Book Review: The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation

After a long grueling week I have managed to work my way through the second book that I ordered a few weeks ago: The Advanced Art of Stop Motion Animation by Ken A Priebe.

The Advanced Art of Stop Motion Animation
The Advanced Art of Stop Motion Animation

I’ve always had a soft spot for stop motion movies, and as part of my classes at school we got a mini lesson on the basics of stop-motion puppet building. On my long list of things that I eventually want to build is my own stop-motion puppet, but I like to do my research first before I dive into a project. I had an inkling that making these puppets is a time consuming process, and as it turns out I was correct. There are a lot of steps between designing the character to painting the finished product. I wanted a book that outlined all my steps and all my different options for puppet building, and in this book my money was well spent.

The Advanced Book of Stop Motion Animation has a long comprehensive chapter on the building of stop-motion puppets from design, to armature, to finishing. It also outlines the use of different building materials for different applications. Some stop-motion puppets are sculpted and cast in silicone or latex, while some are clay and latex buildup. Depending on the complexity of the puppet any number of materials can be used.

There is no one way alone to build the armature inside the puppet, and a couple methods are simple enough that a person on their own time could build it without the steep cost of machined parts. On the advanced end of the spectrum this book also goes over the minute details involved in making expressions with head armatures. The latter is probably a little beyond my skill level at this point, but one must always have long-term goals.

Also casting, casting, and more casting. Stop motion puppets often need to be repaired or replaced so casting the puppet is probably a good idea. If anyone is planning on making one of these puppets read this part of the book carefully. Casting an molding provides multiple opportunities for screw-ups, so don’t skim this part. I know this from personal experience.

The part of the book that admittedly goes a little over my head is the actual animation of the puppet. I have only a little knowledge on cinematography and the art of using a camera, but I did find this section easy to follow. Having visual examples of what all the settings on the camera do is definitely helpful. This section covers everything from camera settings to visual effects and compositing.

Of course, this book goes through the process of actually animating using a stop motion puppet. This part is actually more time consuming than making the puppet itself. A stop motion movie is comprised completely of a series of still images. A standard high resolution contains 24 frames per second, so its not hard to imagine how much time it takes to create even a minute of footage. There is a reason these movies take years to complete. This book gives all sorts of tips and tricks for realistic movement and efficient work. This is the only part of the process I have little to no experience with, so this book is likely going to end up being an invaluable resource.

If it is not clear by my overview of this book’s contents I clearly have the mind of a builder and not an animator. I spent a lot more time going over every detail of sculpting and casting, but someone who prefers the animation side of this art would also get a lot out of this book. Even a builder should know what types of movements will be required of the stop-motion puppet to get a better end result. This book makes for an excellent start-to-finish how-to manual. As a person who does tend toward building I think I will search for something more specialized in my next book order. Does anyone have suggestions on stop-motion building books? I would love to hear them!

I think next up will be a comic book. Perhaps Fables or Sandman? Also coming up soon are some more illustrations and some technical drawings I have been working on for a new side-project I have in the works. Things were a little tight this week between school and my internship, but I will get back to the making portion of my blog I swear!



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