I’m the king of the Stikbots!!

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I got my first video camera when I was about 14 years old.  And as soon as I figured out how to use it I was trying to make stop-motion videos.  But clunky old VHS camcorders weren’t made to do stop motion so of course my experiments never worked out.  Ever since then I harbored a secret desire to create a successful and GOOD stop motion video.  So when I heard that Zing Toys was running a Stikbot-themed video contest for stop-motion animators I decided to go all in and create the biggest, craziest, most epic entry I could.  (Stikbots are these amazing little robot guys that kids use to make stop-motion videos on their cell phones.)  I was hoping that maybe I’d place in the top three but I actually wound up winning the $15,000 grand prize!!  Here’s my submission:

I’m very proud of this win and I’m extremely proud of my entry.  There was no public voting so a panel of judges picked all the winners.  And as a nice little bonus, it seems like Stikbot fans really liked the entry too.  The view count for this video just kept going up and up and up and it’s currently at 147,000 views.

I probably put at least 60 hours of work into this project since I was basically learning stop motion by trial and error.  I figured out a lot of helpful tricks during this shoot and by the end, things were moving really quickly.  So I think I might try and do more stop motion videos in the future. For anyone who may be interested, I shot this video with my Canon T4i.  To eliminate camera shake, I used a 2 second timer to take each photo.  I wanted the lighting to look as natural as possible so I used a very fast lens.  But that gave me a really narrow depth of field sometimes.  So in close-ups, one stikbot would be in focus and the one behind it would be soft.

The entire process was kind of grueling but I did have fun.   It was definitely the most creatively challenging video contest entry that I’ve ever done.  Here are some behind the scene pics:

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My stikbot set. I only made one small section of the cave and I used photoshop to make it seem bigger.
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Here’s the wideshot I used in the video.
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And here’s what the shot look like before I photoshopped it.
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I’m not sure if many people actually noticed this but I put a working LED light inside a toy lantern.
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This set was pretty much dirt, sticks, lease and some fake Halloween moss.
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I found that Sticky-Tack was the secret to getting a Stikbot to hold things. You can see some on this guy’s left hand.
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Here’s a shot of the bots falling into the cave.
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And here’s that same shot before I erased the rig I used to drop them.

Zing is actually planning to do another big Stikbot contest this fall so if you’re interested in entering you should watch their facebook page for updates.

How to create Stop Motion videos with a DSLR

This year Tongal has been running a ton of stop motion-themed video contests.  But I’ve never entered any of them because I had absolutely no idea how to create a stop motion animation.  So earlier this summer I decided to finally buckle down and figure out how to do it.  Turns out the right gear and the right program make the whole processes hilariously simple.  Here now is my first attempt at making a stop motion video since I was about 14.  A friend of mine did a cute little song for a Dole contest and I wanted to add some quirky visuals.  (Check out my previous post to see the great song/video she did for Butterfinger’s Last Spokesman on Earth Contest.) I think it turned out a lot better than my last stop motion project which was a 10 second video of a toy Rancor chasing a stormtrooper across my desk.  Like I said, I was 14.

The animation wasn’t very smooth but I actually like that jumpy look; it kind of fit the mood of the song.  But if I had taken more frames it could have been a lot smoother.  I also screwed up and had my camera set to take 2 quick shots each time I took a a picture.  Each frame was exposed differently and that’s why you can see kind of a flicker effect when the fruit cups are moving around in the freezer.  So don’t do that unless you want your video to look like a silent film!

Now, let’s go over how you can make something as amazing and brilliant as my (non-winning) Dole video.  I’m going to assume you know a thing or two about film and that you already understand how to SHOOT a stop motion scene.  So here’s what you do after you take all your photos.

STEP 1:  Once you’re done taking your photos, import them from your DSLR into your computer.   Put them into their own folder and take a few minutes to look them over.  If you notice any messed up images you’ll want to delete them.  A sudden change in lighting or your big fat hand in the shot will ruin the optical illusion of your animation.

STEP 2:  If you don’t already own QUICKTIME 7 PRO you’re going to need to buy it!  It’s $29 and well worth the money.  Head here to buy it.

STEP 3:  Open up your new copy of Quicktime 7 Pro and go to FILE and select OPEN IMAGE SEQUENCE:

Select Open Image Sequence

STEP 4:  Find your photos on your computer.  Click on just the first photo in the sequence.  Quicktime will automatically snag all the photos in the folder.

STEP 5:  Chose how many Frames Per Second you want.  Normal video might feature 24 frames per second but you’ll only be able to choose that option if you took a ton of shots.  I’ve found that 12 frames per second works just fine.

Super obvious point: A lot of frames per second means a shorter video and a smoother look

STEP 6:  It’s magic time!  Quicktime will string all your photos together into a video sequence.  If you like the way it looks, go to FILE and select EXPORT to turn the sequence into an MOV file.

Export your sequence to an MOV file

And that’s it!  Now you can drop the file in your timeline and start editing.  Of course, you might have to crop your new sequence some since the size of your photos won’t fill up a wide screen frame.  So when you take your photos, leave yourself some room to crop the finished video.

Ok so you’ve seen my goofy attempt at stop motion, now I want to see yours.  If you enter one of Tongal’s stop motion contests, send me a link to your video so I can see how awesome you are!

 

For the love of avocados

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One thing I love about video contests is that a lot of them have really bizarre premises.  Take for example the “Are you an Avodisic?” contest sponsored by Mexican Avocados. First, it’s always a little funny when PR people try and promote basic food items like pork or Wisconsin cheese.  But this contest gets even weirder when you read the details.  They were looking for people to make short films about avocados that portrayed them as being sexy, sensual “love fruits.”  The promo video for the contest literally featured a talking avacado wearing a garter belt that moaned orgasmically as “she” explained the official rules. (sadly, that video seems to have been taken down.)  UPDATE: One of the “PR people” behind this contest apparently has a very good sense of humor.  He wrote me today and mentioned the orgasmic avocado video could be found here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IOhGX_IYRQ.  The video is safe-for-work but the audio isn’t!

The contest ended recently and it looks like a lot of people entered.  As you can guess, most of the entries were really, f&*%ing, weird.  There were three categories in the contest; Best Recipe, Most Entertaining and Most Original.  One winner in each category was selected and those winner each got $2,000.  You can see all the winners here:

http://www.avocadosfrommexico.com/avodisiac/Index.aspx

But here’s my favorite of the three:

Winner, Most Original.  Prize: $2,000.

I’m amazed at the amount of work some filmmakers put into their contest entries.  The guy who made that video explained on youtube that the entry is made up of more than 500 still photos.  Check out this making-of video to see just how this guy managed to pull of such an awesome entry: