Hand-made Animation: My scribble note of stop-motion


 animation accept the smallest ideas

do not afraid to reveal them although

this frame-by-frame business

allow you to create and retrieve

individual phases of motion

with sense and sensibility

to unhinge a man and to connect with his universe


  1. To learn a noble art: stop-motion

stop-motion 定格動畫……………….a media; a time-honored technique; an art form of the 20th century

physical world 物質世界…………. ..play with different materials

frame by frame 續格續格…………..learn about 24/25fps; learn to be persistent

illusion of life 視覺幻象………………use imagination to invent what does not really move

giving life 賦予生命………………….an extension of the animator himself, of his own                                                                                   personality and the 1,001 dreams

law of movement 事物運動的本質……..physics, optics, motion

principles of animation 核心動畫原則

amplify and simplify 簡約精悍

film production 拍攝和製作……………learn about filming, lighting, compositing, editing,                                                                              SFX, etc.

performance 表情達意……………….learn about acting and reacting, to tell a story

dramatic concept 各種喜樂哀怒…………learn about:comedy, melodrama, tragedy,     theatre of absurd,fantasy, clown;express as a human

發現在世界的自己….start from one’s curiosity to both great entertainment and self-revelation

2. Stop-motion animation is MORE THAN a learning subject in school

Cinema is a world of illusion. Some of the grandest illusions of all have been created by a special effects process known as stop-motion photography. Stop-motion is an absolutely head-to-toe process, involves both the discipline of practice and theory. Some people develop animation merely a narrower specific of vocational education, look at it as an imparting and acquisition of specific skill only. Indeed the creation of stop-motion animation is much much more than that. Stop-motion is a multi-disciplinary education relates to things that we learn even as earlier as in kingdergarten, visual symbols, math, aesthetics. Stop-motion is an art form to develop a broad sense of study about human being and things about our world. The horizon is not unchangeable; it is an open-ended subject driven by new thought and curiosity ever. It is through the first person’s head-to-toe experiment to discover the joy and the magic of this animation making. I believe the education of animation is larger than animation itself.

It is a multi-disciplinary education relates to many things

the mind map – drawing

In saying so, these multiple learning become opened doors inviting both beginner and professional animators, to enter the territory of stop-motion making. One may ask if there a linear syllabus for stop-motion learning? Yes sure, there are ways of institutional learning, in different visions, finding in school and universities. But I trust self-discipline learning is always a more joyful way to go. If you are interested in this frame by frame process, start from the things that you are honestly interested about. Years ago in Bristol, I had encountered Joanna Quinn, a famous British 2D animator. I asked her if she had ever realised that animation was something she wanted to do the rest of her life. She had simply said: “keep yourself excited of what you are doing. It is fascinated to see the playback of what have been animated, and that’s all”. Animators look for surprises. Surprise is the very thing that keeps us going. If we honest enough to admit that we eliminate surprise as time we grow up, it is hell lot of sadness about it, I think! After all, crazy ideas are what keep us all being alive. I think it is the most important drive in making animation.

3. How Do I start stop-motion

Experiencing stop-motion making is personal. When I first encountered stop-motion,

I knew nothing at all about it! Not even the wording “stop-motion” itself. The day I was studying film in Hollywood many years ago, I was in an advanced cinematography class, studying about special effects. Each students had to film a 100-feet film roll of (approx. run time:2 minutes)So I kept on thinking things like explosion, walking on the ceiling without gravity, glass painting, etc.(these are the practical effects that were long gone now)

Then I drew this:

a little character I had developed since I was away from home in Hollywood.

I wanted to make this drawing moving and telling a simple story. Her name is Momo.

and her friend, K

It is how I started stop-motion making:I very quickly made up a clumsy little story and created two little characters;filming in a frame-by-frame process. I tried with my hand to make movement of the little puppets; from absolutely zero knowledge about stop-motion animation. Then everything went wrong: the movement went really clumsy and quick, lighting flickering all over; camera inattentively moving; props did not stay status which they should be….but still I enjoy tremendously of what was done in front of me.

Looking back the history of some stop-motion geru, like Willis O’Brien, Ray Harryhausen, David Allen, and many more….These talented people did not studied their craft of animation in any school ( institutional education in animation was not appeared in those day). They explored the potential of stop-motion and fantasy filming from working on movies thorough their life’s. They has the longest track record of the current generation of animators. These animators accumulated their vision and skills from hands-on works. This very process of making, with many trial and errors, is the best way of stop-motion learning.

