Short Films: Tell Stories with Stop-Motion | PES | Skillshare

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Short Films: Tell Stories with Stop-Motion

teacher avatar PES, Oscar + Emmy-Nominated Animation Artist

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.



    • 4.

      Storytelling and Humor


    • 5.

      Communicating with Your Audience


    • 6.

      Animation Technique and Philosophy


    • 7.

      Sketching Your Ideas


    • 8.

      Starting Your Animation


    • 9.

      Editing Your Animation


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About This Class

Learn to craft a witty and surprising 1-6 second film. In this one-hour class, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker PES walks through his creative process for developing concepts, crafting narratives, capturing film, and editing a final stop-motion piece. This whimsical class is perfect for artists, filmmakers, storytellers, and marketers all looking to quickly engage and delight audiences.


Meet Your Teacher

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Oscar + Emmy-Nominated Animation Artist


PES is an American director and stop-motion animator of numerous short films and commercials. In 2013, his short film Fresh Guacamole was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. (It is the shortest film ever nominated for an Oscar.) With over a billion consolidated views online it is now the most viewed Oscar short of all time, more than any Disney or Pixar short. 

Receiving a B.A. in English Literature at the University of Virginia, PES migrated to film as a storytelling medium. His use of everyday objects and stop-motion animation to create original material is instantly recognizable. His work has been recognized in the United States and internationally, especially the short films Roof Sex, KaBoom!, Game Over,&nb... See full profile

