It Takes a Village

This week we started our Introduction to Animation camp and so far, it is safe to say, we have some super CREATIVE students in Light House Studio!

On the first day of camp, we spent the morning learning about the history of animation and the many different forms that have emerged over the years. Animation is the technique of photographing successive drawings or positions of models to create an illusion of movement when the movie is shown as a sequence. It dates back to the early 17th century with the invention of the “magic lantern,” which was the first apparatus that could create and project convincing moving images. Following the magic lantern, the phenakistoscope was introduced in 1833 and quickly became the first widespread animated image projector. Although it could only show loops of a limited number of frames, it created a fluent illusion of motion. Audiences were hooked. Since then, an innumerable amount of approaches to creating animation have emerged, the most popular of which include stop motion and computer generated imaging, otherwise known as CGi.

After watching many short examples of animated films (of which I recommend checking out, Feast), the students broke up into smaller groups and cycled through 5 animation stations:


At this station students were given individual storyboard design sheets. Each student was able to brainstorm an idea for his or her own animated film. Storyboard sheets were used to plan the successive shots they would need when filming. Every filmmaker knows how important it is to have a storyboard and shot sheet BEFORE filming! The goal of these sheets is to remind the students how critical it is to have their ideas planned out before going into shooting. It makes shooting go a lot faster when you know exactly what shots you will need and in the end, it will make editing a lot easier as well!

This station focused on the hands-on aspect of animation. Students used clay to create their characters and other objects they wanted to have in their scenes. After hand sculpting their snakes and super heroes, students divided up the responsibility of shooting and moving the clay objects. While one student captured each image with a Canon T6i, the others moved the clay objects just a smidge in between each shot.

Unlike the previous stations, this was one of the first that required a downward facing camera. While the camera is supported with a C-stand, students use a hand clicker to capture the images. With colorful sheets of paper for the background and objects such as toy cars, felt eye balls and small plastic figurines, students again successively took pictures and moved the objects only slightly between each photo to create seamless motion.

Students went back to the basics and used good ol’ pencil and paper to create drawings for their animations. They then used a light box to trace these drawings over and over, adding robots and taking away leaves in order to create the story they wanted. After they had over 30 pages of drawings, they used a downward facing camera supported by a C-stand to take photos of each drawing.

This may have been my favorite station to watch! Whether they were flying through the theatre or doing the moon walk, students learned how many shots are actually needed in order to get a fluid stop motion animation. They also learned how to direct and work as a team in order to get all of the ‘actors’ moving the right amount in between shots. As the saying goes, “it takes a village!”

For more behind the scenes of our first day of animating, check out this video: