A year after placing first in the state and second in the country for their stop motion animation project, Wilmington teenagers Ava Skye and Chas Seiffert returned to the podium, placing first at Delaware Technology Student Association’s 2020 state conference.
The Cab Calloway freshmen were poised to compete on the national stage again this summer — this time in Nashville, TN, for nation’s top prize for their student-led filmmaking technique.
But after months of hard work, TSA announced that their national conference would be canceled due to COVID-19.
The STEM organization’s state and national competitions showcase students’ talents in categories ranging from Board Game Design to Cybersecurity. Story-telling through stop motion animation is considered one of the more pain staking categories of competition because animation is captured one frame at time, with physical objects that are moved between frames.
“When you have a whole bunch of pictures that are very closely correlated and moving rapidly, your mind just assumes that is the same object moving through space,” said Chas.
“You can make a ball bounce, you can allow characters to fly. Stop motion is great because in between each frame you can have things that wouldn’t normally happen in live action.
“You could easily put a character in the air in stop motion by just holding them up there with invisible string. The harder method involves throwing them up in the air, and as they reach the pinnacle, you you take the picture,” he said.
Starting in November, Ava and Chas poured hours into making this year’s submission, entitled “Dams | The Pros and Cons,” for TSA’s 3D Animation category. Thrilled with their state-wide win, they were excited to compete against dozens of teams – most with kids older than them – at the national level.
Treat yourself by taking just a moment to watch their incredible story-telling and film-making techniques on YouTube.
“We were definitely disappointed,” Chas admits. The Wilmington-native became interested in stop-motion animation through a family member who works in the industry.
Ava — who started experimenting with stop-motion on her mom’s iPad as a kid — sees a silver lining in the fact that they still had Delaware’s virtual award ceremony. “The whole goal of doing this is to go on an awesome week trip with all of our friends, but it’s still great to get that recognition,” she stated.
Chas and Ava went into this year with confidence, equipped with last year’s experience, new technology, and motivation to return to nationals. Even with all this, the project was no easy feat.
The pair would meet in Chas’s basement after school every day for up to six hours to work on the 1,337 frames that it eventually took to complete the submission (that’s 10 frames to produce one second of video!).
Water, and its influence on the industrialization of mankind, is a major theme of the stop motion animation project. One of Chas and Ava’s goals was to work with as many recycled materials as they could in their project. They made good use of plastic dry cleaning bags, which come in handy in the water scenes.
“Plastic has a really cool texture because it’s very reflective and water is also very reflective. So we cut the dry cleaning bags into strips. Every time we need to take a frame, we would just ruffle the plastic a bit so it had that flowing movement,” said Chas.
Each piece in the scene had to be held in place by discreetly placed pins. “Every time we went to move the water we would pick up a pin, and we’d ruffle it a bit, stick it back down, and then take the shot,” said Chas.
One of the most difficult challenges for them was balancing the project with school and sports. The work atmosphere got tense as deadlines approached, but they are both happy about how it turned out.
Although their hard work warranted a trip to Nashville in late June, their objective had to adapt once the coronavirus changed everything. Chas says that “we knew we were going to have to find out another way to show our animation.” Now, one of their goals is to get as many people as possible to watch their video—which already has over 500 views.
As the school year comes to a close, the two continue to work on their own creative projects, including Ava’s YouTube videos, which she produces with her younger sister. They both look forward to competing at the state and national levels next year, hinting at incorporating CGI elements into their next project.