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1. Trailer: I'm PES, I live in Santa Monica, California, and I make short films. My goal is always to make you look at something familiar in a different way. It just has to be the appropriate length that leaves the viewer satisfied but yet also wanting a little more. Short can be powerful. This class is about using film to communicate an idea in a short period of time. You're going to make a very short film that shows us something that people haven't seen before. This class is for people who have experimented with animation before, and it's even for those people who haven't experimented but have always wanted to. I'd rather make a one-minute film that people watch five times than a five minute film that people can only watch one minute of. I have a lot of these thoughts that, I don't know what else to do with them except for make films about them. If you know in your heart that it is as well told as you can possibly tell it, and that people connect with it, I think people connect with it. 2. Introduction: Hey, I'm Pes, living in Santa Monica, California. I make films, short films, seen them on the Internet. I often manipulate objects in interesting ways, and this is my class. In my mind, a short film is like a dollhouse. It's like it could be perfect. It's like you could work on every little tiny thing and you can look at this thing and finish it, and it can be perfect. A feature film is like a real house, it can never be perfect. There's always something else to do that you never get to. There's always something breaking, there are always something. So, I think you have to just accept that that's the way it is, and that's one of the reasons I'm attracted to the short format, it's because this is the one place where I can make a film exactly as I want it and no one can stand in my way, really. My goal is always to make you look at something familiar in a different way. It just has to be the appropriate length that leaves the viewer satisfied, but yet also wanting a little more. Short can be powerful. This class is about using film to communicate an idea in a short period of time. You're going to make a very short film that shows us something that people haven't seen before. It's an interesting thing for me to be able to call out some of these associations that are in the objects around us. What it comes down to, for me, is ideas. What is it that you want to express or show the world? That's where your energy should be. If you know in your heart that it is well told as you can possibly tell it and that people connect with it, I think people connect with it. As a filmmaker, I always believed in making my own films and sharing them with the world. It didn't seem like such a adventurous philosophy to me, it just seemed to make sense. I make something, I put it out there, see what happens, share it with people. Every little bit of your decision to put something in front of a camera is what makes the difference in whether a film connects or it doesn't connect. It's not the camera and it's not the frame grabbing software, the lights, or anything else around it, it's the ideas behind what you put in front of the lens. 3. Inspiration: Well, the thing about making films is it's a dialogue with the viewer. It's very much like communication between the viewer or maybe I'm like a dealer of cards, maybe that's a better metaphor. I put one down in hopes that you want to see the next one. If you don't want to see the next one, then I guess I failed as a filmmaker. Like each shot is something that makes you want to know what's going to happen next. So, one of the challenges when you work with objects is that whenever you're really looking for something, you can't find it. So, part of going around the world looking at different places is to know where I need to go, when I need it because I never know when I'm going exactly needed to make an idea or a film. So, I also buy things sometimes just because I think I'll use them in the future, but I just don't have the opportunity yet. I like to go to antique stores and flea markets around the world because you get to see a lot of awful stuff that people have made. It's amazing what people have produced and what they sell. But at the flea market, you see such a wide variety of errors of object and there's new, there's old, there's all these different things, so you never know what's there. I grew up painting, learning how to paint different techniques and printmaking and whatever. Ideas, I've always valued my own ideas, and I feel like anyone who traffics in their own ideas has experienced what it's like to wake up in the middle of the night with a great idea, and then in the morning you can't remember it. So, I got into the habit pretty early on of writing down everything that I come up with. So, for awhile, before we all had these cell phones and our smartphones in our pocket, I would just carry a piece of pen and paper around and draw stuff, write ideas down, keeping track of everything. What happens is you can come up with certain ideas I feel like I can't get rid of. They start bugging me and nagging me until the only way for me to free myself from them is to make the film, and that's really like my process. There is certain amount of ideas that just bug me so much that I just have to make them until they are done, and then I can free up a little extra hard drive space to work on new stuff. So, I'm constantly working on several different projects at the same time. It's almost like I've got a folder in my brain that I put the idea in, and then when the folder becomes stuffed enough, I'm filled with enough ideas then for me it's like a go. I can't ignore it and it starts bugging me so much that I just have to make the film. I just believe in being aware of what's going on in your own brain or things that cross your mind and you don't necessarily know how you might use them, but they strike you as interesting, write it down. Anything can be turned into a great idea, you never know where they're going to come from. Sometimes it's something you overhear in a store or sometimes it's a perception walking on a flea market I see something, that looks like this or this reminds me of that, and it's the connections are made on so many levels, you never know. A lot of the films that I've made really come because I've had one particular idea that I built the entire film around. So, for instance, when I did Game Over in 2006, I remember reading online some interview with the creator of Pac-Man, that the Pac-Man character was based on a pizza with a slice missing. That's a great idea, interesting, but we've never really thought about that. We played the game hundreds of times but never really thought about that. But by that logic, what would all other video games look like? So, it was born an idea for me. So, that's it. I just ran with that idea. If pizza was a Pac-Man, then what would be centipedes, asteroids, whatever. For Fresh Guacamole, ever since I've been a little kid, I walk into a supermarket and you see a big pile of avocados, and I always think grenades. If I grab one and throw it, I can blow up the produce department, and I love that idea of grenade is avocado. So, I immediately was thinking how can I use that idea? I need a film or something that would allow me to show people that idea, express that idea, grenade is avocado. So, what do I make? It's a cooking film kind of like my film Western Spaghetti, what do you make with an avocado? There's only one answer to that question, really. It's like guacamole. So then, it's like, "Okay. Now, I have the main tentpole of my film that's holding everything up. Let's see if I can fill it out. It's like a game that I play with myself. It's like what are the onions? What looks like an onion? It's kind of like a baseball, kind of like a softball. Then, when you cut it up, how do you cut up an onion for a guacamole? You chop it in this fine things, they say it's dicing, so what would I use? Well, there's the answer. You use dice because it carries that association, it carries that wordplay with it. So there. Okay. So, I now have avocado, I have onion, now I need a tomato, now I need jalapeño, whatever it is, then I evaluate all the ideas and I'm like, "Okay. Do I have enough good ideas in here to fill out this entire film?" But it all comes back down to having the first idea that I really liked, and I immediately saw myself cutting a grenade. I call it an avocado because that's how I think of it