Early Animation Tests

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Here at The Wolfbird, we’ve been excited to do some early animation tests.  Recently we started testing out various equipment setups here in Studio Huginn.  (Who’s Huginn, you might ask?  This is the story of Huginn, one of Odin’s ravens…)

We started with some scientific animation tests, taking an exploratory approach to a 360-degree view, then things just unfolded from there.

Scientific Species Animation Tests

One of the ongoing, open-ended projects happening at The Wolfbird is, essentially, a growing collection of expository animations of local flora and fungi, resulting in an open, accessible seasonable compendium of these species.  To explore the mechanics of this curation process, we gathered a shelf mushroom (a.k.a. polypore) from a tree along the Evans Branch in Alleghany County, North Carolina and did several rounds of shooting at various apertures, experimenting with options for depth of field.

Specifically, we’re testing Dragonframe with a Canon 7D and 60mm macro lens, a total of three takes at different apertures.

Here’s the first take…

The second take…

And the third take.

Animate That! Workshop Prep

As I was working on the scientific animations, I realized I should take some time to gather up a few things around the studio and pretend to be a kid (or kid at heart) and see what it would be like to participate in one of the Animate That! introductory animation workshops.  I spent about half an hour quickly staging and shooting what turned out to be a 15 second animation video with the mushroom, some stones, and some coins.  I used a painting of a tree that hung in my grandmother’s house as a backdrop, and I think it worked out pretty well.  This video was shot using a Google Pixel 2 and Stop Motion Studio Pro.  This is basically the same equipment that will be used in the workshops.

Building A Studio Title Claymation Sequence

Next, I realized I needed to shoot a title sequence for The Wolfbird to use in a variety of ways, and I wanted to make sure it was easy to read the letters.  So, I decided to shoot the sequence backwards and then reverse it with the software.  This reversal technique would allow me to frame the letters exactly how I wanted them to end up.

Setting up The Wolfbird title sequence claymation letters.

Here’s a look at what I saw when I was framing the ending shot using the animation software on the Google Pixel 2.

Framing the shot for The Wolfbird title sequence claymation

As you can see in each photo above, the wolfbird icon logo makes several appearances on the two canvases in the set, thanks to the handmade cardboard stencil I had just finished from the previous week.

Preparing the logo stencil with tracing paper on cardboard

Here’s the finished title animation:

More Rocks: An Alternative Logo Stencil Sequence

As I was finishing the title sequence, I realized I still had enough time for another experiment, so I grabbed some of the stones I’d used before, and I set up a quick sequence to play around with the idea of camera movement.  The tripod head I’ve got has a nice two-axis locking slide mechanism with measurable increments.  I was able to create fairly precise camera movements as I took each shot, moving the camera left and right or up and down at various points during the sequence.  It’s relatively smooth motion because I was able to use the integrated rulers on the slides to move the camera exactly the same amount for each shot.

Behind the Scenes

While I was shooting each of the above sequences, I left another camera running, capturing a photo every 10 seconds to stitch together a time lapse “behind the scenes” video to show the process I went through to assemble both of these sequences.  My intention with this video is to give potential workshop participants a better sense of what it will take to do a short stop motion animation with clay, small objects, a camera, and a tripod.

Behind The Scenes: Title Claymation and Stones and Stencils from The Wolfbird on Vimeo.