I made this realization recently: I, We, You can make anything you can imagine. Thats the gift that living in 2014 has given to us. Laser cutters, CNC machines, 3D printers, the internet!! It just so happens that all these powerful tools are incredibly useful for creative people.
Its worth repeating again - you can make ANYTHING.
I'm a film producer at Kontent Films in San Francisco, and I strive to foster meaningful change through film while pushing the artistic bounds of my craft. My friend Chris is a maker, and founder of Wood Thumb, a workshop that uses many of these “new tools” to design and produce wood products.
Enter - Maker Film Production
Together we were challenged to make a 13 second clip for a short film Kontent was making on the dominant global economy and what more sustainable alternatives might ential. The premise was that the economy views human labor as just another extractable resource; we wanted to show that workers were just cogs in a vast machine.
It was either hire a shadow puppet dance troupe, or stop motion - Surprise, we decided to convey this message through stop motion animation…. maker style.
So, we had the general idea.. now what?
Step 1: Ideas & Momentum
Fail fast and iterate often.
Its a maxim that entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley swear by, but its not usually applied to the precision world of film making. In the case of maker style film production & stop motion animation however, it’s of paramount importance: when you’re doing something no one (around you or on the internet) has done before, you will likely make mistakes while sliding down your learning curve. Two hours into the last day of shooting is not the time to discover a fatal flaw you made on the very first day.
How? Story boards!
As you can see, drawing is not my strong suit, but I threw some things together to help communicate my ideas to Chris and my director Mark. When we set out to design a film set of gears, a city sky line and some poor 'cogs in the machine', we weren't quite sure how it'd all look together. Our iterative process consisted of printing lots of versions of the gears and people on card stock and some very patient cutting.
We started with a roll of paper and some stick figures; upgraded to mockups of cogs taped on a beer keg (which somehow made it into the scene) and paper gears taped together. It didn't look great, but it was essential to figuring out the geometry, the scale and the functionality of this animation.
Making everything before hand out of paper enabled us to tweak our designs without wasting expensive time on TechShop's machines.
Idea? check. Storyboard? check. Paper models? check. But what about style?