now. I bake my ideas for a long time, I work on them. I have an initial idea which is, for instance, a grenade is an avocado. I know I'm going to cut through this grenade, I could see it. You're going to hear the sound of an avocado, but you're going to visually see grenade. It's going to work. I believe it's going to work, I can see it. Then around that, like I said, it's a combination of working on it hard and then just letting other things filter in and add to it. So, I would say I work on this for a couple of years before I make them. So, with my film The Deep, which is the one that I made the underwater, the deep-sea creatures, I had been at a flea market and I saw this one particular tool that reminded me very much of a deep-sea creature fish type thing, and then the notion for that film really came from that which is like, "Oh. Yeah, they do sort of resemble deep-sea creatures." It carries with this other association which is who knows what's at the bottom of the ocean. We throw a lot of trash in the ocean and old stuff, who knows what's down there. There could be these old unused tools from centuries ago. So, with that in mind, for years, it took me about five years. But every time I was at a flea market and I saw some spare part or tool that reminded me of a sea creature, I bought it, put it in a drawer, and five years later, I was ready to make the film. I looked at the drawer and I was like, "I had the opportunity, I've had some financing." I looked around me, I said, "This is the idea. I have enough tools, I have the ideas, it's time for this idea to go." So, I made it. What's exciting is bringing life to things that were never meant to be brought to life. I think that there's great joy in that not only for me as a creator, but for a viewer to look around the world and see that there's something sitting there on the kitchen table that can become something else or it was very similar to this and, "Oh, I hadn't thought about that." I think that's exciting. There's a certain childlike way of looking at the world that I'd tried to capture in my films. I think it really comes down to the fact that when we were children, we played with toys. We got onto the ground and we've moved our cars around and we played with things at their level. So, I remember it wasn't just driving the car around, it was like getting down into that world and really moving that car. So, you enter that world and this is what children do, they play with objects. I feel like I'm always playing, and part of what I do is I try to work on my ideas and get them to a certain point. But once you're actually working with the materials, new ideas come. You're able to add things by simply playing around with them. You make little discoveries and you stick that on the film. So, for sure, the playing never stops. I think for me, I have to feel that I have enough ideas, enough tentpoles to hang the circus. There's a three-ring circus, it's not like a one-ring circus. 4. Storytelling and Humor: My goal is always to make you look at something familiar in a different way. I'd rather make a one minute film that people watch five times than a five minute film that people can only watch one minute of. In some ways I think all films can be reduced to idea of, do you want to know what happens next? I mean, if you don't want to know what happens next in a film, you walk out of the theater or you check out and you do something else, or you go to the next video. So for me, keeping a viewer engaged is a little bit of a dance back and forth that goes back to the idea that I show images to create a desire in a viewer to see more, and you're teased to shot by shot through the film until you get to the end, and then in the best cases, in my opinion, the end shows you something that puts a twist on what's come before. It feels like, in terms of looking for the right ending for any of your films, it's always about finding the ending that is logical and inevitable but yet unexpected. I'm a big believer in you shouldn't shoot your film until you know the beginning, middle, and ending. You don't have to know all the details but you have to know where you're going in a film before you start out. It's very important. So, many films, like so many feature films, fall apart in the third act. It's very difficult to finish a film, and with a short film, it's like you got to figure out just the same. You've got to figure out how you're going to leave the audience. What's the mindset or the moment in which you're out of there and you leave them with something to think about, and that's really important to get that right. Let me give you an example of how I've teased the viewer through a film. So, the beginning of my fresh Guacamole is a knife being sharpened. That's the very first shot. The very first shot is like an opening, it's like a topic sense. The topic is we're going to be cutting stuff here, and I think, naturally, people are drawn to the sharpening of a knife. We're going to be wielding this thing. What's going to happen? The next shot is a bowl of grenades that look slightly like avocados but they look like grenades, too. So that in itself, when I'm showing the viewer, the result that I'm looking for is, "Oh, it's a bowl of grenades. That's interesting. What's he going to do with that? Where is this going?" See, all of a sudden it's a hook, becomes a little hook for a viewer. They want to know what happens next. So, the next shot is I'm going to start cutting it, and then it starts to dawn on the viewer that it's treating this grenade like an avocado. That was interesting. Then we move on to the next ingredients. Each ingredient gets, it's almost like a two part joke. So, you'd pluck the jalapeño from the tree. It's a it's like a Christmas bulb, and then the next thing is you slice it. So again, the first shot creates, "Oh, he plucks this thing. What's he going to do with it?" The next shot answers the question. He's going to slice it open, but then there's another thing that he can do with it, which is remove the filaments, which is similar to removing the hot part of the seeds of the center of the jalapeño. So, there are these connections there, but each shot moves that forward just a little, so much that you you want to know what happens next if I've done my job. There's always the chance that a viewer might encounter it and say, "This isn't interesting to me. "This is pretty stupid." and that doesn't matter. I mean, that really doesn't matter. It's not the point. The point is I do believe that if you make something that pleases yourself, if you know in your heart that it is as well told as you can possibly tell it and that people connect with it, I think people connect with it. It's really important that you finish your film on a strong note to find the right ending. The thing that's going to stick in the heads of the people viewing your films the most is the ending, not the beginning. So, it's really important that you find the right outpoint when you're making a film, whether it's one second long or it's three hours long. Now, the last thing that you show them is going to be the thing that looms the largest in their heads. It's going to be the thing that gives them the feeling of how they should feel about a film. It's punch line, basically. An example I could give you from my own work is, I did Western Spaghetti and Fresh Guacamole, and while I am happy with the result of both films, one of my challenges in Western Spaghetti was to find an ending that felt appropriate but exciting, and that ending never really came. You could notice the last shot of that film that's just the plate of spaghetti being presented as a diner is just having dinner alone. There's a candle lit flickering in the background, and for me, it was always a little anticlimactic. As hard as I could try to find the right ending for that film, I never found that really strong punch that I would want at the ending. By contrast, Fresh Guacamole, I was able to get to that point where I found a punch line. The idea, first of all, the first idea is that the film was always going to end on eating a chip because that's a great sound, and you don't have to see that on film but you could hear that. It's a very definitive thing, a crunch. It's like, it's over. I didn't have the idea of of breaking the chip all along. That was something that came up in the production process but fit nicely. Once I put a couple of different versions of the ending together in an animatic, I was able to see that that chip