Mar 12, 2024

From Product Design to Stop-Motion: Giraffics Diving into the Journey of Dina Amin

This interview was conducted by Giraffics Animator, Loay Ashraf

If we happen to come across Frankenstein's monster in a room, we would definitely find Dina Amin somewhere amid the chaos and spare parts, trying to see how he was put together.

Amin is a stop-motion animator and a maker (of anything, really)! With an unmatchable curiosity and a skilled pair of hands, Amin started her journey by unassembling unwanted products and revealing their intricate hidden details and mechanisms to the world. She, later on, used stop-motion to showcase her little adventures to the world.

In the interview below, we took apart and put together Amin’s life's work, interests, and achievements. 

1- What was the earliest piece of media that sparked your interest in stop-motion animation? What specifically resonated with you?

The movie Coraline, not the animation part actually but all the mechanical rigging that was used in the film, like the mechanism made for how a flower unfolds. It resonated a lot with the product designer in me since this was my field of study, and not actually animation. And I thought that could be something that bridges both worlds together.

2- Which stop-motion project contributed most significantly to your learning and development as an artist? Why was this project so impactful for you?

The first ID I made for AdultSwim with the tape character. I always try to push and challenge myself in every project and in this one It was the first time I do a proper character animation, with a study of the movements, and a live action reference and moving many parts of the character in comparison to just usually animating whole objects. 

3- Could you share your experience of transitioning from a stop-motion hobbyist to a professional working in Egypt? What were the biggest hurdles you encountered, and how did you navigate them?

It was very hard and still is, the biggest challenge was getting my name out there, since there was a very small market for stop motion in Egypt, or I can say even none on the level I wanted, I had to seek opportunities in a wider global market, but it meant I had to be the same level internationally to compete with animators worldwide. As a self taught animator it was a very steep learning curve that I had to take to be able to up my game and get jobs to be able to afford to start my own studio and get the equipment that is needed for stop motion. I did nothing but animate for many many years, working on and sharing personal projects that resembled the kind of work I wanted to get more of, I have been to many conferences and animation festivals to build a network and I visited stop motion studios abroad to be able to figure out how it’s all done.

4- Can you walk us through the creative process and collaboration involved in creating your stop-motion IDs for Vice and Adult Swim?

Vice and Adult Swim are very easy clients, they give full creative freedom to the artists since it is really a collaboration between the artist they commission and both companies, so for both all they wanted is the idea proposed and then an animatic, other than that they told me to just go do whatever I wanted, they don’t see props, or storyboards, or style images, they just trust the artists they chose and they give plenty of time for artists to create their piece, which is usually 3 months to create a 10-15sec of animation.

5- What were some of the unique challenges and opportunities you encountered working with each brand?

No challenges really, it was a pleasure working with both companies, I enjoy their projects a lot, they know how to give artists their space. And it’s always projects that I know I can challenge myself with and make something crazy and they’ll actually love it, this is what they want.

6- In your opinion, what is the single most challenging aspect of creating stop-motion animation? How do you overcome these challenges and maintain your creative flow?

Stop motion animation comes with limitations, there are no undos and any mistake means you have to start all over again. So it’s not a job to be rushed or done under extremely unreasonable timelines. And to make sure animating days go smoothly, a lot of preproduction work needs to be done. Even if clients like adult swim or vice don’t require it, it will still be done for me. So testing my ideas quickly first, studying the characters, fabricating and figuring out how all the rigging will go. 

7- Do you personally own all the materials and props you use in your stop-motion creations, or do you collaborate with others, rent equipment, or utilize other methods?

I own most of the materials and equipment, especially rigs and winders that are not available in Egypt. Over the years I have curated a library of objects that I like to work with, so I almost have all the props. It depends on the shoot and what the production requires, sometimes we need to rent special lighting or extra cameras, sometimes we need to source dog skulls, or other crazy props. But the majority are fabricated in the studio.

8- Where do you typically source the unique and interesting objects you often incorporate into your stop-motion work? Do you have any specific strategies or favorite resources?

Mainly objects I collected from the Friday Market, or from friends and family, or just picking trash from the street, interesting objects I got while traveling. I have a box full of feathers I collected, I can fabricate a whole pigeon now. I have another for human hair and another for butterfly wings. Stop motion animators are basically garbage collectors, but for us it’s garbage with a lot of potential.

