Film Workshops Review

Last year we ran a series of workshops for autistic adults at venues across the South West and South Wales.  The idea was to experiment with different visual techniques like stop motion and cut-out animation, green-screen technology and motion sensor software to allow the participants to come up with their own creative work.  Here’s a short selection of clips:

Participants loved it – animation opened up new ways of expression and staff were amazed to see certain individuals engaging with such enthusiasm. We left animation kit at each venue and this is in high demand everywhere!

St Mark’s House workshop

St Mark’s House in Newport, Gwent was the next destination for our workshops, this time with the National Autistic Society group who meet there regularly. We had the regular plasticine table that proved as popular as ever with carers and clients alike. It’s really nice and social just to roll dough and chat. Before long, hey presto, you have something you can animate on the Ipad using the I Stop Motion software.


Notice we’ve clamped the Ipads to the tables using a piece of wood and g–clamps, this saves damaging the table and keeps them still and free of jolting and jogging.

We also had roving two Ipads that clients could take anywhere in the building and interact using the ReacTickles Magic and Somantics Software from Cardiff School of Art and Design and Cariad Interative. This amazing program allows the user to touch, gesture and use sound to create movement and reaction on the screen. We monitored the use from two laptops and recorded some of the sessions.

For a bigger more dynamic experience we used another Cardiff School of Art and Design and Cariad Interactive program, Somantics, and a projector, screen and Xbox 360 Kinect camera to capture physical movement. The set up was a real attraction, causing traffic jams as centre users passed by.

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A big thank you to animators and facilitators Dominic Pitt, Sophie Marsh and Lizzie Watts for their excellent support throughout the workshop series.

National Autistic Society’s Lynx Centre second workshop

We did things a little differently this time around and had some Lego figures for people to animate with should they wish. Not everyone is a confidant model maker so we animated using figurines was a great way for everyone to join in.

One of the participants is a competent illustrator with a taste for the anime style and with a bit of cajoling translated a character he had designed into a plasticine model which he then set about animating.

We were most impressed by another participant’s skill and joy in mimicking any models we workshop leaders could make. He was so quick that at times all 3 of the workshop leaders were making things for him to copy, that they might get ahead of his relentless pace. By the end of the session the table was heaped with plasticine characters and their doppelgängers.

Paper Animation

We also had some paper cut out animation under a camera. While the cutting out was a hit the group were not too keen to animate with it so Dom, the workshop leader, stepped in and animated all the shapes they had been cutting out during the session.

Green screen workshop

We used a green-screen again but this time around we were able to use videos as a backdrop which resulted in a close encounter with a steam train barrelling down the tracks for one of the participants who had a keen interest in trains.

National Autistic Society’s Lynx Centre Workshop

Working with plasticine is extremely comforting. Warming it up and rolling around in your fingers is probably something I could do for a good few hours. Slowly something emerges from the blob…is that? yes I think it is! It’s a horse/badger/dog! Here, we all sit around a big table, Sophie, Lizzie and me, and some of the guys who attend the National Autistic Society’s Lynx Centre in Weston-super-Mare.


Over to one side Dom has set up a green screen with a live feed to a monitor so everyone can see the electronically created backgrounds. Dom changes them regularly. The backgrounds have been previously prepared based on the participant’s interest. Every now and then someone gets up spontaneously and stands in front of the screen to watch themselves interacting with the background. One of the guys, Brian, is very interested, and I mean VERY interested, in trains and particularly St Pancras Station. He stands under the great curved roof on one of the platforms as if waiting for a train. He is lost in thought. There is a cavalcade of CITV characters to do a selfie with. There’s the inside of the TARDIS and even a street in a town on the edge of some distant Star Wars galaxy.

The day continues at this gentle pace. Some of the participants want to animate the models they have made and Lizzie moves to another table where there are a few iPads set up. Some of the animations are meticulous. Janine creates a complex narrative based on a series of terrible farm accidents. Ian, one of the most silent of the group, loves his numbers and animates a plasticine countdown from 120.

– Jeremy Routledge – CTS Project Leader

Slow-mo testing

As the day winds to a close we had outside with Jess, to experiment popping a water balloon in slow motion like the Slo-Mo Guys while filming with a high speed camera. Jess is much more verbal and independent than some of the other guys visiting the centre and is, in fact doing a media course at Bridgwater College. But he hadn’t tried this yet. As it turned out he was extremely disappointed with the results. Hopefully we can return with a much faster camera next time!

Weston stop-motion shorts

We all sit around the table and roll the plasticine around and start to shape and squeeze. There is some shouting, some disconcerting cries of “Cat-Bear!”, there’s laughter but mostly there’s silence, a good silence. We are, after all, creating stuff, slowly, words aren’t necessary in such a process – Jeremy Routledge, CTS Project Leader

Green-screen videos

During our last workshop at Stalkcombe we set up a live green-screen set which allowed the residents to film themselves in front of an image of their choosing here are the results! (No sound this time)