4.Some definitions and meaning

What is animation?

Animation-making contributes to a kind of self-reliance system with the connection of:

thought  heart  materials  body movement  rhythm  story  our world

Flow of the visible and invisible movement

It is a life time creative journey about time, space, gravity and weight, action and reaction, story and meaning.

Animation is not the art of drawing; it is not the art of sculpting; it is not the art of photography; it is not the art of craft; it is not the art of lighting; it is not the art of performance…animation is the art of all the above elements. Animation is the art of imitation, movement, replacement, repositioned, alternation, trick and magic,

fantasy, performance, transformation.

Illusion- within the human mind, there is an optical illusion called the persistence of vision. It gives the illusion of action and movement of what does not really move. When these static images is projected at normal speed (24 or 25 frame per second), life and movement of the objects or puppets has been created when there is none. They take on lives of their own, and to tell story.

In Latin word anima means soul, breath, to give life to.

Some basic in animation

1) need to have body language+facial expression+attitude to reveal the emotion

2) understand locomotion

3) choose the style of animation: realistic or characteristics

4) it is not about moving from A to B, it is about performance

5) design and create something as in movie with visual impact and cinematic feel,

but do not create it literally as a written story, or do not make it like a stage theatre.

6) tell a story

7)with a sense of humor

The nature of stop-motion

Drawing 1 – on stage direct performance

Drawing 2 – perform indirectly through manipulation directly, and show on-screen


Physical real

Stop motion uses real things, includes materials of all kind, human, puppet,paper-cut, landscape, natural elements etc. Using tangible (real things, technique, filming production) to express intangible (emotion, life, meaning).

By hands-direct animation

Stop-motion is a direct animation, which hands directly touch and to animate the things. There is nothing in between the animation and objects but with hands manipulation.

Frame by frame

It is a sequence of still pictures. Use a camera (either webcam, DSLR’s, film camera,

i-phone, import images) , take a frame of the object, stop the camera, move the object, take another frame……minutely and precisely repositioned and rephotographed 24/25 times per second. What happens between each frames is much more important than what happens on each frame. Giving the illusion of believable movement of objects.

In this case, do we have to film one frame at a time of each movement?

No, it is not necessary. The capture usually goes “twos”(doubles) or “ones”, or

“three”. For normal speed, mostly shoot in “twos”; for faster or delicately movement, can shoot in “ones”. And many animated-cartoon shoot in “three”.

Stop-motion has the same principles as in 2D and 3D animation.

Stop-motion animation is also called:

-> puppet animation

-> claymation

-> three-dimensional animation

-> stop frame animation

-> pixelation

Types of stop-motion

-> object

-> clay

-> paper cut-out

-> graphic

-> pixelation

-> puppet

-> model

-> silhouette

-> go-motion

-> brick film

-> sand


-> Activity: typography

-> Action: logic of movement under gravity; in an objective way of movement

-> Animation: beyond gravity; with creative, abstractive and imaginative of movement

-> Acting scene: a life-time learning and developing process, put multiple creative

elements together in a control way; always have ground to improve them.

4 elementary techniques

-> changes of size

-> changes of shape

-> changes of position

-> add or subtract

These four things of changes are the fundamental things of childhood learning, isn’t it? The concept of shape is abstract; the concept of size is relative; the more the abstraction of a thing, the more of the possibility it can be, then the power of imagination steams in. The shape of a circle can be many things and matters. To play or to make change amongst time, space, movement, shape, size and numbering is the essence of animation creation. To create something with a sense of wonder and magic is the beauty and power in this frame-by-frame making.

5. Learning dimension

  1. a) Abstract dimension


Timing: individual object movement in different pace, slow and fast


different elements put together to make movement becoming a performance


The up and down of act; strong and weak beats; faster or slower tempo, dilemma;

There is no life if there is no rhythm. In terms of rhythm, music, performance , the classical animation of Walt-Disney is the most vivid and the best.


It must be the animator who indicates the spacing, with little pips marked along the arc. Wilder or closer spacing will make the action faster or slower, because the projection speed is constant. The deftly (靈巧地)spaced phaser of action become counterpoint a shifting obligate to the rock-steady obstinate (固定韻律)of the projection speed. There is the illusion of life.





