Im just starting to build some kind of re-usable "stage" for my upcoming stop motion masterpieces. Im probably going to get into the whole Moco question, with stepper motors and arduinos and sliders etc.
Right now I have a slider, mounted on tripods, a few good lights... and...
An old table that I think would make the basis for a good "stage".
Before I jump right in Id like to ask a fw very simple questions to save me the heartache of finding out the long way. Hope you guys can oblige with your experience.

1) What is a good working height? Currently the table is just 40cms high and I was thing to increase it to about 1m, or 90cms. Assuming I will be sitting here for many hours leaning in and out, what would be a good ergonomic hight?

2)I have variable colour on my lights, and I may get arty (probably actually) with gels etc, but would you normally shoot tungsten or daylight colour?

3)Assuming I only have a regular slider for left/right moves, Are there any cool ways to track in and out (In the old days I used to move the whole scene (on squared paper to time to moves) towards the camera, but that was completely wrong really as the lights didnt move, so shadows would move... I didn't notice it much then, but I do now. Im think of making sliders on each side of my table that the camera slider can move on... Is this a known way? How DO you do tracks?

Im sure there will be many more questions... but maybe...

Can I ask?
Can you guys share pics of your stages, if they seem relevant to what IM try to achieve.
Maybe I can make a "build series" ? so here's my starting place...

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My personal preference is a tall, standing height animation table. If you make the table at a comfortable standing height, you can also just buy an adjustable height stool so that you can still sit and animate. This way, you have the best of both worlds.

I find it difficult to animate from a chair using mostly my upper body. When standing, I can easily re-position and balance myself while manipulating the puppet. In a chair, there's a lot more bending and leaning over if the puppet isn't easily accessible. So for example, if there's a character or prop in the background that you can't reach while sitting in a chair, you'd have to crouch and lean over to animate, which will wear you out pretty quick. 

For tracking in/out and left/right, I purchased this X-Slider that covers both directions. It can be animated by hand if you're comfortable with that. The only drawbacks I've found so far are that the tracks aren't very long, and if you position the camera at the ends of the tracks, the tracks will start to sag just a tad from the weight of the camera. I've sometimes used extra C-Stand arms to help support the tracks. 

Here are a couple of shots of my tiny shooting space. First image shows the X-Slider used in a funny way to get a top-down camera angle. It also shows the C-Stand arm used for support, and another C-Stand arm holding a small fan to keep the camera from overheating!

I had never seen an x-winder before.  That is amazing!  Scott, is your x-winder motorized or do you animate your camera moves by hand?

On the question of table height, I am with Scott. I prefer a standing table and generally build my tables at 43 inches. 48 inches is still a nice height and is easier for measurements and use of materials.  I generally build my entire table from plywood with and mdf top.  By gluing the plywood into L shapes (two 4 inch by 43 inch strips at a 90-degree angle) the tables are very sturdy and have next to no wiggle.

@Scott DaRos. (Hmm is there a tagging method in this site?
That X-slider looks absolutely fab! Im very impressed.
Do you see any reason why it might not be able to DIY it to be motorised?

And @Adam Taylor and scott. Thanks for feedback on height.
43 inches seemed too high to me, so I went with 36. After it was built I thought "Christ thats high".. but then I tried a little test, and it wasn't... so I appreciate that tip.
So this is my rig now!

That looks like a great set-up.  Enjoy animating again!  I'm so happy to hear of your return to the art form.

I usually animate camera moves by hand unless I'm working on a project with a moco operator. The X-Slider is nice and smooth and can be tensioned, so it's fairly simple as long as I measure my increments and figure out my timing beforehand.

The company that makes the X-Slider, Rat Rigs, also makes attachments for motorizing their sliders. I don't really know much about motion control systems so I'm not sure if you'd be able to get both axes motorized at once on the X-Slider.

