Stop-Motion Wizard Battle

The Assignment: make a stop-motion animation video of less than thirty seconds, that used props made with 3D-printing, Arduino programming, and laser-cutting, learning how to do everything along the way.

Our story was heavily influenced by the materials available around us. For example, the Lego set that we were provided contained wands, broomsticks, hats, and animals – so we decided to go with a Harry Potter theme.

3D-printing the protagonist

Concept: We knew we wanted a protagonist that also looked like a character from Harry Potter, with a wizard’s hat. We saw previous designs that used triangles for feet, which allowed the character to stand upright quite easily, and planned on using that idea in our design.

Execution: We were provided with a basic model of a ball and socket joint, which had been used in previous printing jobs, and would be the foundation for our character. Using 123 Design, we created a torso, arm, leg, and head file, making the designs by combining primitive shapes. We exported each design as a .stl file.

Problems: The printing mode was set to only print the surface. The surface was so thin in our torso model that the center was not printed at all!. We printed the torso and legs again, changing the 3D-printer settings from ‘surface’ to ‘shell,’ and adding additional layers in the design.

Laser-Cutting the Props

Concept: We decided to set our story in a scene with forests and castles. Since we had two types of material to laser-cut, we cut the forest background on acrylic and the castle background on wood.

Execution: We found images of castles and forests online, and imported them into Photoshop for editing. Then, they were made into vector by using Image Trace in Adobe Illustrator.

In Adobe Illustrator, both images had to be converted into black & white and then traced to convert them entirely into vectors. See below for screenshots that outline the process.

Problems: Because the wood was slightly warped, the laser-cutter could not get the right focus to cut through the wood completely. We ended up cutting the castle background again, using wood that was not warped.

Using Arduino to Add Lighting

Concept: We had been instructed to incorporate Arduino into our project in some way, and initially planned on programming LEDs to mimic the appearance of a spell being cast. However, we realized that Stop Motion Animation could not capture the LEDs turning on and off in real time, and decided to just use them to add basic lighting to the scene.

Execution: Properly configuring the circuits (and/or programming) the Arduino was the most difficult part of this project. At https://www.arduino.cc/en/Tutorial/ , there are instructions with schematics and diagrams that students can use to gain a basic understanding of building circuits that incorporate LED lighting.

We ended up programming four different-colored LEDs through a series circuit, programming them to light up when the light sensor was pressed.

HUE Animation

Concept: With all of our props built and laid out, we began brainstorming a more concrete plot for our story.

As had been the case during each other phase of the project, our technological constraints heavily influenced our ideas. For example, our camera could not zoom, which forced us to focus on the movement of the characters and lighting while the camera angle and focus remained the same throughout the video.

We also realized that characters could be placed in interesting configurations on top of the forest, making it appear that they were being suspended in mid-air. This was because the acrylic forest cut-out looked invisible without spot-lighting in the scene.

Notice how the protagonist (the red character) appears to be flying throughout the movie without the use of string.

Bonus: Try Using the edit command in HUE animation to add in special effects, like the blue spell in our video. You have to draw in each frame, but the effect is totally worth it!

Final video:

Developed by Trang Ngo & Will Luna, Tufts University CEEO 2016