Material dimension






household appliances






nature elements

any materials that can be manipulated fbf

6. About Movement 

“Movement is not an opinion, life is not an opinion, it is an event! it should have this quality of humanity and to transpose it into poetical shape. Within the poetic shape, the personality of the artist comes. But it is not about him, it is all about his relationship with the world”

~the Moving Body: Teaching Creative~

I like reading this book of Jaceque Lecoq. It has inspired me a lot in terms of body movment and education in performance. I think It is always nice to explore the knowledge of animation movment beyond the Principle of Animation, or from some animation masters like Ollie’s johnson, his list of “Animation Notes from a Master”. These principles and notes were originally developed in earlier day and became the theory and norm to be followed. These classical knowledge of animation can come to life through acting and performance of the body. It helps the fullest realisation of accurate and believable movement.

Animation movement is language that giving guidelines in movement and directing.

  • understand different forms of life;
  • observe their movement (object, human, animal and bird movement)
  • understand locomotion (Bouncing ball is a specific exercise to illustrate of these laws)
  • there are choices of style in animation (realistic or characteristics)
  • It is crucial to know about:mechanic of movement;the law of motion, rhythm; the principle of animation

Mechanic of movement

law of physics

-> inertia (an object in motion continue in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force

-> acceleration (an increase in rate of change)

-> mass (there is a centre of mass, from inside out)

-> force

-> gravity

Law of motion

-> there is no action without reaction

-> motion is continuous, it never stops

-> there is no motion without a fix point

-> the fix point,too, is in motion

-> motion always originates in a state of disequilibrium tending towards


-> equilibrium is itself in motion

law of optics

Law of rhythm

Principles of Animation

-> action and reaction…action has no drama in it, all the drama is in the reaction

-> Squash and Stretch entire body for attitude

-> Ease-in and Ease-out

-> Anticipation

-> Secondary action

-> Follow through

-> Exaggeration

-> Pose-to-pose and straight ahead

-> arc of line

Keep the movement of an object in more control way by putting an a line, arc or

straight, so as to keep the movement organic enough, but also more controllable,

instead of movement all over the place.

-> Make change

If possible, make definitely change from one attitude to another in timing and

expression. If at all possible to change of expression and major dialogue within a


-> Don’t move anything unless it is for a purpose.

-> Don’t be careless

-> Don’t animate for the sake of animation

-> Spend 1/2 your time planning the scene and the other 1/2 animating.

Character’s staging and acting

-> Analyse the character in the best and specific pose and gesture to show it.

Character need attitudes; let the body attitude echo the face.

-> Pay attention to the Mechanics of the face: the importance of the eyes and mouth

-> the effect of silhouette is best to stand out the character

-> choreography

-> apply with cinematic languages

Character animation

  • a character stems from real life, not a real life character.

-> acting inspiring helps the understand of different choice of animation, realistic

or characteristic.

-> character animation is not about realistic but believable.

-> to animate believable characters- be it human, animals or plants – is to have the

correct application of the gravity law. It is about kinetic empathy.

-> in this kinetic empathy, animator need not to write down just about an idea, or

what’s been thinking, or just about abstract. Need to analysis thing; to observe

things in details and in rhythm; need to understand the real before doing the

fantasy things.

-》in physicality, how the character moves around the space and makes it having flesh and blood.

-> so let’s make the contact between the character and its environment.

-》weight is one of the hardest visual imapcts to convey properly in animation.

-> each part of the body movement can have slightly different pace and rhythm.

Try not to have all activities stop or start at the same time.

-> Simplify and amplify

“No spaghetti” – non specific,messy acting.

Make clear and simple action; exaggerated but not overreact; no mediocrity!

-> context, subtext and emotion

Thinking tends to lead to conclusion; emotion tends to lead to action. Emotion is

the lifeline that connect the character with his audience. In animation, audience want to know how the character feel about things.

-> avoid animating of unbelievable, cliche, no soul, uninterested to watch, no subtext


