Hi guys,

I am making a short film that will be my senior thesis for my undergrad. My show is May 3rd and I'm just trying to do the math to make sure I finish on time. I'm spending next week on finishing my set and I hope to start animating the week of March 27th. My film will be 12fps (I'm not ready for 24fps so don't suggest that) and it'll be like a 4 minute film. If I can finish ~15 seconds a day, ~4 days a week, I can be done in about 20 days, give or take. I'll be done at the end of April which will be pushing it I know. But does this sound impossible? I've made 2 stop-motion films in the past but they were 8fps and just less ambitious. This film has been worked on since November 2016, so it's a lot more ambitious. 

Reassurance and advice PLEASE!!!

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Sometimes I do one long shot, 12 seconds or more, sometimes 2 shots of 6 or 7 seconds each, in one day.  And I'm shooting 24 or 25 fps.  So it's hard work, but possible.  Other days, I have a really difficult shot, and 4 seconds takes all day.  Can you put in an extra day each week if you need to, or are you committed to something else those other days?  Occasionally a shot will go horribly wrong and you may start again a couple of times before you get it right, so it's good to be able to make up time.

When I wanted to go to Annecy (animation festival) but needed to finish shooting my next one beforehand so I could give it to the composer and sound editor to work on while I was away, I had to get 3 shots done each day, 7 days a week, for 3 weeks. Number of seconds per shot varied,  some were 2 or 3 seconds, some were 6 or 8.  Changing the camera angle and adjusting the lighting takes time too, as much as the length of each shot, or how many fps you shoot.   Shooting 12 fps won't be half the time compared to 24, but it will be quicker.  

I think time spent doing some careful planning will be essential. This means a schedule of exactly which shots are being done on which day, plus all the details necessary to enable that shot to go ahead, so notes on set, props, characters etc. Then you can easily see if, by day 5, you are ahead or behind. It is no good going in blind and just promising to do more work at the end. What happens in this case is that you spend far too much time on the first few shots and nothing like enough on the last ones.

Part of this process should also be prioritizing the shots. Some will be more important and complex than others. Don't leave those until the end, better to leave quick cutaways and pick-ups for the end. Also, group your schedule around doing all the shots on one set at a time, so don't waste time dismantling and then rebuilding a few days later. And, in response to your other query about not having tie-downs, avoid long walk cycles and shoot your puppets mostly from the knees up so you can anchor them down. If you use a foam board as base, you could pin their feet down. 

A couple of years ago I had to create animated backgrounds for a theatre show. This escalated into animating people on-screen for about 8 minutes, as they were in wheelchairs. The show was 40 minutes long, I had 3 months, and I could not have got through it without my detailed schedule and scene/shot breakdown.

One bonus of good planning is the satisfaction of ticking off the shots as you go along, so you don't panic as the deadline approaches.

Go for it, and good luck!

Some other things that might help:

  • Pre-planning everything. X-sheets exist for a reason.
  • Recording the audio in advance and animating on top of that.
  • Using cuts to prevent unnecessary animation. It's easier to animate brief shots rather than one long sequence.
  • Using puppets with limbs and heads that are easy to substitute.
  • Eating apples, drinking lemonade and eating food with plenty of pepper. It's better than coffee to keep you awake, and you won't feel that burnout after a while.
  • Get plenty of rest! Power naps during the day can save your life.
  • Drink plenty of water. No, seriously! Trust me.
  • Most important of all: make sure you're having fun during the process. If it doesn't feel fun at all, you must be doing something wrong.

Enjoy yourself, and keep us updated 

You are all WONDERFUL humans. Thank you guys for the advice and reassurance. I'm totally ready to film dis thing. 

Updates and photos soon!

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