How PES makes his stop-motion movies.
■ MY ANIMATED SHORT FILM ENTITLED
Western Spaghetti features me cooking spaghetti
with all sorts of familiar objects substituted for real
ingredients. For example, rubber bands double as
spaghetti, Post-it Notes as butter, and tinfoil as olive
oil (Figures B, C, and D).
I brought all the objects to life using traditional
stop-motion animation, and created all the effects
entirely in-camera by manipulating the objects from
frame to frame (see the setup in Figure A). There
are no computer-generated effects in the film.
Stop-motion animation requires that one control
objects and move them in small increments from
frame to frame, photographing them in each
position. You can do this with puppets, objects,
or people — anything that can be put in front of a
camera can be moved incrementally and photographed in this manner.
The resulting sequence of images (approximately
1,500 in Western Spaghetti) creates the illusion of
motion when played back at normal speed. You can
bring inanimate objects to life at will, as long as you
are willing to put in the time.
Sometimes animating objects is straightforward.
You find the objects, you arrange them in front of
the camera, you photograph them. Then you move
them (or replace them) and repeat the process
over and over. For instance, to make a sugar cube
(represented in Western Spaghetti by a single die)
appear to dissolve in tomato sauce (undulating red
velvet), I replaced the die in each frame with smaller
and smaller versions of the die, all the way down to
an 8mm doll-sized die. When played at normal speed,
the cube appears to dissolve into the red velvet.
Sometimes, though, you come up against a real
challenge when animating objects — like water, for
instance. Real water cannot be manipulated frame
by frame because it cannot be controlled like clay,
a more traditional material choice for stop-motion.
142 Make: Volume
This makes water one of the most stop-motion
“unfriendly” substances. Unfortunately for me,
water was the one ingredient I needed most: you
can’t make spaghetti without water.
Water appears in seven shots in Western Spaghetti
— 20% of the film — and a different creative solution
was required each time. Here are four different
methods I used to portray water:
How I Created the “Water”
1. I began with a shot of my hands placing a pot
full of water on the stovetop. To create this “water”
I used a single sheet of acetate, the kind you’d
put in an overhead projector. It was cut in the shape
of an oval, slightly larger than the diameter of the
pot, so that it would suspend itself naturally in the
pot. It could then be manipulated frame by frame
to behave like real water swishing around a pot.
A small light was reflected off the acetate to further
sell the shiny water effect to the viewer (Figure E,
2. As every Italian cook knows, sea salt (represented
in the film by googly eyes, chosen because of the
pun “see salt”) must be added to the water before
boiling. The challenge was how to get the googly
eyes to sink through the acetate water like real salt
does when you throw it into the pot.
In addition, I didn’t want the googly eyes to sink
to the bottom of the pot all at once. I wanted them
to have a slight delay when falling, staggered in
three groups to feel more natural.
The solution: three small braces were affixed to
the inside of the pot, out of frame. Each brace had
ten notched grooves, so that ten sheets of acetate
could be suspended simultaneously inside the
pot (Figure F). The idea was to move the sheets of
acetate — each with googly eyes glued to them —
down one layer in each shot, giving the impression