12.07.2010

Behind the Scenes

For the last few years, we've made a Christmas video instead of sending out Christmas cards to friends and family. It started because J was frustrated with the lack of creativity in his corporate job, and the fact that our own family wasn't benefiting from his film making talents. We shot in one day over the Thanksgiving weekend and had it ready by December 1st. We received such a positive response that the next year, we did it again.

This year's Christmas video became our most ambitious to date, due mostly to the fact that we wanted to involve both stop motion and photo motion. {In case you are unfamiliar with these terms, stop motion is like animation: you take a photo of something like a candy cane, move it a tiny bit, then take another photo and repeat the process about a bazillion times so that when you show the photos in succession, it appears that the candy cane is moving. Photo motion is similar- it involves showing a rapid succession of photos in order to mimic the movement of video, but does not involve animating inanimate objects.}

Because stop motion in particular is so time consuming, our {typically} one-day shoot turned into a three-day shoot. Luckily, all our sets were in our own home, so we could eat, sleep and distract the kids in relative comfort {check out all the furniture squished into the living room} and around our own schedules.

During the course of filming we took over 6000 photos, animated 200 cotton balls, 72 candy canes, one LARGE bag of skittles and 5 paper cacti.

The skittles were actually purchased to bribe the kids {Stop motion + children under the age of 5 = lots of patience and candy} but when J noticed the red and green ones, he started separating them out. He and E made the them into a tree. They made the 'lights' by carefully moving a single skittle at a time with a piece of gaffers tape stuck to the end of a pencil.

The videos are always a mix of planning and spontaneity. Obviously, the dream sequences were planned. But the jingle bells in L's mouth? Totally spontaneous. We just happened to be rolling while I was fixing the kids ties and that's what he started doing. He also had a thing for falling off of his retro rocket.

Edit: We had planned on painting a photo backdrop but backdrops turned out to be more expensive than we'd thought and not nearly big enough. So I took white acrylic craft paint and painted free-hand on our chocolate wall. More spontaneity! Just an excuse to re-paint in January. :)

As I said, stop motion is a process. We animated the candy canes after putting the younger kids to bed, so Little Miss C was tired and very whiny. It'd be funny if there was audio for all those pictures-- you'd hear us saying such tender, supportive things like, "Suck it up!" and "You just have to lie there, we're doing all the work."

Also funny-- J animated one half of the candy canes while I animated the other, and you can totally tell in the movement of them. When they're raining down, his half is the crooked half. When they're floating up as hearts, his go straight up while mine kind of float around like butterflies. :)

Oh, and we could've used taller ceilings. That tripod is on the countertop with the camera practically scraping the ceiling-- we couldn't even see the viewfinder to check the focus.

In the end, the experience is half the fun. The kids love watching themselves on film and they've become little filmmakers themselves. They've already started presenting ideas for next year!

PS- Mom, the felt beards were tied on with ribbon. The baby had no problem keeping it on, though I wish we'd got a picture of the time he stuck his tongue out through the 'mouth'. Awesome.

17 comments:

LisAway said...

Oh, I'm so glad you posted this!! What an awesome family holiday project. You did a wonderful job. I'll be reading this post again with the fam when they get home today because the whole time we were watching the video everyone kept saying, "Woah! How did they do that!?!" (and various other expressions of amazement and wonder) I'm off to watch again, this time paying attention to the drifting candy cane hearts (and all the details MerelyLooking mentioned in her comment on that post.)

Tru Stories said...

I thought it was awesome and FUN. I always love them. This year... it was especially fun to show my children. Tink watched it OVER and OVER. I loved the happy, upbeat song.
J it a VERY talented man. One day very soon, I will have him make a movie of my kids. You are so lucky to have those memories.
As always... Love you guys!
Merry, Merry Christmas.

Angela said...

My 3 year old loves all of your videos and has watched this one no less than 10 times.

Did you paint the scene in white on your wall? And then you just re-paint? And how did you get the cottonballs to stick?

I think the video is GREAT! Makes me want one!

mosey said...

Ha! Thanks for the "bonus feature". Sometimes my favourite part of a movie on DVD are the extras.

MegRuth said...

Great work as usual!

Tammy said...

I just saw your video on Design Mom, it is so wonderful! Something you and your kids will have to watch years and years down the road. Lot's of work but totally worth it!

I don't even know where our Christmas cards from years past are...

MelancholySmile said...

Angela-

The white is acrylic craft paint-- I just wanted an excuse to re-paint the walls next year.:)

And the cotton balls were stuck on with gaffers tape. That stuff is amazing-- it tears off easily, fastens securely, yet you can use it again and again without it losing its stickiness.

Glad you enjoyed!

Ann said...

What fun! Thanks for sharing with the rest of us ...

Amy said...

Awesome. LOVED it. Thanks for making me smile.

morgannorris said...

This is awesome!

Shannon Oertle said...

The video was adorable and incredible! I loved that you showed the behind the scenes stuff, it seems so professional, but seeing how you did it in your home makes it more accessible to the rest of us. Hopefully I can try one next year! Very inspiring!


Shannon
mommyandc.blogspot.com

AshleyAnn said...

The video is incredible...what is more incredible is that you actually accomplished it with kids!

Apis Melliflora said...

Your whole family worked hard and it really, really shows! Glad it was so much fun too.

In the film, I thought your chocolate wall was a chalkboard wall. Will the chocolate wall stay chocolate or will the color change...that's what I want to know.

The Queen Vee said...

Such a lot of work and so much fun to see how you produced your delightful and charming Christmas present to all of us.

TDeuce said...

This is a great video and so much fun to watch. I have two kids - 1 & 2 (who both love watching this too btw) so I can't imagine the time and energy that went into making this. Thanks for sharing and we can't wait to see what you guys come up with next year!

Gaby Burger said...

This is the most adorable Christmas video I've ever seen. Brings so much joy and happiness by watching it, I just LOVE it. Thanks so much for the happy times this video is giving me ;)
I hope you don't mind I blog about it ;)

rebecca @ older and wisor said...

Okay, so hopefully this comment will make the cut on a one year old post but HELLO? This rocks my socks and I gotta say so.

Seriously.

We've been trying to finish up a family music video by using my digital camera on video (due to an untimely death....RIP flipcam) and now I'm feeling SO LAME. This was amazing and ours is......well, NOT. But even in my discouragement of comparison, I'm still inspired! :)

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