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Stop motion video shot over 2 years with 288,000 jelly beans (petapixel.com)
477 points by swombat on Nov 3, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 97 comments

As a cautionary tale about the waxing and waining relevance of various online properties, remember that Kina Grannis was more or less launched on Digg:


Holy shit, I remember that video. Man, I'm a nerd.

And she actually sings about the time, when you could find Ron Paul posts on Digg. That feels like a century ago.

The fact that they had to finish shooting the whole thing to have something worth showing makes this even more impressive. They couldn't just stop halfway through and say good enough.

For nearly two years they kept working on it and she couldn't really put on any weight, couldn't really age too much, etc. It really is dedication!

Of course if she did visibly age or gain weight it would be a cool effect.

Might be a cool concept for another video. Record a video over several years with the point being to show yourself growing up.

This has already been done with photograghs: one photo per year.


The behind the scenes video shows details of the process. I found it fascinating: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIH4MJAC2Tg

They do show her in front of a green screen in the behind the scenes video....so technically, they did use the tech, but not for the actual video, of course. But great effort.

I can think of many ways how to make this whole process much much easier. The amount of unnecessary work they did is just insane.

It's rare that I indulge myself in making a pithy remark on HN, but this is one of those rare times I will, karma be damned.

   You're missing the point.

I agree wholeheartedly with his point. If the populus of HN in general isn't into shamelessly improving productivity in everything, then I am suprised. Aren't we all busy people?

(I watched the first 20 seconds of the clip and realised I only cared because the chick was hot, and the jelly beans could have been cgi for all I care)

I am reminded why there are so few women in IT.

Valid point. I should have at least phrased it as 'the girl was pretty'. I was a bit yobbo.

Oh right, guys in other fields don't like women.

When in the making-of video they call it a labor of love, they meant it.

When you do something you love, streamlining the process -- removing stuff you love from your life -- is counterproductive.

Consider that people climb mountains they could hire helicopters to get to the top of. They train for months to run marathons they could drive in a car in under an hour. They change their children's diapers they could hire a nanny to do.

Agree. But that's what Art is about...

Wasting time?

Being authentic.

Yes, in a sense.

I am reminded of oscar wilde: "All art is useless."

This is one of the only useful definitions of "art," which is otherwise a concept very tricky to pin down, it is that which serves no purpose other than to delight.

Real artists ship :p

And they did.

So did the Donner Party.

Could you explain? Do you suggest using some kind of CG or greenscreen, or what?

Well, one thing they could have done that wouldn't have changed their stop-motion commitment would have been to use more than a frames worth of jelly beans. Instead they could have made one long movable landscape. Then they could have adjusted the "viewport" by moving the camera or the landscape. As it is, it looks like they moved each "pixel" for each frame.

I think that behind the scenes video doesn't give that information. Although they did shot last frame last, they didn't say that they shot them in order.

Also they only shot 2300 whereas the clip at 24 fps would have taken 4920 though the 'real' frame seems to be lower. Finally moving around jelly beans is a lot easier than setting up the scene from scratch, as mentioned, a frame took 5 minutes to 3 hours to setup.

tl dr: I would like to see more technical behind-the-sceens.

A lot of animation is shot at 12fps and they double each frame. I would imagine that is why there are only 2300. Animation seems to be able to get away with a lot more in terms of persistence of vision than live action can.

they didn't say that they shot them in order.

She implied it when she said that after every day, they could see the progression up until that point.

They _could_ have inserted out-of-order frames as they were completed, and she could have been commenting on witnessing the video moving from flat vector gfx to jelly bean gfx.

They could have, but I have a feeling they didn't. There's also the fact that in the last frame they shot, she's wearing the space suit that is, in fact, what she's wearing at the end of the video.

They did. If you watch the second video (the making of) they commemorate the last "Kina shot" where she is dressed as an astronaut which does not match the last sequence with her of the movie.

That's a rather vague allusion to draw such a strong conclusion.

The clip is obviously not at 24 fps, it's too choppy for that.

Most animation films are not shot at 24 fps, many go as low as 12fps to save time and money.

