Camera Stand

Years ago when I was an art student, I was inspired by Russian, Eastern European, and Chinese animators who created films with paper cutouts, individuals like Yuri Norstein, Karel Zeman, and Bretislav Pojar. Norstein led the pack. In addition to his remarkable ability to bring puppets to life, he composed scenes with a multiplane camera, evident in films like The Hedgehog in the Fog and Tale of Tales. He animated characters on different layers of glass, displaying degrees of visual depth.

With those inspirations in mind, I directed Trawna tuh Belvul at the NFB, plus other projects, utilizing a multiplane camera. A downside to working with this technique was that it required specialized equipment, like a 35mm cine camera on a large rostrum and powerful quartz halogen lamps (I shudder to think how much electricity was required to to make the film, to power the lights and air conditioning to cool the studio). Organizing the cinematography required a lot of set-up time. Some shots needed hours and hours, even days and days, of careful maneuvering to get the lighting just right. I burnt out making Trawna and vowed from then on to stick to simpler methods of production. However, over time, I have come to miss the intrigue and inventiveness of this kind of animation making.

As digital cameras, software, and computer technology have evolved, it is now easy to gather one’s own gear.

To this end, I am researching ways to produce SLIP that will integrate cutouts, three-dimensional sets and props. And, I have notions of how to utilize a multiplane camera of sorts. I have begun to construct an animation stand, attached to an Ikea Ivar shelf unit.

Most of the materials for the stand, wood, screws, and plexiglass, are from a nearby hardware store, only a few blocks away. While constructing it, I sometimes walked there more than twice a day to fetch additional supplies.

I have deployed a Canon Rebel DLSR, plugged into Dragonframe. With the zoom feature on the camera, I don’t need a rostrum that trucks up and down towards the photography surface. Capturing at high-definition, I have the digital landscape on hand to then animate the images in After Effects. I won’t need to build an east-west panning device on the animation stand either.

I am devising a lower plane to accommodate strong illumination, to “key out luminance” from below the image plane and thus create transparent regions for compositing. This is an important feature and an essential reason for manufacturing the stand. Again, I will articulate this research in future posts. More is to come.

I came up with a way to mount two photo lights that I ordered from Cowboy Studio. I fashioned overhead light mounts using nuts and bolts from the hardware store plus beads from a craft shop. With this set-up, I don’t have to try and tuck lamp stands into what is already a small and confined production space.