breaking was just a little twist at the end that added a laugh, and that itself is a nice way to end the film. It's a punchline or it's that little twist at the end that leaves people with a positive impression. So, I personally feel like things fell together in that particular film and in a cleaner way at the end, but I'm always looking for that moment, that thing to end on that you're going to remember. When I first started out, my first job out of college really was working in a large ad agency in New York, and I was watching a lot of films in the late 90's and films, music videos, short films, commercials from all around the world. There was some really adventurous stuff being done at that time in advertising. There were some countries that you could show anything on TV, and it was amazing how funny some of these things were and what they could get away with in these other countries that you would never put it on TV in the United States. I was a student of those those ads, and what I had perceived was that in many cases, they were really just short films that were really good, and they just happen to have a product at the very end, and a punchline that led you all the way up to the end, and then just kind of socked you right in the jaw, and then delivered the logo or the product or the message. I had perceived that that was a quality in a successful short format thing, and I had adapted it. I adapted it for my own work. My very first film was Roof Sex which was the two chairs that have sex on a roof. They escape on a hot day, get up onto the roof, have sex. It could have just been furniture porn, two chairs having sex the whole time, but I tried really hard to find a storyline there that, again, would culminate in a punchline. In that case, the idea was the two chairs have sex and in the process, they tear themselves up, and when grandma gets home and finds her chairs all torn up, what does she do? She can't figure it out, so she blames the cat, and so the very last second of the film is she takes a swipe at the cat with a broom, and you hear the screech. It was the way I ended that film. I think it took the film to another level then just like a novelty joke about two chairs that have sex. It made a film, really, that you had to watch from beginning to end because you didn't quite get it all unless you watch to the very end. It's as simple as that. When you structure a film around a punchline that happens at the end, it has this effect of making everything that comes before it, essential. You get teased through a film. You don't know what's going to happen next. If you hold back from the viewer until the very end, then it essentially means that your viewer has to watch the film, the entire film, in order to figure out how it ends, and a viewer naturally wants to know how things work out or how something ends. That's just something that's part of our psychology. It's like we want to know how it turns out. It's almost like you want to stimulate that in a viewer and get them really itchy to know what happens next, and that's one of the techniques that I have employed many times. 5. Communicating with Your Audience: Really, I'm not looking for approval on my ideas, but what I'm looking for is really whether or not I'm communicating clearly. That's something I value highly in my films. Do people get it? Do you know what that is? What do you think of when this shot comes before that shot? Does it make you feel differently about the ending? There's a variety of things I might ask someone. I've asked taxi drivers, I've ask cable guys, I've asked just random people here or there if ever happen. Now, it's even easier because I have a cell phone. So it's like, "Hey, I've got these three designs, what do you think of this? Is this communicating? Do you see these? Is this drawn the right way?" I do workshop my ideas out in the real world to get some valuable feedback, but a lot of what I do really comes down to, have I worked on those ideas enough in my own head? Do I feel like this is what I want to go forward with? I put a high value on telling my films in the least number of shots as possible. It's one of these things I've always been invited to go and judge film festivals and before that, I just used to go to film festivals and I always used to be amazed at the short film festival. How is it possible that I could be watching a two minute film or a four minute film and feel like I'm going kill myself because it's too long? It's just something I personally feel that an artist or a filmmaker should know the length of their own idea. It just has to be the appropriate length that leaves the viewer satisfied, but yet also wanting a little more. When I post my films online, I try to pack my films with a lot of details, things in the background that you don't see the first time. So, it encourages viewers to go back to the beginning and re-watch and discover new things. I feel like a great film should reward multiple viewings. Everything that you choose to put in front of the camera impacts a viewer. Whether or not they tune in or tune out to your idea. It's when people lose interest that you felt as a filmmaker in general to captivate people for the length of time that your idea exists. So for me, it's very important and ask yourselves this question, are you engaging the viewer from the get-go? Have you captured my attention immediately so that I want to see how things end? Even if it happens in as short as three seconds, I feel like it's going to have these elements of I'm interested. Show me something that I haven't seen before or a new way of looking at the world or just something that I may not have considered and there it is on film, I'm now looking at something totally new. As a filmmaker, you're always your own best audience, but you have to be hard on yourself. You have to be willing to cut your baby up and leave it on the cutting room floor. An animation in particular put so much time into making things move and c you know how much work went into it and you're attached to it. But, you have to be ruthless in terms of cutting it up so that the viewer only gets what they absolutely need versus all this extra stuff. Ask yourselves always do I need this shot? If it's three shots to tell this sequence is there any way I could do it in two shots? Is a question that I'm constantly asking myself. Anything you put in front of the lens I encourage students to have the conviction and the comfidence that this is how it should be done. You have to speak as a filmmaker from a place of confidence. It can be a complete charade. I'm testimony to that because I'm always wondering whether there's a different way up to the very moment I shoot. There might be a better way, I'm really hard on myself but I'm also nervous that I've missed something along the way. But when I put something in the camera, you just have to believe wholeheartedly about what it is you're putting there. In fresh Whac-A-Mole, I needed you to see a grenade and think of avocado. In order to communicate that, I had to do research and see exactly how talented chefs use the knife to open the avocado and then take the pit out and mimic that, but do it with a certain degree of confidence. Then of course, the sound design all helps sell it to you as you see grenade but you think of avocado. You know exactly what it is. The really the right length for that film is how many good ideas do I have and how long can those ideas sustain a film that would be of interest to people and myself? I do believe that as a filmmaker, you're your own best audience. I'm making films first and foremost for myself to express upon myself but I also tried to become the audience for my own films. It's funny because when I was a kid, you walked around the video store when they head video stores, and I always had this sense that the kind of film that I wanted to see wasn't actually on the shelf. I still have this sense that like the kind of film that I really want to sit in a theater and watch just doesn't exist. So, therefore, there was a space there in which I could start creating my own ideas. 