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Hi all,

I've been lurking a bit and I really appreciate the breadth of knowledge people are sharing here!

I'm looking for advice about setting up a small space for a beginner to work through the full process of stop motion animation. My partner is an accomplished artist who's been wanting to get into stop motion for many years. She has all the skills and experience she needs to set up scenes and make puppets and sets, the problem has always been getting space and equipment for a production. We're also going to be living in small-ish apartments for the foreseeable future and we have young children, so things get cramped and can't stay out where curious hands can find them. We finally got a reliable system in place for painting and illustrating last winter, which involved adding a folding extension with legs to a heavy-duty roll-away cart, and now I'd like to see if I can set her up for animation. We won't be able to do anything fit for more than a few seconds of video at first, and I expect she'd start with a mobile/tablet app rather than investing in cameras and software right away (and I know she'd rather make sets than work through post-production with green screens and things like that), I just want to have everything together so she can go through the whole process. I have two main questions:

First, can I set up a stage for things like tie downs and backdrops that can be attached and removed from a 4x4 foot tabletop? Does anyone have examples I could work from? Ideally this would be one piece because any bigger project has to be set up after kids' bedtime and stowed in a back room at the end of the night, but I'm open to any ideas people have.

Second, lighting. Can I just get an LED ring and other lights people have been using for home video setups during the pandemic? Would it be best to go for more professional, free-standing supports right away rather than finding ways to clamp things to furniture or whatever? Are there good lighting setups that can be collapsed and stowed? Lighting dim apartments has been a very common problem for all kinds of things, so I'd be willing to go for higher-end equipment here if I can afford it.

Finally, what other advice do you have about working in tight spaces? I'm not an animator, so if there are specific things that will be big challenges here I'd love to know ahead of time

Thanks!

Devin

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Hi Devin

Perfectly possible to have a small animating table. Here's an example of one that can be bought:

https://www.animationtoolkit.co.uk/aardman-armatures-stage/

In essence it is just a raised platform with plenty of access underneath, for the tie-downs. The table top can be something like 9mm MDF or perforated metal as in the one above, which can be used with magnetic feet.

It needs to be sturdy, and you will need to clamp it to the table underneath, so nothing moves around. The table underneath also needs to be solid and not wobble. There was a recent thread on designing an animating table that has some interesting ideas in it. Called 'Making a perfect animation table'. Have a look at the folding design posted by Nick.

You can use video lights, although often the challenge is to get them to focus down small. You are not lighting a large area after all! There are some compact LED panels that are good. I have also used small LED lamps as sold in IKEA, that clamp onto the edge of a table.

You might be able to install some lighting bars overhead, and hang lights from them, which would mean you did not have to pack the lights away each time. I have made some bars from wardrobe rails, and they work well. You need to have a good clamping system to attach and detach the lights, but there are things on eBay for that. Otherwise a Manfrotto Magic Arm is brilliant, like this:

https://www.manfrotto.com/uk-en/photo-variable-friction-arm-with-br...

Go for the one with a knob rather than the one with a handle.

Finally a sturdy tripod is a good idea.

I am sure others will chip in, but hopefully that's a start!

I have made an animation on what really was an old door on top of a few paint tubs !! You could just clamp some small LED lights on these cheap light poles to the table top

https://amzn.to/3aa2kPH

If you have a hard wood or non carpet floor I would say get a glue gun and stick everything down, tripod, table, lights the lot!!  To get it all back up just squirt the glue with lighter fluid to soften!

Here's one I used to use based on a workmate, it was pretty stable and could all be folded away.Keith

Here's an idea!

I myself have two boys age 5 and 7, which can show to be a challenge at times ;) But luckily I got 9 square meters with a door, even though that it's open all the time, they for some reason respect the stuff, and don't mess with it ... for now, that is.

What about finding a piece of folding corner furniture with doors, and build a set in that. Off cause it would need to be secured to the walls, to make it absolutely stable. And probably have some modification and reinforcements as well. But I think it would be nice to be able to fold it up and out of reach while parenting :)

The one on this foto would probably have to have the sides on the top part go on hinges as well, to be able to open it fully. This old IKEA furniture called ALVE is not on sale anymore. But you get the idea.

The best would of cause be to rent her a studio space and install a nanny ;)

Attachments:

So many great responses, thanks everyone!

