Pixilation is a fun type of frame-by-frame animation where live actors pose repeatedly like individual drawings, stop motion puppets, or clay models in animations I was more familiar with before taking the MOOC Explore Animation, offered on the UK’s FutureLearn by the National Film and Television School. A moving and rather stunning example is the short film Stanley Pickle, created in 2010 by then NFTS student Vicky Mather, now the recipient of many awards.
My first exploration of the technique won’t win any awards, but I learned some valuable lessons doing it. Perhaps the most important one is that my 6-year-old actor had a blast making it, even on a cold day in Toronto, and remained engaged throughout, including the editing. She chose and set up the extraterrestrial colour correction filters! She even has her own ideas about how she’d like to do more of it, and to what end. I think this bodes well for the classroom.
Beyond that, I learned that in general one must either place the camera in a stationary spot from the beginning of the scene to the end, or follow the subject, carefully framing the shot to keep them centred. Otherwise each move of the camera takes on the suggestion of a new scene. I used the first technique in the second video, which features the earlier subject’s mother.
I shot this on an iPhone 5 in landscape orientation, using a cheap tripod and a bracket obtained from Dollarama, which probably explains the odd vertical distortion that accompanies each press of the shutter button. I dumped the photos onto my laptop and dropped them into Magix Vegas Pro 14, and stretched them to 5 frames each (1/6 of a second @ 30fps, so 60 photos for 10 seconds; more, and fewer frames between, for a smoother flow). The soundtracks are royalty-free clips that came with some software or other I bought in the past, but I’ve forgotten which or when. If you want an exceptional editor that’s free, you can easily do all of this with HitFilm Express.
I believe development of multimodal, multimedia literacies is important to personal empowerment in the 21st century. I’ve been continuing my self-education in animation and my focus on applying it to hands-on, student-centred engagement in learning through other FutureLearn courses, most recently Filmmaking and Animation in the Classroom, offered by Into Film, “a UK-wide film and education charity, which puts film at the heart of children and young people’s learning, contributing to their cultural, creative and personal development.”