7 Tips on How to Style Cocktails for Stop Motion

Our careers as stop motion artists serendipitously started when an alcoholic beverage company asked us to take photos of their bottles. Quite surprisingly, they also asked us if we did GIFs. Although we barely had any experience creating animated images, we agreed.


We've been doing beverage GIFs for about three years now, and we've learned a few tricks (and secrets) along the way that we'd like to show you!


There are many cocktails, and each requires a different approach when animating. For our tutorial, we'll be animating the classic Old Fashioned cocktail because we believe creating it encompasses most of the techniques you can use in other types of beverages.


So are you ready to animate delicious cocktails? Let's get started!


1. Use The Correct Glassware


If you want to forge a career in animating cocktails, you first need to know which type of glassware to use. For instance, you can't use a wine glass if you're animating champagne or rum.


It's also crucial to make sure your glassware looks crystal clear. You can use a window cleaner to clean your glass because it works well in removing remnants of soap or hard water.


We wipe our glassware with a paper towel doused in window cleaner. However, using a paper towel can leave fibers on the glass. So to remove those, we wipe the glassware again with a lens cloth.


2. Create a Mocktail


A mocktail is a portmanteau of mock and cocktail. Now you must be asking, why make a fake cocktail instead of a real one? Making the real deal can be expensive, especially if you're only going to take pictures of it. If you use wine or whiskey all the time, you'll be running out of bottles your client gave you.

You can replace whiskey or wine with cheaper alternatives such as juice or food color.

It's worth noting that if we're working with a new cocktail with a specific recipe, we will make it with real ingredients, so our pictures are consistent with how the drink is supposed to look.


But if we're making a popular drink such as the Old Fashioned, we search online and find out what it looks like. We then think of various non-alcoholic beverages (juices, sodas, etc.) that may appear the same as the cocktail we intend to make.


For instance, we can replace red wine with cranberry juice or champagne with clear soda. When it comes to whiskey, we often work with tea and add either water or brown food color to match the hue of the tea with the whiskey.


3. Handle Liquid with Care


Animating anything with liquid is always tricky. You can easily spill it everywhere, and it doesn't usually stay in one place. i.e., droplets on the surface of the glass will inevitably slide down.



So when shooting cocktails, we often use a funnel to ensure the liquid doesn't splash on the glass walls.

If we need a specific amount of liquid, we use either a syringe or a graduated cylinder to know how much we're pouring into the glass.


4. Learn a Few Bartending Skills


Even though you're making a mocktail, that doesn't necessarily mean it's okay if the drink looks fake. It should still appear authentic. Otherwise, your audience will notice.

That's why it always helps if you learn a few bartending techniques that can help you achieve an authentic-looking beverage. We may not know how to make a legit Old-Fashioned, but we can undoubtedly peel orange rinds like pros.


Other techniques that will help you a lot are muddling and stirring cocktails. They may seem straightforward to do them, but knowing the proper methods will help you make drinks at least look better. After all, crushing ingredients or stirring them the wrong way could easily make your beverage appear muddy and undrinkable.


5. Work with Fake Ice


Animating takes some time, so if you use natural ice, you'll end up with a watery drink by the time you finish. That's why we always work with fake ice when creating stop motion.

You can find all sorts of fake ice online, and there are even some cheap ones you can find on Amazon. Unfortunately, many of them look a little too artificial for our liking. You can also find specialty prop shops that sell acrylic ice, but they tend to be so expensive (about $40+ a pop).


In our case, we make our ice with a silicone kit called Encapso K. All we have to do is combine Part 1 and Part 2 and mix it for five minutes. After that, we pour it into the mold and let it cure for twenty-four hours.


After the curing process, we have these hyperrealistic silicone cubes that break like natural ice!


Once we put the ice inside the glass, we spray the vessel with a water+glycerine solution to create condensation outside the glass. That way, our cocktail would appear cold!


6. Show The Ingredients


If you've done food photography/animation before, you know it's essential to show the ingredients in your shots. It's pretty much the same way when it comes to animating cocktails. People need to see what goes in the drink, so they'll know how it tastes.

We showed the orange rind in our example because it's the classic garnish for the old-fashioned. Despite not being included in the original recipe, we also added burned rosemary because it adds visual interest and intrigues people about the drink's taste.


7. Indulge Your Viewer's Senses


Like anything else in visual arts, storytelling is essential when creating animation--even if it's just a few seconds long. But apart from that, it's also crucial to make your cocktail look delicious.


There are several ways we make our cocktail shots look tasty, and we'll show you the three most common techniques we use.


Lighting


Did you know that many restaurants often use strategically placed warm light sources to enhance your dining experience? The same applies to photography or animation. How you arrange the lights around food or beverage determines how delicious they'll look.

For drinks in clear glasses, it's often best to backlight them like what we did in our sample animation. Since the light is coming from behind, the beverage "glows" and appears refreshing.


Ingredients


We have already discussed that you should always showcase the ingredients you use in your cocktail. There are many ways to do this, but our preferred method is by "creating" the drink using animation, as shown in our sample video.

As you can see, we "built" the cocktail from the ground up, starting with the ice and the whiskey. Then, we added the orange peel and rosemary for garnish. It's pretty simple, but it's effective at making people better imagine how to make the drink and how it will taste.


Pixilation


Pixilation refers to any animation that uses body parts, such as the hands.

Adding a human element to your animation makes the experience more relatable to the viewer. We once read an article stating that photos (or, in this case, animated works), with a person included, tend to have more engagement than those without any.


Our sample animation may only show a hand reaching for the cocktail, but psychologically, it relays to people how the drink may feel in their own hands once they hold it.

 

As we mentioned before, there are a plethora of cocktails, and they all require different techniques to make (and animate).

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Start with simple drinks such as the Old-Fashioned if you don't feel comfortable working with liquids and glassware yet. The tips and tricks we listed will help you efficiently resolve issues you may encounter while shooting. And after a few shoots, we guarantee that everything will feel second nature to you.