Hello all. I am new here, so big apologies if this is not the right place to post this. This seems slightly more appropriate than the newbie corner. I am (slowly) putting together a small setup to animate with. I currently have a good camera, a small table, and a modest diy light kit. I have been adding to this each paycheck, and now I am trying to decide what to add next. Everything is in pretty good shape, so I am thinking of adding to either the lights or the camera support. Here is a bit of information about what I have:

The camera support is a manfrotto 385 which is mounted to a heavy base with a 410 geared head on top. I had been considering adding some macro focus rails for the motion, but the more I think about it I am not sure that is the best way to go in the long run. I found a geared center column with head from a majestic tripod online for $80 that looks like it may be a good piece, but I am not sure about how solid it may be, (I have only ever used manfrotto), or if my 410 head would fit on it.

The light kit consists of 2 work lights that I have modified to take standard incandescent bulbs with dimmer switches, 4 clamp on lights (40w each, not really used very often), and 1 50w point spot light that actually came from a holiday yard light set. In the near future, I would like to add/upgrade to a pair of par 46s and 1 or 2 par 16s. I am just not sure if I should get that ball rolling now, or build some barn doors for the work lights and live with what I have for now. I also have 3 stands which I built boom arms for so that they can either hold 2 lights each, or 1 light on an extension.

So basically I need some help deciding between these 2 paths, and hopefully some suggestions as to what might be the right gear to buy. I am still pretty green, so if there is something obvious that I am overlooking please don't hesitate to point that out. 



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That all sounds like a great start!! 

What kind of camera do you have? 

I looked up the Manfrotto 385 - it's a single air-cushioned column. Not sure about the air-cushioned part. Will that remain rock steady even if you put some pressure on it and then let go? If so then you're good to go! Otherwise you might consider just a regular tripod. What could you do with just a center column from a tripod? Without the tripod it seems like it would be useless - or am I missing something? But the 410 head will fit on any tripod - tripod parts are made to be interchngeable across all brands as far as I know. 

I'd say the next thing is to make a puppet and do some animating! 

Scott Hutson said:


My camera is a finepix s100fs. It is a fixed lens dslr-like camera that I am using with an eye-fi card and a canopus advc-55 converter to provide a live view...although I have somewhat decided to just omit the live view for now and just use gauges etc until I upgrade to a better camera with a proper live view. My theory is that it will make me better in the long run if I get some fundamentals under my belt this way, and at the same time cut down on some heat - it seems like the ad converters really tax the gpu and get the mac running hot...I am hoping that a proper canon/nikon live view will not do this.

Really ~ ? I don't know why an A/D converter would make your computer run hot - that sounds really strange to me. But maybe it does if you have an older computer or something. I can't agree though that working with gagues is a better learning experience - it would take many months of practice that way before you start to understand anything about animation in stopmotion - whereas using a framegrabber (especially if you understand the proper way to use one - not onionskinning) you can start learning what you're doing right away. The difference is literally like trying to learn how to throw darts while blindfolded as opposed to without the blindfold. I do recommend after you get some experience working without a framegrabber every now and then - but the way to start out is definitely to use one. 

The 385 is air cushioned, but I am currently just setting the height and locking it down so it is pretty solid. Plus I have about 80lbs of weight piled on the base, so I am not seeing any movement...even when I have to touch the camera to adjust focus.

Ah ok - so when you lock it it doesn't bobble up and down anymore. Yeah, come to think of it I have an air-cushioned light stand and I think it works the same way - to soften the impact when you drop the boom arm down into it, but then you lock it off and it's rock solid. (Can you tell I don't really use it? )

I am kind of trying to avoid an actual tripod in favor of a smaller, heavy camera support. I would like to incorporate as much controllable movement as possible, hence the center column. I was considering replacing the 385 with the geared column, but wanted to get some more knowledgeable advice before making any decisions.

Now that I like! Anything that can eliminate those awkward tripod legs splayed out everywhere that seem to attract your feet when you try to walk around them! This geared center column - is it the entire column assembly, including the tube it slides up and down in that has the crank on it? Somehow I was picturing just the center column itself, with the row of gear teeth up one side, and no way to crank it up or down. But if it's the entire assmebly then you might be able to duct-tape it or somehow wrangle it onto your 385 column. I don't know though  - it needs to be really secure - duct tape might not quite do the trick. I'd need to see what it looks like to try to figure out a way to attach it.  

