Monday, May 9, 2011
How To Shoot A Stop-Motion Video—05/09/11
Tips from a pro on turning stills into motion videos
Stop motion looks like nothing else.
“I've always loved the way stop motion looks,” Van Hook said. “It’s definitely a different feel than video. It reminds me of a modern version of the old flip books. And I've been a still photographer for over 35 years so my film and directing work is very much influenced by that. But I've never done any claymation or anything like that. The Fair Film is the first time I've tried it. An ad agency creative director saw it and gave me three TV commercials to direct and shoot based on the technique.”
Garbage in, garbage out.
“The shooting was relatively simple,” he said. “Just choose interesting framing, and let the movement play out in front of camera. The hard part was post. I shot with a Canon 5D, and did some tests beforehand to determine what would look the best. To my eye, the best feel came out of about three frames per second, shooting with a remote trigger. The camera was always locked off on a tripod, with manual aperture and shutter speeds. In a couple of scenes I used a slower shutter speed to give an even more exaggerated feel of movement. I shot large JPEG files, not RAW, so the camera’s buffer could keep up with the three frames per second. One thing I learned is that I shot the scenes way too long. Unless it is a cloud stream or something you’re going to speed up in post, you don't need to shoot 10 minutes at three frames per second. Too many files!”
Don’t underestimate the importance of post-production.
“I've been directing and shooting motion for about 10 years now,” Van Hook said, “so the edit process wasn't foreign to me. This is where I did a lot of experimenting. I ended up looking at the still sequences in Photo Mechanic, then I imported the files into Final Cut on a 24-frame timeline at two frames per image. (You can set this default in preferences.) I ended up with 12 still frames per second of rolling video. Any less, and it looked too jerky. Any more, and you begin to lose your feel of stop motion. I graded it in Color, part of the Final Cut suite. Grading is just a way to adjust color and contrast. It can make a huge difference in the way your video looks. It’s also called 'timing' or 'color timing,' and it’s an integral part of postproduction in the commercial and feature-film world. Final Cut Studio is a very deep program with a ton of stuff in it. For a still photographer, the learning curve can be steep. It was, and still is, for me. You can learn a lot by sitting with an experienced editor and watching them work.”