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Go motion is a variation of stop motion animation, and was co-developed by Industrial Light & Magic and Phil Tippett for the 1980 George Lucas film Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.


Technical Explanation

Stop motion animation can create a disorienting, and distinctive, staccato effect, because the animated object is perfectly sharp in every frame, since each frame of the animation was actually shot when the object was perfectly still. Real moving objects in similar scenes of the same movie will have motion blur, because they moved while the shutter of the camera was open.

Go motion was designed to prevent this, by moving the animated model slightly during the exposure of each film frame, producing a realistic motion blur. The main difference is that while the frames in stop motion are made up by images of stills taken between the small movements of the object, the frames in go motion are images of the object taken while it is moving. This frame-by-frame, split-second motion is almost always created with the help of a computer, often through rods connected to a puppet or model which the computer manipulates to reproduce movements programmed in by puppeteers.

Methods for creating motion blur



This crude but reasonably effective technique involves smearing vaseline on the camera lens, then cleaning and reapplying it after each shot, a time-consuming process but one which creates a blur around the model. This technique was used for the endoskeleton in The Terminator.

Bumping the puppet

Gently bumping or flicking the puppet before taking the frame will produce a slight blur, however care must be taken when doing this that the puppet does not move too much or that one does not bump or move props or set pieces.

Moving the table

Moving the table the model is standing on while the film is being exposed creates a slight, realistic blur. This technique was used by Aardman animation for the train chase in The Wrong Trousers and again during the Lorry chase in A Close Shave. In both cases the cameras were moved physically during a 1-2 second exposure. The technique was revived for the full-length Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Go motion

The most sophisticated technique was originally developed for the film The Empire Strikes Back and was later used on films like Dragonslayer and is quite different from traditional stop motion. The model is essentially a rod puppet. The rods are attached to motors which are linked to a computer that can record the movements as the model is traditionally animated. When enough movements have been made, the model is reset to its original position, the camera rolls and the model is moved across the table. Because the model is moving during shots, motion blur is created.

Go motion today

Go motion was used again in E.T. and was originally planned to be used extensively for the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, until Steven Spielberg decided to try out the swiftly developing techniques of computer-generated imagery instead.

Today, go motion is rarely used, as it is more complicated and expensive than computer generated effects. However, the technique still has potential in real stop motion movies if a scene is supposed to contain slow motion effects. By filming each small movement of the object with a high speed camera, the go motion animated character or object will appear to move in slow motion when played in normal speed. This would be very hard to do using conventional stop motion, as the animator would have to move the puppet maybe less than a millimeter for each frame to achieve the same effect.


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