We just finished an internal video for Telus which explains what their marketing department does. A part of the video was a stop motion paper-mation telling the story of how a 30 second TV spot is made. The entire video is 8 minutes long and took 7 working days to storyboard, film, edit, record voice-over, and deliver! You can watch the full version if you would like, but in this article I’m focusing on just the stop motion portion.
I’ve never done stop motion before and we had an incredibly tight deadline, but the ace up my sleeve was Simon who is an awesome illustrator/artist. It was a lot of fun thinking up ways to bring each part of the story to life in a way that was interesting and deadline friendly.
Below are some rough notes on how we did different parts of the paper-mation, and some thoughts on what I would do differently next time. Hope you find these behind the scenes thoughts interesting or helpful!
We used a Canon T3i SLR camera with a 50mm lens on a tripod to take all the photos, and put the drawing/cutting board and artwork on a table below so that Simon could work comfortably. In total we took 1100 pictures. Some of those were tests, or things we needed to redo. The active part of the animation was done at approximately 5 frames per second. I manually pressed the camera button, waited till Simon had the next frame ready, and pressed again. After finishing a section or two of animation, I would pop the card out, and load the pictures onto my mac, then open them in quicktime7 as an image sequence which plays them as a movie. After double-checking that we hadn’t made any glaring errors, we moved on to the the next scene. The photos were huge compared to the final movie size of 720 x 1280 pixels. That allowed me to zoom in to parts of the animation even though it wasn’t shot with any zooms. The music is called caf connection by Morganti, and was free to use under the creative commons license. It has character and it’s quirky – I’ve been looking for a video to use it in.
I’ll buy a remote shutter release for $60 so I don’t need to crowd the camera. If you are going to do something a zillion times, make it comfortable, I might bring my computer over to the camera and record the pictures directly to the computer using a stop motion program like Boinx iStopMotion ($50).
The 50mm 1.8 prime lens was okay, but when the camera was pointed straight down, the vibration of the shutter would slowly unscrew the focus ring. The de-focusing didn’t look too bad, but for more control I would tape the focus down, or try an L lens or zoom to see if they have a stickier focus.
Man appears 5-7 seconds
For this, Simon would cut a little bit and bend the man up. Photo, cut, bend, photo… We did two different camera angles – first from the top, then from the front. The man scratches his head “wondering”.
I think this part needed more frames, it appears too fast.
2 camera angles might be unnecessary but makes the style more like real film. I think I would do again.
When we took the pictures of the guy scratching his head, you could see our office in the background. We realized that the background was distracting, so frame by frame we Photoshopped it to be white. Keep the background simple.
Film Clapper 7-9 seconds
We held the paper clapper between the camera and the man, and closed it as we took pictures. As the clapper closes, I racked the focus from the man to the clapper. I think it looks great, but is a bit fast.
More frames will make it smoother and easier to see how cool it is.
Bird being selected 9-13 seconds
This part we wanted to feel interactive. Like the paper was an ipad. So the finger swipes the unlock icon, and selection box scrolls over the 3 boxes. The box with the parrot was just drawn with pencil, but I used Photoshop to fill all those frames with green, so that I could stick the video inside with the keying/green-screen filter in Final Cut Pro. Love those critters!
Needs to be more obvious that the selection box is moving because of the finger swipe.
Marketing Team 24-44 seconds
That building that appears and disappears to show the team is the Telus building. This part worked out great I thought. Simon just freehanded all those windows and the folds as we were doing it. He’s like an arts and crafts machine. Watch out Quilt-a-doodle! The zoom out was done in final cut. The camera was stationary while we rotated the art.
Maybe have the word Telus on the building. Thicker paper would be easier to work with – maybe craft paper.
If we built the building bigger – ten the paper might not have been so floppy. It’s hard to bend floppy paper in small increments and get smooth animation.
The zooming should have been jerkier to match the rest of the animation.
Taxi Brief 44-48 seconds
I like the way that brief went to taxi. Simon cut a slot below taxi, and just pushed it in.
I used Photoshop again to fill the storyboard squares with green, and then green-screened the videos in. Same process with all the rest of the video in The Shoot section. I contained video inside the boxes to keep the paper theme alive.
To make the chick come out of the egg, I masked out the chick in Final Cut, and then frame by frame expanded the mask to match the egg breaking.
I like the chick part, but that Work Hard Play Hard section doesn’t visually fit with the paper-mation. It was from a different part in the video, and got moved there. Actually the video feels like it ends three times with three metaphors; Chick, Work Hard, and then Cookie. It should have ended with chick.
If you want to see examples of other videos like this – go to YouTube and search “plain english”. I think the rough style allows a corporation to explain something simply, without the pressure to be perfectly polished. I hope we can convince more clients to do them. It’s a lot of fun!
About the Author
Kun tackles everything she does with extreme focus. As head of our client research department, it's not uncommon to find her head down, analyzing endless amounts of data in order to help clients discover new opportunities. Kinda like when she's intensely focussed on finding a toe hook in order to reach the summit of a weekend rock climb. It's this discipline that led to her Masters in Sociology from Western University, and probably the reason why Kun isn't easily distracted. Well, unless you happen to have a super fresh sashimi roll.