Stop Motion Animation

Stop Motion Animation

by Timo van de Put

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Lighting the set

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Lighting determines the mood of the scene and highly influences the quality of the pictures captured by a webcam. Desk lamps are well suited for this purpose as they can be easily directed at proper angles. I use "lavender blue" light bulbs to compensate the lack of sensitivity for blue of a typical webcam. (Alternatively you could use halogen spots, as they also produce more blue light than a standard light bulb.)

Sunlight is about the worst lightsource for stop motion, as it is continuously changing by both the weather conditions and movement of the sun across the sky. To avoid problems it is a good idea to delay recording until after dark or else completely black out the room you work in. As LEGO bricks are very reflective, it is also a good idea to wear dark clothes that do not reflect light on the set, and to make sure you are not casting any shadows on the set while capturing frames.

Use the "basic cine" light setup to illuminate your scene with at least two light sources and a reflector:


Light source setup
  • The subject is located at the center of the "T" shape that determines the optimal location of the "key" and "edge" lights.
  • First position an undiffused "edge" lightsource at an angle behind the subject at one end of the top bar of the "T".
  • Then position a "reflector" (e.g. cardboard covered with aluminum foil) at the other end of the "T" to fill the front of the subject. This will fill in the dark shadows created by the edge light.
  • Position a diffused "key" light emulating the natural light source (like the sun for an outdoor schene) at an angle in front of the subject, at the base of the "T". You can use a professional diffusor filter, or create a primitive "dot" diffusor by positioning a small round piece of paper using metal wire to block the direct light from the desk lamp.
  • Often the background is now sufficiently lit by the spill light of desk lamps, but you could use an additional light source further away from your set to create the right mood. Always make sure you are not casting any shadow on the set.
  • If you are using a chroma key (blue screen) background, you will have to make sure this is evenly lit without reflecting light into the camera.

The result will be a well-lit subject that clearly stands out from the background.

Page last modified on November 10, 2007, at 10:36 PM