Hey all, 

First off, let me say I love this website--I have learned a lot of technical advice from you and the community here is great! 

So I am a 2nd year MFA graduate student (technically sculpture, but right now I'm focusing on stop-motion animation), and would appreciate any feedback/advice you can provide about the following:

The lighting: fortunately, my studio space is pretty large (as you can see from the photos below); however, there are fluorescent lights in the ceiling and my space is in a large, open space shared with 2 other sculptors. Will the ceiling lights overly impact my animation? Should I turn some of them off? Will they conflict with my key/fill/back lights (which are halogen and incandescent)? Should I stick with just one type of lightbulb? Do I have to repeatedly use exactly the same kind of lightbulb? I have one large, professional photography-style lamp on a tripod and two smaller, hardware store lights (as you can see in the photo).

The space: as I said before, my studio is one large open area that I share with my colleagues, surrounded by shelving. I was thinking of building some lightweight "wardrobe"-like curtain rods out of pvc pipe and hanging large sheets of black fabric from them, creating a 3-sided "black box". Is this a good idea? Is it a fire hazard ( I would keep the sheets relatively far away from the lighting).

The camera: I did lots of research (thanks message boards!!) and got a gently used Canon EOS 40D off Amazon (in awesome condition!), and to go with it a Nikon 55mm/f3.5 lens.... I got an adapter ring but apparently it doesn't fit. Did I choose effective/quality camera equipment? I realize flicker has become an issue for a lot of people lately, and heard that an older lens like the one I got reduces the issue. I will also only wear black when filming and stand in the same place for every exposure. Just want to make sure I'm not missing something..

Green screen: right now I have a provisional/temporary "green screen" on the wall just to see how it might test out with my current small stage. Is it okay to just get sheets of 50-cent acid green posterboard and tack them to the wall, or do I have to get the special chroma-key fabric? 

I made a camera dolly based off a DIY version I saw on Instructables; it works awesome!! Let me know if you'd like me to give directions on how I built it. 

I realize this was a lot of questions but I realize there's a ton of collective experience on these boards. You all rock 

Lauren 

 

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Black curtains:  When I've visited larger productions with several camera set-ups going in one big studio at once, they did exactly what you said - black curtains to separate the areas so the lighting on one set didn't interfere with the ones on either side.  In my studio it's only me, so I don't need to do that.  Black clothes are great - I do that when I go to animate at other people's studios, but it's mainly to try and look professional (and because it's the only way an old fat guy can try to look cool.  Nobody but me is fooled.)  Mostly, watch where you stand when you take the shot, and don't aim the monitor at the set unless you use a black-out function when the frame is captured.  But bright white clothing probably is a risk.

Lens adapter:  I use a Nikon 55mm Micro lens on a Canon 40d, with a cheap adapter from eBay, and it definitely does fit and works well.  The lens is a tiny bit loose, but I am not touching it during the shot so that isn't really a problem.  There are adaptors for other lenses - I also have an Olympus OM lens adapter for the Canon - are you sure you got the Nikon to Canon  EOS one?  Have you worked out that lenses screw into the Canon body clockwise, but Nikon lenses go into the camera or the adapter counter-clockwise?  (Probably you have, but just trying to cover everything I can think of.)

Flicker:  The different brand of lens via adapter makes sure the Canon can't control the aperture, so it stays where you put it, which eliminates one cause of flicker.  Canon lenses don't even have an aperture ring, so they have to be controlled by the camera.  And of course you need to select Manual operation, and set white balance and focus to manual.

I found that I still got flicker because the AC voltage from the mains power varied all the time by a couple of volts, which made the lights actually get brighter and darker.  It was only steady between 1 AM and 4 AM when no factories or homes in the area were switching things on or off.  I got a power conditioner - a double conversion UPS from Eaton Powerware (not a normal UPS) that converts the 240v AC to 12v DC, charges a battery, then outputs 240 volts AC again, and that smoothed out the lighting.  It dropped a couple of volts, but it was consistent, so problem fixed.  It was around $1500 for a portable plug-in unit, over $4000 for the bigger wired-in model I got.  A cheaper option is to use fluorescent lighting only, which does not respond to small changes in voltage.  (Put it on a dimmer and it stays the same, until the voltage drops too low, and it cuts out.) There are some floodlights now with compact fluoro spiral globes in them.

