Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New Stop Motion Music Video! - Jesse & Joy's "Me Voy"

This video was a complete labor of love for all the people involved. We spent 30 days locked in a house together designing, printing, cutting out and animating thousands of little pieces of cardstock in a clear display of stop motion insanity.

Carlos Lopez Estrada, working with production designer Tyler Jensen, would start us out with a storyboard with notes on timing and a loose idea of what elements would be in each shot.
This would give Carlos a guide for what to shoot during the day we shot video of the band and extras...
I would then take that footage in, effect it out in After Effects so it looked all old and scratchy, rendered it out at 12 frames per second and wrote a couple Automator scripts that would take the files that After Effects spit out and resize and print them all for me.
While I was doing this, Tyler's art department team was busy designing in photoshop, printing on a large-format printer, and mounting all the set pieces so that they could be built in front of the camera for our DP Moonie to light and frame up the shot.
To be ready to shoot we had a pretty constant flow of wonderful friends and volunteers that helped us cut out all those individual frames and keep them organized in stacks.
While this was going on, I made some pre-animations in after effects that would tell lead animator, Charles Pieper, things like what numbered frame each character was supposed to be on and when characters should be entering or exiting to make sure everything lined up. With stop motion we dont really have time to make a mistake, so these pre animations assured that we'd get stuff right the first time.

We also didn't have the money to rent or make a stop motion dolly rig, so all the camera moves were actually us moving the entire set while the camera remained locked off. I wrote an expression in After Effects that would print out how much in millimeters we had to move the set each frame to get nice eases into and out of camera moves. That preanimation looked like this:
The really tricky part for this shot was timing the camera move so that she reached out and grabbed the ticket right as the ticket booth got to her. It took some pretty precise coordination, but we ended up getting it.

With all those elements ready to go, we then were able to shoot about ten seconds (120 individual photographs) a day. We captured with Dragon Stop Motion, which allowed us superimpose the preanimation that I made onto what we were doing live so we could be absolutely sure all the motion was smooth and clean.

I then took the footage we shot, cleaned up what needed cleaning, and strung it all together in After Effects. The final piece to be added was all the smoke and magic effects. For this, I took what we had already shot, used it as an overlay video, and shot cotton balls moving around on black cloth, which I used the luma value as an alpha channel in After Effects to put into the shot. Like this:

Now imagine doing this entire process for 30 days straight. We had to stagger all the work so that as we were shooting one scene, art department would be building the next scene and I'd be animating the scene after that. Each shot had a unique set-up to execute what was needed for the story, but for the most part this was how it all went:

And if pictures aren't really your thing, check out this silly behind-the-scenes video we made:

If you liked this video, check out the last stop motion video we did for Jesse & Joy HERE.


  1. Dear Cameron,
    I agree with Puppet Herzog - This is a glorious feat of genius.
    Donna Kasprowicz