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Getting Started in Stop-motion
So, you’ve been stuck at home during lockdown for nearly a month and you thought now’s the time to become a stop-motion ...
2020 has been a strange, difficult year and understandably one most people are happy to leave behind. Fortunately for us stop-motion animators, self-isolation is something we were already used to. Unlike other production where a crew of people needs to be present all the time, once a stop-motion stage is set, we animators can work away on our own, capturing frames until a shot is finished.
This built-in social distance with stop-motion has allowed production to continue. Here at A+C we closed the studio for six weeks but still had our most prosperous year ever, with record demand for stop-motion animation. Because our team could safely carry out socially distanced production, the UK Government even commissioned us to produce their Easter #BeAHero Coronavirus safety video with LEGO.
Taking stock of the past twelve months, we got out our crystal balls and put together eight themes and trends for stop-motion we think will be popular in 2021.
We all need a little happiness from our screens, particularly after the year we've just had. Stop-motion has a decorated history of feel-good films and ads that suit audiences of all ages, and we think 2021 will see a fair bit of stop-motion designed to make us feel happy. British retailer and feel-good ad experts John Lewis (who generally set the benchmark for Christmas commercials) have already kicked this theme off with their 'Give a Little Love' ad this festive season, which uses multiple stop-motion sequences.
2020 has been the most restricted year for travel in living memory, which has left many of us with a real hankering for the travel freedoms we once took for granted. When the restrictions finally begin to ease, companies in the travel sector will all be going full steam ahead on their advertising content to entice us weary housebound folk back to shores afar, for holidays, business trips and adventures. Stop-motion is a great way for travel brands to stand out from the crowd and get their message across in original and innovative ways - check out our work for British Airways and Trivago.
Although we may not have made it to the beaches of Benidorm or the slopes of Chamonix this year, with more time spent at home and fewer places open, people all over the world have taken the opportunity to rediscover some hidden gems on their own doorstep. Gyms closed and office commutes were reduced to mere room-to-room walks, so many used the opportunity and time saved for walks in the countryside or exercise classes in the park. This rekindling of our love for the great outdoors is hopefully here to stay, and we think this may well be reflected on-screen in the stop-motion films, advertisements and other content 2021 has to offer.
Aside from the ever-present pandemic, 2020 has been a tumultuous year for a variety of other reasons. Political, social and environmental events around the world have erupted disagreements and arguments, seeing a wedge driven between many people, sometimes even within households. On home soil, the soon-to-complete Brexit transition has been the source of much of this bad feeling, so in 2021 we will need to mend old wounds and come together. Animation has a habit of being relatable to all people, and stories told through stop-motion with its nostalgic, human qualities will hopefully remind us of things we all love and need - each other. One stop-motion animation film that looks set to captivate different audiences alike is Parabella and Aardman Animations' Robin Robin, a story about a Robin raised by a family of mice - coming soon to a Netflix near you!
Computer-generated animation and effects have come on leaps and bounds over the past couple of decades - even in films which appear at first glance to have little to no visual alterations or additions. The technology has become so believable that when you peel back the surface and watch the behind-the-scenes videos, its often surprising to learn that many of the places, props and even people you were watching in a film were never there, and instead were digitally composited onto screen afterwards using a green screen and some computer wizardry.
As stop-motion animators though, we believe that there's nothing quite like making things in real life and capturing them through a camera's lens. After all, stop-motion itself was an early, practical innovation to create wonder and magic through the medium of film. In addition to stop-motion itself being of the real world, at A+C Studios we use practical effects on-set wherever possible in our animation rather than doing everything in post. For us, that means physical handmade sets and props, matte painted skies and practical lighting within the actual sets (check out our 'Explained with LEGO' behind-the-scenes for some examples).
Practical effects are also making a Hollywood comeback, and stop-motion is playing a big part. Disney's hit Star Wars show The Mandalorian is now in its second season and is chock full of innovative practical effects. From animatronic puppets and model miniatures instead of CG renderings to backgrounds shot on-set with giant screens akin to back projection, the show has taken a modern spin on age-old techniques. Likewise, stop-motion is the latest addition to the show's impressive practical resumé. In season 2, the show's creators used stop-motion for the giant "scrapwalkers". With Mando renewed for another season in 2021, look out for more stop-motion goodness!
User-generated content has been growing in popularity for a number of years now, with influencer users partnering with brands on platforms like Facebook and Instagram to sell products. For a time, this relatively lo-fi advertising content shot largely on the users' phones was only really found on social media. This year though, UCG has increased exponentially, filling TV ad space in place of would-be adverts that couldn't be shot because of COVID restrictions. Many brands have used UCG to connect with audiences through their desire for human connection. Real stories shot by the people themselves are relatable, particularly at times like these when community is important. This trend is set to continue, and with a smartphone, laptop or iPad within reach for most people, stop-motion is more accessible than ever to shoot at home. Lots of creative stop-motion work is made in bedrooms and garages (hell, we even started off in one!), so we anticipate 2021 will likely bring more amateur and aspiring stop-motion animators to the fore. Thinking of getting into stop-motion? Check out our blog on getting started.
User-generated content has also spawned a whole new way of shooting video. Because smartphones are easier to hold vertically, and because this format also lends itself well to capturing the human form, newer apps like Snapchat and TikTok have been built to shoot and showcase videos this way, and established players like Facebook, Instagram and even LinkedIn have introduced features dedicated to this 9:16 ratio (as opposed to the well established 16:9 TV and monitor ratio we all know and love). Expect this trend to continue - Samsung even built a TV that rotates to vertical! We'll likely see more vertical content in 2021 that goes beyond our smartphones - and we think stop-motion creators will follow suit to get in on the action.
We're not quite at the 'Oasis' stage yet (Ready Player One fans ahoy) but virtual and augmented reality immersion technologies have improved dramatically over the past few years, and you can now watch a huge collection of immersive 3D videos on YouTube with headsets like the Oculus Quest to make you feel like you're really there. Stop-motion creators like the studio behind Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs have dipped their toe with this technology - you can watch an immersive 360° timelapse on-set with one of the film's characters. At A+C we expect to see more stop-motion content emerge within the virtual reality sphere - we're actually planning some content ourselves, so watch this space!
So those are our predictions for 2021 trends in stop-motion - we're hopeful that the new year will bring with it some wonderful, creative and inspiring offerings from the animated world. Do you work in animation? Check out our Careers page for opportunities.