Claymation – 3rd Time Lucky!

This is the third year Margot and I have worked on a claymation project with the Grade 5s, and we both feel this is the year that everything is coming together!

I have written about our adventures with animation here and here, so you can see a bit of the history.

This year, we are again connecting with the Grade 5 unit entitled Voices.

Central idea:¬†“Through the arts we tell our stories of who we are: our beliefs, our values and our experiences”

What’s different this year?

This year, we are making more of a connection to Art.

The students have been instructed to select a piece of abstract art that interests them, and use it as an inspiration for their animation. We showed them this delightful claymation that shows the sort of thing we envisioned.

It’s been great to see the diversity in the works of art the students have chosen. We are confident they will be able to express themselves creatively through having selected a work of art that interests them.

This year, we have more measures in place to make kids successful.

Hafiz, the fabulous new TA for art has personally tested the best positioning of the macbooks and the animation stages, and constructed some 90 degree wooden frames to help keep the macbooks in the same position each time.

The more consistency kids can have in keeping their macbooks still, the better their finished product.

This year, we have provided more scaffolding.

Due to time constraints, we launched straight into the projects last year. This year, we have included time to play and learn some claymation techniques. We asked the students to roll a ball back & forth, make it disappear, then explore some other ways of moving. Below you can see Kelly & Maia’s first experimentation with claymation.

Stop-Motion Animation: Round 2

The Singapore International Student Film Festival 2011 is just around the corner, so much of my time working with kids centres around video projects at the moment (I’m in heaven, I tell you!). I will explain other projects in more detail later, but with Grade 5’s, our wonderful Art teacher @togramann has been brave enough to have another go at animation with me. I documented our approach last year here, including rather detailed descriptions of my failures and (thankfully) our successes too, so here are the changes we have made this time around:

1. Ownership – We have given the students more freedom to choose their groups, and their storyline. This has had the natural added benefits of the groups being more focused, engaged and dedicated.

Overheard today: Margot said, “You may stay in at lunch time to keep working on this.” The kids unanimously shouted, “YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!”

Screen shot 2010-12-01 at PM 08.18.522. Hardware and Software – in the last 6 months, our school has changed from a PC to a Mac platform, and we are loving the ease of use that using Macs brings. We stumbled across a piece of free Mac software called FrameByFrame which makes stop-motion animation a breeze. We now use the iSight camera to take the pictures (negating the need to download from a camera), and the onion-skinning feature makes it easy to see where they moved their characters last time.

3. Creativity – Letting the kids loose on their choice of narrative has meant their creativity has had a chance to shine. There are some very clever storylines out there, and with a little bit of dedication and a little bit of luck, they could well blow your mind.

4. Group Size – Last year (due to resource constraints) we had groups of 4 or 5 students working together, which was a bit cumbersome. Now we have groups of 2 and 3, which means students are more involved.

Animation image I took this great photo yesterday – it was a candid shot, and not at all staged. I love the obvious joy they are getting from their work, their pride in sharing it, and the excitement for learning that it demonstrates.

This is the sort of photo that makes me want to keep teaching!

My Failure Bow

Failure Bow_ToGa WanderingDuring the Asia ADE Institute 2010, Improv expert Rebecca Stockley introduced the “Failure Bow” as a way of recognising failures as learning opportunities. Basically, if you stuffed up, you held your hands up and everyone applauded your failures (rather than only celebrating your successes).

I love the idea of this, but putting it into practice is something that takes a bit of getting used to. Admitting defeat is not something we tend to do, but I don’t want this blog to become a show-boat of lessons that have gone well without countering it with some of the lessons that haven’t. So here goes:

I stuffed up.

Overall, I think it would be safe to describe my Grade 5 animation project as a bit of a disaster. And that’s if you’re being kind.

The ingredients for success were all there: enthusiastic students, willing and supportive colleagues, the necessary equipment – but several contributing factors meant that the end result just didn’t cut the mustard. Instead of detailing the list of things that went wrong (there is only so much time in the day after all…!), I thought I’d share the lessons I learned through my failures.

Lesson 1. Large photo files + network + 22 students all on the computers = frustration. I wanted to use good quality images to get the best quality for the finished product, however with the scale we were working with (in excess of 300 photos each group), Movie Maker crashed more times that I’ve had hot dinners.
To solve this problem, next year I would reduce the file size to Large or even Medium, to speed the process up, and reduce the chance of crashing.

Lesson 2. Storing video/image files on local machines is much better than accessing files via the school network. I know this seems obvious, but when you have kids using different computers all the time (and occasionally different computers being out of action for some reason), then the network seems like the safest bet. For videos of this magnitude, storing files locally makes the whole thing run much more smoothly.

Lesson 3. Having 22 kids at a time making movies is great in theory, but, practically speaking, 1 per group would have been more manageable for the network. I thought that groups could work together to create and shoot their images, then take the images and edit their a movie individually. One movie per group would be fine, however clear guidelines for each group member would need to be established, so that everyone is responsible for different sections.

Lesson 4. Know your software. Despite making short test versions of animations (as outlined here), Movie Maker wasn’t up for the task on a larger scale. Our other software, Adobe Premiere Elements is a great tool, but the smallest picture duration we could customize it to was 1 frame per second (not nearly fast enough for a decent animation). While trying to fiddle around with the picture duration settings, I discovered Adobe Premiere Elements had a stop-motion animation function (if used with a webcam connected to the computer) which we could have used from the beginning. The quality of the finished movie wouldn’t be as great, however if it meant more kids would be successful in creating an animation, then it’s probably worth trying.

