I kinda like getting my family involved in this stuff, if not, they think I have lost my mind playing with their old toys! I wanted to combine all the epic toy battles I ever had in my head into one thing. Yes, I need to work on the sound, not very experienced there and would like to recut this with clearer audio. We laughed allot (I mean at the idea, ourselves and the final work) during this project. I just want to keep tinkering with it. The influences were “Robot Chicken” “Mars Attacks” and “Monsters vs. Aliens” with some anime drama. I wanted to make it so over the top that it would be funny yet sweet at the same time.
I got carried away on this one in a good way. It was fun taking the idea on a few post its and turning it into a real production. The theme for this was epic toy battle and love conquers all. I had some challenges with the audio, I made some mistakes not allowing enough time for editing and realized that after I had captured the dialogue clips, I made a rookie mistake and exported them out of audacity as low quality mono .wavs that sounded poorly in Premiere. I learned more about AE and Premiere which is just making me realize those applications are just another journey into the next level of what is possible visually. Now that I got my pinky in sound, I want to be knee deep in it. I will adjust the workflow and take these lessons to future projects. Its not everyday family is OK with taking over the den for a week so Dad can play with his teddy bear.
The most painful scene was the “army mobilizing” scene, I had my sons help me and move each line of tanks and soldiers across the table (until they fell off to get the widest possible shot) then run to the other side and start the line again. It took an hour for three seconds of video. The most time consuming part of the project was really just setting up the scenes. We tore down the lego city and built it back up about 4 times. For the destruction scene we used tape to stick the blocks together to make them seem like they were falling in perspective. I realized that stop motion is allot of mini problem solving. Using a webcam and ipad allowed me to frame the shots nicely and see in real time if something was going to work or not. The small usb webcam allowed me to get in close and get angles I would not be able to do with other types of cameras.
The bear was soft and floppy. In order to animate the bear, we had to stick wire hangers and other wires in its arms and legs. I used string on the ears to control the increments. Then I tied him to a small home made stand made out of ply wood and extra 1″ deck railing post I had in the garage.
I intended to do some “green screen” action with the reporter scene, but that proved to be a bridge too far, there was lots of green over spill in the lighting and there was flickering from my hand or arms blocking the light as I moved the figure so I gave up on that. It was the first scene we shot and the footage was not optimal for keying. Then I realized that I could just print backgrounds onto a 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper and place them behind the figures. That is how we got the “command center” set up.
Negotiating with the “kiddie union” wasn’t easy. Lots of demands like “we get to stay up late and….we want that new game on the xbox” were made and bribes were necessary part of the production costs. Luckily all this happened over the holiday break so it was a way to keep them busy.
Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920, Widescreen Video, 1080p Camera
Amazon basics tripod with ipad with Vastar universal ipad mount. (Inexpensive and does the job, plastic makes very light to carry)
Stop Motion Studio, for Windows 10 and ipad
Adobe After Effects
Windows Voice Recorder
iSkysoft Media Converter Deluxe – saved me a ton of time converting quick times and .wavs into .mp4 format and .mp3s. Also made it easy and quick. Adobe Media Encoder gave me some hassles and I had issues getting .h264 out of AE. This handy tool made everything drag and drop. Easy peasy.
Credits and Acknowledgements
Shawn is an Information Technology manager in Washington D.C. and a graduate student at Quinnipiac University pursuing his masters in Interactive Media and Communications.
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