How We Did It: Melting Snowman Cookies for Foodstirs

Happy Holidays, everyone, and welcome to our first How We Did It post! This is where we'll be sharing with you a behind-the-scenes look into our real-world stop motion projects for different brands!

We'll be discussing the challenges and the solutions we came up with for our Christmas campaign with Foodstirs. It's a fantastic brand that offers easy-to-make baking kits for kids and families.


Our project involved making six stop motion clips for the holidays--specifically Thanksgiving and Christmas. For this post, we'll focus on creating animation for their Melting Snowman kit.


The Concept


For the project, Foodstirs asked us to feature all the ingredients of the Melting Snowman kit. They also asked us to show what the final product would look like after baking and decorating.


Below, you'll find the storyboard that showed our concept for our shoot:

Our solution to feature the contents of the Foodstirs box was to make the package slide into the frame, and all the ingredients would spill out.


To turn the ingredients into delicious cookies, we made the hand spin the ingredients in a circle so they could slowly turn into a plate full of cookies.


To show the final product, we originally wanted to just use a hand to grab the cookie. But during our meeting with the client, we decided it was best to make one of the cookies jump in the air and make it pause for a moment. That way, the audience would have enough time to look at it.


The Details


When you look at a stop motion ad online, do you ever wonder how many frames and how many hours it took to make?

Below, you'll find the project data that shows you the details involved in making it from prep time to the number of frames it took to create the animation.


Prep Time: 1 Hour


Our background was blue, so building our setup didn't take long. But preparing the melted snowman required a lot of patience and time.


Apart from laying down the frosting, we also had to add tiny details such as the buttons and the nose to the snowman's face made of marshmallows.


Since food is delicate, we also had to make two sets in case the cookies crumbled.


Running Time: 10 Seconds


Each stop motion clip we produced for Foodstirs had to be ten seconds long, and it wasn't any different for the Melted Snowman.


Number of Frames: 92


The melting snowman animation was a bit intricate. But surprisingly, it didn't go beyond 100 frames.


Frames Per Second: 12


When we started, we shot a lot in 24 fps. But eventually, we started doing everything in 12 frames per second because it looks more hand-animated that way.


Our melting snowman looks relatively smooth. But it still has that subtle "jerky" feel that makes people know it's animated.


From our client's perspective, 12 frames also work well because we charge them per frame. The fewer frames required, the less they have to spend!


Shooting Time: 1 1/2 Hours


The animation was pretty short, and if we wanted, we could have done it in an hour. But it required elements in the frame to be synchronized, so we had to do it slowly and make sure everything lined up. We had to ensure all the ingredients were arranged correctly above the box. We also had to merge them into a circle to turn into a plate of cookies.


Number of Takes: 2


It took us two attempts to finish this animation because our ingredients didn't align properly as they slid outside the box the first time.


Officially, we say two takes, but it's worth mentioning that we also backtracked a lot to fix our mistakes within those two takes. We also did a lot of micro-adjustments to make sure the animation ran relatively smoothly.


Editing Time: 5 Hours


The melting snowman animation appears straightforward. But to make the background pop, we had to replace it in post frame by frame.


Apart from replacing the background, we also had to remove the rigging we used during the shoot.


The Challenges


Stop motion is a tedious process, so it's crucial to eliminate everything that could cause you problems as early as possible.

Below, you'll find some of the potential challenges we identified while brainstorming for Foodstirs:

  • The colors of the cookies are slightly different even though they were baked together in one batch.

  • Cookies are messy. Apart from leaving crumbles all the time, they also tend to make your shooting surface look so greasy.

  • Many items are needed to decorate the cookie--including frosting, marshmallows, and tiny colorful candies.

  • The overhead angle cannot show the details of the final melting snowman cookie.

  • For the cookie-jump shot, the cookie might end up crumbling when attached to a rig.

Before we even start preparing the set, we figure out how to deal with all the issues we listed. We may not always anticipate every challenge we face once we start animating. But at least we lessen the chances of us running into trouble and restarting the whole stop motion process.


Food Prep


Food is quite tricky because you not only need to know how to photograph it, but you also need to know how to prepare and style it.

To ensure the success of your shoot, you need to acknowledge what you can and can't do. If you know you can't bake, hire someone who does it professionally, and it could either be a baker or a professional food stylist.

We knew baking wasn't our specialty. Thankfully, our client was kind enough to bake the cookies and ship them to us overnight before the shoot.


We didn't have a stylist, so we still had to decorate the cookies independently. It was quite challenging, but we managed to make a few dozen cookies look pretty!


The Shoot


For the most part, the animation process was relatively straightforward--albeit challenging.


All we had to do was slide the ingredients around to make them move. We drew lines and circles in Dragonframe to ensure the elements in the frame were aligned all the time.

The more challenging aspect of the animation was the "jump" shot involving a cookie flipping in the air.


We had to rig the cookie to make it flip. We had to attach wires to support it in the air, but at the same time, we had to make sure it wouldn't crumble.



Our solution was to hot glue the wires to the bottom part of the cookie, and it provided rigid support and ensured the food wouldn't crumble into pieces.


Once we were ready to animate, we replaced the cookie on the plate with the rigged version. Once it landed back down, we again changed the cookie to the non-rigged one to keep everything consistent.


Sound Recording


We often add sound effects to animated clips that last ten seconds or more. Why? Because we noticed that that time feels a bit too long without sound at all.


Now let's take a look at the video version of our melting snowman animation below. Try to guess all the things we used to make sound effects!

We created all the sound effects for the melted snowman animation in our studio. We used ordinary objects to make all sorts of noises.


Remember that oven bell ding? To make that sound, all we had to do was to use a metal rod to strike a bottle. And the whooshing sound as the cookie flips in the air? It was just us making sounds with our mouths!


Editing Process


We isolated the elements in each frame for the background to pop and transferred them to a cleaner, more evenly lit version we created in Photoshop.



For the rigged shots, we had to make sure we cleaned up the bottom part of the cookie, and especially since it showed hot glued wires.


The editing process was also relatively straightforward, but it was also time-consuming. Just try to imagine isolating all those objects in every frame!

 

Planning is essential for stop motion animation, but it's particularly crucial when working with food.


So before you start animating, brainstorm your concept and pay close attention to the issues you think you'll face.


Remember that the appearance of food deteriorates after a while. It may start drooping or end up looking discolored in a matter of an hour, so make sure you have everything dialed in so you can finish everything in time.








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