-> study about comedy character animation and subtle character animation

-> the quiet moment

words are born from silent; movement can only come out from immobility

-> less better than more

-》animate from in side out, it is about centre of mass

-》feeling the contact between the character and its environment

-> using references: live performance, movies, real life

Animation and Mime

Long long time ago, I studied a mime workshop in Fringe Club Hong Kong. My mime teacher is Mr. Philip Fok, who deeply dedicated and devoted himself in the subject of mime, even up to now. I remember it was in an open-studio on the second floor of the building, with wooden floor and a big mirror at one side of the wall. Every Saturday afternoon, I went there learning mime with the other people, moving my body all over without a deep idea of what it is all about. There were squash and stretch of the body; talking about concept of anticipation, rhythm and timing; making gesture….imagined of thing that was not exist, etc. All these concepts and practices are indeed and exactly the things in animation-making. Funny that I had no clue at all about animation at that time. Thinking of all these now, the seed of animation-making seems there. I did not continue the path of mime, instead I went into the field of film making and animation. The day I am working in animation, I am in touch with mime again from the encounter of some mime artists. From there, I have a chance to look at mime again. When I was younger, I thought mime is just a technique in performance, merely an art form for small group of people, which indeed it is something much more than that. Mime is a very old word; it means imitation of the reality of the world and get the impression of it, then represent it through gesture; giving illusion of being and placing them in time and space, to give rhythm and to tell story. The concerns between animation and mime is alike. In mime, the imagination invent what does not really exist, while in animation, the imagination invent what does not really move. Both are bound to recreate with the illusion of life; work hand-in-hand with the various laws of movement. An animation without the awareness of movement will become “handicap”, and unbelievable.

some commons:

-> To seize the apparent life of the reality, in order to recreate it and to show the vision.

-> To give the illusion of objects, of things and of being, placing them in time and space.

-> gesture, attitude and movement is the art which base on mankind and nature elements, to fully grasp the art of either animation or mime, one must take it to an absolute point to extreme, with maximum energy, push it to the limit, to the breaking point.

-> Constraints

Appropriate constraint is need in making art. There is the desire to represent reality – all of the reality that at first lead to the ruthless truthful description of surfaces. Then on to the realisation that objective reality are only part of, and a relatively unimportant part of the world. Constraints force both mime and animation to discover and to transcend from this surface reality.


Object that is not exist, and object that has no life.

  1. b) silence

The magic of using merely movement and performance to reveal the unsaid.

  1. c) Reality

Both are nothing but the poetry of impossible, from the actual reality

  1. d) Authority

The challenge to get rid of authority is possible, the pursuit of this freedom allows new creation of work.

Time and space

being alone

“The body is trained to represent life, and to transform and it into poetry poetry, which is based on synthesis and transposition. Movement is not as opinion, life is not an opinion-it is an event…it is all about his relationship with the world”.

~ “The Moving Body” by Jacques Lecoq~

The skill in all character acting derives from mime. Through the study of mime and physical movement, animator can:

– understand the articulation of body movement

– be able to feel and to express of an actor’s whole body in a better way

– understand action and reaction in a better way

– understand weight and gravity in a better way

Synthesis-combine of separate parts


Production Equipment

for filming: camera, computer, tripod, lighting, software, grip and gaffer

for animation: animator’s toolkit

for editing and sound


Pipeline in Stop-motion

Animation is a process of production method and filmmaking.

In visual, it is about: story+character+setup environment

In audio, it is about: dialogue+sound effects+music

Design and create something for the movie with visual impact and cinematic feel,

but not making it in book, in history, in landmark.


-> concept/idea, storyline, one page synopsis, scratch dialogue, script, storyboard,


What is storyboard for?

– make solid and put the idea/concept down in visual language

– breakdown idea and pass on idea

– frame counting and know the nature of time

– get money from one pocket into another->presentation

– storyboard play with time, money and constraint


-> animating, filming, directing, cinematography, lighting, art directing


-> building models and sets


-> editing

sound (FX/music/dialogue), visual effects, compositing, dubbing

The creativity of sound is as important as animation. But there is a paradox in film production, sound is always underestimated, be it creativity and budget. Why is it so?

Somehow it may related to our knowledge and awareness in area of audio, sound, music.

I think it is the mindset that we should . If we are going to commission music for a piece of animation, it is important that the musician, the sound designer should be involved at the storyboard stage. If there is dialogue, scratch dialogue should be pre-record, for acting out and exploring the subtext (潛台詞)of the story.


Some stop-motion animators and films

(a)The Beginnings

  1. Stuart Blackton (1875-1941)

“Humorous Phases of Funny Face”(1906)

“Princess Nicotine”(1909)

Georges Melies (1888-1923)French

“The Haunted Castle”(1896)

“A Trip to the Moon” (1902)

“The Merry Frolics of Satan”(1906)

He was a French magician, illusionist and filmmaker famous for leading many technical and narrative developments in the earliest days of cinema. Méliès was an especially prolific innovator in the use of specific effects to change the reality.

