp, and Background Set Up
Animation Process: Camera POV
Animation Process: The Developing Baby Elephant
Back up models, extra crease fold patterns, and the ever so helpful tape
Slowly moving the baby elephant
Elephant family reunited
Pinky swear, mommy?
Early Post-Production: Importing Footage and Work Area Rendering
Middle Post-Production: Color Correction and Audio Selection
Late Post-Production: Titles, Bezier Curves, and final effects
Animation, Photography, Lighting, Editing: Christopher Hsing
Origami Design: Enomoto Nobuyoshi
Origami Title Font by Peter Fritzsche
Inspired by Sipho Mabona – mabonaorigami.com/
Free Sounds from freesound.org/
Final Frame Count: 214 frames
EXERCISE II: A Study of a Process for ARCH5424: Direct Cinema Media Fabrics (http://www.arch.virginia.edu/arch5424/) course at University of Virginia’s School of Architecture