The Making of “Sharing Is Caring”
After quite a bit of time building characters, sewing tiny beach shorts, and carefully animating my scene, I present to you my one-minute short: “Sharing Is Caring”
I’ve always loved stop motion as a medium and have made several attempts at small-scale stop motion in the past, but never before have I embarked on the journey to tell a full story. While my story is only one minute, it’s the most complete, polished piece of stop motion work that I’ve ever created. In this post, I’ll be reflecting on my process and sharing what I learned!
This idea has lived in my head for almost a year now. I can’t quite put my finger on where the inspiration came from, but I’ve been itching to bring it to life. Here was my initial storyboard:
In general, I stuck pretty closely to my storyboard. To reiterate the plot:
Two friends are lounging on the beach. One friend begins to sweat profusely, and when the other friend notices, he suggests to him to take off his shirt. When the sweating friend shows some reluctance to remove his shirt, he is reassured by his friend and encouraged with a firm nod. Finally, the sweating friend removes his shirt to reveal the absence of nipples. Understanding that the lack of nipple was what was causing his friend to be too insecure to take his shirt off, the friend removes one of his nipples and places it on his friend’s chest. No longer the only one with a chest abnormality, the once-sweaty friend can enjoy the beach worry-free and without a shirt with his best friend by his side.
I chose not to include dialogue between the characters (as originally planned) because it seemed the story could still be understood without words. Removing speech makes the film relatable to all. With a concrete story in mind, I was ready to move on to character and set design.
Characters & Set Design
I knew I wanted the characters to present as male as they would be shirtless at the beach, but I didn’t want them to have super-defining physical qualities that would distract from the story. I like to think of them as just generic people built in a general person shape. With this in mind, I constructed these too little fellas out of polymer clay.
As can be seen in the picture, each character was dressed in hand-sewn outfits and a perfectly sized Adirondack beach chair that I cut and constructed with the help of the laser cutter.
The construction of both guys was the same, I covered a lump of tinfoil with polymer clay and used solid clay for the arms and legs. I chose to skip building a full wire armature because the characters would be seated the whole time with little full-body movement. Plus, I knew I would have to stretch and warp the arm of Friend #2 when he reached over to hand off his nipple, so an armature wasn’t really necessary. To save my more expensive peach-toned clay, I used cheaper grey clay underneath. Finally, I smeared pink clay on the face and arms to resemble a sunburn and left an outline for a farmer’s tan. The clothes were made with scrap fabric with the sewing machine and by hand and the sunglasses were laser cut.
The set was a shallow cardboard box filled with beach sand against a green screen. The sky and water were later keyed in Premiere Pro using stock footage. The character build and beach setup took about a collective 8 hours over a few days.
With all the pieces ready to go, I set up in the green screen room with my production laptop, tripod, Canon DSLR, and overhead lighting.
Dragonframe was so user-friendly and I utilized the onion skin feature and focus checks frequently to make sure everything was going smoothly.
For the seating scene, I dribbled real water over the head of Friend #1 and captured several frames of him sweating. I added a drop of yellow paint to the water I wet his shirt with to make the wetness more visible. Unfortunately, I did not keep track of my cup of water and it can be seen at the bottom of the shots slightly covering their toes. When trying to edit this out, it threw off the positioning of the feet and I decided that it wasn’t that noticeable and moved on. Hopefully, me pointing it out will be the first time you see it because I didn’t catch it until I was deep into the editing process! Using soft clay allowed me to turn the heads with ease and wiggle their fingers in a natural way.
The filming process took about 3 hours — much shorter than I anticipated but considering the only motion going on was slight head turns and hand gestures, there wasn’t too much going on. Not having to worry about walking or moving allowed me to really focus on making the gestures look as human as possible.
The Rough Cut
Below you’ll see the raw footage of the film on the green screen.
And here you can see the first draft of my editing. I added appropriate pauses and adjusted the timing to make their interactions easier to interpret.
The Final Cut
I was really able to polish the final product by rotating everything -1 degrees to make the horizon line up with the ocean, masking out the green screen discoloration, and keyframing close-ups and the film roll in the opening scene. All of the sound effects were carefully sourced from freesound.org. Unfortunately, in the very beginning, I unknowingly cast a shadow on the scene, but it quickly flashes by and hopefully isn’t too distracting. I also tried to correct any jerky motion that occurred accidentally from the camera. At one point I had to change the battery, so there was a bit of an issue realining.
I am thrilled with my final product and so proud to have actually finished something! With such a time-consuming project like stop motion, it's easy to put down what you’ve started for a bit but never get back to it. Here are some things I learned along the way:
- Cameras have power cords! Why did I not know this?
2. Be aware of EVERYTHING around your set (i.e. plastic cups).
3. Watch out for shadows.
4. Make sure the green screen is a smooth material and solid green.
5. Do everything you can to make post less work. It will look better the less work that needs to be done.
Well, that’s all from me. I hope you enjoy “Sharing is Caring”!!! Until next time.