Most displays are looking to play things faster. We’ve got movies at 60 frames per second, and gaming displays that run at 144 fps. But what about moving in the other direction? [Bryan Boyer] wanted to try this out, so he built the VSMP, or Very Slow Movie Player. It’s a neat device that plays back a movie at about 24 fph (frames per hour) on an e-ink display to demonstrate something that [Bryan] calls Slow Seeing, which, he says “helps you see yourself against the smear of time.” A traditional epic-length movie is now going to run you greater than 8,000 hours of viewing.
Artistic considerations aside, it’s an interesting device from a technical point of view. [Bryan] built it from a 7.4-inch e-ink display from Pervasive Displays. The controller is connected to a Raspberry Pi Zero, which is running a Python script to convert a frame of the movie file into a dithered file, then send it to the display. Because the Pi Zero isn’t a very fast computer, this takes some time, and thus the slow speed of the VSMP. Originally, [Bryan] had set it up to run as fast as the system could manage, which was about 25 seconds per frame, or about 2 frames per minute. He decided to slow it down a bit further to the more attractive multiple of 24 frames per hour to contrast with the 24 frames per second of the original movie. He did this by using a CRON job that kicks of the conversion script once every 2.5 minutes and increments the frame counter. All of this is topped off with a nice 3D-printed case that has a lovely interference pattern to make a rather neat and intriguing project.
Perhaps the best part of this is see a time-lapse of the VSMP — life moves quickly around it while 2001: A Space Odyssey plays at normal speed.
Lip syncing for computer animated characters has long been simplified. You draw a set of lip shapes for vowels and other sounds your character makes and let the computer interpolate how to go from one shape to the next. But with physical, real world puppets, all those movements have to be done manually, frame-by-frame. Or do they?
He toyed around with a number of approaches for making the lip mechanism before coming up with one that worked the way he wanted. The lips are shaped using guitar wire soldered to other wires going to servos further back in the head. Altogether there are four servos for the lips and one more for the jaw. There isn’t much sideways movement but it does enough and lets the brain fill in the rest.
On the software side, he borrows heavily from the tools used for lip syncing computer-drawn characters. He created virtual versions of the five servo motors in Adobe Animate and manipulates them to define the different lip shapes. Animate then does the interpolation between the different shapes, producing the servo positions needed for each frame. He uses an AS3 script to send those positions off to an Arduino. An Arduino sketch then uses the Firmata library to receive the positions and move the servos. The result is entirely convincing as you can see in the trailer below. We’ve also included a video which summarizes the iterations he went through to get to the finished Billy Whiskers or just check out his detailed website.
Stop motion animation is often called a lost art, as doing it (or at least, doing it well) is incredibly difficult and time consuming. Every detail on the screen, no matter how minute, has to be placed by human hands hundreds of times so that it looks smooth when played back at normal speed. The unique look of stop motion is desirable enough that it still does get produced, but it’s far less common than hand drawn or even computer animation.
If you ever wanted to know just how much work goes into producing even a few minutes of stop motion animation, look no farther than the fascinating work of [Special Krio]. He not only documented the incredible attention to detail required to produce high quality animation with this method, but also the creation of his custom robotic character.
Characters in stop motion animation often have multiple interchangeable heads to enable switching between different expressions. But with his robotic character, [Special Krio] only has to worry about the environments, and allow his mechanized star do the “acting”. This saves time, which can be used for things such as making 45 individual resin “drops” to animate pouring a cup of tea (seriously, go look).
To build his character, [Special Krio] first modeled her out of terracotta to get the exact look he wanted. He then used a DIY 3D laser scanner to create a digital model, which in turn he used to help design internal structures and components which he 3D printed on an Ultimaker. The terracotta original was used once again when it was time to make molds for the character’s skin, which was done with RTV rubber. Then it was just the small matter of painting all the details and making her clothes. All told, the few minutes of video after the break took years to produce.
How much access do you have to a 3D printer? What would you do if you had weeks of time on your hands and a couple spools of filament lying around? Perhaps you would make a two second stop-motion animation called Bears on Stairs.
An in-house development by London’s DBLG — a creative design studio — shows a smooth animation of a bear — well — climbing stairs, which at first glance appears animated. In reality, 50 printed sculptures each show an instance of the bear’s looping ascent. The entire process took four weeks of printing, sculpture trimming, and the special diligence that comes with making a stop-motion film.
The folks at Physalia studio were asked by a company called IdN to produce a little bit of video with a logo. After tossing a few ideas around, they hit upon the concept of projecting the IdN logo inside a falling water droplet. CGI would never get this idea right, so the finished product is the result of stop-motion animation created inside several thousand falling drops of water.
Taking a picture of a falling water droplet was relatively easy; a small drip, a laser pointer and photodiode, and a flash trigger were all that was needed to freeze a drop of water in time. The impressive part of the build is a motion control system for the camera. This system moves the camera along the vertical axis very slowly, capturing one water droplet at a time.
Behind the droplet is a an animation that’s seemingly inspired by a Rorschach test, ending on the IdN logo. The frames for these animations were printed out and placed inside the test chamber/studio upside down to account for the optical effects of a sphere of water.
The end result is a product of over 20,000 pictures taken, all edited down into a single 30-second shot. An amazing amount of work for such a short video but as you can see in the videos below, it’s well worth the effort.
The folks down at The Rabbit Hole Hackerspace have been busy lately. They’ve created an amazing stop motion animation short titled “The Rabbit’s Hole”. The three-minute film documents the journey of a white rabbit through several strange lands, including the court of a “hormonally imbalanced queen”, the sewers, a PCB wasteland, and a banana jazz concert. The rest of the video is a behind the scenes view, showing the incredible amount of teamwork that went into the film’s creation.
From set building to final photography, the entire film was shot in one day. The set was split into 8 pieces. Each piece represented a scene the rabbit would journey through in the final movie. Members of The Rabbit Hole were able to work in parallel, each designing their own section of the set. Once the photography was done, [Whisker] took over for the process of editing and sound design. Just like in Hollywood, post production took much longer than the actual shoot.
The amazing part of the video is that most of the characters and set pieces are created from The Rabbit Hole’s junkbox. Even the star of the show, a 3D printed Rabbit wasn’t immune. Many rabbits were printed for the stop motion animation process. As can be expected, there were a few failed prints. Those prints became Rabbit footed Lamps, Tables, and a rather macabre rabbit’s hand in a tray. Even the camera dolly was welded up from some scrap metal and old roller blade wheels.
We like the way the entire hackerspace was able to come together to create something greater than any one of them could have done alone. This sort of project should be a template for other hackerspaces to follow.
A little bit of technology goes a long way when it comes to stop motion animation. In this case it’s a trio of simple camera dollies built during production of a short film called The Maker.
A Dolly is a method of mounting the camera so that it can be moved smoothly during a shot. Of course with stop motion the movement actually happens between the shots so it’s even more important that the camera be moved accurately. The video after the break shows off how they added CNC control for the camera. The first dolly was built from a pair of PVC pipes with a sled that moves along them. A motor moves a loop of 35mm film which is attached to the dolly. This is a great choice of materials since it doesn’t stretch and it’s free (one of the filmmakers is a projectionist). The next dolly is made from a flatbed scanner, and the final offering is seen above. Built from a bicycle wheel it provides a stationary platform above the hub for the models, while the camera rotates on an arm attached to the wheel. You can watch the complete film here.