Artistic & Creative Endeavor: Stop Motion Animation

Name: Katherine Mundt

Type of Project: Artistic & Creative Endeavor

1.

For this project, I created mini stop motion animation films of different media. I then put sound to these films using original music.

2.

I have no doubt that I underwent a transformation throughout the course of these past two years as a result of this project, however it wasn’t necessarily the transformation that I expected. In addition, this particular project actually turned out to be much more daunting than I had imagined. But, because of this, I believe that it encouraged me to embrace a challenge rather than doubt my ability to successfully complete it. I consider myself to be quite a determined person who is capable of much more than most people assume. But, I’m only human, so of course I have my limits, and like everybody else, under certain pressures I panic. Throughout the duration of this project, I managed to resist letting the overwhelming doubt that I could complete it consume my motivation, and I was even able to push my limits, all because I change my outlook on the challenges I face. Many times throughout my life I have been in situations where I am incredibly overwhelmed. When the weight of earning enough money to pay tuition while having to pay rent and medical expenses, maintain a social life, take care of my family, and complete what seems like thousands of homework problems in one night, is bearing down on my shoulders, it is difficult to stay level-headed. Often I would give into those pressures and just shut down. Sometimes there’s just so many expectations that it is difficult to figure out where to even begin.

This project definitely added pressures to my everyday struggles, yet the support and encouragements I received while planning this project as well as during it, kept me focused on my main goal. In addition, it was satisfying knowing that this project was designed to transform myself. It wasn’t a homework project, or a job, it was an opportunity solely anchored to self-improvement. I believe that the simple outlook of a challenge can determine the effort put in and the outcome.

3.

The first summer that I was working on this project was actually much different than the second. I was a full time employee at a local bagel shop in my hometown in upstate NY. And in regards to the project, I spent this particular summer devoted to preparing for the actual filming and creation of my project by exploring the professional world of animation, as well as familiarizing myself with my new equipment and software. I definitely had a sense that it would be a large time commitment from my time practicing with my new technology, but had I known about the extra obstacles I would be facing in the next summer, I would’ve started much earlier. This first summer, I made a trip out to NYC so I could visit an animation studio and explore a few art museums for inspiration.

Visiting the STUDIO in NYC and the Museum of the Moving Image were very valuable experiences, since I had one on one time with a group of digital animators and I had a tour of the STUDIO, and at the Museum I was able to see a wide variety of creativity and film techniques. Specifically during my visit at the STUDIO, I was able to inquire about the programs they use to create their digital works, and what schooling they each underwent in order to end up in an awesome animation studio in NYC. They showed me the advanced, and extremely expensive and complicated software, Zbrush, that their company used for certain components of their animations. Most of the employees went to schools in NYC for graphic design, and my favorite part about learning about each of the employees was that despite having different specializations within the company and working on different components of their projects, each artist was able to incorporate their own personal styles into their work. And even though each and every artist in the STUDIO, and even more generally, in the whole world, has a different style, the end results of their animation were very unified, yet still recognizable as collaborative. I spent over an hour visiting the STUDIO, and it was definitely my favorite part of the NYC trip, not only because I was asked to return and visit whenever I pleased, but because I was also able to share with these professional animators, my own homemade animations. I had a few saved on my computer that ranged from the very first stop motion animation I had ever made, which I made literally by using the “pause” feature on the video camera of my blackberry cell phone back in middle school, to the very short 1-10 second practice films I had started. I was very nervous at first since I was showing professionals my very primitive works, yet they only made me feel confident about what I had created. I was applauded for being able to create something given so little resources. That was basically the first time that I realized I am the type of person who doesn’t shy away from a challenge. If I set my mind to something, regardless of the obstacles in my way, I will do my best to perform.

This past summer was much different. Although I did spend some time researching the processes used by some of my all-time favorite stop motion animators, Tim Burton and Nick Park, most of the summer was spent taking pictures and editing. I also had to work around many unanticipated obstacles. For example, I worked full time at a grocery store for the first month and a half of summer until suddenly I had to get stress fracture surgery on my left foot, which took me off of my feet for literally the remainder of the summer. Trying to use a tripod on crutches and hunching over my mini sets weren’t the best combinations, either. However, despite these physical limitations, my research in regards to major stop motion film makers actually eased my conscience and made me feel proud of my small feats that I initially thought were not going to be enough to work with. For example, in Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas,” the entire production required 13 animators, over 100 specially trained camera operators, puppet makers, set builders, and prop makers, eight camera crews, 19 sound stages, 230 sets, a composer and lyricist, and four sculptors. Also, the film roughly consisted of 110,000 frames, and it took around three years of full time efforts to complete, and had a budget of $18,000,000. And here I was, a single person playing the roll of animator, sculptor, composer, camera crew, editor, pencil and digital artist, with $800 in the STEP budget dedicated towards resources, and with just two summers to work on my project. I actually went through and did the math, and given that I had roughly 2616 hours of free time between the two summers, not including full time work hours, a sleep schedule of 6 hours on average every day and 1 hour every day of eating, assuming the I do (1/13)th the amount of work as 13 animators, and since 13 animators on the “Nightmare Before Christmas” set produce roughly one minute of footage in a week, if I were to work on this project for 15.6 weeks straight, I should’ve only been able to produce 71.9 seconds of film, so just a little more than a minute of film. Thus, even though this number is definitely obscured by other factors, and even though the quality of my filming was much more amateur than their professional set, being able to stand behind what I have created in this short amount of time is extremely rewarding.

As the end of this past summer approached, the deadline for this project hung over my head like a dark cloud. But, everything I had learned through my research and from the trips to NYC prevented me from panicking. I have finally reached a point in my life where I am able to step back from an overwhelming situation and create a game plan from a distance and with a clear mind.

4.

This transformation is definitely a significant advancement for my life since it made me realize that I’m capable of much more than I thought. Often in the educational systems that I’ve been through and that I am currently, I have felt like I’m in competition with fellow students, and that my efforts, no matter how much I put in, aren’t good enough. I think it is incredibly important for people to take on a challenge that will make them proud of themselves in the end. Even though I didn’t get as much done in this project as I had hoped, and it didn’t turn out looking like a hollywood film, I couldn’t be prouder of what I have done. I strongly believe that without being a part of STEP, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be face to face with such a challenging task, and I wouldn’t have developed the sense of self-conviction and determination needed to succeed. As cliche as it may sound, I genuinely think that STEP has provided me with the confidence and motivation required to accomplish anything I set my mind to, academically, personally, and professionally.