Stop motion: manipulating objects to better manipulate ideas


Symbolic representations of things, ideas, beings and happenings are endlessly fascinating to me! Henceforth, I find stop motion animation a powerful if underemployed communications tool. It provides entertaining and somewhat puzzling visual message for the viewer, while allowing the maker to think outside the box and ascribe an alternate functionality to her props as she manipulates inanimate frames in a playful yet comprehensive manner. Stop motion narratives have helped me better grasp various subjects, ranging from Plato's Allegory of the Cave (claymation) to the progression of Alzheimer's disease, ambition to change the order of one's surroundings, and complexities of transoceanic love, brilliantly displayed in the short film Bottle.

To appreciate the beauty and laborious yet completely captivating process of making stop motion animation videos, I encourage anyone to make a short video, compiling photographs, editing audio, creating a story, frame by frame. I am sure that you, the maker, will greatly enhance your understanding of the concept/narrative in the process. To get started, here is a sweet little tutorial by Karen X. Cheng on how to get started with making a stop motion animation video (HINT: she says you have to plan, plan, plan before you begin).  After you had a go at a short video, watch Wes Anderson's exquisite stop motion film Fantastic Mr. Fox  or one of many short stories of stop motion maker Pes. These simple steps will make you appreciate stop motion as a unique form of composing an artistic narrative as well as a its potential as an effective tool for communicating educational messages. 

One such educational attempt was made by my dear friend Abby, who used stop motion as a way of presenting her research findings about the potential benefits and drawbacks of using oysters to remove nitrogen pollution from water in the video embedded here. Granted, the video doesn't present all the scientific intricacies of her dissertation project, but it allows for delivering an enticing and accessible message to diverse audiences, promoting the educational and societal value of science and discovery. The main point of venturing out to various mediums would be not to undermine scientific / professional expertise, but rather to explore alternative routes of sharing pieces of the invaluable expert know-how with the public and getting creative with how you would go about such ventures.

I am not exactly sure when and what exactly prompted my fascination with stop motion, but some 4 years ago I made this very amateur video to celebrate a friend's first LP release. More recently, fascinated by the beautiful foliage of autumn in Washington, DC and wanting to preserve it a little bit for the darker and gloomier winter months -to come, I made a video titled fall-ing, manipulating leaves and the amazing resource that is the Free Music Archive.

I am currently working on combining digital animation techniques, using Adobe Creative Cloud software in addition to more manual manipulation of objects through frame-by-frame stop motion animation to create science videos. Please, stay tuned and my next video will appear on this page shortly.

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All content by Tatev Sargsyan (unless otherwise noted), licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.