We recently finished a new promotion video to highlight why it's benefical to have video on your website. (If you just want to skip to the video it is below.) There are a lot of videos out there on that topic so we wanted something that would help set us apart from all the other explainer videos and hopefully drive some traffic to our site. With that in mind we decided to go with a stop motion animated piece. Stop motion has a unique look and feel, and it just sounded like a fun thing to do!
Our character Professor Ashcroft used a hand-made armature for movement. We bought galvanized steel wire at the hardware store and twisted several strands together to form the body sections. These were twisted around each other to form a skeleton of sorts. Sculpey clay was added around the joints to help hold it all together. Then the armature was fastened to a block of wood. Sculpey clay was also used for the head and hands. Ken doll clothes stuffed with styrofoam strips covered the rest of the body.
Different eyes and mouth positions were also made from Sculpey clay. We gluded magnets on the individual pieces and into the eye sockets and mouth area of the head. This made it pretty easy to change out the pieces as needed for animating.
Our "studio" was a spare counter in the basement tethered to a laptop with Dragonframe software. Even this old laptop (still running Windows XP!) worked great with Dragonframe. We started off using a Nikon camera but where getting small exposure differences in the individual frames that gave the video a "flicker." Dragonframe's camera setup page mentions this is because even on manual cameras have slight variances in exposure between shots. Following their recommendations we switched to a Canon camera and used our Nikon lens with a Nikon to EF-S adapter. Since the Canon camera couldn't communicate with our Nikon lens we finally had true manual control and our flicker problem went away.
Overall this setup worked pretty good. The biggest issue we ran into was our home-made armature. It just didn't allow fine control over the puppet movements. There were also some poses we wanted to do that we couldn't because of a lack of range in motion. If we were gong to do a lot of these it would definitely be worth investing in a premade armature. We definately learned a lot on this project. Check out the finished video below.