Making of RUVIVAL

Making of RUVIVAL Stop Motion Videos

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This article was at first published in German on Insights.

Stop motion is a visual storytelling technique that has been present in film-making for over a century. In fact, it is the first ever animation technique. It creates an illusion of movement by playing a series of individual frames in a fast sequence. In stop motion, ideas are often conveyed by combining art, motion and metaphor.

In RUVIVAL, we use the stop motion technique to explain complex topics in a simple and descriptive visual manner, where language is not in the foreground. The particular style of our videos is called cut-out animation. This technique utilises flat materials, such as paper and fabrics, producing a 2D animation as a result. We focus on using small-scale handmade scenes and we have learned a few things along the way about creating a makeshift stop motion studio. All images used in the RUVIVAL stop motion videos are hand drawn by our collaborators, just as all sound effects are available in the public domain.

Something very important to us is that our videos reach a worldwide audience. Part of our concept is to choose an iconography speaking to an audience of diverse backgrounds by being abstract. Therefore, to use an imagery and symbol language as general as possible. This can be seen especially in the people characters in our videos, which we make in a universal way, without representing and reproducing gender, ethnical or even racial stereotypes making it also easier for the viewer to identity themselves with the situations. An example of our images can be seen below.

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Stop Motion Images by RUVIVAL Team are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

In these past years, we have also learned that it is not only people characters which make a video universal. For example, in our first videos, houses and farms were drawn resembling a U.S. farm house architecture, a detail we corrected for the newer videos by using more abstract forms as it can be seen in the images below.

Barn

House

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Stop Motion Images by RUVIVAL Team are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Additionally, we also avoid using text in the videos, as we want people from all over the world to be able to understand them in a visual non textual way. Therefore, we had to find our own picture language for certain reoccurring concepts, for example, we developed the picture on the right to show ecological benefits. This step into a more non-textual picture language is also an advantage considering future translations, as one video can be easily used for several languages. For clarity, the audio is recorded by a professional native speaker.

What is the production process like?

We have come a long way since we started making videos in 2016 and since then we have improved our production process. Each production consists of three steps: pre-production, studio production and post-production. Here you can see already an overview on our processes:

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Making of RUVIVAL Stop Motion Videos by RUVIVAL Team is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Part 1. Pre-production

It all starts with a pre-production phase, where all the planning is done and storyboards are reviewed several times before the video is actually filmed. This is done in order to improve the quality of the video and to avoid having to re-shoot scenes as they did not work out like we wanted them to. The first step consists of the student writing a script, which is then reviewed by the supervisors. Afterwards, the script is divided into scenes to create a storyboard. The storyboard is first made in a tabular form, in which it is described what will happen in each scene, what elements will be used and what the narration will be. This is then also reviewed by the supervisors. A template of our tabular storyboard can be downloaded here.

Once the tabular storyboard is approved, an animated storyboard is made on PowerPoint, in which the student uses images taken from our database and/or the Internet and his/her own voice as narration. This animated storyboard is very important for our production process, as it helps us to visualise how the final video will look like and to see if it is made in a way that catches the viewers’ attention. We have learned a few important guidelines that we now follow when creating our videos and these are included in our step-by-step guide below.

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2D Stop Motion Step-by-Step Guide by RUVIVAL Team is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The most important points to remember when creating a scene are:

  • Follow composition rules used in photography, like the ‘golden ratio’ or the ‘rule of thirds’. The ‘golden ratio’ is based on the ratio of 1 to 1.618, which has been found to create a sense of harmony and balance and can be found everywhere in nature, making it appealing to the human eye. In photography, it can be applied by using the Phi Grid or the Fibonacci Spiral. The Phi Grid is created by dividing the frame into nine sections, resulting in a grid that is 1:0.618:1, and it is applied by placing important elements along these lines and/or intersections; whereas the Fibonacci Spiral is based on the Fibonacci number sequence and it is applied by placing elements with the greatest detail in the smallest quadrangle and the rest of the object along the spiral. The ‘rule of thirds’ is similar to the Phi Grid; however, here the frame is divided into nine equal parts and important elements are placed along the dividing lines and/or their intersections.
  • Make the scenes as simple as possible, as having too many elements may confuse the viewers or draw the attention away from important elements.
  • Define order of events so there is only one focus point at a time and objects do not have to compete for the viewers’ attention.
  • Follow the same style for all drawings used in the video and be consistent, that is, use the same style to depict people, environment, etc.
  • Avoid text as much as possible.

After the animated storyboard has been perfected, the images to be used in the video can finally be drawn. We try to use the same style for all the drawings and, as all of the images are hand-drawn by the students, we have developed a style that is simple and easy for everyone. Since the beginning, we have collected all the drawings made for the videos and we now have a database of over 400 images; therefore, the number of new images that need to be drawn for a new video is now very small. When all the images have been drawn, they are printed, cut out and organized into envelopes according to each scene. After this, we are ready to go to the studio.