Fluorescent lights:  I sometimes use the ceiling fluoros for a soft ambient light to fill in the shadows.  But if they are over-lighting your set, or not letting you get the effect you want, you may need to remove the tubes from your area.

I found one bank of fluoros in my studio causes some flicker, so I do have to switch that row off. They are cheapo basic fittings, and a bit dodgy.  All fluoros do flicker at high frequency, so use a longer exposure like 1/2 sec or more, to smooth that out.  At 1/60th sec you get horrible flicker.

If you do get flicker from your halogen lights, there is software to remove flicker.  (It costs money.) But if you also have fluoro light that did not vary while you were animating, as I did, correcting the halogen lighting will over-correct the fluoro lighting, so you can't fix it.  So only use both kinds of lighting if you are getting flicker free results from the halogen/incandescents.  

In the first studio photo, the  round-reflector light on the stand is lit, so I can't see what is in it.  If it has an Edison screw fitting, you can put in a fluorescent bulb, and maybe convert completely, if the power supply is uneven.

Greenscreen:  I recently bought some chroma-key green Molton fabric, a soft brushed cotton material that is nice and matte, for a greenscreen shot.  It comes on a 3 metre (10 ft) wide roll so I don't have any seams. I got 2.4 metres for $100.  Previously I have used canvas painted with matte finish blue or green paint, which worked just as well.  Nothing wrong with card, except maybe the lines between sheets.   There might be a good green colour fabric at a fabric store, not specifically made for keying, but still suitable.  A 120cm (4 ft) width roll might be big enough for your height, with 5 or 6 feet for your width.  Bigger, with a bit of space between your foreground and the screen, is better, you don't want puppet shadows on it, or too much green light bouncing back onto the puppet.  I would test shoot with your green card and try keying it.  I got best keying results with After Effects.

Thanks Nick! You definitely have some great advice. 

I just got a large piece of acid-green fabric; that should probably work better than the two pieces of green posterboard that I have. 

I'll upload a photo of my large photo light off, so you can see what kind of lights/fixtures it has. 

Yesterday I went to Calumet Photography and asked about an adapter ring for my Canon 40D to the Nikon 55mm lens that I have, and they poo-pooed the idea.... they said new Canon lenses have a way of setting everything completely to manual and that it wouldn't be worth it to shoot with my old Nikon lens... needless to say I'm a bit confused as to what I should do about the lens!

I think I just got the wrong kind of adapter ring for the lens to the camera, should I search for "Nikon to Canon adapter ring" on eBay? 


StopmoNick said:

Black curtains:  When I've visited larger productions with several camera set-ups going in one big studio at once, they did exactly what you said - black curtains to separate the areas so the lighting on one set didn't interfere with the ones on either side.  In my studio it's only me, so I don't need to do that.  Black clothes are great - I do that when I go to animate at other people's studios, but it's mainly to try and look professional (and because it's the only way an old fat guy can try to look cool.  Nobody but me is fooled.)  Mostly, watch where you stand when you take the shot, and don't aim the monitor at the set unless you use a black-out function when the frame is captured.  But bright white clothing probably is a risk.

Lens adapter:  I use a Nikon 55mm Micro lens on a Canon 40d, with a cheap adapter from eBay, and it definitely does fit and works well.  The lens is a tiny bit loose, but I am not touching it during the shot so that isn't really a problem.  There are adaptors for other lenses - I also have an Olympus OM lens adapter for the Canon - are you sure you got the Nikon to Canon  EOS one?  Have you worked out that lenses screw into the Canon body clockwise, but Nikon lenses go into the camera or the adapter counter-clockwise?  (Probably you have, but just trying to cover everything I can think of.)

Flicker:  The different brand of lens via adapter makes sure the Canon can't control the aperture, so it stays where you put it, which eliminates one cause of flicker.  Canon lenses don't even have an aperture ring, so they have to be controlled by the camera.  And of course you need to select Manual operation, and set white balance and focus to manual.

