*Emerges from underground covered in dust* *Blinks blindly at the sun* ..."Hello is anyone still here??"

Has it been 7 years already??

Guys I don't know if y'all remember me, but I used to frequent this forum quite a lot since about the year 2000. I've had many great conversations and swapped SMA knowledge with quite a few of you over the years, quietly lurked and learned here for years before that, and have met some of the most talented (and equally generous) people I've ever known. To be honest, I didn't know if I would still know anyone here after how much time had passed! But low-and-behold, after poking around I quickly started to see them again: Nick, Ron, Strider, Greyguy, Anthony, Marc, Don, Jriggity, and many more old friends names I recognize and used to eagerly follow. As well as many new outstandingly talented contributors.

But right now I feel a little bit like Brendan Fraser walking out of the bomb shelter or Captain America coming out from the ice. In 2012 I lost my job, then went through some other messy stuff like a divorce etc., then took a job in a completely new career path (stock broker), and my animation came to a complete halt -- LITERALLY, the two figures I was animating are still posed for the next shot in my garage to this day! Albeit covered in probably an inch of dust...  

And now coming back to this world, so much has changed! It's called Dragon Frame now? What's the deal with these LED lights? We can actually afford 3D printers now?!? How are the purists reacting to that? I was in such a whirlwind trying to obtain all my finance licenses and move up the corporate ladder that I never had time for hobbies. Well, a few weeks ago an old friend and I decided to leave all that behind and start our own video marketing company: StudioMighty Productions And a big part of that was so we could focus more on our passions, and for me that's SMA.

It feels good to peak back into this world, but it's also intimidating. So I'm wondering if you guys would cut me some slack and help me out with a favor....  I was never one to just ask questions without spending the time to scour the forums and see what was already said and do my own research, but in this case I've got a LOT to catch up on (just had to buy a new Mac to run the latest video editing software, which was a harsh wakeup call!), and am looking for some straight-shooting answers.

Forgive me for being that guy just this once, but can I just ask what you've probably already answered a million times.... 

  • Is Dragon Frame the new "it" software? I used to use Stop Motion Pro but don't see that name around here at all anymore...
  • Also, are those cheap LED lights on Amazon truly OK when it comes to flicker? My ex took all my old studio lights for her photography dreams so I have to replace those... *sigh*.  
  • Also, people are talking about the Dragon Frame "controller" for the lights? Should I add that to cart as well?
  • Thank God my DSLR camera is still compatible!! *eyes mirrorless suspiciously...*

OK I'll shut up now, but it sure feels good to be talking about stop motion again! I've got a lot of plans for when I get back up to speed and look forward to sharing it, plus seeing what amazing things you guys have all been up to. 

Thanks everyone :)

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Hi there, and welcome back. I think I became a regular here after you moved on, and have likewise gained so much knowledge and help from the wise people prepared to give of their experience so freely.

Dragonframe is definitely the best framegrabber around, and very good value considering what it does. You will not regret it, as it is the industry standard software.

There are 2 issues with cheap LED lights: flicker and colour. Flicker seems mostly to arise when dimming, which is actually switching on and off very fast. I have made up my own LED panels using 10k PWM dimmers, and they don't flicker. Better quality panels will have faster dimmers. Colour accuracy is measured in CRI out of 100, which is what the eye can see. Cheapo LEDs can be as low as 60, with a greenish cast. But you can buy 95+ CRI bulbs with ES fittings for domestic use now, and these are cheap and have a great light. I am using some in PAR cans.

If you want to go down the route of controlling all your lights together, then a DMX controller with compatible lights might be the way to go, but it strikes me as a very expensive way to get good lighting. Better is to place them carefully! What is exciting is the free arcmoco software that comes with Dragonframe, which allows you to control a moco camera rig. I have built a couple of these, and they are working well.

Hey Simon! Nice to meetcha!

I was able to do some poking around and confirmed what you said about Dragonframe. I'll be picking up that license shortly. Also I JUST saw a video about that arcmoco software and it blew my mind! Looks like I've got another project to work on... but it will sure beat my old-school manual threaded slider camera rig. 

In a surprise turn, I was able to get 6 PAR 56 lights from the church for FREE as they had apparently updated to newer hardware, so now I just have to figure out how those work and maybe supplement them with those 95+ CRI lights you mentioned. And maybe add a pipe grid to my ceiling to clamp them to.

