used a still digital camera and iMovie. You might want to use a digital video camera and
whatever video editing software you have on your computers. Of course, you could just edit
directly on the camera as well. These are hilarious. It was my first attempt at digital
claymation and some are very rough because we were still figuring out what NOT to do, but
the students were good sports. If you want a DVD of my students 6 claymations, just
request one from me about a week in advance at least. One of them is almost professional,
it turned out so well.
This took almost 9
weeks for the more elaborate claymations, but the students loved it and worked hard for
those 9 weeks. They learned a lot about lighting, photography, animation, story writing,
problem-solving, cooperation and digital video editing.
camera with manual mode or digital video camera with stop frame mode.
computers, or other video editing software
sample simple animation and for special effects)
claymation modeling clay (regular modeling clay will not work well)
White and black
polymer clay for making eyes (we fire them to make them hard so we can manipulate them
without squishing them)
Straight pins to
help move eyes.
Black foam core
(with black core), 2 for each group
Mat board to make
stands to hold foam core upright
Large sheets of
black construction paper
brought in by students
DVD of Wallace and
Grommet, or Chicken Run
(I made mine on the computer)
First, after you demo, students do simple animation using
Photoshop and iMovie with simple drawn shapes so that they understand how single frames
make an animation, e.g. ball bouncing off
sides of box. (You must change all clips to still frames in iMovie for it to work.) If you
need my list of specific instructions, just ask me for a copy of the handout I give the
students with all of the step-by-step instructions.
Show Wallace and Grommet or Chicken Run
(same creator). The Wallace and Grommet DVD has some great behind the scenes,
how-we-did-it footage, including use of storyboards. Since the students have made a simple
animation already, they have a lot more insightful comments and questions while they are
watching. They have a greater appreciation for how much work goes into it. There are also
some great websites of other claymation artists that you can have them visit. Ask the
students to pay particular attention to the use of eyes and eyebrows to express ideas
without words. Even though I did point it out to them, I wish they had done more moving of
Students break into groups (2-4 in a group) and brainstorm an
idea for their story. Remind them the elements of a good short story: opening and intro to
characters, climax or problem, resolution, etc.
Students create storyboards of their ideas. Ask them to
walk through their storyboard and time it so that it is between 30 seconds and
1 minute. (More time will be added with the opening titles and ending credits to equal
about 90-120 seconds). Remind them that 30 seconds is the length of a typical tv
commercial and so they can say a lot in that time.
After storyboard is approved, they make their characters. (In
the workshop I took, we made our characters first and then wrote the story around the
characters we made-either way works.) You will need to demonstrate how to use the pipe
cleaners for armatures and how to use hardened polymer clay eyes and clay tools. Discuss
the need to keep human legs short so their characters dont tip over. Students will
make or bring in props. Reason for hardened polymer eyes is so that students can move the
eyes and eyelids without messing them up all the time.
Students use oil pastels and black paper to make the backgrounds
and ground for their scenes. Tape these to the foam core. Two pieces of foam core taped at
a 90° angle make the corner that makes up their set, combined with the ground that is
drawn on large pieces of black construction paper. The foam core stands up because you
made a triangular stand for the back of each, like the back of a table-top picture frame.
We used a digital still camera on a tripod. Turn off flash and
automatic focusing so that the camera doesnt try to focus all the time. The focus
should not change during the scene or it will look very jumpy. (Some of my student
examples on my DVD were created before we figured out to turn off the autofocus and you
can clearly tell.) Set the camera on medium/low resolution (jpegs, not tiffs). High
resolution is only for print work, and is just wasted on computer or tv screen viewing.
Use a studio light and mark its position with tape. Mark the position of the camera and
tripod with tape too, so the next day the students can set up with everything exactly the
same. Take a shot, move the characters a little, take a shot, etc.Have the students test this scene using Preview
directory scanning with the arrow, or they can load them into iMovie following the same
directions they used in the simple shape animation (changing clips to still frames, etc.)
to test the first scene for lighting, movement, etc. Ive learned that you should not
let them proceed without doing the test scene.
After making adjustments after test scene, students shoot all
their scenes and edit them on iMovie using the same steps they used in the simple shape
animation. If they want to add any special effects, they will need to first open the jpeg
in Photoshop to do their special effects.