Ladislas Starevich utilized the go motion technique in the 1923 stop motion animated short, Voice of the Nightengale. The technique was also used extensively on the puppets In his 1933 stop motion animated short, The Mascot. Phil Tippett and Industrial Light & Magic later recreated the go motion technique for some shots of the tauntaun creatures and AT-AT walkers in the 1980 Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back. After that, go motion was used for many other movies: for the dragon in Dragonslayer (1981), the dinosaurs in the prehistoric documentaries Prehistoric Beast (1984) and Dinosaur! (1985), the lord demon creature in Howard the Duck (1986), the winged satan character in The Golden Child (1986), the Eborsisk dragon in Willow (1988), the RoboCop franchise (1987–1993) and Coneheads (1993). Other minor sequences using go motion appeared in films like the three first Indiana Jones installments (1981–1989) and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) among a few others. In 1993, with the Jurassic Park release, Tippett Studio abandoned go motion and fully converted its teams and equipment to CGI (computer-generated imagery). The last film showing a go motion made sequence was Coneheads (the Jurassic Park release dates from June 11, 1993 but Coneheads was first released on July 23, 1993).
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 usually created with the help of a computer, often through rods connected to a puppet or models, which the computer manipulates to reproduce movements programmed in by puppeteers.
Methods for creating motion blur
This crude but reasonably effective technique involves smearing petroleum jelly ("Vaseline") on the camera lens, also known as vaselensing, 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. This process was also employed by Jim Danforth to blur the pterodactyl's wings in Hammer Films' "When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth", and by Randal William Cook on the terror dogs sequence in "Ghostbusters".
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 on which the model is standing 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.
The most sophisticated technique was originally developed for the film The Empire Strikes Back and used for some shots of the tauntauns 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 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, the mechanical method of achieving motion blur using go motion is rarely used, as it is more complicated, slow, and labor intensive than computer generated effects. However, the motion blurring technique still has potential in real stop motion movies where the puppet's motions are supposed to be somewhat realistic. Motion blurring can now be digitally done as a post production process using special effects software such as After Effects, Boris FX, Combustion, and other similar software.
- Explanation Stop Motion Works site with images and brief description of a Go motion mover used for the stop motion dragon puppet in the movie Dragonslayer (1981)
- Phil Tippett on “go motion” and how it is shot
- Sawicki, Mark (2010). Animating with Stop Motion Pro. Focal Press. p. 122. ISBN 0-240-81219-0.
- Smith, Thomas G. (1986). Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Special Effects. New York: Ballantine Books. p. 90.
- Smith, Thomas G. (1986). Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Special Effects. New York: Ballantine Books. pp. 91–95.
- Prehistoric Beast digital restoration, as published on April 6 2011 by the Phil Tippett Studio's official channel in Youtube
- An insider interview with Phil Tippett
- Smith, Thomas G. (1986). Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Special Effects. New York: Ballantine Books. p. 96.