My stages are folding rostrums, something that used to be used for stage and tv productions.  They come in various heights, I go for the 900mm (3 ft) height so I can animate standing up.  There is one shown opening up in my Tiedowns video at YouTube.  The idea is, the legs are a folding structure with hinges so it can fold flat for storage, and the top is a separate piece.  The ones for actors to walk on have 3/4" ply tops, and there is a small block in each corner on the underside that just fits into the rostrum and locates the top in place, and also keeps it square.  Mine only support stop motion sets and puppets so the tops are 12mm (1/2") particle board, and I usually just put 2 screws at opposite corners through the top into the rostrum to hold it secure.  I drill tiedown holes in the tops.  Plan of how the folding thing works:    

Here are 2 black ones (ex tv studio) with extra height to 1 metre high and caster wheels added, (note the bracing is done with ply triangles in the corners) and a roughly made one in natural pine (far right).  The casters help for moving the set around single handed, but need to be lockable so it doesn't move during animation.

That looks so fantastic, I can certainly see a good reason to be able to store them away. My setup Im working on is very fixed... not too heavy or huge as yet, but might think a bit about how I progress further.

I hope it makes sense for me to just carry on posting in my own thread?
Current progress now, is that I have bought the X-slider recommended by @Scott DaRos. Not arrived yet, but got a custom slightly longer width rail. My intention is to DIY some motors for both directions, using something like the Kinetic Armatures method.
One bit of kit IM having trouble finding is CHEAP pan and tilt hardware, again, something I can DIY motors to. Ive seen a few 3D printed things, but I havent started on THAT rabbit hole yet (probably will tho). The best I have seen (which includes motors) is the Noxon modules, but they add up to 300euros...

Has anyone seen anything on Amazon or similar that resembles this?

Finally... The tricky one... for the COMPLETE range of movement... (I might have to draw a picture for this... AND NOW I DID... see below)

How can I motorise the raising and lowering of the whole shabang?

As far as I can see there are 4 possible ways.
1) The X Slider is on wheels at the side and combined with tilt module we can get a raising and lowering (maybe annoying to have to move 2 axis for this simple move?)
2) The X slider is on pillars at each side of my stage, and these pillars can be raised and lowered. (best idea so far I think)
3) the camera mount + pan and tilt modules are on a kind of tripod... er pole... the type with an ratchet handle for raising and lowering (adds too much weight to pan/tilt camera module)
4)Similar to 1 above, but hanging from above, camera inverted (hmm interesting... thinking...)

I know this probably seems like overkill, but as the films I will be making involve very small models, basically macro, I really want precision in the camera moves, and to be able to set and forget while I concentrate on the puppet/model animation.

On the camera/moco rig issue, the rigs I have built have been done from scratch without a 3D printer, although having recently bought one I am keen to design some printable parts for the rig.

The big rig I constructed had 6 axes,T  Jib, Rotate, Pan, Tilt and Focus. So there is a central unit that travels along a track, with a wide rotating base. On this is mounted a jib arm, which is controlled with a ballscrew. The pan and tilt hang from the end of the jib and there are weights on the back.

Of course there is an issue with the jib arm in that the camera goes in an arc when it goes up and down, although I have not yet had a problem, and DF can handle having several motors going at once so you can get it straighter if you wish.

My small rig has only four axes,so lacks the up/down and rotation. The next one will be a small rig with all the axes.

The other route is along the lines of a 3D printer frame, and this is what Ditogear have done with their Cube. It seems to me that you would need a couple of steppers, one on each end, for the main travel axis, and the vertical axis needs to be well constructed to avoid any wobble. But it is a good design concept.

For the support platform, and this is good for sets as well, there are some neat wooden trestles from IKEA that have adjustment to their height. Solid and well made. They also have stocks of very useful paper measuring tapes!

Simon Tytherleigh said:

The big rig I constructed had 6 axes,T  Jib, Rotate, Pan, Tilt and Focus. 

My small rig has only four axes,so lacks the up/down and rotation.

Sounds like you a a bit of a pro at this...
Any chance of you posting pictures for inspiration?

Hi Mark

If you go to my Facebook page, Odd Planet Studios, you will find 3 pics of the pan/tilt head. I must put some more online of tbe whole rig, but these are a start!

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