Mar 04

My pixilation videos

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.”


Feb 08

Scales of Justice — sprite animation in CrazyTalk Animator 3

I’m taking a lovely MOOC on FutureLearn, called Filmmaking and Animation in the Classroom. I’m going to show you how to animate a Scales of Justice using CrazyTalk Animator 3. Although I’ve chosen to demonstrate making Scales of Justice, this process is very similar to any other stop frame animation, and you can use any set of image sequences you choose.

‘Sprite’-based animation using a sequence of stills

With CrazyTalk 3 open in Stage Mode and your timeline at Frame 1, go to the create menu, and choose create media, props. Navigate to the folder that contains your static images. You can drag your mouse or press control + A to select all the images and then press Open.

Your new prop will appear in a red box, displaying only the last image in your set. These images are the new prop’s “sprites” and to choose between them we’ll use the Sprite Editor. To open the Sprite Editor use the icon on the toolbar, go to the animation menu and choose sprite editor, or press the letter S.

My Scales of Justice prop using sprite animation

“One-shot” video, What is ‘Primacy?’   For best results view Full Screen
The red box turns green to show we are editing the prop, and the editor displays all the prop’s sprites. The highlighted sprite is the one currently displaying, but the first image on the list, the one with a special icon in the lower right corner, is the default image. In my case I want to start my animation from the default image, so I will select that image now. It becomes highlighted and the display changes.

To animate our scales we’ll advance the frame and choose different images. Crazy talk also has an advanced timeline that keeps track of everything we can do to our prop, but we don’t really need it for simple sprite animation. My animation is running at 30 frames per second, so every three frames represents 1/10 of a second.

Now, I’ve numbered all my sprites to make it easier for me to keep track — the numbers beginning with zero tilt to the left, and the numbers counting by 10s tilt to the right. I’ll advance my frames by three and change the sprite image until I get to 04, then I’ll backtrack to 00 and go ahead with images 10 to 40, and finally backtrack once more 00.

Now I’ll rewind my animation and press play. We can open the timeline to see more clearly what we’ve done. The little diamonds represent “keyframes” corresponding to the image changes we’ve made, and you’ll notice they’re always three squares apart, representing three frames or 1/10 of a second. In real life a scale might move more slowly at the top and the bottom of its swing, swing a little less each time, and eventually settle in the middle.

We can drag these keyframes to new positions on the timeline, copy paste, and even delete ones we don’t want. The scale will move faster when the key frames are closer together, and slower when they’re further apart.

I experimented and ended up with this animation which is 180 frames, or 6 seconds of motion, followed by 2 seconds of nothing, so you can see that the scale has stopped. To save your animation go to the file menu and switch to composer mode, and then choose file, save prop. Your new prop will be found in the content Manager under the Custom Props tab.  

CrazyTalk Animator 3 also makes it easy to render your animation as an MP4.