I found that I still got flicker because the AC voltage from the mains power varied all the time by a couple of volts, which made the lights actually get brighter and darker.  It was only steady between 1 AM and 4 AM when no factories or homes in the area were switching things on or off.  I got a power conditioner - a double conversion UPS from Eaton Powerware (not a normal UPS) that converts the 240v AC to 12v DC, charges a battery, then outputs 240 volts AC again, and that smoothed out the lighting.  It dropped a couple of volts, but it was consistent, so problem fixed.  It was around $1500 for a portable plug-in unit, over $4000 for the bigger wired-in model I got.  A cheaper option is to use fluorescent lighting only, which does not respond to small changes in voltage.  (Put it on a dimmer and it stays the same, until the voltage drops too low, and it cuts out.) There are some floodlights now with compact fluoro spiral globes in them.

Fluorescent lights:  I sometimes use the ceiling fluoros for a soft ambient light to fill in the shadows.  But if they are over-lighting your set, or not letting you get the effect you want, you may need to remove the tubes from your area.

I found one bank of fluoros in my studio causes some flicker, so I do have to switch that row off. They are cheapo basic fittings, and a bit dodgy.  All fluoros do flicker at high frequency, so use a longer exposure like 1/2 sec or more, to smooth that out.  At 1/60th sec you get horrible flicker.

If you do get flicker from your halogen lights, there is software to remove flicker.  (It costs money.) But if you also have fluoro light that did not vary while you were animating, as I did, correcting the halogen lighting will over-correct the fluoro lighting, so you can't fix it.  So only use both kinds of lighting if you are getting flicker free results from the halogen/incandescents.  

In the first studio photo, the  round-reflector light on the stand is lit, so I can't see what is in it.  If it has an Edison screw fitting, you can put in a fluorescent bulb, and maybe convert completely, if the power supply is uneven.

Greenscreen:  I recently bought some chroma-key green Molton fabric, a soft brushed cotton material that is nice and matte, for a greenscreen shot.  It comes on a 3 metre (10 ft) wide roll so I don't have any seams. I got 2.4 metres for $100.  Previously I have used canvas painted with matte finish blue or green paint, which worked just as well.  Nothing wrong with card, except maybe the lines between sheets.   There might be a good green colour fabric at a fabric store, not specifically made for keying, but still suitable.  A 120cm (4 ft) width roll might be big enough for your height, with 5 or 6 feet for your width.  Bigger, with a bit of space between your foreground and the screen, is better, you don't want puppet shadows on it, or too much green light bouncing back onto the puppet.  I would test shoot with your green card and try keying it.  I got best keying results with After Effects.



Lauren Schmidt said:

Yesterday I went to Calumet Photography and asked about an adapter ring for my Canon 40D to the Nikon 55mm lens that I have, and they poo-pooed the idea.... they said new Canon lenses have a way of setting everything completely to manual and that it wouldn't be worth it to shoot with my old Nikon lens... needless to say I'm a bit confused as to what I should do about the lens!

Oh they always will! Any photography salesmen or shop workers etc will always always tell you to just use the standard accessories made for the camera - it's so much easier, and it's how the cameras are made blah blah blah. Get used to that idea now - nobody else anywhere understands what we do. When they start in with all their well-meaning but completely useless advice just shake your head, smile and say "Ok, I see you don't understand what I'm doing here."

Or just ignore them. Most of them literally don't know how to use manual settings and would never dream of trying it. Keep this in mind - it's sort of like walking onto a used car lot looking for parts that can be adapted to work on a space shuttle - the salesmen have absolutely no idea what you're talking about no matter how much you try to explain - they're trained only to sell today's nice easy automatic cameras and accessories. 

What you want is an adapter for Nikon lenses on a Canon EOS body, it sounds like you were looking at the right thing. 

Photographers and photography shop people do not usually understand about the special requirements of stop motion animators.   We don't just need to set everything manually, we generally need to make the lens stay stopped down all the time, and not open up between shots to give us a nice bright view through the viewfinder.  When you press the shutter and it stops down,  it doesn't always get to exactly the same aperture, so you get flicker.  They are all good exposures from a still photo point of view, just not perfectly consistent.  Movie camera lenses stay stopped down all the time, for this reason.  

But I believe there is a work-around for using Canon lenses.  You set the aperture using the camera controls, and partly unscrew the lens so it no longer connects electronically, and it stays locked at the f-stop you had set it to... I think.  Something like that.   NO stopmo feature film uses Canon lenses, they all use other kinds, mostly Nikons, on Canon bodies.  I got the Nikon lenses first, for my Nikon body,  and always used them partly unscrewed.  Since I already had them,  I got an adapter for the Canon 40d.

