Stop Motion: To See A World

I went into this stop motion project with high expectations and some grand ideas. A word of advice to anyone who has never made stop motion: don’t go into it with high expectations and grand ideas. First I wanted to do something with water streaming in-between the cracks of a brick patio, but unfortunately, I am not Poseidon. Another idea was to show a couple dollar bills crumpling themselves up and forming origami shapes. I spent at least an hour figuring out how to make origami. Then once my crane and my elephant were in shape and ready for action, I found out that they just look like shapeless, indistinguishable, crumpled up dollar bills on the camera.

So as I quickly learned, creating a stop motion film was one of the most difficult and frustrating things I would ever do. I began scrambling for ideas that were both doable and satisfactory compared to my grand ideas. After much hair pulling and staring off into space, I settled with some old and very ugly dolls. I was not a fan of these dolls whatsoever and honestly I despised every minute of shooting them. But I was somewhat proud of my simple setting. I used construction paper as a base, to indicate grass and sky. I glued on the shapes of a sun and clouds. Finally, I went to visit my local sushi restaurant, Yamato Sushi in Timonium, and asked for some of those fake plastic grass things they use to decorate sushi. I also used gum to keep the dolls either standing upright or holding things.

Next came the hard part. The concept of taking one picture per individual frame seemed impossible to me. It must take hundreds of photos just to create one second of smooth movement. Thus, my project was anything but smooth; but on the other hand, I believe the jerkiness of the movement worked as an advantage in the end, giving the audience a sense of the strange way that those doll characters move.

The editing phase was the easy part this time. A few quick color changes were intended to make the scene appear nostalgic, as though reminiscing on the baby’s first steps. The rest of the editing was simply a matter of timing each photo to last approximately a third of a second, and then to cut out any unfocused frames or mess-ups. Even after I had finished editing, I still hated the project. I found it dull and poorly made, with a stupid plotline. This is all true, of course, but my attitude toward the completed work changed a great deal upon work-shopping it in class. Both my peers and professors agreed that the combination of the color tone with the ugly dolls made the entire work feel creepy and sinister. I was extremely surprised and pleased to hear this, because I like creepy and sinister much more than dull and stupid. So even though the work itself is not exactly the best stop motion ever made, it was at least a necessary experience to have gone through. It is better to try and end up with something mediocre than to not have tried at all.

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