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Stop Motion Video essay:

Stop motion animation is a basic technique used by filmmakers to

manipulate moving image to create the illusion that it was made in one

It involves taking a series of photos and playing them in a continuous

sequence to create the illusion that it is one moving image.

It is the only form of art that can make use of every other art form/material/
technology in the world.

Persistence of vision is a theory that states the human eye and brain process
images 0.4 seconds slower that it really appears. This means that the image
created in the brain is a combination of what you are seeing now and what
you saw a fraction of a second ago. This helps to prevent the world going
black every time we blink. This combination creates a subtle blend of all the
images which is the basis for how stop motion was created. As you can see in
the image below the, you can see a trail of lights rather than just the
individual light – this is due to you seeing it essentially in two places rather
than one.

Persistence of vision plays a part in stopping the world from going completely
black when you blink. When light meets the retina your eyes retain that light
for about a 10th-15th of a second afterwards.

When we go to the cinema we know that a motion picture creates an illusion

of movement by flashing photographs in a rapid sequence.

This theory sparked the idea for Joseph Plateau to create the
phenakistoscope, which was the first stop motion animation device.
Joseph Plateau – Phenakistoscope:

Joseph plateau took the theory of persistence of vision and the illusion it
creates to go on to make the phenakistoscope which was the very first form
of stop motion animation.

He was the founder of the phenakistoscope in 1833 which was the first fluent
illusion motion device. Initially created as a toy it was made up of a spinning
cardboard disc which is attached vertically to a handle. Spread out around
the centre of the wheel are a series of pictures that reveal phases of an
animation. The viewer watched the spinning discs in the reflection from a
mirror – what they saw was an illusion that the images were moving.

This was a huge milestone in the animation and film making industry as it
paved the way for future animation.


William Horner:

In 1834 William George Horner developed this idea and invented the
zoetrope which is a very similar device to the phenakistoscope however
more convenient as it got rid of the need for a mirror but also allowed
multiple people to view the device at once.

The creation was shaped like a drum with an open top inside was full of a
series of photos that were each hand drawn on a strip of paper.

The pictures fitted into the edge of the drum and could be viewed through
slits in the side of the drum. The slits are important as the break in the vision
allows your brain to link to two images together to give the illusion of
Horner originally named this device the Daedalum and was forgotten about
until 1887 when it was renamed the zoetrope by William F. Lincoln in America
and M. Bradley in England.


A few years later the photographer Edweard Muybridge followed on from

the idea of persistence of vision and illusion of movement and came up with
the theory of motion picture.

Instead of having hand drawn pictures in a sequence he used his own

photographs in a sequence to create the illusion of moving image.

His theory originated in 1872 when Muybridge began photographing horses

galloping in a series of shots. He originally wanted to prove that when a horse
runs, all of its hooves leave the floor. To do this he set up twelve cameras
along a track which were triggered as the horse ran past.

In order for his work to be viewed as a moving piece, Muybridge invented the
Zoopraxiscope. This was a further development on Plateau and Horner’s
previous inventions as it took the concept of the spinning discs, but used his
photos rather than drawings. These photos were put onto glass discs as
silhouettes and this was then able to be projected.

Willis O’Brien a stop motion pioneer produced many success’ in the

animation and special effects world, a few of them being: ‘The Lost World’,
‘King Kong’, ‘Mighty Joe Young’ and ‘The Ghosts of Slumber Mountain.’

Sculpting and illustrating was always a passion of his growing up and one day
when making models with his friend he came to the realisation that he can
animation objects in the same way that cartoonists can animate drawings.

Although O’Brien was aware that the concept of stop motion had been
demonstrated before it was a new form, so he proceeded to spend his time
perfecting the art form. He initially started making short films by using the
concepts invented by the pioneers – using figurines and filming them one
frame at a time.

Although he only made the concept for himself he was certain that the
concept would take off in the animation world, he created a test reel to sell
the idea to producers, the producers loved the idea and have O’Brien $5000
to produce another short film.

In the short film he uses his love and knowledge of dinosaurs, pre-historic
creatures and cave men to his strengths and make ‘Dinosaur and the Missing
Link 1915.) When the short film was seen by Thomas Edison he very quickly
after seeing it bought the rights to it and employed O’Brien to produce more
short films.

As time progressed stop motion developed rapidly with a lot of influence

from O’Brien, he moved onto creating his most successful piece ‘King Kong.’