They recorded the girl with green screen. Why not use these frames instead of placing her on top of glass and spending minutes per frame trying to replicate that same shot?

And yes, they could've have created a simple animation (which they did anyway), and then convert it to jelly beans with a relatively simple code in Processing.

This video would be pretty uninteresting had they used artificial jelly beans. I think everyone is aware that it’s trivial to convert a simple animation to a jelly bean animation. That’s not the point. Art works by different rules. (Hey, and if you like to be a cynic about it you can also say that viral videos work by different rules. OK Go owes their fame to never taking shortcuts when creating their music videos†.)

(I think that placing the singer directly on the jelly beans allowed them to do certain tricks that would be harder to accomplish otherwise: pay attention to the lighting or the costume changes. It’s not clear to me whether using a green screen would really have saved time.)

† One example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qybUFnY7Y8w

'Art works by different rules' is such a cop out for hippies to excuse time-wasting. What added wealth to the world is created by doing it the hard way?

The day which we are all yoked to the silicon valley drive towards ultimate productivity and the whole of society is locked in one wild-eyed, redbull swigging death march towards launching their amazing consumer products unto each other is the day I slit my throat live on TV. As I slump, bubbling and frothing to the floor of the reality tv startup contest studio, the terrified panic on the faces of the VC judges shall serve as an incoherent and meaningless howl into the void of endless efficiency and unlimited, exponential, never-ending, self-justifying wealth-creation. My own futile demise shall be my ultimate MVP.

What is wrong with these people who think that the world would be a better place if everyone was exactly like them? There seems to be an increasing concentration of them here.

There is more than one kind of wealth in the world.

With modern day technology, shooting a ball in a hoop consistently or building a pyramid is easy. So why are Pro Sports and the Pyramids so amazing? Because they did it the hard way. I guess they could achieve the same thing if they lied, but if someone finds out, you are sol. See: Milli Vanilli

I think that for them, the art was in the physicality of it. For them, how they did it mattered.

That's how I assumed it was made until I saw the behind-the-scenes video, i.e. a production company makes a generic video that takes several months to complete. They then pitch it to a music label for some up-and-coming artist who is added to the video (using some sort of low frame rate effect in front of a projector or green screen).

Very impressive video.

The grammar nerd in me is also impressed how, for two years, no one managed to notice that the repeated phrase "we'll lay," although it rhymes in context, uses completely the wrong verb. (It should be "we'll lie.")

I noticed exactly the same thing. I've become increasingly alarmed at the decline of the lay/lie distinction in English, even in educated speech. In this case, though, I consoled myself that at least it created a rhyme. Contrast this to the chorus of "Truly Madly Deeply" by Australian pop-rock group Savage Garden:

  I want to stand with you on a mountain.
  I want to bathe with you in the sea.
  I want to lay like this forever,
  Until the sky falls down on me...
They missed an opportunity. Here the grammatically correct lie gives a lovely rhyme between the middles of lines 3 and 4:

  I want to stand with you on a mountain.
  I want to bathe with you in the sea.
  I want to lie like this forever,
  Until the sky falls down on me...

However, 'lay' does (half) rhyme with 'bathe', which provides a much needed connection between the 2nd and 3rd lines, I feel.

Artistic freedom, perhaps, if it suits the rhyme.

No MVP here - they went all the way the first time. Be sure to switch to 1080p and go full screen, it's breathtaking. But it makes me wonder, what is the ROI on this? Will they really make back the wages of 30 people for 22 months, and how long will it take?

Will they really make back the wages of 30 people for 22 months

The actual people moving the jelly beans into position were, according to the making-of video, unpaid. Music is like video games, movies, journalism, political campaigns, etc: grunt work gets done by an undercaste of young people "paying their dues" with the promise that they will be allowed to graduate to the interesting, high status stuff if they just stick with it a little while longer. (This is a lie.)

There's also just friends of friends that participate because they think that it's fun. I know of several people that would enjoy participating in such a project just because they find it fun.

The ROI is creating something incredible that you can be proud of forever. This is art! I hope people will always have the courage to create amazing things without worrying about the financials.

Well really they said it "only" took 1,357 hours.

Which is roughly 62 hours a month.

