Saturday, June 17, 2006

Claymation Vs. Stop Motion Animation

I found out that the other day someone was looking for the "difference" between claymation and stop motion animation, and came to my site for assistance. Alackaday, the person in question left dejected. As I'm deeply saddened at leaving people dejected halfway round the globe (I think the surfer was from Germany or something), I'll explain in detail. Firstly, there is no difference between claymation and stop motion animation, this is because claymation is a type of stop motion animation. And as a postcard is a type of a letter, or a romance novel a type of book, stop motion is a broad category of animation divided into genres.

Stop motion animation is primarily defined in this way: it's the animation of any object, animate or inanimate, in front of a camera, with the exception of drawings or cut outs on flat pieces of paper (or cels, etcetera). Primarily, stop motion animation is defined by depth - three dimensionality occuring in real space, as opposed to created space in a computer or on a piece of paper, generally occurs. I say generally because there are always exceptions, especially when you start to mix mediums.

Claymation is a form of stop motion animation that involves, you guessed it, clay. Puppets or dolls, many of which are outfitted with metal armatures (or inner metal skeletons), that are made out of wet clay are manipulated frame by frame in front of a camera. Gumby is a good example of claymation. If you're interested in creating your own claymations, Claytoon carries an excellent product line of clay that remains pliable while working with it, and does not tend to melt underneath the hot rays of film cameras. They carry their own series of plastic armatures, called Bendy Bones, but while Bendy Bones make for fairly tolerable maquettes, they haven't proved to be sturdy enough for the prolonged experience of stop motion animation (in my humble experience). Instead, I'd advise you craft your own metal armature using the appropriately named "armature wire" (available at most art stores), or check out the extremely sexy armatures at

So what is stop motion animation? It is animation using about any handy object lying about, barring wet clay. Jan Svankmejer likes to use meat, dress shirts, stones...truly just about any sort of item, really, including clay. When he uses wet clay, it's claymation, but his work is not, obviously, necessarily limited to the moist bosom of terra firma. The Quay Brothers also use a broad array of items in their animations, particularly dolls, screws, and other odds and ends. Stop motion animation does not have to limit itself to found objects, however. Puppets not made out of clay, such as the wonderfully crafted dolls of Corpse Bride, fall under the broader catagory of stop motion animation. Meanwhile, the frame by frame photography and animation of a human being is called pixellation. So you could build an armature for a solid figure or doll just as easily as you could for a clay one, you just have to treat the joints differently.

Well, I hope that was helpful! As I work on my 2D animated film over the summer, I'll be sure to update this blog with my progress. In addition I'll be giving blow-by-blow advice for crafting your own stop motion projects, as I have a few of those babies under my (shiny, ostentatious, Texan) belt (buckle) at this point, and am confident in doling out advice for beginners.

Happy sculpting!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. this is really informative. i appriciate.

Phoebe Morgan said...

Thank you very much for this. Very helpful :)