6. Animation Technique and Philosophy: So, this is kind of like sketching. This is my version of sketching. It's a pretty low pressure situation here. Again, one of the things I want to point out is that, part of the excitement of this medium for me is that when I have an idea, such as I'm going to use this pencil, and strike it as a match is I don't know a 100 percent that it's going to work. The whole reason for me to shoot it is because it's a little challenge to myself. It's exciting for me to find out whether I can make this work. Can I sell you as a viewer the idea of using a pencil as a match? It's just a notion I have. The whole idea of making that into a film, is for me a test to see whether or not I can do it or not and that's fun. So, now that I have the match lifted off the table, I have to figure out how to get the flame to hover above the tip of the match right there so it looks like a flame. So basically, I need to figure out a way in which I can attach these two things. So, what I do is use boogers. A pile of boogers that I've collected since I've been a little kid. They work really well. But actually, no. It's a little block of beeswax that I've kept for a while. You could use anything. You could use like sticky tack that you buy at a hardware store, or just variety of different things. Anything that will allow you to stick to different surfaces. Because I don't want my camera to see this, I have to hide it behind the pencil. So, basically on the far side of the pencil, I'm going to make this little. I'm going to stick this right to the green because nothing sticks to this rubber eraser. So, I'm going to stick this little wax there. You can see, I've left a little bit at the end here, where I then, can use that to hold the candy corn if all things work well for me. It will appear ultimately if it works, and it may not work today to stick there. So, if I want to manipulate it, I can now move it around. That's it. I like that frame. Let me take two shots. So now, since I'm trying to create this sense of the flame flickering, I'm going to use a different size candy corn. We're going to see what happens. So, I really started out with this idea, and I've used this idea before of a candy corn as a flame. But I haven't used it in this particular way before. What I'm doing here that's different is using the concept of striking a match. So, I'm now going to use the candy corn as my flame on a mass strike. So, the question in my head was, well, what do I use as the match? So, I start looking for connections with objects. Well, if the candy corn is my flame, it's never going to be any bigger than a candy corn when it's a flame. So, what is long and wooden and maybe has a tip like a matchstick? I just thought pencil. A pencil is like that. Even better, the way we use pencils on a paper to erase something, it's almost similar to the way in which a match is struck across the surface. So, there's that connection there. I always look for those kinds of connections in my films because it somehow makes the film feel like there was a logical connection versus just a random selection of objects. That's what I'm going for in this particular piece. All right. Now, again working with objects can be challenging because they never behave like you want them to behave. That's what it comes down to. So, sometimes things go smoothly, and then sometimes things are surprisingly difficult. But that's part of the art of animating with objects. Things don't necessarily behave we want them. Now, I'm not really liking that. To me, it's a little too slow for what a flame does. I really need a flicker. So, I'm going to go back to the large candy corn. Going for something a little bit more. Here we go. So, now my pencil has moved a little bit. So, I'm now comparing and contrasting my live frame, my previous frame. Now, yeah. The flame is starting to flicker. So here, I have a whole set up with my candy corns, where I have just an X-Acto knife, and I'm making these different stage candy corns. So, here my little yellow chunks. Here are my full-size ones. Then I have a couple medium-size tips here. So, I've just simply used an X-Acto knife with the candy corn to cut it into these increments that I can then alternate on screen to create the sense of a flickering flame. So, now I'm going to exit frame with the pencil and the flame. What happens? A lot of times what I do is I study footage, or I take my own new footage of the action that I'm trying to replicate because flames in this case, behave in a certain way. I want to capture those details when manipulating a candy corn to act like a flame. So, in this particular case, when a match is pulled out of frame, the candy corn itself will tilt. Just like a real flame would in the wind, it would follow the match. It wouldn't stand upright the whole time. So, I'm going to try to mimic the way a real flame works. When it's being pulled out of frame. So, my rig in this scenario allows me to work with the software and work with the objects without having to hold the pencil in midair. So, on a film like I've done like Fresh Guacamole or Western spaghetti, where you see my hands in the film, those aren't films that I can create alone. Because I need the help of a co-animator for that because my hands will be in position in frame, and I won't be able to control the software, or I won't be able to work with the objects that are outside of what's in my hand. So, that's why that film is a layer of complexity above this. Something that you could do at home, simply just by setting up a little stage anywhere you want. As long as you could figure out a way to get the objects rigged up and keep your hands free, you're good to go. So, what we're doing. This is all very much experimental. I'm just feeling my way through it. A lot of people ask me, "How do you know how much to move something." The answer is I just have a feeling for it having done it a lot, and when I first started out, I didn't know whether or not I had a facility for this medium. It's something that I learned in the process of making my first film. Did I like the process of moving objects and manipulating things? Did I have the ability to breathe life into these inanimate things? Did it come easy for me? Did I feel like it came to me naturally? The answer to that question was yes. But I didn't discover that until I went through the process of making a film that I was drawn to this medium. Now it's not a mathematical. Actually, I would say that this medium is a kind of wonderful hybrid between math and art because, on the one hand, I'm relying on my intuition about how much to move something because, and on the other hand, I am making calculations in my head based around if I need 12 positions for every frame, 24 frames, how quickly do I want this thing to go. So, it's something that you get a feel for the more you play with the medium, but there is no answer to that question, and that's what I like about it. Like I said, it's kind of like sketching. It's a free form thing that you just feel your way through to create something. You rely on your own intuition, and it is satisfying that way when things work out and can be frustrating when things don't work out and they sometimes don't. But that's part of the process. It's a process of discovery. Now, again, one of the things I'm working towards here is I hear in my head what a match strike sounds like, and that's probably different than what your match strike sounds like. There are little details in it that I'm thinking about that might be different than the next person. So, in my head, I'm working towards a particular sound that will work when I connect it to this video, and that's what makes each video very personal is that if you guys were to do the same exact video, it would come out a little bit differently, and there might be some interesting discoveries there. Sometimes I have to go back to lead a frame, reshoot a frame. Sometimes I often manage multiple animators on a production, and when I'm doing that, I'm not animating myself, but I have to keep tabs on everything that they're doing, and sometimes that requires pulling back to reshoot a couple frames. That's why this software is valuable to the process because it allows one to go back to a very specific frame, delete things and start over without losing everything that was working. Again, my core idea in this is to sell you, as the viewer, this idea that I could use a pencil as a matchstick and a candy corn as a flame. Can I make you think or believe that they are both candy corn and a pencil and flame and matchstick? That for me in this particular case is interesting for me, but it's also I think an interesting thing for a viewer. It's an interesting thing for me to be able to kind of call out some of these associations that are in the objects around us. In this particular case, that a pencil has a resemblance to a matchstick