Introduction: Kitemation Clay Animation

Ok, there is no such thing as Kitemation, I made it up. It is Kiteman in clay form animation or claymation. The character can be anything you like as long as you can model it in clay.

This is just a fun project to show you how to do some basic video animation with your standard video editing software like Windows Movie Maker already on your PC.

Step 1: Squishy Bits...

You just need some modeling clay to create your clay characters. This is not the hardening type, although it will eventually get hard and brittle if it dries out from being left out in the open air too long. It feels a little bit oily so use only on surfaces where you won't make too much of a mess. I had an assortment of soft clay in some primary colors. That meant I had to mix several colors to get my pink, green and brown. The set only had white and no black which you can get in the more expensive assortment set.

Working with clay is one of the funnest things to do when you are bored or have nothing to do.

Just pinch off a piece of clay and start rolling it around to soften it up to a workable consistency. Form into any shape by using your fingers or tools.

Since I wanted to make a Kiteman figure, I used white clay to form the upper torso. I guess I could have done the full figure but I just propped it on top of one of the clay containers.

I had to mix red and white to get a pinkish flesh tone to make the head. Add ears to the head and smooth down the clay to make a solid transition to join the parts. I used a piece of bamboo skewer to pin the head to the body since I wanted it to be moveable. No need to add any internal wire armatures since the figure was small and held its shape.

The clay set had no black so I just used a permanent marker to draw on eye pupils and shirt details.

Film animation is really just a set of still images taken at several points in time. The object will move slightly in each frame so what you have captured is slightly different poses of the same object. If you play all the images one after another quickly, you get a sense of movement.

For our animation we just want the clay character to move its eyes.

You can do the traditional stop motion technique of photographing the clay model, moving parts of the clay figure slightly, take the second picture, move it again, take a shot, etc, etc, or set up each shot by interchanging parts of the clay figure with things that have been already moved.

I made four sets of eyes/eyeglasses. The pupils were drawn in different locations. The blank one is to create the effect of a blink. I made it too fast in the beginning of the video so you really don't see it unless you go back and look for it.

Since the clay figure is small, it is easier to manipulate the interchangeable eyes/eyeglasses than to manipulate a set of clay pupils on the figure itself for animation.

Make a backdrop by printing out a picture and gluing it on to a piece of cardboard so it hangs flat when you prop it up.

Step 2: Shifty Character...

Think about what moves in your animation.

The eyes will shift left and then right.

The eyes will look straight ahead.

The eyes blink by the eyelids covering the eyes. You can animate this with the eyelid coming down 1/4 of the way, half way, 3/4 of the way and fully covered. Since we have small dots to cover we can get away with a shot of blank eyes.

The more positions you have the less that specific part is shifted. It will give a smoother animation but these basic poses shouldn't give too much of a jerky animation since it is only the eyes moving. If you wanted to be a stickler for detail, the different sets of eyes/eyeglasses could have been molded to make them uniform but the slight variation gives a more handmade look to the animation.

Step 3: More Posing...

When you take one of these stills, don't get your thumb in there.

Put the camera up on a tripod so the main figure will always be in the same position. Tape the tripod down so it doesn't shift while setting up all the shots. Try to keep the position of the background the same in every shot. Stop motion software usually overlays the previous shot in the display view so you can line up the images.

You can play with the lighting to get that lifelike scene effect.

These were just a few more shots taken with the bow tie moved a bit and the head in different positions.

Since I wanted to have some expression of the mouth, I put a dab of clay to form the lips.

Step 4: Video Animation...

No need to get any fancy stop motion software. You can do this all in the basic video editing package that comes with your computer.

If you have Windows 7 or 8, you can find online and install an older version of Movie Maker 6.0 that has some features that the newer versions cut out. The old timeline interface makes it easier to do our edits.

Have ready some sound bytes or music that you will use for the video clip.

All you have to do is import all the shots you have taken.

Start building the frames up in order on your video timeline. Select and drop the the images in position.

Eyes forward, eyes right, eyes forward, eyes left, eyes forward, blank eyes, eyes forward., etc.

Drop in all the music or sound clips.

Start adjusting the length of each frame to correspond with the music. Align or size the shots to sync up with the music.

Play the video as you go along to see if you have gotten the movement correct like blinking the eyes.

Ideas will pop into your head on what else you want to do.

Professionals usually have a storyboard outline of their video prepared beforehand but it's more fun to wing it and see what happens.

Hey, download my images or make your own Kitemation creation.

Give it a shot. Show us what you made and I'll be giving away free pro memberships with my critique.


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