Part 2. Studio production

The studio production consists of 2 parts: filming the video and recording the audio. Filming is done at a studio at Multimedia Kontor Hamburg (MMKH). This studio has a fixed camera that is set over a table where we arrange each scene and record it. The filming of each stop motion video, with a length of approximately 3 minutes, usually takes 5 to 8 hours. We have seen that by having the images for each scene organised into separate envelopes, we are able to film the video much faster, as each video has dozens of images and sometimes it can take a long time to look for some of the very small images. The audio is also recorded at a studio, but in this case, it is done at a recording studio and by a professional narrator who is a native speaker.

Part 3. Post-production

The last part of the process is the post-production. This is done at the editing room in the Institute of Technical Education and University Didactics (iTBH), where a computer with professional editing software is available. Here, the video images are put together with the audio recorded by a professional narrator. Additionally, sound effects are added to make the video more entertaining. After this, the video is ready to be enjoyed!

As we would like to reach as many people in as many languages as possible, we have made all our videos open to contributions on YouTube, where you can easily add subtitles in any language here. We also invite you to use our forum, where you can discuss the technical and linguistic issues related to translation. We are very happy to get feedback on our videos, which you can do by sending us a message through our Contact form.

If you would like to see how this production process actually looks like, take a look at the images below.

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Video Production Images by RUVIVAL Team are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

To watch RUVIVAL stop motion videos, click here. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube and Vimeo channels to never miss any RUVIVAL videos!

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Making of RUVIVAL

Making of RUVIVAL Toolbox Elements

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Every week, we present you with new RUVIVAL Toolbox Elements on various topics concerning sustainable rural development.  We produce these elements in collaboration with Master and PhD students at Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH). The process includes many feedback-rounds to ensure high quality standards. The presented Toolbox elements contain therefore most relevant and up to date information. The goal is to communicate scientific results in a practical and understandable way. We asked one of our students, Maria Monina Orlina, to tell us how working with RUVIVAL was for her. Maria Monina Orlina created the Toolbox Element: Sustainable Irrigation under supervision of Ruth Schaldach as a project work during her Joint European Master in Environmental Studies, Cities & Sustainability.

Why did you decide to collaborate with RUVIVAL?

In the summer semester of 2016, I took 2 classes of the Institute of Wastewater Management and Water Protection. The students participated in a Simulation Game wherein we had to design an eco-town in either Wales or Ethiopia. I really liked the concept, because each group was assigned a sub-group (e.g. transportation, waste water, buildings) and we had to propose the best plan depending on various conditions of the given environment. Further, the lecturer had mentioned an upcoming project that required video editing and movie making work. I’ve had some experience in the past, creating short films for school and personal projects. From there, I knew this was something I’d like to be involved in.

RUVIVAL Toolbox Elements Presentation

How was the experience of making RUVIVAL Toolbox Elements?

The experience was both challenging and enjoyable. I was able to use my different set of skills, both technical and creative. Research and writing was involved to create a technical paper composed of a Literature Review. At the same time, drawing, editing with Photoshop, creating stop motion videos were major tasks required. This was the part I enjoyed more, because the creative aspects allowed me to use the “left side” of my brain! Moreover, there is good collaboration in making the OER because, with the work of fellow students, I could pick up some inspiration from them in order to come up with something unique for my own elements.

What did you learn from it?

My biggest take-away from this project, aside from expanding my knowledge regarding Sustainable Irrigation, was learning how to make a stop motion video! This was the first time I had done such type of movie.

Why did you choose this particular topic to work with?

Irrigation was a topic I had always been interested since college, as I had a few classes on it during my undergrad years. Also, prior to starting my project work with RUVIVAL, I had just finished an internship at the Center for Water-Energy Efficiency in UC Davis California, with my work focusing on groundwater use in agricultural irrigation. Since I had done quite extensive research on the topic, I wanted to expand my knowledge regarding sustainable irrigation even further. Fortunately, this was a topic that the team wanted to tackle within the project.

What do you think of the RUVIVAL project?

I think RUVIVAL is a great initiative to promote learning through an online platform. There are many ways to gain knowledge nowadays, most especially via the Internet. RUVIVAL takes it even a step further with its Simulation Game, wherein one can collaborate with others to create a practical output based on learnings made from the other tools (interactive lectures and videos). The approach and style is simple and it is accessible to everybody. Anyone can learn from it depending on whichever rural topic they would like to study.

Have a look at the RUVIVAL Toolbox Elements Monina created here.

Interested in creating RUVIVAL? Please get in touch with us using our contact form.

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