I am planning a short homage to Kong 1933 for its 80th birthday. I want the propellers on the biplanes to spin. Does anyone know of a practical way to do this? My first idea was to remove the propeller and let the sound effects do the work. Then I thought of a circle of clear plastic in place of the propeller, or even leaving the propeller on and take a frame with it vertical, then put the prop at horizontal, take a frame, back to vertical and so on. I may do a test with the latter. Maybe some sort of moire effect would work. Anyway, let me know if you have any ideas.

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If you use an actual propeller and rotate it a bit for each frame, I'd imagine it'd either strobe and flicker like crazy or seem like it was spinning far slower than needed for flight.

I'd go with your clear plastic idea, but lightly paint the illusion of a blurred propeller on it and slowly rotate that per frame.

Sean said what I was going to say - the only other thought that occurs to me is to use an actual propeller in motion - maybe battery operated or something, and use a slightly long shutter speed to let it blur a bit. If it's moving pretty fast then you wouldn't need a very slow shutter speed at all. A few quick tests could zero in on the right shutter speed for the effect you want. 

If the propeller ( 2 bladed) is vertical one frame, horizontal the next, there is no indication of which direction it is turning. You need more positions to really get the sense of it moving, and then it moves too slow.
I animated shots with a fan by turning the fan on then off, and shooting the frame while it was still spinning. I had 1 second exposures, and if I just left it on, the blade disappeared completely. It worked but the motor burned out.
For a cgi shot of airplanes I didcthe equivalent of the clear disk with an image of a blurred propeller on it. But being cgi the clear part of the disk could be invisible with no reflections. Adding a blurred propeller in post would be possible. I did it for a creature with blurred wings, it was an actal puppet but the wings were cgi objects with a blurred image. They had to be tracked frame by frame to match the position and angle of the puppet. Tedious, and not for the stopmo purist, but i needed that motion blur.
A better way to add blur in post is to have an actual propeller being animated, then use Radial Blur in Photoshop or Tv Paint. But you have to select around the nose of te plane so you only blur the propeller... Tedious again...
I did it for a motorbike wheel spinning fast but it was only for one shot.
I think I did do biplanes buzzing around Kong by just removing the propellers, they weren't ever in closeup and you didn't really miss the propellers.

I'd go with the plastic with the painted blurred propeller, but I think I'd use a .3 neutral density filter for the plastic so it had a little shade to it. 

If I really didn't want to add a blur in post, I'd stupidly try and do it in camera with a sheet of glass right in front of the camera with a thin dab of vaseline on it. Move the glass or the vaseline along with the plane so it just fuzzes out the propeller a bit.

It worked for Bette Davis.

Thanks for all of your suggestions. Still not sure which way I will go with this, but I am leaning towards a variant on the plastic disk. I also like the idea of using a neutral density filter with the plastic. Check out this blog I found on the subject, the technique described is very interesting:


The prop effect in the link looks quite good.

I just found this while researching what type of planes were used in Kong. I guess the originals were red so they would photograph as grey in b/w. The originals had no props:


Hey Wallace,

Who said the planes were red in the film King Kong?  Who says that plane was animated for King Kong?

Don't believe everything you see on youtube. That plane has been repainted, it was not originally red, but yellow, or at least was yellow underneath the red. It could be the plane that is shot in slow motion falling through the air, or maybe it's just some plane somebody made, or put together from a box of broken RKO planes, who knows.  The Mickey Mouse decal is on the side of the plane, like the ones in Kong, so I will give it that it is probably from the film, or at least the RKO prop room, but it is awful heavy for a stop motion plane, and without any others for comparison, it is hard to say for sure that was one of the stop motion planes in the film. 

In the video, the narrator of the states that the plane is identified as the plane Kong grabs, and throws, if that is so, then it should also be identified as the plane that flew past Kong prior in the same shot, as those are the same planes. Since they did not identify the planes as being the same, I question their identifying the plane at all. By the way, it's back wheel does not match the Kong stop mo planes either, but does somewhat match the crash plane.

Oh yeah, Kong used just sound, but I would just try out several ideas that were given to you, and see what one works the best, or maybe the first one you pick might be perfect. Good luck, can't wait to see the results.

I don't know if this will fit the aesthetic of your planes or your film, but you could try to replicate the blur of the propellors using replacement animation, with either paper cut-out shapes of the blur or some squiggly lines on a circle of clear plastic. A cycle of three shapes (or lines) animated on ones should do.

Thanks Chris, I really like this effect! This more like the moire effect I had in mind initially. Will definitely give this a try!

No problem. If you go with drawing on a clear piece of acetate or plastic, I'd smudge the edges of the shapes with a small brush so that they are blurred. Of course, test in order to achieve your desired final look.

If you use a small electric motor that either runs on a battery(batteries) or possibly "plugs in" and it truns "slowly" between frames,I think that you can produce fast,spinning props at 24 frames per sec.I think Ardman used that in his films when Grommit was flying a plane.It sort of works like Go-Motion I think?I'm not sure where you might get a motor that turns that slowly?I'd check Radio Shack(maybe),possibly try Micro Mark and see what they have in the train dept. or do a google search.I'm not sure if the  motor has to turn slow or not,but the efffect is pretty cool.Just check out the plane flying sequences of "Curse of the Were-Rabbit",or "A Close Shave".I know in the featurette of A Close Shave you can see Grommit in the plane and the prop is turning on its own.Maybe this is too complicated of a suggestion,but I thought I'd mention it anyway.

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