Stop Motion

Overview

Stop motion is an animation technique that breathes life into lifeless objects. You can tell a complete story using chunks of clay, LEGO figures, pieces of paper or other objects as actors. All you need is a camera and a computer.

You will photograph your scene from the same angle to create a series of pictures and move your objects a tiny little bit after each picture. In the end, you will upload your pictures to the computer and assemble them into a video – voilà; you will have your own animation!

Stop motion has made it to the big screen many times: Coraline, Tim Burton’s Nightmare before Christmas, and also Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit are some of the most famous stop motion productions in recent years.

When to use it


There are no limits to your creativity with stop motion. You can tell any story by using nothing more than simple objects. For instance, you can use stop motion to:

  • Tell a story in a creative, unique and unforgettable way: e.g. the history of a project, an experience, an organization, to describe any development or situation.
  • Explain and illustrate complicated facts, developments, connections: You can show abstract or complex processes, e.g. scientific explanations, the life cycle of a product, globalized cooperation.
  • Animate an event: A thematically fitting stop motion video can serve as a nice break in long and serious meetings or workshops; it can stimulate creativity and re-energize a team.
  • Promote anything: If you want to advertise an event, a network, project, blog or any social activities, a stop motion video usually gets the job done. It can go viral in your community and won’t be forgotten like another boring newsletter.

How to use it

Step 1: Storyboard and script

Before you start your stop motion production, you should take the time to organize your story and draw a storyboard. A storyboard is a sketch of each scene, including voice-over text in case you want to use spoken language. In a stop motion production, it is especially important to have a detailed storyboard because the scenes will only look convincing if the movements and development of the objects are consistent.
You don’t necessarily want to shoot the scenes in the same chronological order as in the storyboard. Plan around your object manipulations: do you need to destroy or irreversibly alter objects you might need at a later point in the story? Make a detailed script with all the instructions that are projectable or download an empty storyboard template to get started.

 


Step 2: Prepare your equipment

  • Camera and tripod
    For most of your scenes, you will want to shoot your pictures from the exact same angle. Therefore, it is advisable to use a tripod. If you don’t have access to a tripod, you can improvise. Find a stable place to put your camera and mark the spot so you can relocate the exact same angle in case you need to move the camera. By the way, you can also use your smartphone to create a stop motion video.
  • Objects for your scenes
    Gather or create all the objects that appear in your video, including your background. If you need to alter your objects during the production, also prepare the material you will need for those alterations (e.g. colours, scissors, etc.).
  • Surroundings and light
    Choose the location of your production wisely. Consider people, pets and other influences that might interfere or change the conditions of your location over the course of your production. Light can have great atmospheric impact on your video if used properly. Avoid natural light completely. The best setting is a dark room with several desk lights or flash lights.
  • Computer
    You will need a computer, tablet or smartphone with ample storage space to edit your material into a movie.
  • Software
    You can use pre-installed video editing software (iMovie in Apple products, Movie Maker in Microsoft). If you want to use special effects, you will need image editing software like Adobe Photoshop or free versions like GIMP. You can also use specific stop motion software like Dragonframe.

Step 3: Production

Once you have assembled all your equipment and set up your set, you can finally start the production.

  • Camera Settings 
    Use your camera in the manual mode without auto-focus. Depending on your story and taste, use depth of field variations to highlight your heroes and to guide the audience. If you can change the picture format, choose 16:9, the standard format for film. When your camera is ready and positioned, you can take the first picture. After that, you move your object a tiny little bit and take another picture. Repeat that until your scene is done. The size of the movements of your objects between the pictures depends on your framerate. Big screen movies usually use 24 frames per second, which requires tiniest movement. However, this would mean 1440 photographs for one minute of stop motion film. Therefore, stop motion usually use frame rates between 10 and 15.


Step 4: Post-production

  • Assemble pictures into a clip
    You can use pre-installed programs such as Windows Movie Maker or iMovie. You simply open a new project, import your series of pictures and drag them into the timeline. Select all the pictures in the timeline and change the display duration to about 0.1 seconds (equals 10 frames per second). Save or export the movie once you’re satisfied.
  • Assemble clips into a movie
    In the next step, you assemble all the individual scenes into a movie, you can record and insert a voice-over or background music and end titles.

 

Examples

Resources

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