I have always loved stop-motion animation and I want to learn how to make my own short films. 
Specifically, I love claymation. I just moved to the Portland Oregon area and I don't  know anyone so I figured now is a great time to get started.
Could anyone point me in the right direction of how to get started?
Any great books/Internet guides/movies to read pertaining to stop-motion/clay sculpting for beginners?
What kind of clay/sculpting tools do I need?
What kind of software should I use?
I own a Cannon Powershot G12, Will that camera suite my needs?
I fully understand how much work is involved even to make a film as short as 2 minutes.
I am going to read the guides on this site in the meanwhile. 
Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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Check out Marc Spess' website for clay animators, www.ClayAnimation.com.  He has a discussion board, stuff for sale including his book Secrets of Clay Animation Revealed, tools, eyeballs, and armatures.

We have a member, Don (aka Prammaven) who specialises in clay animation, and lives in Portland!  So maybe he will see your post.  I don't animate clay, I make moulds of clay sculpts and cast in foam latex or silicone, or build up with cushion foam, so I can't help with any specific claymation stuff, but those guys can.

I haven't ever used a Powershot camera, or any of the compact cameras, so I don't know how suitable it is.  Check out the framegrabber software websites to see what cameras are compatible.  Most compact cameras work on auto exposure and white balance, and sometimes autofocus too, so you need to check if you can use manual settings.  You need the camera to stay locked at the same setting, not keep adjusting as you go in front of it to animate the puppet, and out of the way again.  The best solution is a DSLR with manual lens, but if the camera has manual control options, it might be ok.

Software -

Start with a frame grabber.  I use Stop Motion Pro HD Studio  http://www.stopmotionpro.com/  on my PC, and Dragonframe  http://www.dragonframe.com/  on my Mac, and both are excellent for use with my Canon 40 DSLR camera and Nikon lenses.  There are many more.  Lio has a run-down of all the different framegrabber programs, with links, at his StopmotionWorks website:   http://www.stopmotionworks.com/stopmosoftwr.htm

A few are free, some (like the 2 I use) are professional tools, most have a trial version you can download to make sure it works happily on your computer with your camera.

Thanks for the tips. I appreciate your time.

I think the camera will work then. It's kind of a hybrid between a point and shoot/DSLR. It has an auto feature and will take great pictures using it, but it has a full manual mode as well. Everything can be specified like a DSLR - I just need to remember that.

I'm am going to look into the rest of the resources you provided.

Kinda hope Don does see this, I'd love to speak with him.

That camera has live view out? 

I believe so. There are instructions on Dragonframe's website for setting up the camera.

Setup Instructions

  1. PowerShot support must first be enabled in the program:
    • Open the Preferences in Dragonframe.
    • Go to the Capture tab.
    • Check the "Enable the Canon PowerShot camera module." checkbox.
  2. For Windows Vista and 7, you must also run Dragonframe in Windows XP Compatibility mode:
    • In the file Explorer, navigate to C:\Program Files\DZED\Dragonframe
    • Right click on Dragonframe.exe and select Properties...
    • Click on the Compatibility tab.
    • In the Compatibility mode area, select Run this program in compatibility mode for: Windows XP (Service Pack 2)
  3. Power your camera by AC power if possible.
    • If you do use a battery, make sure it is fully charged.
    • If you use AC power, remove the battery.
  4. Close any other applications that might connect to your camera.
    • For Mac OS X, Open iPhoto, go to its Preferences and select Connection camera opens: No application
  5. Set the Mode Dial to Manual (M).

However, when I plug in the camera via USB - the lens closes. The live view on Dragonview is just black because the lens is closed. Maybe I need to change a setting in the camera to not close the lens when connected to the computer?



Strider said:

That camera has live view out? 

I myself is also working on claymation. It would be quite hard in moving your models if you don't get to make the armature of your model correctly. What will you be using for the claymation? A pure clay (like flexible balls, people etc) or you will be making characters similar to  "Wallace and Gromit"?

You might as well need to buy a capture card for your camera which will be quite high with the price. I might as well buy a high quality HD webcam or you could save up for a good and compatible camera (like a dslr (t3i)  for the software you are going to use for the project you are planning to work on.

