Every year, NCTV offers Stop-Motion Animation Programs as an opportunity for Norfolk youth to learn about, create, and produce their own animated film(s) using Legos and a program called iStopMotion.  This program enables the kids to capture frame-by-frame shots and uses a feature called ‘onion-skinning,’ which places a slightly transparent image of the previous frame over the the live view of the current camera image to better compare the images for more fluid movement of characters in the final product.  Having recently finished our July 2015 program, we are pleased to announce that the short film made during that week, “The Fast Race,” is now available to watch on YouTube by clicking this link.  Since our second Animation Program of the summer is underway this week, we’d like to explore a brief history of stop-motion animation.

Stop-motion is an animation technique that involves moving physical objects in small increments while taking frame-by-frame shots of each change in movement, which results in the object appear to seemingly transform and move on its own.  The first known instance of this technique is the 1898 film The Humpty Dumpty Circus, produced by J. Stuart Blackton and Albert E. Smith of Vitagraph Studios, and this is also the world’s first animated film.  This inspired a string of stop-motion animated films to arise over the next 20 years, and this movement gave birth to the first clay animation films of the early 1900s, such as the amazing 1912 film Modelling Extraordinary.  These new animation techniques also paved the way for animation in full-length films such as well-known animator Willis O’Brien’s work on The Lost World (1925) and his most admired work on the infamous King Kong (1933).

As the years went on, these techniques became more refined and perfected, and animation grew more popular and widespread, especially among children.  The mid-20th century saw the rise of animated kids’ shows such as Art Clokey’s series Gumby in the 1950s and French animator Serge Danot’s The Magic Roundabout in the 1960s.  In the 1970s and 1980s, stop-motion was increasingly used to wow audiences in blockbuster Hollywood films such as the Star Wars trilogy, the first two films in the RoboCop series, and in the final sequence of the first Terminator film.

Although the use of CGI in animated films has become increasingly dominant nowadays, traditional stop-motion features continue to dazzle audiences with modern films such as The Nighmare Before Christmas (1993), Coraline (2009), and FrankenWeenie (2012).  Animation techniques can also being combined to supplement each other, as evidenced in the recent Lego Movie (2014), which featured CGI created in a stop-motion style with live action filming mixed in.

NCTV welcomes and encourages anyone interested in learning more about our iStopMotion program, or producing animation in general, to come down to the station and try it out!  We will happily provide the training, tools, software, and equipment to turn your vision into a reality (and help you have a ton of fun in the process!).  Please contact us at any time.  We look forward to hearing from you!

AuthorChris Lawn