Library of Inspiration

THE INS AND OUTS OF SHOOTING STOP MOTION

With both wedding shoots and personal works, Alex aims to simply reflect his own experiences in the photographer he captures. He believes documenting an experience, a journey or an event, he believes this is the only way to be brought back into it, to truly feel it all over again. Alex has a passion for stop motion as it sits between the creative nature of video and photography. An added bonus for him is leaving the sound equipment at home and being able to have stunning hi resolution stills on hand.

With Japan having always been on his radar, he jumped at the chance to go see his favorite band play when a cheap ticket presented itself. “This piece was put together at 4K resolution, so it would look stunning today and in many years to come, as device screens gain more and more resolution. I wanted to create a memory that I guess emotionally brought me back to the place, more than what a photo series would for me, but also future proof the content by shooting in very high resolution.”

The Set Up

The crucial thing to have is enough memory on hand as well as a fast card that allows you to shoot continuously with the most rapid shooting mode your camera allows. Alex uses two 64GB cards for projects like these; he was able to shoot around 7000 frames over a two-week period.

He picked the D800 DSLR for its dynamic range, his lens of choice is the AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G, based on the fact that he needs to travel light and have low light abilities. “I find lens choice a personal thing. Some times it is good to be closer to the action and run wider lenses and get a lot of story into the scene. Other times it is better to shoot with a short telephoto lens so people are unaware of your presence.” He makes a point to shoot all these images in a flat or neutral colour setting so that he can tweak colour grading in post-production.

Camera Settings

Shooting in M Mode is crucial; this prevents exposure changing abruptly within a sequence. “Continuous High and Low shooting was a must, depending on how fast the motion was in the scene. Again this is where you need a memory card that works with the camera to help clear the buffer. With trial and error you learn how many frames per second are required for different subjects and their relative movement, so experiment with this and think about how fast or slow you might play back the image sequence later in the stop motion movie.”

Alex prefers to use auto focus, but only on his first shot, he would then switch to manual to capture a sequence without the focus shifting. Other times, he will often use 3D tracking under the AF mode selection and focus priority on, if subject tracking is warranted.

Shooting

Flow and motion. These are the two elements that give a stop motion video its strength. This also requires waiting for these moments to present themselves. “Always thinking about how you might play them back, will you slow down the motion or speed it up? Or will you keep it running as fast as it happened when you shot it.” In terms of the process, it usually begins by shooting many sequences and reviewing them instantly, this way your eye learns what works and what doesn’t.

“I think your own enjoyment of the process and result needs to come first. I don't go shooting thinking I'm only doing this for it to be great. What 'I think' makes a great video is the motion you capture, how you see and choose to present what you saw in the viewfinder. This particular video hasn't been meticulously crafted or storyboarded. It's simply the record of a journey.”

Post-Production

The most challenging part of the process is the editing. Simply importing the images is an effort, after much research Alex found that he must resize the images to the video projects working resolution, then pull in the sequences in groups at a time. Trying to upload all at once may bring up error reports.

Whilst much of stop motion is down to the subject that is being captured and how the scenes flow, Alex shares his 5 top tips and tricks to refine your process:

• Learn to use manual mode, I often try guessing the exposure required for a scene before lifting the camera to my eye. It's a fun little game to play as you wander and explore. It also means you are always ready for any moment, when you walk indoors or from direct sun to shade or when edge lit silhouettes are presented, you will be ready. This is a must with stop motion as you don't want the shutter speed, aperture or ISO to change mid-sequence. You can of course use a Program Mode and press AE-L to hold camera settings between frames if your camera allows this and are familiar with shooting this way.
• Do not get caught up on having super smooth, tripod stable sequences. Thinking too much about the gear you have and operating it can and will detract from your travelling experience. The movement / motion of your own self as you capture the content adds to the viewing perspective. Of course use natural objects and your surrounds when available to help brace yourself over the few seconds to shoot the sequence.
• Review your work on the rear of the camera by simply scrolling through! If available, map the centre joypad button to do a 100% zoom to check focus of images you are reviewing.
• Don't forget to be present as you explore your surroundings, scanning for that next shot or cool moment and be spatially aware of your surroundings and enjoy where your feet have brought you!
• And finally, do not be afraid to try something new!

ABOUT ALEX

Alex describes himself as a dreamer, an adventurer, a traveller, a mountain biker, a foodie, a nerd, a music lover, a brother, a son. He craves the experience of discovery, of learning and sharing with others. He believes in trying and embrace failing in order to learn and give life everything he’s got. Hailing from Brisbane, Australia, he works full time as a wedding film maker and spends the rest of his time traveling abroad, mainly during the winter months.