For what it's worth, I animate on a small secondhand desk, 44cm by 90cm (17in x 35in) in a rental with carpet. I use two pieces of wood screwed together at a funny angle so I can put my camera in the step and have it line up with the 'floor'. This has a few pros and cons. I can't animate under it with tie downs, but my puppets are tiny and double-stick tape works for their feet. Another pro, the second overhanging gap lets me clamp my lights to the table under the set, and the back lip lets me attach backdrops directly to the desk or use it to bounce light. The most important thing for me is the camera and lights are attached to the desk. When (not if) the desk moves everything goes with it and my scene is safe. I can also take it off, like I've done in the current scene, to move the camera more freely.  It's not ideal, but I hope some of the ideas are useful!

Sorry, couldn't figure out how to add other pictures until it was too late, here's the wooden step sandwich. If you can image it sitting on the desk, the Ikea light clamps under the gap and the camera stand fits in the step. The lights are just ikea tertial stands (which do the job but I hate them!) and the ikea Tradfri lightbulbs inside so I can change the color temperature. I put some diffusion cloth over the ends with a bit of elastic so the light isn't as harsh. As for more expensive lights, I have a genaray LED panel with adjustable color temperature but it gives me headaches when its on, so i really limit the usage.

The things that bug me the most are cables, which are perpetually in the way, and the Tertial stands aren't as flexible as I would like. I'll think of something eventually, it's very much a work-in-progress and the result of a few years of trying to work in a tiny room.

Attachments:

I like the use of bounce light there!  

A small unit that sits on a desk is a good approach, raised up a little if you need to reach under for tiedowns, but in this case you don't need that.

And that's a good point, about everything moving together... "when not if" is absolutely right, doesn't matter what the setup.  I have a sturdy tripod and light stands, but sooner or later I bump into something, and with mine they don't all move together.

Thanks everyone for your input. This is what I came up with; I sort of combined the Aardman stage design and StopmoNick's rostrom setup. My carpentry skills are marginal and the rostrom was cut out of a leftover plywood panel with a jigsaw, so it's ugly but I'm happy with it. The table is 18"x24" and about a foot high. If anyone wants plans or a parts list just let me know and I'll put something together. The one thing I will say is that I went with a 19 gauge steel sheet for the top with 3/16 drillings and 51% open area, and it's flexible enough that I had to put extra screws around the edges to keep it in place. Not sure how it'll hold up long-term. I'd go with something thicker if I did it again.

I coughed up the money for the Manfrotto variable friction arm Simon recommended and I'm glad I did - it seems like it's going to save a lot of effort in several different ways. I also can't imagine how it works internally. Like at all.

My partner is very excited about it! I'll point her here for any future forum needs.

I like this setup but I don't know how she's going to wind up doing tie-downs, etc., so I wanted to use a perforated sheet for the top. I am curious about that case in the background though. Did that come with a product or did you buy it somewhere? I've been looking all over for a case like that big enough to hold the stage when it's packed up but I can't find one anywhere.

Keith Adams said:

Here's one I used to use based on a workmate, it was pretty stable and could all be folded away.Keith

Thanks! I had been thinking about getting free-standing light supports but after your comments I changed my design to include a wide rim so everything could be secured directly to the stage. I went with a tabletop tripod and telescoping pillars with ball mounts at the end for set/light supports. I figure we can find lights and fixtures that either clamp to the pillars or fit a standard screw mount. We'll see how it goes!

Aela Wild said:

For what it's worth, I animate on a small secondhand desk, 44cm by 90cm (17in x 35in) in a rental with carpet. I use two pieces of wood screwed together at a funny angle so I can put my camera in the step and have it line up with the 'floor'. This has a few pros and cons. I can't animate under it with tie downs, but my puppets are tiny and double-stick tape works for their feet. Another pro, the second overhanging gap lets me clamp my lights to the table under the set, and the back lip lets me attach backdrops directly to the desk or use it to bounce light. The most important thing for me is the camera and lights are attached to the desk. When (not if) the desk moves everything goes with it and my scene is safe. I can also take it off, like I've done in the current scene, to move the camera more freely.  It's not ideal, but I hope some of the ideas are useful!



Devin said:

I like this setup but I don't know how she's going to wind up doing tie-downs, etc., so I wanted to use a perforated sheet for the top. I am curious about that case in the background though. Did that come with a product or did you buy it somewhere? I've been looking all over for a case like that big enough to hold the stage when it's packed up but I can't find one anywhere.

Keith Adams said:

Here's one I used to use based on a workmate, it was pretty stable and could all be folded away.Keith

Hi Devin, Are you in the UK, try a search for aluminium tool cases this deal at B&Q looks pretty good

https://www.diy.com/departments/17-aluminium-1-compartment-tool-cas...

or you could try searching flight cases, probably a bit more expensive.

I like your solution, always wondered about going for a perforated floor but also keen to try magnets, at the moment still drilling holes through ply and filling them again.

Cheers......Keith

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