INTRO
For me, analogue formats add dimensionality to any piece of work. I believe we subconsciously gravitate towards imperfections and signs of human error. Stop motion as a medium encapsulates this perfectly as it leaves no place for the artist to hide the marks of their craft. These marks have become so interconnected with the format that they have arguably transformed stop-motion from a medium into its own genre. Where horror has jump scares, night scenes and fear, stop motion has visible fingerprints, lower frame rates and wobbly edges. (Lepot, 2013)
JANUARY
0.1 Analogue formats
For me, analogue formats add dimensionality to any piece of work. I believe we subconsciously gravitate towards imperfections and signs of human error. Stop motion as a medium encapsulates this perfectly as it leaves no place for the artist to hide the marks of their craft. These marks have become so interconnected with the format that they have arguably transformed stop-motion from a medium into its own genre. Where horror has jump scares, night scenes and fear, stop motion has visible fingerprints, lower frame rates and wobbly edges. (Lepot, 2013)

I theorise that these characteristics are so pivotal to stop motion from an apparent renaissance of the format starting in the 1950s with Ray Harryhausen’s work and continuing into the 1980s with Aardman Animation’s Wallace and Gromit. Broadly speaking, these industry pillars had produced some of the most iconic appearances of stop motion on film - crucially, at a time when western cinema viewership was at an all-time high (per capita). With more eyes on their work, Harryhausen and Aardman alike consistently published work of exceptional quality that was both critically acclaimed and revolutionary to the artform.

Their ability to produce visually stunning work whilst masterfully conveying a narrative to the audience resulted in the emergence of an art form uncontaminated from the prying eyes of studio execs and fiscally motivated filmmaking.
0.2 Stop Motion
I think the arduous nature of traditional animation processes, e.g. stop motion and frame by frame paper drawings, has contributed to the general awareness of how time-consuming the animation process can be among the public. Even in my experience, after discussing the subject of my master’s degree, I am frequently met with comments akin to “Oooh Animation takes a long time doesn’t it. Got to have a lot of patience for that.” Coming from a design background, this stood out to me since the typical response to telling someone you’re a graphic designer is a look of confusion followed by a comment along the lines of “so do you do stuff on computers?”. It has made me abundantly aware that the external value of an artist’s work is often driven by the overall public perception of the craft. I’d argue that artists like Harryhausen have helped contribute to animation’s public image today. I suggest that this apparent air of respect lingering around animated films helps greatly with audience positioning. In other words, it is a notable factor in the success of modern stop motion films.

With this in mind, I am curious if the perception of animation is on the fringe of a cultural shift with the rise of 100% digital 3D animated films. What was once a labour-intensive process is becoming streamlined and, in some cases, losing the level of craft and care it once had. One only has to look at children’s youtube channels, such as Cocomelon, with 132 million subscribers that publish 40+ minute 3D animated videos three times a week. Animated by Treasure studio, this industry powerhouse is single handily turning what was once a scarce medium seen as a rare treat into a near-infinite buffet of digestible content. Likewise, Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse (An entirely digital 3D world for users to explore comparable to “Ready Player One”s “OASIS”) is similarly stuffed with rapidly produced 3D models and textures of varying quality in an effort to expand as fast as possible. 
As more and more careers emerge in the animation industry and the uptake of immersive digital services increases, I believe we as artists have a duty to preserve the craft and diligence seen in the early years of animation to continually innovate the format in a way that maintains the current public attitude of respect.
0.3 Clay materials
After breaking down the genre’s defining characteristics, digitally emulating stop motion became a much simpler process. I downloaded a material setup created by 3D creator “SouthernShotty”, who uses bump maps filled with fingerprint textures to create surface imperfections. I think this produces a decent replication of hand-sculpted clay. Ultimately, the success of the material was improved by using a standard 3 point lighting system and an emulation of a 35mm film lens. This was useful as I am trying to convince the audience that they’re looking at a genuine photograph of clay, so replicating a “real-world” lighting and camera setup helped sell the illusion.
I found an interview with Aardman cinematographer Dave-Alex Riddett who discussed the lenses used on various Wallace and Gromit productions. He mentioned, “we would have loved to use Cooke lenses”, Presumably referring to their anamorphic range. “But since the productions were so mob-handed...[it wasn’t a practical solution].” Since I have the luxury of replicating lenses in Blender, I experimented with an anamorphic lens effect. I thought the more dramatic falloff and oval-shaped bokeh produced from the lens would lend itself well to a clay material and help convince the audience that the object they were viewing was at a miniature scale. 
This works well in the sample project I’m working with and has made me confident I can produce future content using these methods.
0.4 The digital debate
Through my research, I’ve found that there is underlying prejudice towards practitioners on both sides of the analogue/digital debate. These judgements more commonly stem from individuals outside of the film/animation scene as opposed to industry professionals. For example, in the lead up to Star Wars Episode VII in 2014, there was a huge marketing push from director J.J. Abrams promoting a ‘return to form’ of practical effects and reduced green screen usage. “Best news today!” “A step in the right direction” and an emphatic “YES” were all comments seen on a Reddit thread announcing the news. In my opinion, the belief that some mediums are inherently good or bad is flawed. Even so-called “film purists” like Martin Scorsese have adopted cutting edge visual effects techniques such as using AI to de-age the leading cast of his 2019 blockbuster ‘The Irishman’.
This debate is of great interest to me as it’s essential to consider the cultural and social perception of industry practices. We as artists must be mindful of falling into a biased view of what are simply production tools. They are shaped by the hands of the artist. Just like a canvas and oil paint may be used to depict unappealing imagery with no artistic merit, modern visual effects and animation tools may be used with diligence and mindful application. With this in mind, I am eager to break down the benefits, limitations, and pitfalls of animation mediums. I will explore how I can synthesise a single outcome across various analogue and digital mediums.
FEBRUARY
0.5 General theory
I decided to produce my outcome across a range of mediums. I want my project to simultaneously stimulate a multi-sensory response in my audience whilst being accessible as possible, print being the most accessible format and VR the least. To achieve this, I broke down all the potential senses I could interact with in each medium. While physical print may have the advantage of one of the strongest sensory experiences - touch, it is also a static medium and loses any sense of movement or depth. On the other hand, VR immerses the user in an auditory and controllable virtual world, missing only physicality.
My initial intent was to explore these mediums to determine which would be the best fit for my project. However, I have now decided to transfer my project across all possible mediums. Because of this, my brief to simply produce an explainer video is now to create a fully interactive video game.
0.6 Project identity
0.7 Vintage Animation
0.8 Proof of concept
0.9 Software Skills
MARCH
1.0 Getting Started
APRIL
MAY
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