Sunday, 1 December 2013

The making of an epic adventure

I had an enormous amount of fun making plasticine model dinosaurs from the kit Dinosaurs in Space that I have been reviewing.

My enthusiasm for squishing and shaping was contagious. Addy made her own little multi coloured creation that kept her amused for quite some time. She was also very curious about how it would be possible to make the models move for an animated film. I tried to explain it to her but I thought the best way would be to actually do it.

With the justification that the whole process of film making with Addy would run smoother if I knew what I was doing, I decided once again to wait until the kids were at school and have a little 'run through' on my own. Of course I knew before I started that this would be all consuming and the housework would be neglected for another day - but it was all in the name of creativity.

The Zu3D software was straightforward to install (once I realised it wouldn't run on my Mac and dug out my old windows laptop) and fairly intuitive to use. The webcam simply plugged into a USB port and was ready to go. There was plenty of help to get started in the form of tutorials but I found it easiest  to just find my way around by clicking things and seeing what happened.

When the time came to actually start my animation, I was quite excited. I had a story of sorts in mind and had made an additional character to Topsy and Rex as well as a couple of props. I set up my background, adjusted the position of the webcam and started posing my 'actors'. It was easy to take a frame, move the models a little using a transparent overlay of the previous frame on the screen as a guide, then take the next frame. At any time, the frames could be played through to see how the animation was looking. Yes, it was easy, but it was incredibly time consuming. A lot of work went into a very short clip of movement. However, it was hugely satisfying watching the models come to life which made it all worthwhile. In an attempt to streamline the process and speed up the progress, I found I took several frames without moving my hand out of shot first. Annoying but all part of the learning curve. The frames can, of course, be deleted if you notice in time!

There are all sorts of effects that can be added to the film including opening titles, closing credits and music but that neglected housework really was calling at this point!

Addy absolutely loved making her own animation (with only the barest minimum of supervision) but she did struggle with the whole concept of 'planning a movement and executing it a little at a time over a number of frames'. She actually preferred the effect of them disappearing and reappearing somewhere completely different. She wanted to call her film 'Crazy Dinosaurs' which did seem quite fitting. She had a heavy handed approach to positioning which was quite hard on the models. They were rather worse for wear by the end of her session, but the beauty of plasticine is that you can just squish it back to the way it needs to be (within limits!)

So here is Addy's movie in the basic form. One day we will spruce it up with the effects but she is very proud of it just as it is.

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