Chalkboard Animation: The Making Of

July 5, 2023


Hi there! Eliza here. We’ve had people asking how we made that chalkboard video (isn’t it fun?!), so I thought I’d share a little bit of the “making of.”

Considering it took us 14 hours straight to shoot it, shot-by-shot, I wouldn’t say it was exactly a spectator sport, but the photos from the day will give you more of an idea of what was involved. Like any stop-motion, it was a process of writing and drawing things piece-by-piece, and taking a still shot of each new addition to the image. Write a letter, take a picture. Add an ear to the old man, take a picture. Erase a smidge, take a picture. You get the idea.

Above is our staging ground in the corner of Chip’s soon-to-be new office. The process started with a script and some very, very bad stick figures explaining what I was going for, which Catherine (who also designed our logo and the patterns for Copa Cabana and Wonderlust) then interpreted and made beautiful, a can of chalkboard paint (awesome stuff), a bare wall, and lots of types of chalk to test out. You wouldn’t believe the difference in chalk brands. 

This was the typical scene- Chip (who built this site and also does video stuff) manning the camera and reviewing the stills, Catherine writing/drawing/adjusting things on the chalkboard. To the left of the main chalkboard area was our little test patch- we tried out the different types of chalk, Catherine tried different ways of drawing things, we even tested out the best way to erase things for best effect. Oh, and before we ever started writing, we spent a good while “aging” the chalk paint area to make it look like a real old chalkboard- using scissors to make gashes, chalking and then erasing for a chalk patina, etc.

Above is the script after Catherine re-wrote it to look pretty, and three options for the wise man. We decided he should be part Einstein, part the old man from Up, and a teeny bit Colonel Sanders.

A lot of things were on-the-spot trial-and-error. Do we take stills at intermediate phases of erasing each frame, or just erase the whole thing at once? (Answer: take a still after erasing each 1ft swath.) How do you make a paper doll chain that has boys and girls? (Answer: start with a girl model and then trim the skirts off each one you want to make a boy after… kind of cheating.) 

When we got to the part where we wanted to make the world spin, we realized we didn’t know which way the world should spin! We had to youtube it…

Then Chip jerry-rigged this apparatus to make the paper airplane fly. More questions came up as we tried to figure out how to make it most realistic: does the plane fly straight across from right to left? Out at the camera and then around? Start high, dip low, then high again? You’ll have to watch the video to see what we decided!

Also, I thought you might want to see what it looked like before any editing. The video at top is what I took on my iPhone at the end of the day, just by holding down the right arrow to scroll through all the still exactly as they were. You’ll see that all of Chip’s editing took it a long way from the raw material!

Lastly, I want to give a big shout out to Catherine and Chip for making the magic happen!! You two rock, thank you so much!!

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