Art lesson resource: Split pin characters

Here is an extended task to go with the animation project we normally do with Year 7. This is actually suitable (with adaptation) for Year 5 or 6. Some of this is fairly straight forward but does require some technical know-how. I will include an example character resource below.

What you will need

  • Cereal boxes or thin white card
  • Scissors
  • Choice of colour technique; paint, felt tips etc.
  • Split pins (essential)
  • Green cloth
  • Camera
  • Computer to create final cartoon


Still image from Ivor the Engine

To accompany the many types and methods of animation, it is worth showing students Oliver Postgate’s work, especially Ivor the Engine.

The story behind the artist and Smallfilms:


There are many templates for split pin characters (here is a split pin model free resource), however, for Year 7 we like to get students to develop their own ideas in a sketchbook. These can be story related or based on characters by Sjors Vervoort like ours. Here you can see development of my example character; a cheeky fox.


Next transfer the character outline to card (use thin card like cardboard cereal boxes as easier to cut with scissors). Use an appropriate method to add colour but remember to separate arms, legs and head or any moveable parts!


Cut out each part carefully. Make a pilot hole using a compass at each split pin position. Attach the split pin carefully. As you can see from the example, I painted the tops of each split pin to match the background colour.


Photograph against your green cloth in a well lit room. Change positions of limbs etc to suggest movement in each frame/photo. Transfer the set of images into the movie editor of your choice or use an app like Doink on iOS.

Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 09.59.21

I used iMovie and followed this simple green screen tutorial. I have added a bit of music and sound effects just for fun but this is only supposed to be a screen test. The real fun is getting the students to make their own!




Chroma in the Studio

What is Chroma screen filming?

Chroma key compositing, or chroma keying, is a special effects / post-production technique for compositing(layering) two images or video streams together based on color hues (chroma range). The technique has been used heavily in many fields to remove a background from the subject of a photo or video – particularly the newscasting, motion picture and video game industries. A colour range in the top layer is made transparent, revealing another image behind. The chroma keying technique is commonly used in video production and post-production.

Setting the Studio

Start with an empty, clear space

Pull across the black curtain

Pull across ReflecMedia for the backdrop and close the shutter blinds


Setting up the equipment

You need: camera, tripod, power extension, boom mic, pole and ReflecMedia kit

Extend tripod to required height


Detach shoe and attach to camera base

Ensure tripod is level

Detach lens hood

Fit ring adaptor carefully (there are two sizes, only one will fit each model)

Beware cross threading!

Check kit is complete

Loosen screw

Fit carefully and tighten screw to secure

Set to zero

Attach power

Turn wheel until level of brightness is satisfactory

White balance (zoom in fully until frame is all ‘white’) and set iris

Push wheel until A or B stops flashing

Turn on equipment

Ring light should now illuminate

Attach output cable to camera as above

Attach female end of video cable

Male end to port 17

Solo piece to camera? Use clip mic

Group audio? Use boom mic on a floor stand (beware – not directional!)

Connect boom mic to one of the audio inputs

Ensure safety

Set up and use of the TV Gallery

Turn on all equipment


Lighting settings

Master slider to full; 5 and 6 as required

Slider 5 controls the four par cans, slider 6 the fresnels

Yellow sliders to full, channels used for output also to full (channel one illustrated)

Set input select switch to S video (middle)


Setting up the Capture Process

Create a folder

Name sensibly

FCP interface

Set scratch disk to client folder (shift Q)

Name and save project

Easy set up for format (ctrl Q)

Open capture window (cmd 8)

Set device control to Non-controllable device

When ready to capture – click ‘Now’ (Esc to stop)

Capture window

View settings on FCP timeline (image, wireframe and show title safe)

Drag footage to timeline and resize

Fill 2 seconds of black before clip with ‘slug’ (control click on timeline)

Drag chroma key from effects on to footage, adjust spectrum on chroma key tab

Fade footage and audio in and out using pen tool













Online Guide for Chroma keying in the Studio

At the CLC we do quite a bit of Chroma key or green screen filming. The movie above explains the basics of what it is (with a few examples) and is part of an intensive step by step guide we put together for users of the Tv studio.

Have a look through the instruction guide here.

The intention is that they can follow the photos and text and set up and use the studio themselves for simple chroma projects. Being online rather than printed, there is the facility for feedback in terms of the clarity of instructions and generally from the user community. The guide is specific to our set up and equipment though…