“Time and time again we come back to enjoying stop-motion because it is all there right in front of us and we can touch it, and our characters can react to the real set around them.”
– Barry JC Purves
Making the sets and props is one of the most satisfying phases of making a stop-motion film. In a short amount of time, every hour working on it, I see a whole new little world unfold before my eyes.
I build my first stop-motion set in collaboration with Amèl Amri and Juno Lauwers for our short DISTURBED. For this school task it was all about creating the mood.
During my second year of animation I discovered how much I enjoyed working with paper. I decided to make a short (BOY) with replacement animation. Both decors and characters were made out of paper.
I took on a technical challenge for my short film IN A HURRY.
You can watch IN A HURRY down below to take a look at the final decor before reading on. (Don’t mind the clumsy animation. This was my first experience with stopmotion puppets.)
My main character is walking through a city unknown to her. Even when your film is only half a minute long, if your character is walking for thirty seconds, he/she is walking quite a distance. That isn’t easy when you are working in a small decor for stop motion. You have to build that scene in real life en not just ‘simulate’ on screen (which isn’t easy either, not at all, but you don’t have the limits in space and material like when you are doing stop motion). There was also the idea to film this project in one long shot, without any cut. The decor had to move constantly without interruption. This would be a big task. Don’t ask me why I haven’t written another scenario to make things easier for myself. I have no idea.
But then there was this idea of builing a turntable. The character can walk in place, which makes the camera movements much easier because the camera doesn’t have to move at all. And the character can walk a great distance on a relatively small decor.
I always think to have simple ideas. In retrospect, it turns out to be almost megalomania.
HOW DOES IT LOOK?
Like I said earlier on, the scene is a turntable. I painted the plate gray to create a base for a sidewalk. Afterwards I drew a tile pattern with a gray pastel pencil. There are bushes inside the circle, made from PU foam I sprayed on cardboard. Then I colored this green with an olive-green spray can. There is a fence in front of the bushes. These are cut out with a laser cutter in pieces of 2 bars. I painted the fences black. Holes were provided in the plate to put up the fences.
HOW DOES IS WORK?
Holes and slots have been milled in the plate. The middle two lines of holes are for the steps of my main character Amélie. Since I will film her walking over several days and it is almost impossible to keep a certain cadence, I have had holes milled at regular intervals. That way she keeps walking with the same distance between each step.
The two outer and the two inner lines of slots are for the characters whom Amélie bumps into. Since each person has a different way of walking, my characters also have to have their own step size and way of steps. So I couldn’t work with holes. That is why slots are provided instead of holes so I can play with the step size.
Tape measures are fastened on the side of the plate. These have two goals:
1. I film 12 frames per step of my main character(6 movements for 1 step, 2 frames each). After each picture I have to turn the turntable a bit further. The calculations showed that I have to turn the turntable 1cm after each frame. Thanks to those tape measures, I can easily maintain that regularity.
2. In addition, the numbers on the tape measures ensure that, if I have to reshoot a scene (which I hope will not be the case), I can see in my my previous shots how my decor stood at that point and I can make the turn the turntable back to the exact place.
I combined the knowledge and skills of previous projects for the decors of my bachelor graduation film MY LABEL.
I built three decors: a bedroom for the main character, a classroom and a playground.
I tried to work with paper as much as possible so that the different objects in the scene would fit together. The furniture is made from model cardboard and covered with brown paper. I used real wallpaper for the walls. The floor is a large paper print of laminate.
For the classroom I used the same techniques as for the bedroom.
I also worked with paper for the playground. Both the floor and the walls are printed on white printing paper. I made this choice initially because of the time pressure. When you have only half a year to make a short film, you have to think economically. Nevertheless, I think these prints work well and the environment feels natural.
The benches are just like in the classroom: a steel frame with a board made from model cardboard and covered with brown paper.
The playground is surrounded by four walls. It is impossible to build the entire playground and still have room to film. So I first set up one corner and later the other corner.
WINTER 2018 – SPRING 2019
Ada & Odile
I brought my gained knowledge and skills to a higher level for the decors of my master graduation film ADA & ODILE
The entire story is set in four rooms on the ground floor of a house. The basic structure of the house communicates the relationship between Ada and Odile. There are big openings that connect the rooms with each other to create open spaces. In this way it shows that Ada and Odile can hardly not see each other, even though Odile manages to do so. The walls function as visible borders between them. They also create frame in frame images to accentuate their mental state of being trapped in their routine and being physically in the same house with each other.
At the end of the second year I discovered how much I enjoyed working with paper. In this film every piece of furniture and every prop is covered with paper. Only the pieces made out of fabrics in real life are also made of fabrics in the decor: blankets, curtains… This way the puppets with their fabric clothes fit in the decor, even though both are made out of different materials.