Feels great to be poking around here again. I'm planning on sharing everything I find as I rebuild my studio and possibly film some videos of it too. Gotta pay it forward with these things!

Cheers

Have a look at threads on moco rigs on this site, where there is quite a lot of discussion about making them. I think I have posted some pics of one of my rigs. It has been used in four films so far, all using the Dragonframe interface and an Arduino. I can give you more details if you are interested in making one.

Hey Duane,

Nice to hear from one of the old crew!  Some regulars don't turn up here very often now, just the occasional visit, but there are new people like Simon with a lot to contribute.

Dragonframe:

I used Stop Motion Pro until my old PC died.  I'd use it still if I had a PC.  I replaced it with an iMac for frame grabbing, and SMP's attempts to get someone to port the software Mac OS didn't come to much.   I didn't want to have to run Windows on the Mac as well, so I changed to Dragonframe.  ("Dragon" is also the name of speech recognition software, which is better known, so too confusing to stay with that I guess.)  Both are good, with some minor differences.  DF seems to have captured most of the market, with the SMP guys back to working regular day jobs as income from their frame grabber has dropped.  Having one program that runs on both Mac and PC, as DF does, is a real advantage.

LED lighting:

LEDs seem to have replaced all the old halogen lights at the disco lighting suppliers.  They may be better at not flickering, or may not.  They are certainly much lower power users.  I have a mix now, old 50 watt halogens, some compact fluorescent bulbs (part of a Product Lighting kit with a white tent that I don't use), and a couple of cheap LED lights from eBay.  I run all of them through a double-conversion IPS that smooths out the mains voltage, which was the main use of flicker for me.  The LEDs at the disco place all seem to be large diameter arrays of red green and blue LEDs that you can control the colour of by varying how many of each colour are on - haven't bought any of those yet.  But I am not seeing any flicker from my simpler LED pinspots - main issue is the light is very purple-blue, good for a bit of moonlight but not compatible with my warmer lights unless used for that specific purpose.  If they are not dimmable there is a possibility that they would not respond to small changes in the mains voltage, so they might be more stable even without a power conditioner, but couldn't guarantee that.  Some of my ceiling lights, 4 ft long fluorescent tubes which go through a normal lighting circuit and not through my conditioner, are stable.  A small drop (1 or 2 volts which is what I get when factories a couple of blocks away turn machines on and off) in voltage doesn't make them dim, only a big drop like you can do with a dimmer switch makes them flicker and fail.

DF Controller:

If you want to pre-program some lighting changes, the DF controller makes sense I guess.  I don't have the setup for it so don't use it. 

DSLRs:

Still using Canon EOS 40d and 7d cameras, they work perfectly so don't expect to change any time soon.

I'm looking at software compatibility issues with current Mac OS Mojave 10.14.6 on my 2013 iMac, and even more so when they go to the next version of the OS.  Lots of warnings popping up about programs not optimised for the current OS and won't be compatible in the near future.  Already my post production software doesn't run on it, which was fine with it in the studio for frame grabbing.  But I needed it in the house for internet use, my 2008 Mac Pro is too out of date.  I use it for all post production because Final Cut Pro 6 won't run on the iMac. Lightwave 9 and TV Paint dongles couldn't be recognised on the iMac either, and the old perpetual Photoshop and After Effects won't work on it, I'd be up for monthly license fees for current versions.  So I still use the 2008 machine for both capture and post production.  I expect it to fail soon - A couple of drives and all its RAM had to be replaced 2 years ago - so I'd have to look at how much new software I would need to go with a new Mac Pro or iMac Pro to keep doing what I need to do.

3d Printing:

I haven't got into 3d printers - would need to learn CAD software to make the 3d models I think? And I mostly read about US models, which are a different voltage and not sold here.  There are times when I make models in more than one scale where I think that could be useful, they could be printed in any size, but don't really like the Laika style replacement faces technique, it's cgi slick and both gains and loses something. So this may be one area where I gently fall behind.

So although I haven't stopped animating as completely as you - I'm less a Rip Van Winkle who abruptly awakens to a new world than an old codger who lives in the woods and doesn't get into town much -  I am also looking at a heap of changes that I haven't caught up with yet.

Hey Nick!

