Go Motion: A Motion Blur Technique Invented for Star Wars’ AT-AT Walkers

Here’s an interesting factoid: to make the Star Wars scenes containing AT-AT walkers and tauntauns more realistic, a new stop motion technique called “go motion” was created:

Stop motion animation can create a disorienting, and distinctive, staccato effect, because the animated object is perfectly sharp in every frame, since each frame of the animation was actually shot when the object was perfectly still. Real moving objects in similar scenes of the same movie will have motion blur, because they moved while the shutter of the camera was open.

Go motion was designed to prevent this, by moving the animated model slightly during the exposure of each film frame, producing a realistic motion blur. The main difference is that while the frames in stop motion are made up by images of stills taken between the small movements of the object, the frames in go motion are images of the object taken while it is moving.

So how did they go about adding motion blur to still photographs of inanimate objects? Well, their methods included smearing vaseline on the camera lens and bumping the puppet or table while the exposure was being made.

  • pokemetoseeifimbreathing

    I can’t even imagine how painful stopmotion must really be. Long, arduous days moving objects fractions of inches per frame….ug. artist’s crazy dedication :)

  • Sam U L

    what did the vaseline do?

  • Tony Bowman

    Think about this:

    Standard motion picture footage is 24 frames a second. Multiply that by 60 seconds, and you get 1,440 individual frames to shoot for every minute of footage. Multiply that by 90 minutes for a standard feature-length film, and you end up shooting 129,600 frames.

    There’s lots of tricks and time-savers you can do, like shooting fewer frames per second, and digital compositing and the like, but to do good stop-mo, you have to be really dedicated to the art.

  • Marc

    Smeared Vaseline on the lens blurs the objects of the photo.  So instead of actually moving the objects when the shutter was open, they applied Vaseline to make parts of the object seem out of focus and give the viewer the impression that the object was moving.

  • Shawn Parker

    Vaseline softens the image. You can create interesting soft-focus effects yourself with an old UV filter and something to smear on it.

  • Sam U L

    Right, makes sense thanks

  • Damien

    Time-consuming, but worth all the effort. The stop-motion effects in the original Star Wars films win hands-down against the CGI on the prequels. 

  • Jobrry

    Actually, go motion was used on the tauntauns and the flying lizard things on dagobah, but was purposely not used with the AT-ATs to impart a jerky mechanical feel to their motion.

    Signed Old Guy who read cinefex

  • Jason Love

    I am a stop motion animator and I had never heard this. I always wondered how they pulled off the realistic looking animation. Anyone know where I can learn more about the technique?