Model Maker – Stop Motion
What is the job?
Stop Frame is one of several names used to describe animation that is created by moving models, puppets or any three dimensional objects frame by frame in front of a camera. Other terms that are sometimes used include Stop Motion, Model or Puppet Animation, Table Top or 3D. Nowadays 3D usually applies to Computer Animation.
Stop Frame is a well established technique which is produced mainly for television. However, there are notable exceptions when the technique is used for feature films, including work from Aardman and Tim Burton.
Model Makers need to be all-rounders, able to work in several craft areas. These include Sculpting, Mould Making, Casting, Trimming & Seaming (Fettling), Foaming, Metal Working, Welding, Painting, Finishing, Costume Making, etc. In fact, a Model Maker’s particular strengths are likely to be recognised and they may be ‘cast’ for an appropriate job.
The precise responsibilities can vary depending on the technique and mechanics of the models or puppets involved, and on the scale of the project and the size of the team. Armature Making exists within the Model Making Department of some studios but, in manycases, armatures are produced by specialised outside sub-contractors.
On larger productions, Model Makers are briefed by their Supervisors or Team Leaders; they may also be required to liaise with members of other departments such as art directors, assistant directors, animators, riggers, etc. On smaller projects, Model Makers may be briefed by the Art Director and they are more likely to handle the entire process, from start to finish. In addition to their own work, Model Makers may be required to supervise more junior members of the team.
Typical career routes
Model Makers are most likely to have spent time in a more junior role within the department, acquiring the many craft skills that are required. There are many levels within the Model Making Department and the rate of progression depends on individual skill and talent and job opportunities. In some studios, a single prop maker is responsible for providing props for an entire series of 10 minute television shows.
Depending on their overall craft skills, leadership qualities and management ability, Model Makers can go on to become Team Leaders, Supervisors and, eventually, Head of Model Making.
Essential knowledge and skills
Model Makers need to have a broad range of skills in order to be sufficiently flexible and adaptable to work on different types of production.
Key Skills include:
• high level of various craft skills combined with artistic ability
• knowledge and use of a wide range of materials
• ability to communicate with colleagues and work as part of a team, keeping Supervisors or Production Managers advised of progress or problems
• ability to give guidance to morejunior members of the team
• ability to liaise with members of other departments
• ability to take direction and accept delegated tasks willingly
• ability to work without supervision and follow a brief;
• ability to be methodical and thorough, keeping good records and log sheets, if required
• ability to deliver on schedule, working under pressure if required
• respect for the procedures and requirements of a particular studio or production
• knowledge of Health & Safety issues, including use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) regulations
Training and qualifications
Model Makers are likely to have an art or design-related degree, or training in a more technical discipline. The quality of their previous work will be of more value than academic qualifications and applicants will be expected to show a portfolio which demonstrates their expertise and professional experience.
As Model Making involves a broad range of craft skills, a background in one of a variety of areas can be appropriate. These include animation, fine art, sculpture, jewellery, ceramics, graphic design, information design, metalwork, dress making, etc. Although Model Makers may have preferences for particular crafts, specialisation is not always an advantage because, particularly on smaller projects, they need to be qualified to deal with most crafts.
Where to go for more information
Creative Skillset is the Sector Skills Council for the Audio Visual Industries. The first sources of informationfor all jobs in the industry are the National Occupational Standards
Thinking of pursuing a higher education course in animation? The following animation courses have been subject to rigorous testing from the animation industry and as a result have been awarded the Creative Skillset Tick for both the degree to which they prepare you for a career in animation and the high level of education they provide.
www.stopmotionanimation.com Good American site giving news, information and lots of links
Animation World Network (AWN)
www.animationnation.com Animation industry news and many links
Skwigly Animation Magazine
Cracking Animation: The Aardman Book of 3-D Animation by Peter Lord and Brian Sibley. Pub. Thames & Hudson
Stop Motion: Craft Skills for Model Animation by Susannah Shaw. Pub. Focal Press.
Stop Motion Armature Machining: A Heavily Illustrated Construction Manual
by Tom Brierton. Pub. McFarland & Company
Stop-Motion Puppet Sculpting: A Manual of Foam Injection, Build-Up and Finishing Techniques by Tom Brierton. Pub. McFarland & Company