Class #15: Stop Motion Character Performance (Stan Winston School Diary #12)

Mark Sawicki (Gangs of New YorkEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) returns to guide us through the beginnings of stop motion animation! He references what you should have learned his previous class, Mirror Magic, in bits of this. Be sure to start with that class before starting on this one.

Stop motion within the classes offered gets broken up into over a handful of lessons, most of them over five hours long. If like me you are on the four classes per month plan, you have time to fill your bored moments. Stop Motion Character Performance, the beginner stop motion class I am writing about today, is the shortest at just under one hour and a half.

The program Mr. Sawicki uses in the lesson is Window based software named Stop Motion Pro. To run it on any Apple computer, you have to run Windows on your MacBook. Not a fan of Windows? No worries. You can adapt most of the skills within the lesson onto any program. Camtasia, Final Cut Pro, or iMovie will work fine with some manipulation on the how to rules and proper care. Or buy a separate cheaper Windows based laptop if you plan on doing this full time! I myself hate running Windows on any Mac. A doctor I know installed it on all his expensive Mac desktops across all his office locations because his staffers feared learning new accounting and appointment booking software. Grrrrrr! If I were going to only focus on stop motion, I would probably buy a new HP laptop exclusive to stop motion goodies.

Mr. Sawicki starts out with a Terminator figurine he purchased online proving you can animate with anything. The goal: using stop motion animation blended into the live action footage as James Cameron did, with helpful modern interventions Mr. Cameron didn’t have at the time. Camille, the actress from our Mirror Magic class, pops into Sarah Connor’s role for a brief re-enactment. Hey Terminatorfans! The moment you’ve been waiting for arrives. We begin digging into the how to’s of the film franchise. We better learn Stan Winston’s methods, hey, or it shouldn’t be called the STAN WINSTON School. Here we go. Mr. Sawicki corrects any mistakes that could show up on camera under lighting, guides Camille into a realistic performance, and the metal Terminator skeleton shows us how it’s done like the stop motion bad guy he is. Or rather, Mr. Sawicki guides us in this simple introductory lesson to stop motion.

If anything, I have a tremendous appreciation through the ceiling now of the work done on the original two Terminatorfilms. Always, honestly, from seeing the work in old behind the scenes videos. And now, limitless admiration. Mr. Sawicki tells us, Mr. Cameron asked for four takes of every animation sequence! How much do you gamble the FX crew members began the film with full heads of hair and went bald by the final day?

The other theme of this lesson: using real people, or animals if you choose, for guiding your stop motion character’s movements. Camille the actress becomes our guide for the Terminator.

I have a way to go before getting through the rest of the stop motion animation lessons. Things have a way of circling around. Whatever you learn, you wind up using when you don’t think about it working with the same or other techniques. The goal is to make a stop motion short using all of the material I learn. Can I say it enough? We learn by doing!