That Jason Potter and his colleagues at LAIKA are psyched to have just completed 60 seconds of their film, ParaNorman, in the past week might seem strange to some. But for those familiar with stop-motion moviemaking and the painstaking effort it takes to produce millions of unique film frames, the accomplishment is extraordinary.
“Normal stop-motion animation has 24 frames per second but because we are shooting in 3D, we’re shooting 48 frames per second,” says Jason. The Full Sail Film grad works as a senior data wrangler at LAIKA, the same Portland-based animation studio that created the film Coraline in 2009. ParaNorman, a movie featuring zombies, ghosts and a small New England town will be released in theaters on August 17, 2012.
“Animators will animate the main puppet and then go back and animate the trees and then go back and animate the secondary characters.”
That might seem tedious to some, but for Jason – such a huge stop-motion fan that he has a tattoo of Tim Burton’s stop-motion film Vincent on his arm – it’s a dream come true.
“This type of film has a particular quality to it that CG will never have,” says Jason, one member of a team of more than 300 people including animators and photographers. “It’s not something that someone drew. These are actual things moving around. We have handcrafted and transformed everyday materials into living creatures infused with dimension and soul. I think that it’s pretty awesome that a company like LAIKA will take all the extra time to do it so that everything is real.”
For Jason’s part in this colossal undertaking, he works on the processing and integrity of all the stop-motion shots that come off stage. He’s been working on ParaNorman for just under a year and plans on being involved until just before the movie comes out in August 2012.
“We have 52 sound stages all shooting at the same time in this giant warehouse with huge black curtains that section [them] off,” he explains. “I take all those frames and process them.” Jason also runs the in-house movie theater where directors see their dailies of what is said to be the largest stop-motion movie ever made. “It’s really cool because I get to hear the director’s comments and also be the first person to see every shot.”
Jason moved to Portland after graduating from Full Sail five years ago. “I wanted to enjoy where I lived first and figure out the career second. I didn’t want my career to determine where I lived.” Jason obviously loves living in Portland, a place he says is filled with so many “nice” people that he spent the first couple of months trying to figure out what everyone’s angle was. “And I like grey, even though I grew up in Florida. I don’t really like sunshine.”
After ParaNorman wraps up in a few months, Jason hopes to stay with LAIKA and continue working in stop-motion. “This industry is filled with a really interesting and strange group of people,” he says, laughing. “It takes a very unique personality to want to stay in a darkened room for days on end moving a little puppet a milometer every few seconds.”
For more information about LAIKA, including the teaser-trailer for ParaNorman and Coraline content, go to www.laika.com.