Week 45: Happy Holidays

Week 45 came during Christmas so I wanted to do some type of Holiday themed video. I thought about filming my kids decorating the Xmas tree, but I did that a few years ago (You can watch it here).

While I was thinking of something to do, I was eating some delicious Hershey Kisses, the Holiday flavored ones (mint, peppermint, cherry). That’s when I thought of doing a stop motion video. I thought of doing one earlier in October with Halloween candy, but I was in New York on a few shoots and didn’t have time. I figured Christmas candy would work just as well.

I started to think about what I wanted the candy to do, I was thinking of having it spell out “Happy Holidays” but that would have taken forever. Stop Motion is a tedious and long process, so I knew I wanted something simple. That’s when I came up with the christmas tree idea, I figured it would be a quick and easy project.

To get started I set up an EZ cube light tent, and placed a piece of white acrylic down on the surface.


EZ cube light tent.



I used white acrylic for my surface.

I lit the EZ cube with 3 500 watt Lowel Rifas. I moved them a few feet away from the cube so it didn’t get too hot. I didn’t want the chocolate to melt.


My set up, the third Rifa Light is behind the EZ Cube.

Next I put my camera (Canon 7D with the Tokina 11-16mm) on a monopod, then I hooked that up to a C-Stand arm and placed the camera above the cube. The nice thing about the EZ cube is that it has two flaps you can utilize, one on top and another in front. This allowed me to shoot from the top flap while I moved the Hershey Kisses from the front flap. My C-stand set up isn’t the best diea, but it’s what I had and I made it work.


The camera at the top flap of the EZ cube.

The other important element of the shoot was the remote timer. I used the Canon TC-80N3. This was essential because with the camera mounted so high I needed a way to snap the pics, plus I didn’t want to snap them using the camera because it could cause my camera to move.


I put the remote in self mode so I could snap the pictures when I was ready.

Once I had the set up finished I started to move the candy. I started making small adjustments at first, moving the candy slightly then taking a picture, and repeating that over and over. I quickly realized how long this process was going to take, even on a simple ideas like my xmas tree. So I started moving the objects a little more each time. The farther you move them the faster they will appear to move in your final animation.

I had already picked out my music, a 10 second clip from Digital Juice’s Stack Traxx collection called “An Island Christmas” (Holiday Stacks Volume 5). I also knew my sequence settings were 30 fps, so I figured I would need about 300 pictures to make animation fit. 30fps x 10 seconds = 300 images. I actually ended up shooting 319 images. I shot a few extra at the begging and end just to have.

Once I had my images I imported them as an image sequence into After Effects and made my video. I had a few issues. The main one being that my frame size was wrong, the acrylic was square and I used that as my base, so when I watched the final video, the kisses were visible and they didn’t come from off screen. So I used another Digital Juice element, one of their Holiday frames, to help hide the edges. I resized it and cropped it to fit the borders. The final text “Happy Holidays” is also from Digital Juice, I just wanted a quick ending element saying “Happy Holidays”, and It was easier to just use a pre made one from them rather than taking the time to make my own.

Stop Motion is very time consuming, and tedious. There are a few tips I can give you that might make it easier for you.

The first is to make a plan, know what you want to do and how many shots you need to get it done. I actually shot this video twice, the first time I had the Kisses all coming in at once, but I forgot to leave space for the final Silver Kiss to be the tree topper. So I had to reshoot. The second time I had it planned out much better.


My first attempt wasn’t planned out, and I didn’t leave space for the tree topper.

Second, once you start, don’t move the camera or objects that are suppose to remain still. At one point in my video I bumped all the Kisses and they moved slightly.

Third, get a remote timer or a remote way to activate your camera, even the slightest movement of the camera will cause problems.

Fourth, take your time and make sure you pull your hands out before you snap the picture. I was in a hurry and I captured my hand a few times. I had to crop it out it out in the final video.

My 10 second stop motion was 319 images. It took me about 45 minutes to shoot. I edited it in about 30 minutes. All I can say is I’m glad I did it. I haven’t done one since college, and I’ve been wanting to do one for awhile. That being said, I don’t want to do another one unless I’m getting paid for it. It’s tedious and time consuming, and a little boring.

I hope you all had a Happy Holiday, and you have to try the Hershey Holiday Flavored Kisses, they are delicious.

You can watch Week 45 here.

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