How To Make A Great Stop-Motion Mustang Driving Movie With The Crap On Your Workbench

Wade Beauchamp just finished writing his book, Scream If You Wanna Go Faster, and like anyone who's just finished writing a book, he was ready to do anything but type more stupid words into a stupid computer, already.

So, to promote his book, Wade grabbed a model Mustang and a bunch of crap from his beautifully-maintained workshop and made a little movie.


Making stop-motion animated films is a wildly tedious endeavor. I've played around with it, and always found the hardest part was that you essentially have to slow down your very speed of thinking to about 1/24th of what you normally would. Every tiny step has to be broken into the smallest of actions and photographed. Whole days of work get you a few seconds of footage. The result is magical, but the process is maddening.

So, that made me even more impressed with what Wade did here. Especially when you realize he has aerial shots of the car, and, of course, that cotton-as-smoke effect that I always love.

So, I asked Wade how he did it, and for some making-of photos. Happily, he agreed. Here's what he said:

Normally my workbench would be almost unusable, buried beneath various tools and parts and junk. I had to actually clean it up to make it look properly cluttered. Among the props are: an old pressure plate, differential and ring & pinion gears from my '67 Fastback, the main body and throttle body from a Holley 650cfm 4-barrel, the December 1979 Playboy with Raquel Welch on the cover (perhaps the greatest magazine cover ever photographed), KISS Alive II. All carefully arranged so my little 1:24 scale Fastback could navigate through it.


The Pegasus wings as I drew them and cut them out. Huge pain in the ass. I think there were 25 in all; 12 for the passenger side, where the wing went from first sprouting to about half-full, 12 for the driver side where the wing went from half to completely full, and another full-size for the passenger side to complete the pair for the flying shots. They're appearance is based on the Mobil Oil Pegasus.

(overhead.jpg) Here's my "Overhead Tracking Rig", as it came to be known. I needed a way to shoot the car from above as it went down the workbench and keep the distance between the camera and car constant. My solution was some 1" PVC, a 1x6 and some duct tape. Seriously, what else do you need? With that combination a man could fix anything worth repairing. Anyhow, here's a shot of the O.T.R. using the aforementioned Dec. '79 Playboy as a test subject.


Here's my little "I Can't Drive 55" sign that Princess Leia is holding. Actually the only reason I made it in the first place is so the Leia figure would have something to do with her hand. The figure is sculpted to be holding some kind of crazy gaffe/spear thing, but that wouldn't make any sense. You know, unlike having a die-cast car driving across a workbench, picking up a hitchhiking Princess Leia, then sprouting wings and flying away. That makes perfect sense.

Random shot of the tripod and camera trained on the Mustang. I was moving the car and camera 3" a pop for this part of the video. (You can see my tape measure in the background.)


For the flying shots, I used some Lionel model train track, suspended from the ceiling, laid out in the path I wanted the car to take once it lifted off. Hanging the track itself was a bitch, but not nearly as frustrating as actually hanging the car from said track. It seemed so simple on paper...

Here's the Lionel flatbed train car I used to rig up my flying apparatus. I've had that train set since I was about 5-years old. That's about a 2.5"x8" block of wood resting on top of the flatbed with eyebolts screwed in at the corners. To each eyebolt I tied a couple of feet of fishing line, and then tied each line to the model car's suspension at each corner. The idea was that I could control the car's lateral movements by moving the train car on the suspended overhead track, and control the car's altitude, attitude and pitch but coiling or uncoiling the fishing line around the eyebolts. Again, it seemed so simple on paper...


The flying shots were massive pains in the ass. For starters, the narrowness of the train track meant that any imbalance in weight distribution of the die-cast car tended to pull the flatbed train car and wood block over the side of the tracks and send the whole thing crashing onto the floor. This was exacerbated by the weight of the car. This wasn't a plastic model kit that weighed a few ounces. This thing was metal and weighed almost 3 pounds, which is a lot to ask of some train track hung from the ceiling by baling wire. Here's the result of one such plummet. You'll notice the left front wheel dangling precariously. It's not supposed to do that. The A-arm broke, which required a temporary shut-down of production while the Testors model glue dried. Coincidentally enough, the real Bullitt Mustang met it's untimely demise after McQueen dispatches of the bud guys' Charger then power-slides to a spindle-breaking stop in a ditch. McQueen busted his right front, though.

Once I had all my still shots, over 300 in all, I simply put them into Windows Movie Maker, added a few effects (fade in, fade out, etc.), tweaked a few of the shots for duration, added the music (courtesy of John Howie Jr. and the Rosewood Bluff), then published it and uploaded it to YouTube. The End!

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