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George Fairbairn
Photography, Social Media Content, and Stop Motion

Commissions

More detail about some of the work I have been commissioned for.

Battersea Power Station | Stop Motion Animation for Chisel & Mouse

Stop Motion Animation for Chisel & Mouse

A couple of months ago I was approached by the amazing Chisel & Mouse, makers of awesome architectural sculptures, to create a stop motion animation for one of their sculptures. Seriously, if you haven’t checked them out you really need to!

The Brief

This was an interesting, and fun, stop motion to create. Chisel & Mouse approached me not knowing exactly what they wanted, just that they wanted a stop motion created for their Battersea Power Station sculpture. The brief the did give me was as follows.

  • Bring the sculpture to life

  • 30 seconds

That was it for the initial brief. With something like this, I felt it was best if I saw the sculpture before coming up with an idea to pitch. Seeing the size, weight, and detail of the sculpture was exactly what I needed. Once it was in my hands, an idea instantly sprang into mind and I pitched them the following brief.

  • 30 seconds, but consisting of a looping animation that would be around 5 seconds in length

  • Show the power station in it’s glory days. Working, puffing smoke

  • Bright and vibrant, clouds rolling, Thames moving, birds flying.

That was my pitch back to them. Simple in concept, aesthetic and pleasing to the eye. They loved the idea and left it to me to create.

The Planning

The planning was definitely the most difficult and time consuming aspect of this stop motion. Creating something that loops can be very easy. Creating something that loops for what I had planned here was a little more difficult. But, having amazing stop motion software Dragonframe made this a much easier task as I was able to make sure everything was lined back up where it started to ensure a flawless loop.

Beyond the planning of the loop and timing, I also had to plan the different elements that would appear in the animation as well. Clouds, puffs of smoke that would grow realistically in size as they rose, birds that would fly by, rolling hills, and the Thames. As is the case with most stop motion animations, the planning was where most of my attention and time was spent.

The Shooting

Before I could actually shoot, I had to create the different elements of the stop motion. I have some card clouds left over from the Zeiss stop motion, but those clouds were dark and grey… rain clouds. For this, I needed bright and fluffy. Because the animation was going to loop, I didn’t need as many clouds as you might think. But, the clouds had to be varying in size and shape.

Cloud_Detail.jpg

Cloud Detail

These are just three of the 6 clouds that I created for this animation. All are different sizes and shapes.

One of the things I wanted to ensure looked really realistic was the puffs of smoke from the stacks of the power station. I know that smoke from power station stacks don’t “puff”.. but having the smoke puff out of the stacks adds a lot more interest and is more pleasing than constant smoke that comes out of these stacks. Saying that, I still wanted it to look real. When smoke does puff, it grows in size as it dissipates as it rises. So for each stack I created 5 puffs, each one slightly larger than the previous one. This would allow me to make these puffs grow in size as they rose out of the stacks.

Puff_Detail.jpg

Puff Detail

These are the first puffs to come out of the stacks. Each side is different from each other and each puff grows in size as it rises

The Thames was another area of this stop motion that I wanted to ensure looked realistic… or at least as realistic as possible. The Thames wasn’t going to make up a large portion of this animation… in fact it doesn’t even make up 1/8 of the bottom of the frame. But, it’s there, and it’s noticeable, and it’s a part of the animation. I could have just used a wavy piece of blue card and called it a day. However, that would’ve looked flat and uninteresting. What I did instead was simulate what it is that you actually see with your eye. When you look at water, or any landscape, the further something is from you the darker it appears in colour. The Thames is a pretty wide river and I wanted to show that. So I have two different colours of blue making up the Thames. Just having these two shades of blue instantly gives us a feeling of depth… gives us the feeling that we are looking at the power station from the other side of the river.

Thames_Detail.jpg

Thames Detail

Here you can see the two different shades of wavy blue I used to give depth to the Thames

Finished

Once I created all of the card elements for the stop motion animation, it was time to shoot it. Shooting this animation was pretty straight forward, there was just a lot to move with each shot. The actual animation is just over 4 seconds long (50 images to be exact). Each of those 50 shots involved moving clouds and moving the light blue section of the Thames. I then have the puffs of smoke coming out of the stacks every second and they last for half a second. The result was an animation that loops seamlessly and clocks in just under 30 seconds and achieves the target of bringing the Battersea Power Station to life.

Stills

As with every stop motion, one of the benefits (besides the awesome animation) is that you have a range of high resolution stills that can be used as well. Below are some of those still images.

Battersea_Power_Station_Stop_Motion.jpg
Battersea_Power_Station_Stop_Motion_1.jpg
Battersea_Power_Station_Stop_Motion_2.jpg

Conclusion

This was a very fun stop motion to create. I loved the challenge of creating a looping animation with constant movement. I loved the bright vibrancy of it, and I love the small attention to detail elements that I crafted. Chisel and Mouse were over the moon with it, and that is ultimately the most important thing.

If you have any comments or questions about this animation, please let me know in the comments below!