CAMSZINE recently enlisted Visiting Instructor Britta Johnson, a Seattle-based stop-motion animator and film-video artist, to report on her experience of teaching CAMS 287 Stop Motion Animation winter term 2014. Britta's response:
I was thrilled to be invited to share what I know about stop motion animation with Carleton students. I've taught this material in many different ways before, but the chance to put it together for a class here, with students I knew would be up for really tackling the challenges of the form, was very exciting for me. CAMS Technical Director Paul Bernhardt oversaw the design and construction of two new multiplane tables for the department and sourced some excellent all-manual lenses, necessary for flicker reduction. We partitioned the room with black polycyc cloth and named our 7 animation stations (4 down-shooters, 3 frontal set-ups with rough plywood stages) after innovative stop motion animators (Reiniger, Trnka, Kawamoto, McLaren, Harryhausen, Clokey, and Painleve.)
My main goal for the class was to develop the students' understanding of how movement works though space and time in the production of animation. I wanted to give the students the tools and strategies for both flat and three-dimensional puppets and spatial environments, so they could really explore the boundaries of the medium. They learned construction and measurement techniques, design concerns, and time/effort management strategies. They took part in in-class exercises and demos, watched film clips, and explored movements and strategies through short assignments and a longer more in-depth project, which also included an extensive pre-production process of planning and testing, key to success with any animation project. The assignments came with constraints, including strict time limits (2 to 5 seconds each) to allow for maximum richness and experimentation. The longer project was limited to 30 seconds.
I'm very proud of my students; they brought creativity and dedication to a complex and challenging craft and made sweet, unique films with real depth.