Last Monday (October 28), I was sitting around on campus in building 18’s media lab, drinking a to-go cup of creamy tomato soup, when Jan Halvorsen emerged from her office and reminded me on her way out of the building that she was going to be giving a talk across campus with Mel Stark and Michael Maruska about a stop-motion video they’d created together over the summer. I, of course, having already seen the stop-motion video, and being very excited to hear more about the story behind it and the process of making it, chugged the rest of my soup and charged on over to building 11 to attend the talk.
The stop-motion video in question is Flash After Dark. It tells the tale of a camera that comes to life on a production set and begins to explore its environment. The camera (Flash) discovers a storyboard on the set and realizes it is detailing the events of Flash’s awakening- as well as his impending doom: a broom is about to sweep in and crush Flash under its bristles. He begins to panic and attempts to escape, but is inevitably swept up.
At the talk, the team discussed their inspiration for the short film. Michael explained that “one of the reasons [they] wanted to make it was that [they] did get a copy of Dragonframe, and [they] wanted to see how it worked.” Dragonframe is a software designed to help stop-motion animators capture the frames necessary to make their films. It was used in the creation of films such as Missing Link (2019), Kubo and the Two Strings (2016), and Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015).
(Side note: Did you know Shaun the Sheep was stop-motion? That never occurred to me. Weird.)
As the team described it, Flash’s story evolved especially during the building of the set. The team would be inspired by an idea and put together a piece of the environment, and then find more inspiration from that piece they’d just made. For instance, Michael described where the storyboard Flash encounters came from: “Jan was like, Oh, we could put storyboards on [a whiteboard] and add it to the set,” and I was like, oh, that’s a great idea! […] We could make it the story that he’s experiencing!”
It was super interesting to be able to hear about the process behind writing and creating an animation like this. I’ve never considered doing stop-motion myself before, but now that I’ve gotten to see a little bit about the process of doing stop-motion, I really hope we’re able to put together a studio for it here at LCC! It looks really fun to play with!