Thanks as always for the detailed response! And Rip Van Winkle.... yes... that reference would have made me sound more cultured and refined than Brendan Fraser. 

Heartbreaking what you said about the SMP guys having to go back to their day jobs! Their software solved many headaches for me and helped me bring a lot of magic to life. But, like you, I'm on Mac now and had to resort to loading it in Bootcamp to capture, then Mac to edit, and it's just not efficient...And speaking of which, I literally just went through the same situation you are talking about! My workhorse beast of a computer was the same: 2008 Mac Pro, which was a god for its time. 16GB of RAM, 1GB VRAM, 8 cores, and 5 TB of space.

And it would still keep up today too, if it weren't for Apple deciding not to support it anymore! My business partner bought me the current Adobe software so we could edit together, but I had to "hack" Mojave onto my mac to use it. Unfortunately, come to find out the 2008 Mac Pro graphics card is incompatible, and so began a two-week process of ordering new graphics cards, flashing them to Mac, then struggling through that process before giving up and ordering a different model GPU. I finally just threw my hands up in the air after countless hours of frustration and dropped $2k USD on a 2017 iMac. Thanks a lot, Apple! Although the 5k screen is VERY nice.

But let me tell you my friend, do not update until you have no projects on your plate for a while!! The adjustment is pretty intense.

Nick, I truly believe there is a niche forming in response to the whole "Laika CGI slick" look you described. Don't get me wrong, it is the most beautiful stop motion I've ever seen and I have unending respect and admiration for those guys. BUT I've also seen that not a single soul I know was aware it was stop motion until I told them so. When I was with a different group of guys, they wanted a real slick look and so I shot in 30 fps to make it as smooth as possible, and used a replacement face technique (the old fashion way, with hand-made molds instead of 3D printed). But I feel like 12 fps, while also MUCH easier, is going to gain more of a following these days because it's actually hand made and people get a real sense of awe from that. It's also why I'm seriously considering getting back into claymation. The other day, someone posted an old Svankmajer (one of my favs) clip on social media, and people went nuts talking about it. "it's so creepy!" "WHAT is this??"  "What did I just watch, wow!"  Who's saying that about CGI?

Anyway, thanks for all the great info and I will keep you posted how the studio comes back together!

This may be hijacking the thread a bit, but as you have both been talking about MacBook pros, I thought I would give my two penn'orth.

I have a secondhand MBP late 2011 model, originally running Mavericks. It came with a load of software already installed, so I am loath to get a new one that might not be compatible. I have updated the OS to Sierra, having read that anything more recent would cause lots of software compatibility issues. I think DVD studio Pro is the only app I miss at the moment. Adobe CS6 all works fine.

I was very lucky that the secondhand laptop was pretty much unused when I bought it, so hopefully has some life still in it. I installed an SSD into it, and this has been brilliant. I would probably look at upgrading to another MBP a couple of years old, but would aim to get the new one up and running before abandoning the old one. In the meantime, I back up onto an external SSD and onto a 2TB HD, just in case of crashes. Oh, and I try to do as much as possible on other computers so reserving the MBP for animation as far as possible.

This might be useless information, but I thought it might be worth sharing. A 2008 model is very elderly these days!

One last thing about LEDs: go for 4000K lights with around 90 CRI if possible. These are great lights, with lovely colour, very useful. I suspect LEDs are not so susceptible to mains voltage fluctuations because they are controlled by electronics inside the bulb (known as COB - Chip On Board!), which would drop the voltage to whatever the LED uses.

I'm going to do something on making LED panels soon, as they atre proving to be useful and durable.

Just a point of clarification, Simon, Nick and I were talking about Mac Pro computers (the desktop version), not MacBook Pros, although ironically I have the same 2008 MacBook pro you're talking about and it's still quite functional today (upgraded to the max, of course). This one:

Also I have an update on my lighting rig -- I've built some rails with EMT electrical conduit (cheaper and lighter than standard plumbing pipe, but just as durable for my purposes) and also some rails called "superstrut" or "unistrut," depending on where you get it. I'll have a tutorial video on it soon once I warp everything up, but in the meantime take a look at this pics if you like:

Ah, sorry if there was confusion. My MBP is going fine, but I try to reserve it for animating.

The rails look good, better than my wardrobe rails and homemade supports. What are the clamps holding the lights to the rail?

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