Book Review - Stop Motion Filmmaking: The Complete Guide to Fabrication and Animation

Nov 29, 2019 at 09:10 pm by nickcharles

If you've ever considered delving into stop motion filmmaking, or even if you just have a fascination for the craft, you would be hard-pressed to find a more complete and detailed book than Stop Motion Filmmaking: The Complete Guide to Fabrication and Animation by Christopher Walsh. Seriously, this book explains everything in fantastic detail: from creating a character puppet, through animating and post-production, to even submitting a finished film to festivals.

The author, Christopher Walsh, has worked extensively in stop motion over the years. He is a professor at Sheridan College in Canada, teaching stop motion as well as other related subjects, and an active filmmaker in his own right, creating shorts for festivals, as well as commercial work. You can read more about Christopher Walsh here.

The book is divided into four parts, with the first dedicated solely to puppet fabrication. Here, you get step-by-step instruction which will have you creating your very own puppet. Starting with character design, you are guided through building the armature, sculpting the head, moulding and casting, and even making the clothing. Filled with tool and parts lists, resources to find them, and plenty of tips along the way, I wasn't expecting such detail, and learned much more than I expected.

Part two covers studio set-up, lighting, and cameras. This section was what I myself was most interested in, and was beyond delighted. Here, you essentially learn everything you need to know before you actually begin animating, like having a dedicated space, and even designing a stage. The highly detailed chapter on lighting here is fantastic, presenting first the basics of lighting, before moving on to things like lighting for color...and emotion. 

Part Three goes full-on into what you need to know in animating a character. Here you learn about animation principles as they apply to stop motion, finding a rhythm and style, and also great info about animating on different frames. Exercises throughout this part have you really learning about pose, expression, conveying emotion, rigging the puppet and animating dialogue. This is an intense part of the book.

Part Four is all about making a film. Starting with pre-production, you learn about story structure, storyboarding, your target audience, and production planning (you have to have a plan!). Then you go into production, learning about set walls and props, sound editing/scoring, and even camera tricks. Software like Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro come into play in the post-production chapter, with some really great tips about getting that polish on your film. And finally, the last bit of this section goes into preparing and submitting your film to festivals.

This book has so much to offer anyone that has an interest in stop motion. Aside from the wealth of information and instruction, there are fantastic sidebar tips and great interviews with other professionals in the field. 

Author, Christopher Walsh, is supremely passionate about stop motion, and it really shows. He explains the craft thoroughly, with a good dose of humor sprinkled throughout. There is nothing lacking in the text, and it is really a very enjoyable read. Highly recommended, indeed!


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