Working In Claymation: Making Of Music Video ‘Stranger Danger’

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Claymation
Designasaur

By Designasaur

Freelance stop motion animator with a PHD in plasticine. I made that last part up.

My Creative Process

Hey, who are you?

Hello! I’m Designasaur – a stop motion animator and artist from the UK.

What saucy projects do you have under your wings?

I’m currently working on the final stages of Stranger Danger; fine tuning the final edit, making sure that the band are happy with everything and getting the film ready to release. Alongside that, I make a one minute long animated film every week for a Youtube channel in Australia.

I have an idea in mind for my next short film as well, but as stop motion animation is such a lengthy process, I’m not quite sure when I’m going to be able to fit it in!

What is special about your craftsmanship?

All of my work is handmade. Everything in my films from the models to the sets, backgrounds and props have all been made by hand which can be very labourious and at times a little frustrating, but the outcome, for me, is always worth it.

Let’s talk about your current project Stranger Danger, could you describe its brief?

Stranger Danger has been one of the most fun projects that I’ve worked on to date. I came across The Ambulance Review on Twitter and liked them straight away. They sent me their song (Stranger Danger) and a short brief of what they had in mind. They had two characters; Suzanne, a stuffed llama and Ronald Raygunicorn, a unicorn that they wanted to have skating around their hometown Fredericksburg, VA, USA, giving a nod to local businesses in the area as well as a few local bands and places of interest. They wanted the piece to be colourful, fun and vibrant, and threw in a short band cameo for good measure (although they didn’t want the entire piece to be about them.)

From there, we were able to piece all of the different elements together and make something cohesive and linear that (hopefully) represents both their style and mine.

Please break down the creative process in steps

I began the process by having the band send me all of their ideas; I asked for images, videos, songs, lists – anything that would help to give me a true sense of what they had in mind.

From there, I started to look for inspiration online and found some images and videos to show them and gave notes on my own initial ideas, to get the ball rolling and make sure we were all on the same page creatively.

Once we had agreed on an idea, I asked the band, Tom, Randy and Sam go out around their hometown and take lots of photographs of things that they’d like to reference and the area in general that I could use as inspiration for the set. I also asked that they send me photographs of themselves and their instruments.

Next, I started drawing. I sent the band concepts, character sketches and storyboards updating/editing these occasionally until we were all happy with how the piece was going to look.

Suzanne Initial Sketch

Once the storyboards were finalised, I began shooting some tests. I made mock buildings from card to gain a sense of how large they would need to be and as the plan was to have the set rotating, I attached the card buildings to the outer edge of a cake stand. I shot several tests to get an idea of the look and size of the buildings and to figure out exactly how many I would need to make.

Full set shot

Then I started work on the set. All of the buildings in the set are made from fun foam, which was really fun to work with but very fiddly. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t superglue my fingers togetether at least once or twice during this part of the process! I made 30 little buildings in total, all no bigger than around 15-20cm. The backdrop and the ground were both spray painted on canvas.

From there, I made the models. Suzanne and Ronald each had two replacement models in smaller sizes for different shots in the film, then I made the band and all of the props, such as the street signs, lamp posts, benches, cars, the ambulance and several skateboards. All of the models were made using plasticine, except for a few benches and tables and chairs which were made from fun foam.

Once everything was made and ready to shoot, after a few more tests, I started filming. I shot the majortiy of the film over three (very long) days. To avoid fluctuating light, I had the room blacked out and lit the set with three LED film lights, as these are the coolest and least likely to melt the clay while shooting. Most of the film was shot on set, but three or four shots were done over a green screen. Watching the footage back, I decided to reshoot one shot, which took a further day but was worth it in aid of a better film.

The editing process is one of my favourite parts of any project but also one of the most intense. I spent around a week getting everything in place, adding titles, editing the green screened shots and really focusing on tying the whole piece together stylistically.

DragonFrame
Premiere Pro

Then, I took a few days away from the project, without watching it and even trying to not think about it too much, to clear my head and to be able to look at it with fresh eyes the next time I saw it. Finally, I came back to the film, refreshed and ready to see it again and watched it a few more times, taking notes and making any final edits I felt neccessary before sending it over to the band for their review. I’m currently waiting for a response from the boys with their notes. 

If you could do it over again, what would you do differently?

The whole project has been really fun to work on and there are parts of it which I would definitely love to do again. If I had to change anything, I might have allowed myself more time to shoot, or arranged my shoot in a way which meant that I could finish certain shots and have a longer break before starting the next one. This, I think would have allowed to me to avoid re-shoots and spend a little longer making everything even tighter and more polished on set.

Any learnings from this process that other in the same field might benefit from?

I don’t think that I could have worked on this project for as long as I did if I didn’t really enjoy it. I loved the band, the song and the style of the film, so that really kept me going when things felt like they were almost never ending. The main thing that I’ve learned is to do what it takes to stay excited, passionate and keep caring about the project right through until the end, because you’re going to be in it for a long time.

Where can people see the final music video?

Stranger Danger will be online on my website, www.Designasaur.co.uk, on The Ambulance Review’s Youtube Channel and their official site in the coming weeks.