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How to add hand-drawn animation onto puppet stop-frame animation?

Hello,

I have an idea for a scene in a puppet stop-frame animation I'm working on. What I'm trying to do sounds fairly simple, but I haven't done anything like this myself yet so I'm looking for advice, recommendations, and how-to's. 

I am creating a 3D physical outdoor set with a fruit tree. I want to add tiny ants crawling along the branch and chewing through the fruit. Because the ants would be so small and the little legs tricky to animate, I'm thinking this might work best to add the ants on in post in the form of hand-drawn animation?

Personally I've never done any hand-drawn animation and not sure what program / process might work best. With my puppet stop-frame's, I use Adobe Premiere Pro to put all my DSLR -> dragon frame captured stills into for editing.

Thanks for your help and time!

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I guess I could probably do it in TV Paint Animation, a 2d animation program with layers like Photoshop that I use for re-sizing and compositing my stop motion. ( There are many other 2d programs but I don't use them or know how they work.)  Put the tree footage in the lower layer, and draw on the layer above it.  But I don't really do drawn animation either, so maybe I would animate larger scale puppet ants against green screen.  Or, more likely, on a bit of matching close-up branch that I could blend in with the wider shot of the tree.  That would be my preferred method, I think, because the ants would cast shadows on the bark that make it look like they are really there.  Just the background behind the branch and ant might be green.  I would have to use After Effects to key that out, then save an image sequence in a format with Alpha channel so the background can be transparent.  Any program with layers would let you position the ant footage above the background shot, and scale it down to fit the tree image in the background.  Actually I'm sure you could just put your tree footage on the layer underneath in After Effects and do it all there, but I don't know how to do much in AE.  Then you erase the ends of the branch with a soft edge, or follow the cracks in the bark, to blend it into the tree.  You might also do some close ups of the ants and fruit - oversized fruit model? - using only the large scale set, if you want to see them as characters.  

I did do a 1:6 scale spider running around the set with my 11" tall human puppets once. I had a row of tiny pin holes on the set, about 5 mm apart, and a pin in the spider.  I would take it out, re-position the legs, then place the pin in the next hole. Seen small on screen, it gave the impression of the spider scuttling along.  But a spider, even my 1:6 scale one, is much bigger than an ant, its leg span was nearly as big as a US quarter or an Australian 20 cent piece.  I used 0.6 mm armature wire for the legs. I also had close-ups with a larger full scale spider puppet (4 or 5 inch leg span) so I could animate it better, and that is probably the way to go with the ants.

You should try out Tahoma2D it's a stop motion program that originates from toonz, now available as OpenToonz used for production by studio Ghibli. It's a traditional animation program and a workhorse at its best. Tahoma2D is opensource and free. It supports canon DSLR cameras. And to me it's like to combine two of my favourites in one. It doesn't have support for moco yet though. Here you can combine 2D animation with stop motion unlike any other program. I fell in love with Toonz in the 90' and the solid workflow it represented. I went absolutely wild when it became freeware. A single seat did cost over 10.000 USD back then.

Visit the discord channel of Tahoma2D and you'll get all the support you could dream of.

And get the program on www.tahoma2d.org 

See you there ...

Your thoughts are a tremendous help! I hadn't thought about the shadows until you mentioned it. Sounds like the best plan is making larger scale ants to animate. Thanks for all these tips. As always, you're a lifesaver! 

StopmoNick said:

I guess I could probably do it in TV Paint Animation, a 2d animation program with layers like Photoshop that I use for re-sizing and compositing my stop motion. ( There are many other 2d programs but I don't use them or know how they work.)  Put the tree footage in the lower layer, and draw on the layer above it.  But I don't really do drawn animation either, so maybe I would animate larger scale puppet ants against green screen.  Or, more likely, on a bit of matching close-up branch that I could blend in with the wider shot of the tree.  That would be my preferred method, I think, because the ants would cast shadows on the bark that make it look like they are really there.  Just the background behind the branch and ant might be green.  I would have to use After Effects to key that out, then save an image sequence in a format with Alpha channel so the background can be transparent.  Any program with layers would let you position the ant footage above the background shot, and scale it down to fit the tree image in the background.  Actually I'm sure you could just put your tree footage on the layer underneath in After Effects and do it all there, but I don't know how to do much in AE.  Then you erase the ends of the branch with a soft edge, or follow the cracks in the bark, to blend it into the tree.  You might also do some close ups of the ants and fruit - oversized fruit model? - using only the large scale set, if you want to see them as characters.  

I did do a 1:6 scale spider running around the set with my 11" tall human puppets once. I had a row of tiny pin holes on the set, about 5 mm apart, and a pin in the spider.  I would take it out, re-position the legs, then place the pin in the next hole. Seen small on screen, it gave the impression of the spider scuttling along.  But a spider, even my 1:6 scale one, is much bigger than an ant, its leg span was nearly as big as a US quarter or an Australian 20 cent piece.  I used 0.6 mm armature wire for the legs. I also had close-ups with a larger full scale spider puppet (4 or 5 inch leg span) so I could animate it better, and that is probably the way to go with the ants.

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