9- What kickstarts your creative process for a stop-motion project? Do specific materials inspire your ideas, or do your initial concepts lead you to seek out the necessary materials?

Sometimes it starts with an idea in my head and I try to see if it will work if I animate it, I usually don’t know if it’s doable or not if it’s a new crazy idea, I just go one step at a time. Sometimes it starts with the object and I play around with it till an idea comes. But usually my ideas are an intersection of two to three things that I love; for example, trash, product design and animation. 

10- Can you describe a typical workday for you as a stop-motion artist? What does your routine look like from ideation to execution?

There is no typical workday, it’s work months haha I am an early bird, so I start my day very early, It depends on the project and how I’d start it, if I’m given some keywords I start from that for the idea or I create my own project brief, if i am starting with an object, for example a ‘book’, first thing I would do is strip away all the ‘labels’ when i look at an object i don’t see it as one thing, but many things, so a book is the word we know of piece of paper that were manufactured from trees, had words printed on it with ink, binded together with thread and glue, and collected between leather or hardcovers. You can do a few things with a book, but now I have all these materials that I can play around with. Then after the idea, i like to test it quickly, sometimes I’d have to learn a whole craft technique like ‘book folding’ to execute it. I source my materials, prep all my props, do any studies for movements or lip syncs, if it’s a conventional client then I have to present an idea proposal, storyboard, animatic, show all props, styleframes and then shoot and send a draft to be prepared for post production later. 

11- What kind of music or sounds do you prefer to listen to while working on long stop-motion shoots? Does it help you focus or inspire your creativity?

I like listening to Aurora a lot, usually i’d go for something slow, I don’t focus with the music much, if it wasn’t open i don’t think i would even notice. I am very focused when I am animating but in the background it helps me relax between frames when I notice it.

12- How do you handle errors in editing when you cannot reshoot the stop-motion footage? What strategies do you employ to fix these mistakes?

Well the strategy is to always avoid the mistake haha There are very minor edits that can be done in post without being visible, otherwise it becomes a frame by frame editing nightmare. 

13- For aspiring stop-motion artists who are just starting out, what are some essential tips you would recommend to help them develop their skills and overcome common challenges?

I’d tell them to focus on developing their skill, and not on fancy equipment. You can have the best lights or cameras but if you don’t know how to use them your work will still look bad. It’s more important to learn and understand the principles of light and animation than buy the most expensive equipment out there.

14- What are your hopes and dreams for your future as a stop-motion artist? What kind of projects would you like to work on in the future?

I’d like to continue challenging myself, and make my crazy ideas come to life, I want to get more into character animation and maybe direct and animate a short film one day.


Dina Amin is not the only one who likes to assemble and disassemble. In this interview, we went deep into the details of Amin's journey and unraveled just the kind of artist she is. We started with Amin's early days, where she shared her love and interest in the "how." While most of us watched the film Coraline, hiding under a blanket, Amin was at a close distance from the screen, studying and observing the mechanical rigging of the characters and scenery.

At that moment, she knew that her interest in stop motion and her field of study, product design, could be placed on opposite faces of the same coin. Amin took her first significant step when she created stop-motion IDs for Vice and Adult Swim. Even though it was her first time working with proper character animation, Vice and Adult Swim gave her complete creative liberty and a stretched deadline, which helped ease the process. But to work with such big clients, Amin had to pull herself up and excel in a field with very limited doors. She shared that her biggest challenge was to put herself out there and make a name for herself. She had to keep herself updated with the latest developments and her skills up to international standards to one day afford her own studio and equipment.

Today, she owns an impressive collection of materials and equipment with unique objects from all-around, like her travels, Cairo's Friday Market, family, and friends. Despite stop-motion's endless potential, it comes with one major challenge, according to Amin: No Undos. Lots of pre-production and trials have to take place to ensure minimal space for mistakes. Amin's creative process can't be described as a train of thought; it's more like a rollercoaster with no plan to stop. When an idea pops in her mind, she likes to dissect it and work with it from multiple directions. In her eyes, objects are not just what they seem by the cover but are made up of more and more intricate things. With an exciting journey ahead, Amin advises all who want to follow a similar path to focus on developing their skills and understanding the principles of light and animation rather than swoon over fancy and expensive tools and equipment. Amin ends the interview by sharing her plans for the future: go more crazy, challenge herself to the fullest, and maybe direct and animate her very own short film one day.