Lesson 5. Persistence pays off. With the Singapore International School Film Festival kicking off in a few short days, I woke at 1am in despair at how despite all the hard work from teachers and students alike, I had not even one video to submit to the Film Fest for consideration. It was heartbreaking. I lay awake for ages composing this blog post in my head. The very next day, one of the students managed to pull together his fabulous animation ready for submission, just in the nick of time. Where other students had given up, Jean-Luc showed an impressive amount of tenacity to keep coming back to the lab, even though each change involved a 10 minute load time, then the distinct possibility of Movie Maker crashing. I am so proud to share this video with you:

Photo Credit: ToGa Wanderings

My Failure Bow

Failure Bow_ToGa WanderingDuring the Asia ADE Institute 2010, Improv expert Rebecca Stockley introduced the “Failure Bow” as a way of recognising failures as learning opportunities. Basically, if you stuffed up, you held your hands up and everyone applauded your failures (rather than only celebrating your successes).

I love the idea of this, but putting it into practice is something that takes a bit of getting used to. Admitting defeat is not something we tend to do, but I don’t want this blog to become a show-boat of lessons that have gone well without countering it with some of the lessons that haven’t. So here goes:

I stuffed up.

Overall, I think it would be safe to describe my Grade 5 animation project as a bit of a disaster. And that’s if you’re being kind.

The ingredients for success were all there: enthusiastic students, willing and supportive colleagues, the necessary equipment – but several contributing factors meant that the end result just didn’t cut the mustard. Instead of detailing the list of things that went wrong (there is only so much time in the day after all…!), I thought I’d share the lessons I learned through my failures.

Lesson 1. Large photo files + network + 22 students all on the computers = frustration. I wanted to use good quality images to get the best quality for the finished product, however with the scale we were working with (in excess of 300 photos each group), Movie Maker crashed more times that I’ve had hot dinners.
To solve this problem, next year I would reduce the file size to Large or even Medium, to speed the process up, and reduce the chance of crashing.

Lesson 2. Storing video/image files on local machines is much better than accessing files via the school network. I know this seems obvious, but when you have kids using different computers all the time (and occasionally different computers being out of action for some reason), then the network seems like the safest bet. For videos of this magnitude, storing files locally makes the whole thing run much more smoothly.

Lesson 3. Having 22 kids at a time making movies is great in theory, but, practically speaking, 1 per group would have been more manageable for the network. I thought that groups could work together to create and shoot their images, then take the images and edit their a movie individually. One movie per group would be fine, however clear guidelines for each group member would need to be established, so that everyone is responsible for different sections.

Lesson 4. Know your software. Despite making short test versions of animations (as outlined here), Movie Maker wasn’t up for the task on a larger scale. Our other software, Adobe Premiere Elements is a great tool, but the smallest picture duration we could customize it to was 1 frame per second (not nearly fast enough for a decent animation). While trying to fiddle around with the picture duration settings, I discovered Adobe Premiere Elements had a stop-motion animation function (if used with a webcam connected to the computer) which we could have used from the beginning. The quality of the finished movie wouldn’t be as great, however if it meant more kids would be successful in creating an animation, then it’s probably worth trying.

Lesson 5. Persistence pays off. With the Singapore International School Film Festival kicking off in a few short days, I woke at 1am in despair at how despite all the hard work from teachers and students alike, I had not even one video to submit to the Film Fest for consideration. It was heartbreaking. I lay awake for ages composing this blog post in my head. The very next day, one of the students managed to pull together his fabulous animation ready for submission, just in the nick of time. Where other students had given up, Jean-Luc showed an impressive amount of tenacity to keep coming back to the lab, even though each change involved a 10 minute load time, then the distinct possibility of Movie Maker crashing. I am so proud to share this video with you:

Photo Credit: ToGa Wanderings

Attempting Animation

Comfort ZoneEvery now and then I think it’s character building to step outside your comfort zone and try something you wouldn’t normally try. That’s what I kept telling myself – repeatedly – having made the decision to take on Stop-Motion Animation.

Luckily for me, people who have far more patience than I were on hand to help.

For starters, @beckcollect gave me some great ideas on how to begin, and kindly shared the Animation Stage plans he used, together with some student examples.

I found a partner-in-crime in Margot (@togramann, our wonderful Art teacher), who was also willing to have a go at this in a combined project. Finally, we found (read: strongly convinced) the Grade 5 team to let us use their students as our figurative crash-test-dummies.

Grade 5 were doing a unit on inquiry called Voices, with the following enduring  understanding (Central Idea in PYP-speak) as its focus:

Through the Arts we tell our stories of who we are: our beliefs, our values and our experiences of life.

Background (Medium)Our idea was to animate Aboriginal Dreamtime stories using Stop-Motion Animation, which we had hoped to narrate (however think we’ll just add title slides with the main story elements instead).

In Art, the students painted the backgrounds and foregrounds for the project and created the characters of their story out of plasticine.

In the ICT Lab, we had a practice run by learning to animate a sketched character and adding music to the background, to prepare for our final project, which will be animating the characters across the background and foregrounds they have constructed in Art.

Here is an example of our first-try animations, made by Al.

P1000062 (Medium)Thankfully our estates staff helped build the Animation Stages using recycled materials. They were fantastic! We ordered new digital still cameras (we went with this model) and adjustable lamps (we tried these ones, but they were a bit tricky to use).

We are now in the final stages of the project, and I have high hopes that some of the kids will be finished in time to enter their movie into the inaugural Singapore International Schools Film Festival.

Stay tuned…

Comfort zone image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/434pics/ / CC BY 2.0