As Obrien’s sculpting skills improved he used his skill to mould clay into gorilla

He was able to create a personality for this character through use of different
facial expressions and context the character became popular with its
Before taking on the role O’Brien wanted to make sure he could make his
work as accurate and convincing as possible so he often went to zoos to
study the animal in its movements and mannerisms. For him to be able to
mimic these movements as realistically as possible, O’Brien’s models started
to use ball and socket joints, making them more mobile and flexible to smaller

Another developer Ray Harryhausen who is an American visual effects

designer and creator. Harryhausen was a big fan of the work the O’Brien
produced and was specifically enthusiastic about the work he did on King

After feeling inspired from O’Brien’s work, Ray Harryhausen decided to

contact O’Brien regarding his work and was educated in his methods

Harryhausen’s newly developed skills had been recognised and he landed

himself job creating a colour film called ‘Jason and the Argonauts’. The film
involved a now iconic scene demonstrating a huge development in the stop
motion world in which Jason (a human) fought animated characters.

This involved the process of layering in the editing process which was known
as Dynamation. This process has chanced stop motion history and has
opened up so many possibilities for storytelling as the possibilities as to what
you can create are infinite. It worked by splitting the live action therefore
allowing a figure to be imposed into the scene. The live action is projected
onto the back screen with the animated characters being in the middle. The
foreground consists of a glass screen with a painted out area which was later
replaced with more live imagery.

Contemporary artists are the developers that we have today.
‘The Brothers Quay’ a pair of identical twins from the USA called Timothy and
Stephen. The Brother’s Quay is their brand name for their work.

They both create surreal and supernatural animations. They bring something
new and different with each of their animations that they produce. They use
a combination of found objects to help create a dystopian feeling such as a
lot of scrap metal and thing like old dolls. As you can see below, these
‘scrap’ objects help to give their work a creepy feeling. Whilst these objects
are often harder to physically move and animate, it is this style, which makes
them unique and has given them great success.

Aardman animations were founded in 1972 by Peter Lord and David

Sproxton. Aardman are now considered as one of the most successful stop
motion animation studios in the world. They have revolutionised stop motion
techniques with their use of clay models. Each character is lip- synced to
match the voicing provided, they have a full range of expressions in order to
make them feel as real as possible and they produce a huge amount of
feature length films that use the techniques. Their characters contain fully
moveable armatures which allows them to build more sturdy and flexible
figures than previously possible, something that O’Brien had previous
explored with his jointed models.

This is a far distance away from what O’Brien and Harryhausen were creating,
however the basics of the methods are still the same. Each figure is moved a
frame and a photo is taken- only now it is on a much more detailed and
bigger scale. When filming The Wrong Trousers train scene, they had to build
a 20ft long wall and film on high shutter speeds in order to create the
background movement as it was so complex. They had up to 300 people
working on 25 different sets at once – this shows the scale of the projects now
being created.

They have produced many of our favourite animations, some being Wallace
and Grommit, Flushed away, Chicken Run and Shaun the sheep.

Animations are now found in a wide variety of different formats. As the

techniques have become more accessible, there are more and more people
capable of producing them.

TV Adverts have chosen to exploit the possibilities of stop motion with it

allowing them to do anything. One advert in particular that has used stop
motion to great effect is John Lewis’ Things Matter advert. The techniques
allowed them to move all of the objects you may find in an average family
home to help them sell home insurance. This was particularly effective as
there would be no way for them to film this without using these techniques. It
also helped to show everything that is covered ‘together’.

Artists are now using the creativity that stop motion allows in order to sell their
music. Fleet Foxes used paper cutouts that moved around a page and
created different visuals to match and compliment the magical feeling to
their song Mykonos. This method helps artists to further demonstrate their
creativity in a more visual way and not just rely on standard music videos
containing themselves. It helps to see their image as creatives and the
meaning behind the song. This method was particularly effective as it was
very fluid and matched the pace of the song really well.

E4 are big fans of using animation for their channel idents as it fits in with the
‘personality’ of the channel – the home of comedy. It helps differentiate it
from Channel 4 and whilst containing similar branding, it gives more scope for
fun. In the ‘Hotel Room’ idents, they use it to show many different strange
things happening. There are suggestions of different genres that they may
broadcast and use the colour purple, which ties in with the brand identity. It is
a bit random, however that matches the content the channel shows.