Even if the people were being paid $50/hour, which is unlikely considering I assume most of them will be volunteers, that comes out to about $50,000.

They said they used 288,000 jelly beans. There is roughly 400 jelly beans per pound. You can buy bulk jelly beans for $85 for 10lbs.

Which comes out to $61,200 for the jelly beans. I'm sure they could get a non-name brand or bulk discount so it could be much less.

So definitely less $100,000 for the music video.

They can make that money back pretty quickly if they become a YouTube partner and the video goes viral. They would only need about 50million views to pay back the costs of making the video.

Plus, how can you put a price on art?

Your math is off on the Jelly beans. 288,000 / 400 = 720 Pounds. JellyBelly Jelly Beans Retail on Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Jelly-Belly-Assorted-Flavors-3-Pound/d...) for $9/pound. So, even if they didn't buy them wholesale (hard to believe) - it's still only $6480 worth of jelly beans.

There's a plug for the 'jelly belly' brand at the end of the video where they show their logo, I'm pretty sure that means they would have either gotten them for free or they sponsored the video.

That (they had to have a good time making it), and the purely promotional reason of this is in their portfolio! If they we're bidding on a job for me and they showed me this I would throw money at them. Dedication, quality, and creativity.

The ROI is probably poor, but then again, many artists aren't in it for the ROI. More power to them.

That's not true, there were several versions to prove the concept. Before they went all out, they created a story board of each scene, then they animated it and then they went for it.

The ROI is name recognition and differentiation, with the goal of a recording contract.

She has four or five albums out and has gone viral before.

See also:

Coldplay - Strawberry Swing (shot on sidewalk chalk)


Maxmaber Orkestar - Malinkovec Valzer (500 People in 100 Seconds - stop-motion video is a movie within a movie)


Clarika - Bien Mérité (French stop-motion video with photographs)


How about "missionary man" by the eurythmics back in the 80s?

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/sy-25142343/eurythmics_mission... ( doesn't play on is devices)

This is what we'll be reduced to doing, post-Singularity.

Producing art? Isn't that seen as a goal to aspire to? To create a society where nobody wants for anything, so that people are freed up to spend all of their time in the pursuit of art?

This is the plot line of several Star Trek episodes as well as many SciFi short stories/novels.

I think the beauty comes from the simplicity of it. To a casual viewer, it's just a cute music video. It's when you realize the amount of work and attention to detail that went into it, that you have the emotional reaction that says "wow, they really cared about this". It's the same reaction I have with many of Apple's products. They look simple from a distance, but when you zoom in, you see a team of 30 people hand placing jelly beans to make something beautiful.

"22 months, 1,357 hours, 30 people"

If you consider that big budget music videos can have ~100 people working on it (casting, production crew and post crew) each putting in at least 12-16 hours, this falls right in line with the amount of people hours that's typical for a music label.

If you just look at the number of hours, it's "just" a full time job for a year:

8 hours a day * 200 working days = 1600 hours

With 30 people working just a week (5 days), we're already at 1200 hours.

Maybe they got their hours wrong? Or it's not that impressive (I'm a grumpy old man).

They didn't say the 1300 figure was people hours, they just said hours. So for each of those hours you probably much more people hours.

Excellent point. I bet we (many of us professional software developers) are so used to the concept of man-hours that we may be grossly misinterpreting the 1300 hours figure. It could well be up to 1300 times 30 people.

Spreading 1300 manhours for 30 people over 22 months seems a bit thinly spread as well, if you ask me.

I would have gotten a robotic pick and place machine and sped that up a bit. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5eR0eHknZk&t=0m18s

YT comment: "Give it a knife and a hand!"

Came for the jelly beans, stayed for the song.

It does not look better to what an algorithm or alike could have done with a lot less efforts.

This is the type of thing that you wouldn't have done 10 years ago because noone would have found out about it.

Reminds me of the Amazing Honda Accord commercial - the Cog... Rube Goldberg machine all done without CGI (5 months of pre-work, then 605 takes until they got to one that didn't screw up somewhere) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ve4M4UsJQo They did a lot of work that they could've avoided with CGI, but where would the fun be? Making of video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kh4zWeUDW-E

Another good one that is similar in the sense that they went through a whole lot of trouble is the Sony Bravia commercial http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NymcQJjPCs They did a lot of work that they could've avoided with CGI, but where would the fun be?

