The Tutorial

 La pâte animée

Animating clay isn't so complicated, after a few instant you could see the clay taking live on your screen.
After the first try, you would quicky have the need to go over, giving the speaking to the characters, puting them on a land, etc.
Real beginer in claymotion, I would like to share my small experience, giving you some tips which I hope will help you in your stop motion project.
If you do not find all information you are looking for here, do a quick visit on F.A.Q. page.

The basis

A stop motion film it composed by successive fixed picture. When you show them successively, it give the movement illusion.
In few word, below you will see how I do it :


1) Sooting : Done image by image with a digital still camera. Between each image I move the character. After the images are transferred and stocked on computer.

2) Video assembly :   I made a video file using DSC JPEG image. Here It's possible to mix either video or fixed image used as background.

3) Sound :  Record sound and assembly with video file. In some case I record sound before shooting for knowing the length and shoot the related amount of photos.

4) Publication :  I use either the computer video output to produce a VHS or I produce a CD/DVD in order to show it on home TV or DVD reader.




Not having that of place at the house, the studio can (if one can call that a studio) summarizes itself with a space of 2 square meters in a part transformed into workshop. %0dMy puppet sizes are approximately 11 cm top and this fact the decoration can be contained in a surface of 1 square meter. %0dFor shooting I arranged a camera foot posed on a piece of wood, the unit is attached to the decoration by a screw clamp in order to guarantee a maximum stability.




mall budget so low lighting quality, it consists of simple bulb daylight of 150 Watt. Internal camera flash of is always off and shooting a white sheet under this lighting regulates the white balance.


Characters building

Which clay ?
For animated part I use PATPLUME or PLASTICOLOR from OMYA manufacturer oil base. In fact the key issue is to not use water clay base, which dry and crackle after some time. For fixed parts (hand, mouth, accessory) I use FIMO clay type, this one is to be cook and can be paint. 

Color skin
If you are looking for sepcial color, you have to know that oil bases clay can be easyly mixed. In case of skin color, I add to the white clay an little bit of yellow and an little bit less of black and red. 

Clean result
During the manipulation of your pupets, ensure that you hand are perfectcly clean in order to keep the same color aspect of your pupets durring all the shooting process.

Body and member
My characters are always build with an armature on which I put clay. It”s necsary in order to minimize the characters weight. Bellow you will find the differenbt type I used for buildin the armature :

- With a bale of paper wrapped in adhesive tape, lmembers are plastic pipes in which I put a wire.

- With alluminim  wire armature on which I add  fimo clay, after I cook it .

- For big charactrers (over 20 cm)  I use wire grid  and I covered it with paper.

- When I need charcaters who will have few mouvements, I use plastic pupets.

Note: Key issue is to have resistant wire armature, used cooked aluminium wire . D'ont use other material as iron wire, if not after few manipulation the wire will broke.


The hands

Easy way is to build either hand with Fimo, then you exchange it according the action of your pupets, thus you can handle them without fear to damage them.  If you follow this technic, please note that your pupest will not able to take object.

Others solutions,
Is to to build your hand with normal clay, with ou without an wire armature inside. Issue is the maniupation if  you build small hand.

Some times I biuild a  wire armature + corver with fimo, On finger I add plastic pipes and I cover all with latex . In oder to colorize ther hand , you can put ink in latex before.

The eyes
Here also there are either way to do it:

- Directly in clay, it's an easy way for changing their form and size (eg. Increasing eye size allows giving surprising attitude).

- Using plastic existing pearls (I color it with a marker), issue is to find the right size according the face of subject.

- With modeling plastic and painting it as shown on left image. It takes more time but it's more realistic.

In any case, for their movements a simple needle is enough to move them. A nice idea was communicated by email; it's to put a bit of talk powder in the eye sockets before you put the eyeballs in for good. It prevents plasticine from sticking on the eyeballs, eg easier to move the eyes.


The mouth
Two techniques,
the first one consist in carving with each consonance the face but they is really tiresome, the second one consists in using several mouth as for hands.

For labial synchronization I measure the time of one consonance and I leave the shape of corresponding mouth during same time before passing to the following one.
Sometime, I mixt the first technique with morphing software, it's a useful trick for having a fluid mouth movement without carving a lot the puppet.

Tips: in order to use the right mouth, read the dialogue in front an mirror !



