Day 103: Stop Motion Animated Cat Short – day 1

I’m a huge fan of animation.  At the moment, anime (Japanese cartoons) is my love.  Look at the historical beauty of the Edo period in the quiet House of Five Leaves,” the gorgeous animation and slightly odd retelling of the classic, The Count of Monte Cristo: Gankutsuou.  And my own beloved favorite, the fun Samurai Champloo,” with wicked sword fights (I’m a Jin fan, personally). (I linked to trailers for each of these if you’re curious.)

But I’ve had a yen to make an animated stop motion short piece since I started the cat project.  (Note that play on words? Yen? ha ha! “Yen, noun. 1. The basic monetary unit of Japan. 2. A longing or yearning.” And I just referred to Japan and Japanese cartoons? Okay, I’m going to stop now.)  And by short, I mean super short. Probably around 15 seconds.  Just think, 15 seconds at 24 frames per second is 360 photos.  Kind of a test and a challenge for myself. To learn a little about animating.

It’s technically more like Day 5 of the stop motion project, because I shot some silly test stop motion pieces of my phone sliding by in front of the camera and an old VHS Tape (“Patlabor 2“, for anime fans) sliding by and spinning around, and a paper bag collapsing… or blowing up, depending if watched forward or backward.  None of these are in a format I can post and it’s not worth converting them.  Plus, I’ve been watching YouTube animation tutorials and reading websites. I ordered a cable release for the camera I’ll use.  And the teaser photos of the green screen set up you saw on November 24th 2011, are shots of where I’ll probably shoot this.  I’m longing for a book called “The Animator’s Survival Kit, Expanded Edition: A Manual of Methods, Principles and Formulas for Classical, Computer, Games, Stop Motion and Internet Animators by Richard Williams.  It’s supposed to be a great book for learning animation, from beginners to experts.  (Is that the longest title ever, though?) I have it requested at my local library.  And if I end up wanting to do more animation and this project doesn’t make me want to shoot myself, I’ll splurge on the book.

My biggest question at the moment is what to use as the cat.  The original plan was for the clay cat (Day  99) to be the star of the show, but the polymer clay deformed too easily when I bent his legs.  And now he’s cooked solid (below).

The current plan is to use the little black felt cat I made for Day 100 (below), but I’m not sure how he’ll work. When I move him, his legs tend to spring back to where they were.  So, we’ll see.  We’ll see!
Okay, enough blithering on.  Here are the storyboards and an overhead camera plot I worked on today.

The problem with this version is that the camera stays in one spot and it doesn’t really show off the cat walking (because he’s walking towards you) to his best advantage.

This presumes that he will walk.  Supposedly, making something walk is very difficult in animation.  And yes, I decided that’s what I need to do.  However, I did make that decision before I knew how challenging it was.  It’s still possible to eliminate walking and make a little legless cat, like Day 30’s clay cat (below) move across the table without moving legs.  Much much easier. (And now can you see looking at the pink cat, how my love of animation influences some of my pieces?  ha ha!)

Some of the problems with the second story board (above) are 1) I was lazy when I drew it, so angles aren’t great, 2) shot 4 comes from what has been the far side of the screen so I “crossed the line” in movie lingo (so my hubby tells me), and 3) the camera is about the same distance from the bag and cat in every shot.  This would create “jump cuts” when I edit it together.  (I’m still not totally 100% clear on what a jump cut is, but I’ll take hubby’s word for it. It is what he does for a living. I think it means it will be really jarring watching it.)

Finally I had to draw out my ideas of how the bag and cat and camera were all positioned compared to each other from above to figure out what my shots would actually look like (above).

Third storyboard (above): Used a pencil first to be a little more accurate with angles and such.  Now the first shot is relatively far away, the second is close, the third is far and the fourth is close. I guess this will look better when edited together.  I also have the third shot from the side so you can better see the cat walking.  Not sure how I’m going to actually make the smile. In clay stop motion animation, it seems like they often have multiple mouths for the same character so they can make it smile, talk, yell, laugh, close its mouth and just replace the mouth as needed. My piece will be so short I don’t think it will be too big of a deal.  And luckily, most of the cats I make don’t have mouths, so I can just add one or more on.

I have been seriously thinking for a couple of months about how I could make this animation and present it as a single “day.” But I have decided I need to “spread it out” over many days or it won’t get done.  There are just too many steps and too much time required to work on this animation for me to keep daily cats coming out at the same time.

And if you read this far, what are you crazy?!  Ha ha!  Just kidding.

If you like cats, check out Kitty Bloger.  S/he has the best cat posts! You’ll laugh (“20 Bad Cats Making a Mess” and “3 Things Your Cat Wants for Christmas“), you’ll cry (“Tattooed Cats“)…. Okay, maybe you won’t actually cry.  But it’s full of awesomeness over there.  Check it out.

  1. Noah said:

    Wow, looking forward to seeing how this turns out!

    • Thank you! I’m curious to see how it will turn out too…

  2. Mary said:

    Your story boards are cute. It will be fun to see how this works out,

    • Thank you! I’m curious how it will look, too :)

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