Albert E. Smith/J. Stuart Blackton

“The Humpty-Dumpty Circus” (1897)

* wooden toy animation

Edwin S.Porter

“Fun in a Bakery Shop” (1902)- the first clay animation film

“The Teddy Bear” (1907)- puppet animation

Emil Cohl(1857-1938)


“Un Drame Chex Les Fantoches” (1908)

“The Automatic Moving Company”(1909)

Edward Rogers

“War in Toyland” (1912)

* first puppet film in color

Segundo de Chomon

“El Hotel Electrico” (1905)

* early pixelation

Edison’s Film Studio

“The Sculptor’s Welsh Rarebit Dream”(1908)

* early clay animation

Ladislas Starewich(1882-1965)Russian

“The Cameraman’s Revenge”(1911)

“The Beautiful Lukanida”(1912)- the first puppet animation

“The Tale of the Fox”(1930)

“Like Dog and Cat”(1965)

“The Mascot”(1933)

Helena Smith Dayton (1879-1960)

“William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet” (1917)

one of the first female animator

(b)Some legend stop-motion animators in early era

Willis O’ Brien (1886-1962)- United Stated

“The Lost World”(1925)

“King Kong”(1933)

“Mighty Joe Young”(1949)

Ray Harryhausen (1920-1999)- United Stated

“Mighty Joe Young”(1949)

“The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”(1958)

“Jason and the Argonauts”(1963)


David Allen (1944-1999)- United Stated


“When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” (1970)


Phil Tippet (1951-    )- United Stated

“Star War Eposide IV:A New Hope” (1977)

“Dragonslayer” (1982)


George Pal (Hungary) Puppertoon


Art Clokery (US)

Film: “Gumby”, “Davey and Goliath”

John Halas (Hungary)

Film: “Animal Farm”


Jiri Trnka (Czech)

Film: “The Hand”


Norman Mclaren (Canada)

Film: “Pas de deux”, “Neighbours”, “Dots”, Blinkity Blank”


Yuri Norshteyn – Russian

“Tale of Tales” (1979)

(c)Contemporary stop-motion animators

Barry Purves (UK)

Film: “Next”, “Screen Play”, “Achilles”

Bolex Brothers (UK)

Film: “The Secret Advantures of Tom Thumb”

Cont… some masters of stop motion animation

Chiode Brothers (US)

Film: “Pee-wee’s big adventure”, “Ernst scared stupid”

Henry Selick (US)

Film: “Caroline”, “Nightmare before Christmas”,


Peter Lord and David Sproxton – English

Setup Aardman Animation Studio in 1972

“Sledgehammer” (1986)

“Morph”, “Adam” (1991)

“Creature Comfort”

Nick Park (1958-    )English

“Wallace and Gromit”

“Shawn the Sheep”

Suzie Templeton (1967-    )


“Peter and the Wolf”(2006)

Adam Elliot (1972-    )

Film: “Uncle”, Cousin”, Harvie Krumpet”, Mary and Max”

(d)The most recent stop-motion films

“Kubo and the Two Strings” by Travis Knight (2016)

“Anormalisa” by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson (2015)

“The Little Prince” by Mark Osborne (2015)

“Boxtrolls” by Graham Annable & Anthony Stacchi(2014)

“ParaNorman” by sam Fell and Chrus Butler (2012)

“The Sandman and the Lost Sand of Dreams” by 2010)

“Toys in the Attic” by Jiri Barta 2009)

“A Town called Panic” by Stephane Aubier & Vincent Patar (2009)

“Madame Tulti-Putli” by Chris lavis and Maciek Szcezerbowski(2007)

“The Magic Projector” by Chris Walsh (2007)

“Gargoyle” by michael Cusack (2006)

few more things…

– keep a notebook to write down inspiration, always write down idea that you want and can think of because they will go.

– constantly develop different ideas on the go. Do not stick to one hope in one project. It is good not to have the thought on one project all the times. Try to make something much broader and

– get a stop watch

It is helpful to get the timing to make the movement in a right spot, at a point that it is not rigid and exact. It is always a balance of animation in between free flow and

structure. So mostly I rather dive into the work and animate it before I tempt to do

any rough test or rehearsal.

– when more than one main character animation happen, it will look distract if both/all the animated characters move the same amount, because our eyes seem to focus looking at one thing at one time. The animation flow better when the choreography of action happen one after another.


  • a normal eyes blinking:2-frame half way, 3f down, 2f halfway up, 2f all up

– for lip sync, the gap and pause is important, it shows the thinking of the character;

find a pattern and rhythm of the mouth movement.

Two events give importance to the body and movement:

  1. Physical education-through the arrival of sport
  2. Invention of chronophotography-through the arrival of cinema
  • always go with your showreel when showing it,but dont just send it.

– have faith in yourself and your ability, have integrity! Be open to new ideas;


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