As it is difficult to cut a low-size mirror I found another way. I used a silvered CD, which I cut with the metal saw and cutter, and the edge is sandpaper in order to give the illusion of frosted worm. Only problem it is the reflection of the light that can give according to the orientation of the mirror a standard reflection rainbow.

For the realization of paper paints on the scale of the characters I draw in first a pattern. This pattern is then used for filling page with software like CorelDraw. Then I print an A4 page that I paste on the walls of the decoration using woodworking glue diluted in water. I do not use dedicated glue for wallpaper because it's too heavy.

The key consists of wire brass onto which I weld with tin a disc formatted beforehand at the file. The lock is produced in copper plate it such a machined with the hand. It is one can long and delicate to realize considering the size of the objects (8 mm), but the result is nice?

Out door environnement
An easy way to build an outdoor environnement is to shoot and print it on a sheet of paper using an inkjet printer.
 In this case I use a mat paper in order to minimise the light reflexion on the printed paper sheet during shooting. 


Shooting with DSC

The hardware

I use a digital camera of 2 M pixels with zoom 35 -105 mm connected to a PC in USB. The images which it provides have a resolution of 1600 X 1200 largely sufficient for PAL TV format.%0d%0dI choose the lowest quality JPEG mode from the camera, so image size is around 300KB compare to 5,5MB in uncompressed format, it's faster for the transfer to computer. JPEG compression is not a real problem, as during the assembly the pictures are reduced to 640x480 (or in 768 x 576).
The camera is in mode aperture priority F4, for focus adjustment I use the various macro modes according to the distance subject (between 6 cm to 20 cm) and the position of the zoom.%0dFlash must'nt be use to prevent any over light exposition espcially in macro mode.


Transfert toicomputer
Photos are stored in camera on a 40 MB Compact flash memory card, the transfer is done in USB at the rate of 1 second by photo. The software stores them on the hard disk by numbering them in the ascending order what is particularly practical for the later assembly. 

Nombres de photos
PAL and NSTC require respectively 25 and 30 images per second, it's 1500 or 1800 photographs for one minute. In fact while working to 12 or 15 images per seconds that is sufficient, I read that the majority of the scenes of Wallace and Grommit was done at 15 images (Ouf! only 900 photographs for one minute of film). For labial synchronization if the subject does not move when it speaks, I make only one shot per consonance. (Ex: WHOHA = 2 shots).


Morphing is helping you  !

If your film is not fluid it's that some shots are missing, and you have to shoot again some frames. Unfortunately in some case it's to late, your pupets has moved so much and you can't give it the same position as you have to do. Another way it's the morphing to create missing photos between 2 shoots. In sample, I voluntary used morphing for showing the principal actor in superposition on background picture. If you haven't morphing software you must find some freeware on the WEB...

Technique du fond bleu

In order to include a personage in an external land (eg :BALANCE.AVI) or sepcial background (eg : REVEIL.AVI), I used the blue color background technique.
Idea is to shoot a video on a blue background, add it on image or a video, the blue colour is remove bye software (e. Adobe After Effect). Limit of this tricks, is that character must not contain the same blue colour as background, if not it will be remove as well. It's also a useful tip for shooting separately 2 actors who will present in same time on the video.

Material : For  blue back ground, you can use a printed shheet on your inkjet printer, prefer mat paper and adjust the focus of your camera in order to obtain on the back of your image something to regular. Of course  you can doit with an other color .

From fixed image to animated image

Producing a video file
From the numbered photos I carry out file AVI not compress generally of duration of 15 of seconds. With this intention I use a very nice freeware which I found on the NET: " Fast Movie Processor 1.44 "(Last version is name VideoMach). It allows to crop and resize the images, apply filters and define frame speed in image per second, moreover it very quickly does that on PC.

Here you will find a tutorial (in French) where I explain how I do with FMP:  FMP tutorial PDF .

Video and sound assemebly
I use software MGI VideoWave II to assemble the various AVI and the files sounds. The choice of MGI VideoWave was not determined by objective criteria, I use it because it was delivered with my video card ATI, in addition it is easy to use and rather user-friendly. An other software currently free is VirtualDub , try it's really nice. Now if you haven't limited budget the best wil to use: Adobe Premiere for the assembling and Adobe AfterEffects for effects.