in the way that we use it and that a candy corn looks like a flame. Can I get you to look at both of those objects in a slightly different way? That's what this is all about. With all my films, I like to know the beginning, middle and ending before I start shooting. I have this kind of feeling that a lot of people just want to start shooting before they've really worked on their idea as much as they should. I personally work on my ideas a lot longer than I spend shooting. This process that you're seeing here is the very last step in a much longer process of coming up with the idea, deciding that that idea is worth shooting. How am I going to angle it or light it or whatever? This is slightly misleading in the sense that this is a pretty low-key scenario here, and I've already established that it's kind of my version of sketching. But with my short films, like Fresh Guacamole, the actual shooting of the film is it takes a long time, but it's not anywhere near as long as I've baked the ideas in my brain. So, some of these ideas I've been working on for years. What it comes down to for me is ideas. What is it that you want to express or show the world?That's where your energy should be. Try to bring the camera out at the last possible moment because the camera doesn't make the film. It's your brain and what you do with the objects or what you put in front of the lens, that's where all your energies should be. For me, I like to test my ideas out on people. I like to think about them, write them in notebooks, look at them from different angles, consider all options. For me, the process of coming up with an idea is kind of like leaving no stone unturned. For me, the fear I have is that I will wake up one day after having made a film and think, "Oh my god, I missed the easiest best clearest way to do something." So I sort of live in a fear of that and I try to avoid the notion that I would someday regret having missed the easiest, straightest, clearest way to do something. So, what I do in my process is I try to think through every angle to consider all possibilities before I even set the camera up and consider shooting. I try to solve the issue as much as I can before shooting it. Every little bit of your decision to put something in front of a camera is what makes the difference in whether a film connects or doesn't connect. It's not the camera and it's not the frame-grabbing software or the lights or anything else around it. It's the ideas behind what you put in front of the lens. 7. Sketching Your Ideas: So, when I do this little sketch with the pencil as the match, you could see even within the space of the two three seconds that the film is, there's still information being laid out in a certain order of beginning, middle and end. It's almost like a little joke. So, the first thing is I bring the pencil in and establish that it's a pencil and it's, for the viewer, thinks pencil at that moment and then I put it onto the table. They're still thinking pencil but you have identified one of the central actors in the play. And then, once you strike, when you move the pencil across using the strike sound and treat it like a match, it now becomes something different, it's a match. And then the punch line is the flame, is not a regular flame but is a candy corn. It's almost like a three part joke really. And then once you've just given them just enough to see that it's a flame, you're out. So hand out a flame. How long does it take to strike a match? Takes one to three seconds really, depending on how much your match sizzles I guess, or how do I want to show fingers taking the match out of the matchbook. In this case would I have shown the fingers taking the pencil out of the pencil case? I could have. Look, I could build this film out right now. The first shot could be opening a pencil like a matchbox or those long matches that you light fireplaces with. And you know you open up one of those matchboxes and instead of matches inside, there is pencils inside. So I could remove that. Then you use the film that I just shot which is you strike the match on the table and then the last bit is you light the candle or you light something else. I could have built that idea out but for the sake of this, it works as just a little idea. Again like a sketch. It works if it's just striking the match. There's a beginning middle and end even in this short little sketch that I did with the pencil and the candy corn. So first, you stick the pencil into the frame and you let the viewer identify as a pencil. So at that point, you're thinking as a viewer it's a pencil. But then, once it start moving across the surface and you start to hear the strike sound, it all happens very quickly, and then there's a punch line of the reveal that that's a candy corn flame and so it's almost like it comes in as a pencil but by the end of this one second it's transformed into a matchstick that's burning, a lit match or whatever. And I feel like there's that structure. There's that classic structure in there of beginning, middle and an end, even in something as short as three seconds. I've had this idea of candy corns as flames for a long time. It's been one of the ideas that I've incorporated into several different films in several different ways. I hadn't yet done it as just a simple match strike which seemed pretty exciting for a sketch. I thought let's see if I could make this work. I didn't really overthink it. Again like I said, this is kind of a sketch, low pressure here I'm not telling a huge story, I'm not making my latest short film that millions of people are going to see. Just experimenting with objects and trying to come up with something novel. As far as humor in my own work, I just feel like my brain naturally goes there. Things are funny, the world is filled with weird stuff and I'm constantly thinking about that stuff and even just walking around today at Oliveras street it's just like you see all these random objects that have worked their way into our lives. One of the things I like to think about when I make my own films is that even though I'm coming up with these ideas that are seen as unreal or surrealistic or hyper real or however you defined these kind of imaginative uses of objects. I like to approach my films as if it's really happening, almost as if I'm a documentarian capturing this thing. It's happening in front of me, I just happen to have the camera, trained on it and I'm catching the moment. I've done this from the very beginning, even with the film like Roof Sex or Two Chairs Have Sex On a Roof. It's filmed as if it's really happening. There's nothing in the film that tells you that this is supposed to be funny. You know I don't really want to be a filmmaker that tells you you have to laugh or you're supposed to laugh here or you're supposed to feel this way. For me it's just like, I thought the idea of two chairs having sex was inherently funny and also interesting in that in the way that it makes us look differently about chairs. They're gendered. That some are male some are female and some are sort of asexual. And I just thought there was something funny in that concept that I was getting at but, I didn't have to pretend to be funny, I just had to film the chairs doing their thing as if I happened upon them one day on the roof while they were doing it. And so for me, one of the approaches that I use all the time is I try to respect my audience. I try to not tell them how to feel. I try to show them things and gently guide the story towards that point of the ending or what's going to happen next but not telling them how to feel. They're a participant in my films, there's a dialogue between me and them. And when I come back to this idea of when I show, I show an image, it causes a reaction in a viewer's brain and they have a question "Oh where's this going?" And then I show the next thing. And so it's a constant, it's almost like a game of ping pong with the viewer and I think humor is part of that. Humor is part of what makes it come to life for me and expresses a part of myself. I have a lot of these thoughts that I don't know what else to do with them except for make films about them. When I'm in the food store and I see a pile of avocados and I think grenades, it's like what else am I going to do with that idea. It amuses me. It's kind of like a funny similarity and my film essentially becomes like how to express that, how to capture that perception, bottle it essentially for people. The thing is that in my films I'm always