Monday, October 5, 2009


Hey class,

As promised, here are pictures from the interactive science museum in Bristol, England. It was a lot of fun!These guys are Wallace and Gromet. Wallace, the chap in the green sweeter vest, is an inventor and Gromet is his smart dog (Gromet is usually getting Wallace out of trouble). They star in my all-time favorite series of short films. These films are claymation movies. There was an entire exhibit at the museum about claymation, featuring Wallace and Gromet.

What are the principles behind claymation? Claymation is a form of “stop motion animation”. Like cartoons, the film consists of separate frames. In each frame, the image changes slightly. When these frames are played together rapidly, it looks like the scene is playing out and characters are moving in front of our eyes. For claymation, a frame is taken of the model. Then, the artist rearranges the model just a little. Each time the film is stopped to make a change to the model and record a new frame, this is called a “stop.” If there is too much change between stops, the film will look choppy when played back. By making small changes between stops, the model will move smoothly, like a person. As you can imagine, this takes a very long time. Typically, there are 24 frames (or stops) required for one second of film playback. How many stops are required for a 30-minute movie?

A 30-minute movie needs 43,200 stops! Sometimes claymation animators do “doubles”, meaning they film the same frame twice, cutting in half their number f stops. How many doubled stops are required for a 30-minute movie?

That’s right, you need 21,600 stops. That’s still a lot of work.

A similar concept is on display in the picture above. Here, multiple clay figurines are shown to illustrate a character doing a cartwheel. Fourteen models are used to illustrate this simple action. If you spin the wheel and focus on one of the mirrors, you see the models spinning by fast enough that it looks like a single character doing a cartwheel.

How does claymation work? Some clay models can be very simple; just a pieces of clay that were shaped into a figure. Others can be quite complicated, like this one. First, the claymation artist builds a wire skeleton (called an armature) for the model. This skeleton must be flexible enough to do any of the movements that are necessary for the film.

Then, clay is formed around the armature in the shape that the artist wants, in order to “flesh out” the puppet.

Finally, skin (or in this case fur) is added to give the character texture and a detailed look.

That's it for now. I have a lot of pictures to post later this week from the London and Paris Museums of Natural History.


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