BTW, it seems Jelly Belly was in on the fun a little bit... http://www.jellybelly-uk.com/bean-world/page/?id=47 At the very least, I'd imagine that she didn't pay for the jelly beans

Stop motion animation is quite old (Wikipedia says 1897). I did an animation course in the nineties and mixing stop motion with "pure" animation was considered a shortcut used in long animation films (usually for TV children films which are long and have low budgets). Granted this is an extreme case where stop motion (the sequences with Kina) is a complement to the full animation in the background thus not a time saving mechanism. The effect is impressive due to the bright colours of the jelly beans and the attention to detail in her sequences.

This work is comparable with sand art and sand animation and anyone who liked this should search for the nearest animation festival and check it out. One of the best ones in Europe is in Annecy, France but there many all over the world (search for animation festival). Many people dismiss animation (it is for children...) but these festivals are an emotional rollercoaster of short films that bring you to tears and laughter in under two minutes at a time.

If you attend one of these you will also be able to compare traditional animation with CGI. Each can be amazing on its own and, in my opinion, are two different things.

It's not about stop motion, it's about discovery and distribution ("going viral").

Although I'm not sure about that. Several MTV-age music videos became famous because of clever technique (such as "Money for Nothing") and Honda commercial was a regular TV-commercial. Especially Super Bowl commercials are know to be high-value productions pre-Internet.

All these are predated by the 1987 video "Der Lauf der Dinge" (The way things go) by Fischli and Weiss. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgGhVsMmkAM . I think that also before youtube these type of things were done and people found out about it.

Thanks for the link, I saw this maybe 20 years ago on TV, it was stuck in me for very long but I could never find it again. No it is there, fresh and delicate. Of-topic however: Der Lauf der Dinge is memorable, it has a strong personal flavor while it can be understood by anyone on earth, it has no polish or sex-appeal but it catching one's eyes, it leaves by itself, it has an autonomous existence, bref it is art. The OP is nothing of the sort.

The one I remember from my childhood was the intro to The Great Egg Race (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gx8peNet8Sg) from the late '70s.

There's also the Sony Bravia Paint commercial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3tZPH5my-0&feature=relat...

And their bouncy ball commercial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMl5l6mOySU

> This is the type of thing that you wouldn't have done 10 years ago because noone would have found out about it.

Stop motion videos and music has been done before. Probably the most well known is 1986's "Sledgehammer" by Peter Gabriel. Interestingly, it was filmed by the folks who would later bring us Wallace and Gromit.


Another one of Kina's videos also seem to go the artistic route - in this case using DVD cases as dominoes with a flip art effect: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=840NbiFF1zM&feature=relmf...


Not to detract from it, but is the 1,357 hours combined man-hours, or start-to-finish hours?

Two years of hard work to get about the equivalent page views of nudity. It must have felt rewarding for them though.

See this post is a testament to Hacker News's decline.Not because I think that post doesnt have something interesting or intellectually arousing to say.It absolutely does.I create things too and I understand the importance of creation especially when it takes two years to make something.

The reason is because of how this post got on the front page of Hacker News.In normal circumstances I can bet that this post maybe would get like three votes in five hours.But in this case the poster is "swombat" who has a huge following on twitter and a lot of them are hnusers.I noticed an instant upsurge in votes after he posted this on his twitter page.

Another reason is because "swombat" himself is also one of the top Hacker News users and when people see his name there chances of upvoting increases significantly.This I think is actually fair and he probably deserves a little more attention than the average hnuser.But what I vehemently object to is the use of twitter to gain traction.

Here are some possible solutions that I can think of.

1) If a post gets a lot of traffic from twitter and other such social media websites ,it should work against it in the rank calculation algorithm.

2) Users be advised to not use their twitter or facebook following to gain traction on HackerNews.