Josh C said:

I believe so. There are instructions on Dragonframe's website for setting up the camera.

Setup Instructions

  1. PowerShot support must first be enabled in the program:
    • Open the Preferences in Dragonframe.
    • Go to the Capture tab.
    • Check the "Enable the Canon PowerShot camera module." checkbox.
  2. For Windows Vista and 7, you must also run Dragonframe in Windows XP Compatibility mode:
    • In the file Explorer, navigate to C:\Program Files\DZED\Dragonframe
    • Right click on Dragonframe.exe and select Properties...
    • Click on the Compatibility tab.
    • In the Compatibility mode area, select Run this program in compatibility mode for: Windows XP (Service Pack 2)
  3. Power your camera by AC power if possible.
    • If you do use a battery, make sure it is fully charged.
    • If you use AC power, remove the battery.
  4. Close any other applications that might connect to your camera.
    • For Mac OS X, Open iPhoto, go to its Preferences and select Connection camera opens: No application
  5. Set the Mode Dial to Manual (M).

However, when I plug in the camera via USB - the lens closes. The live view on Dragonview is just black because the lens is closed. Maybe I need to change a setting in the camera to not close the lens when connected to the computer?



Strider said:

That camera has live view out? 

I have been doing a lot of reading on armature. I didn't actually know these existed until I started my research. I am not confident in my ability to make one on my own (at least not yet). I think I am going to order one so I can see what they look like in person first. From there, I think I will experiment with building my own.

I have a story in mind for my first project, so my next step will be drawing character designs. Now that I have done more research, I don't think the characters will be 100% clay. I will have a better answer after doing my of my preliminary research/work.

You are right about the camera. I was unable to get it working with live view. I went a head and ordered a used DSLR off the internet (Canon EOS 1000D/Rebel XS). Hopefully this will suite my needs better.


Mastermind Films said:

I myself is also working on claymation. It would be quite hard in moving your models if you don't get to make the armature of your model correctly. What will you be using for the claymation? A pure clay (like flexible balls, people etc) or you will be making characters similar to  "Wallace and Gromit"?

You might as well need to buy a capture card for your camera which will be quite high with the price. I might as well buy a high quality HD webcam or you could save up for a good and compatible camera (like a dslr (t3i)  for the software you are going to use for the project you are planning to work on.

Josh C said:

I believe so. There are instructions on Dragonframe's website for setting up the camera.

Setup Instructions

  1. PowerShot support must first be enabled in the program:
    • Open the Preferences in Dragonframe.
    • Go to the Capture tab.
    • Check the "Enable the Canon PowerShot camera module." checkbox.
  2. For Windows Vista and 7, you must also run Dragonframe in Windows XP Compatibility mode:
    • In the file Explorer, navigate to C:\Program Files\DZED\Dragonframe
    • Right click on Dragonframe.exe and select Properties...
    • Click on the Compatibility tab.
    • In the Compatibility mode area, select Run this program in compatibility mode for: Windows XP (Service Pack 2)
  3. Power your camera by AC power if possible.
    • If you do use a battery, make sure it is fully charged.
    • If you use AC power, remove the battery.
  4. Close any other applications that might connect to your camera.
    • For Mac OS X, Open iPhoto, go to its Preferences and select Connection camera opens: No application
  5. Set the Mode Dial to Manual (M).

However, when I plug in the camera via USB - the lens closes. The live view on Dragonview is just black because the lens is closed. Maybe I need to change a setting in the camera to not close the lens when connected to the computer?



Strider said:

That camera has live view out? 

You don't have to make your clay model purely or 100% clay. You could make the armature with the help of using polymer clay as a start. You could use cotton to fill up some parts then cover them with clay. What clay do you have in mind that you are going to use? Van aken? Newplast?

Josh C said:

I have been doing a lot of reading on armature. I didn't actually know these existed until I started my research. I am not confident in my ability to make one on my own (at least not yet). I think I am going to order one so I can see what they look like in person first. From there, I think I will experiment with building my own.

I have a story in mind for my first project, so my next step will be drawing character designs. Now that I have done more research, I don't think the characters will be 100% clay. I will have a better answer after doing my of my preliminary research/work.