I am in the process of making a puppet, finally outgrew my sons Derek Jeter figure, (he was happy to get it back). It may be a complete failure, but I was given a bunch of 8 and 12 inch wooden drawing dolls a few years ago that are currently having all of their springs/joints replaced with...something - still experimenting with different skeletons at this point.

I'll bet if you string those up with some aluminum armature wire they'd make great puppets! Need to drill into the feet and put some tie-downs in there and they'd be ready to roll!

Thanks for the reply, I have been learning a lot from reading here, and I look forward to more advice.


It does sound like you already have a good idea of what you're doing and of the intricacies involved in stopmo. Rock on!  

Let's see - I believe I've been using my Canopus analog/digital converter since at least about 2004 or so, with a much older computer that my sister gave me in 2001. Not sure how much ram it had or anything else - the only time I ever pay attention to that stuff is when I need to check to see if the software I'm getting is compatible - and then I immediately forget all those numbers. But 8 gigs might not be very much. 

About the animating - I used to use onion skinning, just like everybody does in the beginning, until Nick Hilligoss mentioned that he never uses it, and then I heard from several other pros who said the same thing. Instead they just flip back and forth between the last few captured frames and the live image - the one you're about to capture. With Dragon you use the two keys directly above the capture key on the keypad - the 1 and 2 keys. They're marked with left and right arrows (I suppose if you're not using a keypad it would probably be the left and right arrow keys on the keyboard - not sure though). 

It goes like this - move the puppet slightly, then click the left arrow several times - I usually go back 4, 5, 6 or even 7 frames depending on how critical the movement is. For a really simple move that's not hard to gage I just go back 3 or 4 frames. Ok, immediately after clicking back say 4 or 5 frames I use the right arrow key to click forward rapidly the same number of frames and right up to the live image. This way you're seeing it as if it's already animated. Go through this same procedure over and over - each time watch a different part of the puppet. Right arm, left arm, head, torso, each leg etc. Watch to see if each part is moving smoothly the way it should - bad animation happens when you move an arm to the left for three frames, then forget to move it for a frame, then move it to the left again. Or maybe instead of forgetting to move it for that one frame you let it move to the right slightly, or up or down too much, just for one frame. Once you begin a certain movement you need to continue it for a while - smoothly - with no jerks or pops. Using this technique you can catch the jerks and pops and frames where you forgot to move something before you snap the frame. That's the time to catch it. 

Yes, you can post links, pictures, and videos. If you look at the little icons across the top of the white box where you type your messages - the three on the left are Link, Image, and Video. But you don't need to use the Link icon - if you just paste in a URL it will work as a link. 

I need to look up that camera - I'm a bit confused about the focus. Do you actually turn a ring on the lens to focus? And when you do, does it physically move things inside the lens, or is it a 'fly-by-wire' setup, where it electronically controls everything? 

Ok this scares me a little! 

It is the complete assembly, but it looks like it's made to be attached directly to three tripod legs - I was imagining it inside a sleeve that you could use to attach it. I have no idea how you'd attach anything to those three funky mounts. Also, he says it has a 1/4" threaded screw at the top - but I actually see a hole there! Is he describing something other than what the pictures show? Not only that, but what I see at the top isn't a standard plate that you'd screw your camera to - it looks like you still need to put a tripod head there - but if it really does take a 1/4" screw, then you can't - because tripod heads take a 3/8" screw, not 1/4"! Something's really screwy here - either he got some of his information mixed up or this thing is a real mess. If it is what he says it is (aside from the fact that he said there's a screw at the top and there's actually a hole there) then you'd have to get some kind of 1/4" threaded stud that would be exactly the right length to fit into that hole and screw your camera onto - and there's nothing you can turn underneath to facilitate that, so you'd just have to keep turning your camera till it's tight and then whichever way it's facing is the way you're stuck with. Really weird - though I suspect he's just wrong and it's a hole that takes a 3/8" threaded stud for a tripod head. That would make a lot more sense. 