I voted this up and I didn't even notice that swombat posted it. I voted for it because of the artistry, but also for the attitudes towards craft and long-term projects in the making-of feature.

ignoring the rest of your comment:

>1) If a post gets a lot of traffic from twitter and other such social media websites ,it should work against it in the rank calculation algorithm.

If you could find a way to do this, I think it could make HN better in general. The problem is that it'd be a whack-a-mole situation. This is just how publicity works. If you know people, and you are trying to get the word out about something, you tell the people you know, and they help you out. This is what it means to have a network.

I mean, it's kindof interesting; I mean, I talk about the problems of "who you know rather than what you know" but you know what? when I go to look for a job, who do I ask? the people I know. And it usually nets me a pretty good job. When I want to hire people, where do I look? the people I know, and often it gets me good people.

But yeah; in other situations, that's called nepotism, and has some rather large perverse incentives. I mean, in my case, I wholly own my company, so if I want to hire my siblings, well, it's my money, right? And sometimes, I think it makes sense. I've been trying to outsource my bookkeeping type work for some time now. But the primary qualifications are trustworthiness and diligence, and, well, switching bookkeepers when you want to do as little of the bookkeeping work as I do is rather hard, so I'd also like someone who will stick around longer than most people stick with me. Certainly for the first, who can I trust more than my sister? and I know she's pretty diligent; we grew up together. Add to that, she has a degree in fine arts and few job prospects that can pay more than I can, so it's all around a win.

If you wish to disagree please do so but write down the reason for your disagreement.Also how is this against HN Comment guidelines?

EDIT: Okay I get it.

From HN Guidelines

"If your account is less than a year old, please don't submit comments saying that HN is turning into Reddit. (It's a common semi-noob illusion.)"

Sorry I was not aware of that.

I disagree because it shows what dedication can bring - even when you are not getting a ROI or anywhere near instant gratification - an important lesson for those who are looking to grow a startup and see it succeed - because it's not an overnight thing (usually). I think it appeals to the hacker side of many - and just because it isn't straight up tech related does not mean it doesn't belong here.

I will agree that there is hive minded voting - I've complained about it plenty of times - but in this case I think my up vote made sense and that's without me realizing who was posting it (just like I didn't bother even seeing what your handle was until I started typing this). Hope that gives you a point of view from one person (who didn't down vote you).

very good point about instant gratification...I completely agree!

I have never heard of the user who submitted this. We both agree that the video stimulates our intellectual curiosity. The means by which this ended up on the front page isn't a concern.

So that means that my incompetence made me blind from the greatness of this post!

Well its possible but I am not buying that right now.

What I would buy is that maybe I have not reached a sufficient level of karma to comment on Hacker News administration.

2 years ... for this? and people are complaining about the economy?


Technically, of course, this is time-lapse video, not stop-motion. Stop-motion slows things down (hence the name); time-lapse speeds them up, which is clearly what's happened here.

Terminological pickiness aside, this is very cool. I wasn't aware of Kina Grannis before, and probably would have stayed that way but for this video, so it seems to be accomplishing its purpose.

Edited to add: the song is pretty, too.

That's just wrong. Overcraking (running the film through the camera faster than normal) slows motion down. Undercranking speeds it up.

Stop-motion doesn't slow things down; it's a technique where you expose one frame of film, move something (usually a model) slightly, and expose the next frame.


Stop-motion animation examples include the original King Kong, Sinbad and all those other Ray Harryhausen films, the AT-ATs in Empire Strikes Back. (And there was also a technique called "Go motion" animation where the puppet was moved during the frame exposure, thus causing motion blur, and making for a much more realistic animation, which was used for the dragon in DragonSlayer and I think some of Return of the Jedi.)

If you want to get really pedantic, probably the best term for this jellybean video is "pixilation". I know we use that word differently nowadays, but before computer graphics were common, "pixilation" was the term for stop-motion animated real-world objects.


Thank you for letting my nearly pointless film degree not go entirely to waste.

You're welcome.

That's what I get for posting when tired... gotta get some sleep.

Stop motion (also known as stop action) is an animation technique to make a physically manipulated object appear to move on its own. [Wikipedia]

[They set up a scene, took a photo]*numFrames. This is stop motion photography as much "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is.

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