You are right about the camera. I was unable to get it working with live view. I went a head and ordered a used DSLR off the internet (Canon EOS 1000D/Rebel XS). Hopefully this will suite my needs better.


Mastermind Films said:

I myself is also working on claymation. It would be quite hard in moving your models if you don't get to make the armature of your model correctly. What will you be using for the claymation? A pure clay (like flexible balls, people etc) or you will be making characters similar to  "Wallace and Gromit"?

You might as well need to buy a capture card for your camera which will be quite high with the price. I might as well buy a high quality HD webcam or you could save up for a good and compatible camera (like a dslr (t3i)  for the software you are going to use for the project you are planning to work on.

Josh C said:

I believe so. There are instructions on Dragonframe's website for setting up the camera.

Setup Instructions

  1. PowerShot support must first be enabled in the program:
    • Open the Preferences in Dragonframe.
    • Go to the Capture tab.
    • Check the "Enable the Canon PowerShot camera module." checkbox.
  2. For Windows Vista and 7, you must also run Dragonframe in Windows XP Compatibility mode:
    • In the file Explorer, navigate to C:\Program Files\DZED\Dragonframe
    • Right click on Dragonframe.exe and select Properties...
    • Click on the Compatibility tab.
    • In the Compatibility mode area, select Run this program in compatibility mode for: Windows XP (Service Pack 2)
  3. Power your camera by AC power if possible.
    • If you do use a battery, make sure it is fully charged.
    • If you use AC power, remove the battery.
  4. Close any other applications that might connect to your camera.
    • For Mac OS X, Open iPhoto, go to its Preferences and select Connection camera opens: No application
  5. Set the Mode Dial to Manual (M).

However, when I plug in the camera via USB - the lens closes. The live view on Dragonview is just black because the lens is closed. Maybe I need to change a setting in the camera to not close the lens when connected to the computer?



Strider said:

That camera has live view out? 

Nick- thanks for the shout out.

I thought I responded to this, but Van Aken and Newplast are actually very similar to one another. Newplast does not melt because it does not have much wax in it. You should be able to make it meltable by adding paraffin. Too much will make it crumbly and not hold together.

That was originally going to be longer, but something happened on one of our ends and the message didn't save. It said "saving..." Oh well. 

Here it is again: 

To make the body armature, you use a replaceable-parts system like K&S tubing, wind thin steel wire around single arm, leg, and spine wires (the spine extends upward to become the neck), and then add arm bones with plumber's epoxy before padding it out with aluminum foil covered in duct tape or cloth tape.

I can't find any in-progress pictures of the bulking-out phase, but it's pretty self-explanatory. You can also wind cushion foam around  the armature and tape it in place before adding clay. Whatever gives you the most surface area before the wire inside is the goal. You do not want that wire cutting through the clay in the arms of your puppet. 

More recently, I have found that surgical tubing works well to reduce contact between the wire and the clay.

To make the hands, you can do something like this: 

http://www.donmation.blogspot.com/2012/12/edward-swivel-hands_14.html

Hope this helps, and if you have any more questions about clay puppet fabrication, send 'em my way and I'll respond when I'm able.

-DC

I don't normally weigh in on this sort of thread as there are so many people here that are more knowledgeable than me, but I think I might have something to add here. I am using the exact same camera (Canon EOS 1000D) for plasticine stop motion animation and it is great. I think you have made a good choice. I am using the camera with a fully manual Nikon prime lens with an adaptor. I got the adaptor off Amazon (Amazon Link) and the lens second hand off ebay. You can also see the wire for the mains adaptor in the photo below.

A fully manual lens has manual control for the focus and the aperture. This avoids some causes of flicker. I think it also helps keep things simple, and makes it easier to really learn how lenses work. The photos in this album were taken with that camera setup, so it might be an example of the sort of quality you can expect.

Josh C said:

I have been doing a lot of reading on armature. I didn't actually know these existed until I started my research. I am not confident in my ability to make one on my own (at least not yet). I think I am going to order one so I can see what they look like in person first. From there, I think I will experiment with building my own.

