Behind the Scenes: Norm says ‘Merry Christmas’

Huntington University is saying, "Merry Christmas," this year in style with its very only stop-motion animated tale.

In the makings of Christmas favorites like "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Jack Frost" and "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town," the 24-second video follows Huntington's mascot, Norm the Forester, as he decorates the tree for Christmas.

Animators Curtis Wood and Chris Veil (2010 HU alums) created the video with the help of the digital media arts faculty and other friends from the department.

"We were very fortunate to get help from some very talented people such as Tyler Welker who did the post editing, Dawn Ford and Grant Fitzgerald who did the sound design, Cara Bolley who built the armature, and Josh Doolan and Yohan Lee who built and animated the tree. I can assure you that without these wonderful people, this wouldn't have been possible," Wood said.

The process started with an idea and a storyboard. From there, the pattern for the Norm puppet was sculpted and the armature (the bone structure) was assembled. Once the mold was baked, the paint and the final touches were added.

The animation for the tree was made through replacement animation, which is done by creating multiple stages of an object moving or transforming rather than manually moving or transforming the object, Wood explained.

With the pieces complete, the animation began. Tests were conducted with lighting and camera placement before the final animation was finished.

"We ended up shooting the entire thing in a day, about 12 hours straight, with a few breaks," Wood said.

With some touchups and sound, the animation was ready for Christmas.
The entire production from creating the puppet to animating the video took about 170 straight hours over a four-month period, Wood explained, but they were extremely satisfied with the final product.

"We wouldn't have been able to do this or even comprehend the thought of it without (the knowledge we learned from people like Steve Leeper and Brian Ballinger). I think Chris and I both wanted to show HU and the DMA department gratitude for their support and wisdom through the four years we where there," Wood said.