Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Dolly Mixture

Well Hello there!

Well what has been going on with me? Unfortunately this week I realised I am not going to be able to do Animation Mentor as I have been messed about so much with my loan applications and there is nothing else I can do to raise the funds. BIG bummer :( Animation Mentor have been so supportive with their correspondence to all of my troubles so a big thank you to them!
The way I look at it is I can only but try and you will never know otherwise.

So I have my stop motion hat back on! Woooo! I am going to carry on with my previous plan which is to gather enough shots to make a showreel that I am happy with and proud of. This will showcase my understanding and ability to perform with character animation and the 12 principles... hopefully :D It basically is going to be a lot of practice shots and maybe some mock up scenes for pretend films.

At the moment I am currently making a training puppet and nearly finished with painting his head. More on that in my next post.

One thing I have completely forgotten to post about is the finished camera dolly.
Well I say finished but it does in fact need tweaking.
I did start to blog about it with this POST but it has been so long since we made it that I cant actually remember what and why we (We is my Dad really) did certain things. I asked my Dad if he could remember as he is usually spot on with these things but even he could not so I'm going to have to do my best I may get a bit lost along the way so I apologise in advance if you get confused :D

I did a lot of researching and scouring of forums and found THIS TUTORIAL by Brady whitcomb on stopmotionworks. We based our design pretty much exactly on this apart from a few different pieces of materials.

So the basic components to a stop motion camera dolly is: The rails, truck, drive shaft, handles and the base.

These are most of the main components to the dolly minus the threaded rod. I was lucky enough to find the two steel poles that were exactly the same length. They are going a bit rusty now as the are untreated so i need to sort that out. Also we have skateboard wheels and the bearings which are quite important. You will want to get a good few spares as you need these for the winding mechanism. You can kind of see the shape of how it is going to look.

Then we have another piece of the puzzle that took me a while to source. In the end Ebay triumphed. Here is the Laboratory Jack. I'm not sure what they are used for in a lab but I remembered reading about one in Mike's blog (darkmatters) This is for attempting vertical camera movements.

The first thing we did was make the truck of the dolly. This took my Dad quite a bit of precise planning as if you line the skateboard wheels up slightly off the truck wont run along the rails smoothly. Probably the hardest parts of this was attaching the lab jack to the base of the truck as we had to mark out where the bolts would go without stopping it from being able to move up and down. This is because there is a bar at the bottom which as you extend the height, it slides along leaving you with little space to bolt it to the base of the truck. The other hardest part was getting the hex bolt for the drive shaft in the correct place. This again was accomplished by my dads careful planning.

We then bolted and screwed the base of the dolly together. I forgot to take photos of this but it was pretty straight forward. The hardest part of that process was making sure the steel poles were as straight as they could be and in the correct position as if they were not the truck of the of the dolly would not run along it smoothly and you would end up with really jerky footage. To do that I did loads of video tests on the dolly which would quickly show us if there were any problems.

When the rails were in their correct place we then had to add the back boards to the base of the dolly. This was another tricky job as both backboard has a hole in where you will place a skateboard wheel bearing which you then insert your threaded rod too. The handle then fixes onto the threaded rod on the outside of your dolly.

The mind numbing job of screwing the threaded rod into the dolly's truck then into the backboard was a very long process. But we took it in turns and shared the pain.

For the handle we ended up cutting a circle of wood out and using various long screws surrounded by the shell of an old paint pen.

We also made a few cool adjustments to the original design. We made a pole on the truck which you can mark with increments so when you animate a vertical move you can plan your move better. We also added a wooden beam along the side of one of the rails so I can mark down the increments of the camera move and then to be even more precise we added a marker on the side of the truck so that you can see exactly where you are in the move.

I cant really remember what we did after that so I shall leave this weird walkthrough/rambling confused mess and show you some pictures of the finished thing.

The drive shaft on the bottom of the truck.

A front view of the finished truck attached to the rails and thread.

The laboratory jack attached to the truck.

Opened lab jack with increment pole and tripod head attached

Marker on the side of the truck

The finished beasty. 6ft long

So after it was finished I did a couple of tests to see how it performed. I did find there to be a few things that need to be sorted. The lab jack does a weird wobble action when at its maximum height. I still need to do more tests for that problem and see if i can determine how high I can move it before it wobbles.

The other problem I have found of that when the truck is at the very end of the rails it jerks a bit when moving it back into the middle. This can also be sorted by doing more tests.

So there we have it.

I really do apologise if this has made no sense to you and if I have written this out in a very incoherent manner.

Well I shall leave you with this video of the test footage I did after we finished the beasty.

For some reason on both videos it is playing back quite jerky. I find you have to play it once then again and it should play through smoothly then

Also on Vimeo


  1. Sweet stop mo potpourri of cam pushers there, Ben and his Dad! Rocking the motion.

  2. Dolly looks swish, Ben. Masterful work.

    Now you have your stop-mo hat back on, have you considered entering any of the animateclay monthly or quarterly challenges? It'd be great to see an entry from Mr Whitehouse in there.

  3. @Shelley: Hi Shelley!! Thank you for your lovely comment.

    @Dean: Hey Dean! I have indeed thought about entering and I think I will try and be a regular on there. I think think doing the exercises will push me a little bit more.

    Hope your both doing well