I have a story in mind for my first project, so my next step will be drawing character designs. Now that I have done more research, I don't think the characters will be 100% clay. I will have a better answer after doing my of my preliminary research/work.

You are right about the camera. I was unable to get it working with live view. I went a head and ordered a used DSLR off the internet (Canon EOS 1000D/Rebel XS). Hopefully this will suite my needs better.

I have been using Van Aken clay. I am currently looking into building my first armature. I am going to purchase one first, so I can get a better look at one in person.

Mastermind Films said:

You don't have to make your clay model purely or 100% clay. You could make the armature with the help of using polymer clay as a start. You could use cotton to fill up some parts then cover them with clay. What clay do you have in mind that you are going to use? Van aken? Newplast?

Josh C said:

I have been doing a lot of reading on armature. I didn't actually know these existed until I started my research. I am not confident in my ability to make one on my own (at least not yet). I think I am going to order one so I can see what they look like in person first. From there, I think I will experiment with building my own.

I have a story in mind for my first project, so my next step will be drawing character designs. Now that I have done more research, I don't think the characters will be 100% clay. I will have a better answer after doing my of my preliminary research/work.

You are right about the camera. I was unable to get it working with live view. I went a head and ordered a used DSLR off the internet (Canon EOS 1000D/Rebel XS). Hopefully this will suite my needs better.


Mastermind Films said:

I myself is also working on claymation. It would be quite hard in moving your models if you don't get to make the armature of your model correctly. What will you be using for the claymation? A pure clay (like flexible balls, people etc) or you will be making characters similar to  "Wallace and Gromit"?

You might as well need to buy a capture card for your camera which will be quite high with the price. I might as well buy a high quality HD webcam or you could save up for a good and compatible camera (like a dslr (t3i)  for the software you are going to use for the project you are planning to work on.

Josh C said:

I believe so. There are instructions on Dragonframe's website for setting up the camera.

Setup Instructions

  1. PowerShot support must first be enabled in the program:
    • Open the Preferences in Dragonframe.
    • Go to the Capture tab.
    • Check the "Enable the Canon PowerShot camera module." checkbox.
  2. For Windows Vista and 7, you must also run Dragonframe in Windows XP Compatibility mode:
    • In the file Explorer, navigate to C:\Program Files\DZED\Dragonframe
    • Right click on Dragonframe.exe and select Properties...
    • Click on the Compatibility tab.
    • In the Compatibility mode area, select Run this program in compatibility mode for: Windows XP (Service Pack 2)
  3. Power your camera by AC power if possible.
    • If you do use a battery, make sure it is fully charged.
    • If you use AC power, remove the battery.
  4. Close any other applications that might connect to your camera.
    • For Mac OS X, Open iPhoto, go to its Preferences and select Connection camera opens: No application
  5. Set the Mode Dial to Manual (M).

However, when I plug in the camera via USB - the lens closes. The live view on Dragonview is just black because the lens is closed. Maybe I need to change a setting in the camera to not close the lens when connected to the computer?



Strider said:

That camera has live view out? 

Thanks for the reply Don. I am currently at a training for work across the country, but I will look into those links when I return.

Don Carlson said:

That was originally going to be longer, but something happened on one of our ends and the message didn't save. It said "saving..." Oh well. 

Here it is again: 

To make the body armature, you use a replaceable-parts system like K&S tubing, wind thin steel wire around single arm, leg, and spine wires (the spine extends upward to become the neck), and then add arm bones with plumber's epoxy before padding it out with aluminum foil covered in duct tape or cloth tape.

I can't find any in-progress pictures of the bulking-out phase, but it's pretty self-explanatory. You can also wind cushion foam around  the armature and tape it in place before adding clay. Whatever gives you the most surface area before the wire inside is the goal. You do not want that wire cutting through the clay in the arms of your puppet. 

More recently, I have found that surgical tubing works well to reduce contact between the wire and the clay.

To make the hands, you can do something like this: 

http://www.donmation.blogspot.com/2012/12/edward-swivel-hands_14.html

Hope this helps, and if you have any more questions about clay puppet fabrication, send 'em my way and I'll respond when I'm able.

-DC

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