The Small Sheep

A short and light-hearted stop-motion film about a small sheep wandering through a Mediterranean village.

Project Summary

Project Type

Just for Fun, Motion Graphics

My Role

Sole designer—from concept development to execution.

Duration

2 weeks in 2021

Organization

Quinnipiac University
M.S. Interactive Media & Communication

Staff

Professor Kent Golden

Project Details

As part of my Master’s program, I took an animation class to develop new skills in motion graphics. Part of the course required us to create a stop-motion film. I had always been a fan of stop-motion and admired its use in movies like Coraline, and short films like Negative Space and The Maker. So, I was excited to conceptualize and create a my own stop motion mini-story.

Project Objective
Conceptualize, plan and produce a 30-60 second stop-motion story.

Ideation and Storyboarding

I started by conceptualizing story ideas that I could tell in a minute or less. Below are two of my concepts.

Concept 1: The Small Sheep

"Small Sheep" is a lighthearted stop-motion video that follows a tiny sheep's attempt to keep up with her herd. The film explores the desire not to get left behind and how hard we try to keep up.

Storyboards for my concept called The Small Sheep.

Storyboards for my concept called The Small Sheep.

Concept 2: The Still Pond

"Still Pond" is a simple animation inspired by a Haiku poem by Matsuo Basho (1644-1694). The entire scene will be created using the Japanese art form of origami.

Storyboards for my concept called Small Pond.

Pre-Production

The Pre-production phase is especially critical in stop-motion. Stop-motion requires a ton of upfront planning to get it right and avoid wasting time, energy, and resources. It also involves taking a lot of images. For example, just 2 seconds of film at 24fps (frames per second) requires that you take 48 slightly different photos! Cleary, stop motion is equally a product of patience and passion!

With this understanding, I started with a quick test run of my equipment and the stop-motion process to get a better feel for how the work is done. I made a 48-shot stop-motion to test my lighting, set up my tripod, and learn how to tether my camera to my computer. I used Sony's Imaging Edge program for the tethering, which was super convenient. It allowed me to snap images from my laptop and avoid accidentally shaking or shifting my camera. It also has a great feature for stop-motion films called Overlay, which allows you to see your previous image ghosted on top of your new scene.

A short animation I created to test the stop-motion process.

Set Building

After getting my equipment all set up, I started building my props. I spent seven days swimming in a sea of construction paper, Xacto knives, and glue sticks as I crafted my little village and a few tiny sheep.

I created a series of templates for my props that helped keep everything proportional. This process took a lot of time to think through and build upfront, but it saved me a lot of time and headaches down the road.

I glued the templates to the the cardboard paper, then assembled my sets so the template was in the inside, and couldn't be seen.

A selection of some of my first buildings starting to come together.

After building the entire set, I tested lighting setups and camera angles again, then taped all of my equipment and my props down in preparation for production.

This is the final set, ready for production.

Post-Production

By the end of the project, my hands were cramped and sore from the excessive cutting and gluing it took to build the scene. But I felt great about the work I put into this project and the final result.

A lighthearted stop motion film about a small sheep struggling to take the next step. Music by Epidemic Sound: Tavern on Main by Nathan Welch
https://www.epidemicsound.com/track/3oFxsoI6XA/

Conclusion

This project took me back to undergrad, where I spent nights in the photography or screen printing studio, listening to my favorite albums and bringing different versions of my ideas to life. Those late nights are some of my favorite memories, and I fell into that same flow and craftsmanship mentality with this project that I had back in those days. The entire process reminded me of how much I love working with my hands and creating for the sake of creating.

I also enjoyed this project's balance of creative and technical thinking. The concept inspired creative exploration of how to visualize the story, and the set building required a lot of technical and mathematical thinking.

All of the preparations that happened beforehand made the shoot quick and easy. It only took me 1.5 hours to complete the sequence a few times and shoot over 200 photos. Afterward, I brought the images into Lightroom, did some light edits, and created the video using Premiere Pro and After Effects.

To read about the lessons I learned in creating this project, click here and scroll down to the Takeaways section of this article.