striving to connect objects in a way that feels logical on some level. That's the thing. It's like they're not randomly chosen. Sometimes I choose things just because they're good lookalikes and sometimes I choose things because those associations run deeper and objects come with different associations that you tap into, wordplay and things that we are reminded of because of a certain object or the way they're shaped. It's interesting. Definitely experiment with that. When I first started making films, I made roof sex first and then I ran out of money. I spent all my money making my first couple films before I was hired to direct commercials and make some of that money back. But I was still wanting to make my own ideas and be creative and start seeing some of my ideas out there. But with no money, forced me to get creative in what would I make films out of. So I did a crop of films back in around 2003 where I literally looked into the bottom of my pockets to see what was there. Things that were laying around the house. Any cheap thing that I could buy at the pharmacy or something like that and challenge myself to make some ideas based around these simple things like peanuts or binder clips and I've put together a crop of films and they were really instrumental in helping me to introduce this way of looking at the world via the films that I was making. So I really encourage you to look around you, not just think about having to spend a lot of money. Just look around the kitchen, open your drawers, dig into your pockets, look around you, see what's there. Look at these things that surround us that we're used to looking at in one particular way and put them in front of the camera and start working with them and seeing what you can come up with. I think sometimes you might surprise yourself with how many good ideas you actually have. You might be able to show the world something that they hadn't necessarily seen before and make them think a little bit differently about this familiar object. I think that would be you know be an interesting experiment and I would encourage you to try to do that. First of all, keep it simple, you're making a film that's like three seconds or less. It can be a looped film. So you can make two frames that are played on an endless loop. If it's to good two frames. You could do that. What you're trying to create here is something that is pleasing and interesting to the eye, that people will want to watch over and over and over. I really encourage you to work on your ideas a lot, come up with lots of ideas, do a couple of brainstorm sessions, take notes throughout the day, take pictures of things that you see that you might start thinking and writing down your ideas. And essentially what you're going to do is come up with a bunch of ideas that you could possibly shoot that would be like under three seconds or so. And then you're going to try to select the idea that you feel the most passionate about as being the best of your ideas. In fact I am going to ask you to look at your ideas and say of the 10-20 ideas that you have sketches of or concepts for, which is the one that you would most like to see yourself? That's the one you should go put into the world. It's the one that you want to see because you are your own best audience. So be hard on yourself and pick a good one. 8. Starting Your Animation: The first thing is I had an idea. I'm going to use a pencil and I'm going to make it seem like a match, and I'm going to light the pencil on fire, but my flames aren't going to be real flames. They're going to be made with candy corn that's animated to look like I've just little match. So, that's it. So, I really need just a couple of basic things. I needed a box of pencils and I needed just some candy corn. So, got some pencils, got a bag of candy corn, and I'm ready to go. It's pretty simple. Okay. So, the first thing I need is I need to set my stage here. So, as you can see I set it up right on my desk. It's pretty low key here. The first thing I need is a rig to hold my pencil so that I can keep my hands free, and then I can control the software that I'm using for video feedback. So, I have a little rig built with an antenna on a little weighted base. I use a little copper wire and hot glue to hold the pencil in place here, and that's going to allow me to move the pencil up and down and twist it as I need. So, just simple rigging for stop-motion here with the goal being the objects have to stay static at all points. An animated film is literally defined by any film that is made frame by frame. So, instead of rolling camera, you create the frame and there are 24 separate frames in a second of film. So, what I need to do is to create a system in which I can manipulate objects one frame at a time, and that they'll stay in the position from my previous frame as I move them in small increments forward. So, that's the reason I have a rig set up here, so that I can keep the pencil in one place and then I can move it slightly, and it'll be roughly in the same place the next frame. Now, I mean really, you can use any type of rigging system. Anything that works for you. You're free to invent anything that works for you by diving into the toolbox or a kitchen drawer and your pockets, and finding something that can help you make a rig. As I mentioned before, I built my rig with this antenna and a weighted base and some hot glue. You could also pick up some armature wire at the craft store. This would be attached, for instance, to the table here, and I could have attached a pencil to that, and that would allow me to manipulate that frame by frame. So, really, any solution could work. The goal is just to be able to stabilize the objects that you're animating. Now, if I were just animating this little spool of thread, I could just stick it on the table and I wouldn't need any rigging for that whatsoever because it's just sitting there on the table, and then I could push it along the table frame by frame. But for anything that is lifted up into the air, you're going to need a situation where you have some rigging, something to hold it up. So that's why this little rig here works for me because as I strike a match, I'm going lift that match off the surface and I'm going to need something to hold this pencil in midair and that's the reason why I have this particular rig. So, this is my stage, here's my actor, here's my camera, here are my lights and this is a Dedolight which allows very precise lighting. But you don't need that. I mean, when I first started shooting, I just lifted a desk light on something. But now, I have a little bit of a professional equipment hanging around so why not use it. So then, I have my laptop. My laptop is connected to the camera. You can see there's a live feed. I'm using a software called Dragonframe and it allows me to see when I'm shooting frame by frame here. You could see as I make changes to the objects on the stage, it's reflected on the laptop so that I can see it and you'll see me use that in a couple of seconds. You can do this with a desk lamp and a phone. You can use your phone if you could figure out a way. Look, there are a lot of people who do stop-motion videos, you can see them on Vine that they don't even bother to stabilize the camera. I personally like to keep my camera as stable as possible but you can do that with a phone. You just have to figure out a way to rig your phone so that it'll stay still, but you could throw any light on it. You could throw a desk light on it and it'll still work. We're not dealing with anything like super hi-tech here, everything you can do basically on your own desk. So, my concept here, I've situated my frame. So then, I'm going to strike this match roughly along this path as I go right through the frame. That's where I'll strike and then I'm going to lift the pencil off the desk there and the match will have been lit at this point and then I'll come back into frame, so that you can see the flame flickering for an instant and then I'll exit the frame. So, it's a pretty simple concept. See if we can do it. So, as you can see, we're about to strike the match here. So, I'm going to take two. Okay. So now, what's going to happen is I'm going to move this pencil a little. Now, I can compare and contrast my previous frame here with my current one. Previous, current. Previous, current. Previous, current, and that's working for me. So, I'm just going to take those two shots. Now, what I'm looking for is that the match is going to