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Stop-Motion Digital Photography on the Silver Screen


Animated films have had enjoyed increased exposure on the big screen this year. Films like Pixar’s Up, Miyazaki’s Ponyo, and Ari Folman’s animated documentary, Waltz with Bashir,  have received widespread critical acclaim, demonstrating that while animated films can be family-friendly, they are at their core a dynamic and imaginative medium with impressive potential.

Two major animated films this year, Henry Selick’s 3D film, Coraline, and Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, utilize an old animating technique that has been used for nearly a century: stop-motion.

According to the IMDB websites of both films, the individual frames of Coraline and Fantastic Mr. Fox were captured with Nikon DSLRs: the Nikon D80 and D3, respectively, along with a variety of other lenses, bodies, and equipment. Additionally, several Canon bodies can be spotted in a Wired.com video feature on Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Producer Jeremy Dawson notes how differently the film was produced because it was on a digital medium: instead of director Wes Anderson being present during the entire filming process, captured photographs could be remotely accessed and viewed for his approval, no matter where he was physically. The final film consists of 5,229 shots, 621,450 frames, an average of 120 gigabytes of data was captured per day, and the total storage for the images took up 18.5 terabytes of space.

Coraline also seems to have its share of behind-the-scenes camera aficionados; the titular character can be seen in one scene using a Leica camera.

Both films are visually captivating. Coraline director Selick does not stray far from the styles of his previous animated masterpieces, James and the Giant Peach and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Director Wes Anderson’s trademark vintage color palette also stays consistently impressive.

The behind the scenes featurettes of the films are worth a watch as well, and provide some interesting insight into the tedious effort and tremendous amount of time put into making these gorgeous motion pictures.

The Making of Coraline

Behind the Scenes of Fantastic Mr. Fox

Image and Video Credits: Fox Searchlight (Fantastic Mr. Fox) and Focus Features (Coraline).