Which part does your adapter not fit?  The Nikon lens, or the Canon body?  

I'll find a Nikon-Eos adapter or two:

This one says Nikon Ai - F lenses, that may be a mistake, since I only know of AI and AI-S lenses, which are what I use.  It says it is in California.  But maybe there are also Nikon F lenses?

http://www.ebay.com/itm/For-Nikon-Al-F-Lens-to-Canon-EOS-EF-Mount-A...

Here's another one, for AI lenses, which should be ok:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Nikon-AI-Lens-to-Canon-EF-EOS-Adapter-Rebel...

What you don't want are the "AF confirm" type adapters, with an electrical connection to control the auto focus.

*****

Just checked - the Nikon F mount is the basic system used on AI and AIS lenses, from 1959 and still today.   So that first one is OK.  

Thank you Strider and Nick! I could definitely tell the salespeople in the camera shop and I weren't talking the same language. For animation, I will stick with the Nikon 55mm/f3.5 that I have and for regular photography, I will get a Canon lens just to shoot photos with. Hopefully that won't cost $1,000 like the lens they were telling me about!! 

The adapter ring that I have fits on the Canon body, but the Nikon does not attach to it because the threads/barrings (?) are different. 

Nick-the first adapter you found looks perfect. Thanks for finding that one! 

I am in the U.S.A., by the way (sidenote)

Nick- Below I attached a photo of the large photography light I have with the lights off, so you can see the fixtures.

Turns out, I got my Canon checked out and the flash is broken (bought it used off Amazon. I don't plan on using flash obviously but I may need it one day for photography). So, my dad traded it in for a used Nikon D80.... which apparently doesn't have Live View. I am going to use StopMotionPro as my software, so I'm nervous to find out if I can/should use this camera?? Should I get a different kind of lens other than the 55mm/f 3.5 Nikkor one that I already have?

Thanks, I know I have a lot of questions 

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I used to use a Nikon without Live View - no dslr had it yet. I attached a spycam so,it could look through the viewfinder - And had to get a different "board lens" for it so the field of view was close to the whole view in the viewfinder. Otherwise I got a tiny picture with a big black border.
Without live view you can't see what is in front of the camera until you have taken the shot. So you have a spycam, or a separate video camera off to the side, and use that to see what you are doing as you animate. Then you can transfer the full resolution images to your computer after the shot is done. The Nikon D80 is a great camera for stills, but now that most dslrs have live view, I wouldn't use it for stop motion if I could get a live view model - even a lower priced model.
I still use my Nikon D70 for still photos, but not for animation.
I haven't seen a light fitting with 3 floodlights in it like that before. It looks like Edison screw fittings, the standard type in the US. here we mostly use bayonet fittings for ordinary domestic lights but there are screw type light globes around as well. There would be fluoro equivalents for those that would fit right in if you wanted them, but I would only do that if the incandescent lights are varying due to changing voltage.
The 55mm is fine on a Nikon body. I use that formcloseups, and a 28mm for wide shots. But you will need to partly unscrew the lens on the camera mount, to prevent the lever opening up the iris between shots. Take off the lens. If you look at the back of the lens you should see a lever - stop down to f-16, push it sideways and if you look through the lens, you can see the iris blades open up. Let it go, it springs back, and the iris stops down again. The camera has a matching lever that pushes the one on the lens. Put the lens on the camera, but don't twist it all the way until it clicks. Turn it backwards until the iris fully closes. It is still perfectly secure for use in the studio, sitting on a tripod. Out in the world, taking stills, you would lock it on in the normal way.
If youmsee anynwords run togethermwith an N or m in the middle, it's because I am typing on a !¥€@$ iPad. I have been fixing them but may have missed some.
One trick that works for removing flicker is setting the shutter for a longer exposure. I think Nick told me that one a while ago. Has really worked well for me.

Thanks Nick and Jack!! I will have to try a longer exposure time. 

I actually returned the Nikon and got a different Canon 40D.... super excited about it!! I also bought a special adapter ring that I'm positive will fit the camera and the vintage Nikon 55mm lens I have.

I went back to Calumet photo and explained what I need, and they seemed to better understand me this time. They also gushed about my old Nikon lens 

Below is a photo of what my set/studio currently looks like- I'm in the process of building a "black box" (just need to hang black flame-retardant fabric) and I'm all set!

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