The Parrish Art Museum invited adults and kids to learn stop motion animation with a NYC-based mobile arts education school, The Good School, last Friday, December 2. It was a fun workshop and demonstrated the amazing sorts of things this local cultural institution brings to the community. Hamptons residents should take advantage of everything the museum has to offer.
As a toy collector and photographer, I always fantasized about trying my hand at stop motion animation. Growing up, a friend and I had made some incredibly rudimentary and stilted stop motion films using an old VHS camcorder—pressing and depressing the red “record” button over and over—and some minimally articulated Marvel superhero toys, but The Good School presented something far more advanced.
For those who don’t know, stop motion animation is a series of individual photographs strung together into one movie. The idea is to move the subject, in my case a Star Wars the Black Series action figure, ever so slightly in each photo, and when you play back the sequence of images at, say, 15 frames per second, it creates the illusion of movement. It’s basically a digital flipbook.
The stop motion program we used on Friday, called Dragonframe, tracks the movement of your subject by showing a ghost (called an “onionskin”) of its position in the last frame, which allows animators to more easily create smooth, step by step motion. It’s really cool and the possibilities are pretty much limited only by one’s creativity.
Here’s what I created. The video is just 9 seconds long, but it’s the result of 135 individual photographs and a lot of time posing the figure, moving it across the screen and refocusing between frames. This very short, and fairly crude, sequence took about 30-45 minutes to make. Now imagine how much time and energy had to go into making a feature length stop motion film like Tim Burton’s 1993 masterpiece The Nightmare Before Christmas—it’s an incredible feat.
The Good School founders, Laura Belmont and Emily Brink, made it really easy to get started and learn at the Parrish. They set up various stations with cameras and little scenes featuring different types of objects to animate—leading everyone to begin working on a film within 5–10 minutes of walking into the class. And while Belmont and Brink had arranged everything to be easy this way, they were also open to letting us stretch our legs beyond the prearranged scenes. That’s why I was able to bring my Star Wars action figure to life.
Belmont and Brink offer a whole range of animation classes through The Good School. They teach customized stop motion animation workshops for adults and kids, and facilitate New Method Master Classes taught by working artist professionals. They’ve even published a book, Animation Lab for Kids, with all sorts of fun visual storytelling projects and lessons in the art of making things move—from cartooning and flip books to claymation and, of course, stop-motion movie making. You can find out more at thegoodschoolnyc.com.
If you’ve never been to the Parrish Art Museum, you should go. On Saturday, December 10, the museum is hosting an open studio for families, where adults and children can enjoy a tour of the galleries followed by hands-on art-making activities using materials and ideas inspired by the works currently on view. But that’s just one of many offerings there.
To see what’s on view, and a schedule of more cool educational opportunities and events happening at the Parrish Art Museum (279 Montauk Highway, Water Mill), visit parrishart.org.