be struck in pretty much of a one straight line. So, it's not going to be wiggling around. So, my priority here is to make sure that the strike is smooth and even. This rig that I have set up is going to help me achieve that because all I have to do is twist the rig. Now, you can see, I'm playing the two previous frames that I shot with my live frame. Then, I'm going to go a little bit further. On lining up, in my own head, this pink eraser at the end here so that it looks like it's straight. I like that so I'm going to take those shots. So, at this point, this is when, in real life, a match you'd start to actually, if you were to slow down a match, you would see that it's actually starting to light as it's being dragged along the table. So this is where I'm going to just stick a little bit of my candy corn in. Everything looks good. Okay. I'm going to take those two shots. So, in each second of film there are 24 frames. So, that leaves you with a choice: you can either shoot something 24 separate times to create that second, or you can do something in animation called shooting on twos, and that means that you can shoot 12 different positions and play each position two frames. So, you cut your work in half essentially but you create an animation that works just as well to the eye. So, that's why I'm taking two frames every time I shoot. So, you can see, I'm using the video feedback just to make sure my frames line up in a way that I'm happy with. 9. Editing Your Animation: Okay. So, I've got my images here. Want to open Final Cut using- it's been good to me so I continue using it, but you could use any video editing software for this. You could use iMovie, Adobe Premiere, Final Cut. They all do the same thing. So, our new project, let's go into our sequence settings. Since I'm going to do this as a vine, the upload is 480 by 480. This set my editing time base to 24 exactly. I like to work in Apple ProRes, high quality. So, my canvas is here. Now, I import my images. I'm going to relabel this "Shots". Okay. I get to point that there. Here are some sound effects that I've pulled. Okay. Now, I can drop this folder. So, I'm going to scale this one image up. I'm going to scale this one image up here to be like, I like it. Okay. Now, I'm just going to cut and paste the attributes to all these other images. Now, they all come in the same size, all sides here. Okay. So, I'm just going to render these out, shouldn't take too long. I'm looking at my footage for the first time. So, if I come in here again, I might want to take a frame out. Remember, we were shooting with two frames and during a match strike, I may experiment here with getting rid of some of the duplicate frames so the strike of the match appears to go even quicker. Let's take a couple of frames out of here. This is just part of the editing. Let's see what happens when I remove three frames. I like that a little better. That's really what you do at the strike. So, when you shoot on twos, you afford yourself the luxury of taking a frame out here or there in order to speed things up because you can, you basically have two frames from this position so you can afford to lose one of those frames, but keep the position in the film so you don't have to just jump from one place to another for the eye. So, that's one of the advantages to shooting on twos. So, I use this site called So here's the thing, I usually have a particular sound in mind and the next person might have a different sound. So for instance, what I hear in my head as a match strike and what a little flame sounds like might be slightly different than what the next person hears, and in the sound libraries, you can see that there are tons of different subtleties to sounds, and what's going to make this film work, in my opinion, is can I find the right sound effect to match with the animation? So, I don't know the answer to that question yet because sometimes I'm surprised when I go looking for a sound that it's more difficult to find what I hear in my head than I had expected, and sometimes I end up having to create my own sound. So, from my films like Western Spaghetti and Fresh Guacamole, those were sounds that I created and recorded, but some other films that I've made including like The Deep or Came Over, those are all on sound effects that were found in libraries that you can just purchase. So in this particular case, I could record a match being struck, but I think it'll just be easier and quicker for the sake here to go to SoundDogs and find it. SoundDogs is a site that has all different sound effects from all the Hollywood libraries and you can preview them. So, there's hundreds, hundreds of sound effects to choose from. Now, when I find a sound effect that I like, let's see. No, I don't like that one. Nah. All right, so let's say. So, I have the MP3 here, I just go the way I save audio as it goes to my desktop. I label it "Match strike", okay, goes to my desktop. I could put it in a folder. See, it's right here and so now, it has this little number attached to it. So, at the end of the process, and I want to release the film, I can now go and purchase that effect from this library. You can see what does it cost, $1.65 cents for five seconds. You could see, there they are, they're in there. I've chosen a bunch of different effects that might work and then I can start experimenting. Let's just see which one I would drop in first, I want to try this hard strike one first, drop it in there. Let's find. Actually let's find the, here it is, this looks like where the strike is. In out points, okay? Just drop that right in here. It's wonky. This is all wonky here. So, let me find the actual pointing which I strike. So, right here is where I would start hearing the sound. You can see the wave forms right here. I'll render that out for a quick test. It's a little low. We push it a little bit too. Sorry. So, this is a time of experimentation is that exactly what I'm feeling, not yet. So, I got to work with it. That little sound that we hear at the end. That's really not the strike, that's the little flame. Sharp strike. Move it around. This whole process takes quite a bit of experimentation before the film matches. The sound comes together with the image and it works. There's this sense of excitement when the audio matches your picture. Feels like it's working. Put a little. So, now that one sound effect that I pulled before. Let's see if I can find it. You hear this little. That little sound of what a flame sounds like because it's in the wind. I've got to find where that is. All right. You see that little clip there? A little sound that we're very familiar with. I'm interested in testing that out. To really help sell the idea that it's a flame, because again what you're seeing here in the film is a pencil and some candy corn. I've animated them to behave like a match being struck, but taking that sound from real life is really what's going to help lock it all together for our viewer. So, that they they know for sure that it's now a match. It comes to life in the brain. So, sound becomes, how do I really help it come alive. Let's see what happens. Let's see. I'm interested in experimenting with this sound effect over the flame. I might lower that a little. Try these decibels down. So, it's a little bit lower. Actually, it might be easier for me just to grab my waveforms through here. See, there's a lot of experimentation here. What happens if I use, see I like that. Lets find's the right balance between these two. This can take weeks to do. It really boils down to what feels right. That feels good to me. That's something that you can't really teach anyone. It's more of just work. I work with the sounds until it feels right to me. Until I believe that it's working. The nice thing about this whole editing process is, I don't have to show anyone anything until I go through a process of experimentation and trial and error. Sometimes things come together quickly and sometimes things take weeks to get right. If I'm not happy with the sound, I have to go out and record it, try it again because I try to capture certain nuances, but you can see from this example, we just went online. I loaded the images in, went online. It took about 10 minutes total. There it is, it's functional. So, thanks for taking this class with me. By this time, you've each made your own films. So, share them, upload them, talk about them, give each other some feedback. I'm really looking forward to seeing what you made. Thanks so much.