Personally I wouldn't mess with that - I see no way to attach it to anything without having to rig up some kind of crazy contraption that I can't even begin to imagine. Have you seen my setup?

 That's a crappy old picture of it - I need to take some new pics of how it looks now - I have the whole thing clamped onto an end table and it's solid as a rock. The trailer jack works really well and doesn't rock side to side as you crank it up and down the way the geared center columns do. Plus it clamps securely to my cross-slide table and I can easily clamp a plank to the top that I then attach my 410 jr geared head to. 

Also, I don't understand this "press 3 then wait for the live preview to download" thing - if you have to wait for it to download then it's not live. I guess that's what they call "folder watch"? That would definitely be a poor second cousin to actual live view animation - if you have to wait for anything to download and then make changes and wait again for the new one to download - you'll just be like "ah screw it - this is good enough". If that camera gives a live analog view and you have a converter - then I'd do whatever I have to do in order to be able to use it! It's a precious commodity. 

I think I know what you mean about the focus - some lenses actually move forward and back when you focus them - there's a name for that but I don't recall it just now. Not all lenses do it though. It doesn't mean it's not really physically focusing. 

Whew! I'm all posted out for the night - time for me to sack out! I'll get back to this fresh and rested in the morning. 

Ok, I couldn't resist - I had to look up your camera on DP Reviews

Nice! It's almost exactly like my Panasonic FZ-50, which is a great camera for stopmo. I see there's an AC power supply and remote trigger available, which are practically necessities. And my FZ-50 lens doesn't move back and forth as it focuses either. It's fly-by-wire focusing, so I'll assume the same is true for your Fuji. But it doesn't seem to matter - it always holds focus and exposure perfectly. 

Oh you're quite welcome! 

I found a couple Majestic tripods on ebay - here's a pic of a newer model that's made the same way:

Here I can clearly see there's a sliding contraption at the top with a doohickey underneath so you can face your camera whichever way you want. That part seems to be missing on the older model. But this one also says it has a 1/4" screw at the top, so I guess that was right. It says it's for a big heavy View camera, so would easily hold a full sized DSLR plus the Manfrotto geared head if you wanted to go that way. There's a little doohickey (word of the day) you can get that screws onto a 1/4" screw and converts it into a 3/8 - then you could put the Manfrotto 410 jr right on top of it. I know that's a geared head already on the tripod, but it doesn't have rotational ability, and it's huge, so the moves it makes would be very different from the fine moves you get with the Manfrotto head. I'd think of the big tripod head as a way to adjust the position of the platform the Manfrotto sits on, and then go ahead and use the Manfrotto for pans etc. 

Plus, looking at the whole tripod, I could see keeping the legs collapsed together. You could collapse the legs together and secure them (duct tape if nothing better suggests itself) - might need to place some kind of tube around the center column to keeo the legs from making contact with it - and stand the whole thing on some kind of heavy base - maybe right on the column you already have. That's probably too tall though - I'm seeing something just about a foot tall or so, or even less - just tall enough to fit. It's late - I really gotta get some shuteye - but tommorrow I could sketch up a base that I think would be make-able and would turn that whole tripod into a slender upright column. 

Here's the doomahickey I was talking about: http://www.amazon.com/Manfrotto-088LBP-Adapter-4-Inch--8-Inch/dp/B0...

Screw it onto a 1/4" stud and it becomes a 3/8" with a flange underneath it to provide a nice secure base for a tripod head. I have one of these and have been using it for a while now - nice and strong. I ended up removing the rubber pad from under it though because it allowed a little bit of wobble. 

Yeah, I ran across that one last night - I'd snatch it up if I were you. 

And like I said last night, I could see trying to make it into a column (which might require big hunks of epoxy putty placed around the hinges of the legs to keep them from jiggling) but if you think about it - the footprint of your column you have now is probably just about as big as the leg-spread of that tripod, right? It has to be, otherwise it would fall over. I would seriously just use it as a tripod - maybe get a set of spreader bars or make one, sandbag the hell out of it, and it aint goin' nowhere!! 

Spreader bars that sit right on the floor, or just cut a piece of plywood into a triangle that the legs fit right to the corners of, attach them, and sandbag that down like crazy. 


Then I guess we're done here.

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