I'm a newcomer to stop motion, and I have been reading up on everything I can for a bit over a month now. Just over the weekend, I decided to start animating objects to get a feel for it. My third practice involved an attempt at a little camera panning, movement at various speeds, and adding character (it can be viewed here). Although I'm content with the result, I did wonder how people achieve very smooth and fluid animation. It's not as easy as I thought it would be. I've read having the fps at 24 helps make it smoother, which is what I shot my video at. Do my increments of movement just have to be incredibly smaller than what I did? I'm curious as to how professionals such as at Laika manage to make animation so smooth that it almost looks CGI. Any advice on how to achieve smooth animation is appreciated.
Looks very nice. Try adding some ease in and ease out to the camera moves to make it feel smoother.
Looking pretty good, and you managed to get some character into the dog.
The frame rate of 24 fps is good, stick with that. Yes, it's smoother than 12 fps, and much smoother than slower rates like 8 fps, where no matter how good you are, the individual frames will show up as a slight stutter. Next, you have to be even and consistent with those 24 frames.
Your forward movement looks fairly even. What I am seeing is a little bit of chatter in the dog as it moves forward - not so much from moving forward an uneven amount, as from small movements from side to side, or twisting sideways a tiny bit. You have it moving quite slowly, which makes the side movements stand out a lot more - if it was moving forward a lot each frame, a very small sideways variation would not show up, it would get lost in the bigger forward movement. Use your frame grabber to click back to the last frame taken, and the one before that, then forward back to the live view, to see if you can pick that little judder. If you can eliminate that you will have a smoother forward sliding motion.
I remember getting terrible chatter with my dinosaurs, back when I was shooting blind - on film with no frame grabber to see what I was doing. I was using a surface gauge to get the forward movement right, but the dino was also leaning to the left or right without me realising it, or it's head would angle down and the tail up for one frame, then back again, so it ended up looking like Parkinson's disease. Once I was able to get a computer with a frame grabber and a video cam I could see that and correct it before taking the shot. These days I am using Dragonframe on a Mac to see my moves, but I've also used Stop Motion Pro on a PC until it died. I don't use onion skinning much, I prefer to click back and forth through the frames to see if they are consistent.
A bit of twist sideways as it goes forward could be a good thing, it would make it more like it is walking. The key thing is not to have a random move for just one frame, but to follow through, and use ease-in and ease-out. So you could move it forward, add a very small twist to the left, then next frame move forward and a slightly bigger twist to the left, then next frame move forward and a very tiny twist to the left, then on frame 4 move forward with no twist, then for frame 5 move forward with a tiny twist to the right, then a bigger twist to the right, then a smaller one again, then no twist , then back to the left again, and so on. That would make it more like a walk and less mechanical, and also if there are still any small accidental side movements, the deliberate ones could cover them.
The ease-in and out is important when starting or ending a move, or when changing direction. (In real life, moves usually accelerate, then slow down before stopping - except a golf ball being whacked, or stopping by hitting a wall!) As Simon said, that applies to the camera moves as well. Lanka get that smoothness by being really even, and also judging the speed and acceleration really well, so it really fits in with the weight and momentum we feel the character should have. A little motion blur on the really fast moves helps, as well.
Really very good for a 3rd practice! I saw your 1st and second one too, and you were trying a bit more each time. (No one will ever see my 3rd attempt, or my 30th! My only excuse being that there were no frame grabbers back then, so it took longer to learn and improve.)
Simon Tytherleigh - Thank you for the advice. Easing the camera in/out was something I completely forgot to do since I was so focused on making sure I moved it and remained aligned. My setup was just an iPad sitting on a stack of books, which as you can imagine does not glide very easily. I'm hoping to make a dolly or something one day once I acquire more experience.
StopmoNick - Thank you for all of that info. In regards to the unintended movement, the dog (it's actually a panda) is made out of a very soft rubber so it did not glide well on top of the fabric setting. I did use a bit of double sided tape and a plastic film under it to reduce friction. However, any bit of rubber exposed on the perimeter underneath would still get caught and nudge it slightly which I believe partly contributed to inconsistencies (the other part being my inexperience). I've been using onion skinning, but next time I'll try your method of checking the previous frames for comparison.
I'll be sure to apply more ease in/out next time. The only part where I believe I did it was when the robot raised its hand slowly and then transitioned into a fast wave. A friend commented on how smooth it looked so I'm starting to understand the importance of easing in/out along with the info you provided.
I have a lot of respect for people that did stop motion before frame grabbers. When I was a child, I remember watching my dad make a very short stop motion using my Lego race cars. This was the early 90s so he was just using a video camera and VCR. It was short and choppy animation, but it always fascinated me.