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Advanced Topics part 4: Lighting

There are two distinct things I want to talk about when it comes to lighting for stop motion animation: General lighting for function and lighting for mood and story. Both are very different and very important.

 

Lighting for Function: Lighting for stop motion animation is quite a bit different than normal lighting. What I mean is that the set has to be brighter than is normal for your eyes. What looks correct and well lit in real life is going to be too dark for an animation. This is one of the biggest mistakes that beginners make - the set is too dark! So, grab yourself an extra lamp and set it near your set and get a bright bulb in it!

When you take a video you lose some light. And when you take a series of pictures as in an animation you lose even more light! When you stitch all these pictures together into an animation it will be dark.

I recommend you set up some extra lighting and then do a short one or two second test animation. Shoot maybe 50 quick pictures and then build an animation with it - just to check the lighting! It is well worth the extra time and effort.

The picture below shows a professional photographers umbrella lamp that I use for my animation sets. It casts a nice bright light with a good natural color and because of the umbrella there is very little shadow.

I didn't start out with this, I just started out with some extra lamps then I moved up to this. And if you use lamps just be aware of any shadows and move the lamps to positions that minimize these shadows.

Lighting the set

The picture shows a good example of how you need the set to be brighter. I took this picture without a flash. The room, to the eye, was bright enough, but in the picture it seems a little dark. And the miniature set looks a little too bright to the eye but in the animation it is just right!

 

Lighting for Mood and Effect

If you watched the animation that goes along with the tutorial you know that the main character (Me) switches a switch on a mysterious object and he is transformed into another world of animation. He moves over to the door and opens it. A bit of an ominous red glow comes through the doorway and when we hop outside and look from that angle we see things are a bit red. This was a way for me to give the effect that we are in a different world.

 

The red light outside

You can see how everything has a red glow to it. In this case lighting was a great way for me to express an otherworldly feel to the scene. Just remember this when planning out your animation. Lighting is a tool that you can use to express mood and feel.

This also goes for dim lighting. I talked about having bright lights so everything looks good but sometimes you want dim light for a reason. But make sure it is for a reason and not just because the set is not well lit!

 

 

NextOk, let's move on to the next lesson in this tutorial: Building the Set - Your set probably won't be anything like mine but I do have some valuable tips for you that I learned when making and shooting this set!

Lizard animation

Use Clay

Using a wire armature and playdoh to make an animated lizard. This shows the basic concept of using a wire armature which is used in most stop motion animation characters. The lizard Animation

 

A Knight Animation

Use Paper

A Paper Knight A video tutorial that shows you how to do an animation using a simple drawing. This stop motion work uses a drawing of a knight. It uses 114 images, took me 90 minutes to do and the animation lasts 28 seconds. See the Tutorial here

 


 

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