How to Make a Stop Motion Video

Stop-motion animation is a simple, imaginative, and fun type of filmmaking. If you have a digital camera or camcorder and a computer, you have what you need to make a stop-motion video.

Stop motion is an animation technique that dates as far back as 1898. The 1933 version of King Kong is a famous example. RoboCop and Terminator are other famous examples, another is

Art Clokey’s Gumby TV series which appeared for over 30 years in American children’s television. A more recent stop motion clay animation are the Wallace and Gromit characters created by Nick Park.

Stop motion scenes have been used in Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Robocop and many other films. Comedy Central’s Robot Chicken uses stop-motion with action figures and toy props. Tim Burton used stop-motion and puppets to create The Nightmare Before Christmas. The history of stop motion photography is extensive and surprising.

The techniques for creating stop motion video are accessible to everyone with a computer, digital camera and the desire to create.

Here are a couple of good examples of stop motion.

et cetera from jacattack on Vimeo.

First, you’ll need an idea for your own stop motion video. Keep it simple and short the first time out. You will need about 10 photographs for each second of finished video. It more important to complete a couple of simple projects than it is to attempt to reach too far. You might start by making an object do seemingly impossible things. Perhaps a small ball that, with the unseen help of rubber glue, clear fishing line, or double-sided tape, appears to defy gravity by climbing walls, moving across ceilings and more. Or a person who appears to “skate” through a large yard or room.

After you’ve planned the shots, get your digital camera and tripod. You can choose a low resolution setting on the camera since these photos will not be printed on paper. Depending on the size of your memory card, you may need to fill the card, then transfer all photos to the computer, delete the images on the card, then fill the card again until you have all the photos you need on the computer.

Your computer will need video editing software such as Sony Vegas Movie Studio, Apple’s iMovie or any video editing program you have.

If you choose to film a small ball, set up your tripod and aim the camera at the first position of the ball. Take a shot as a still photo, not a movie mode. Don’t move the camera, but move the ball to the next position, perhaps six inches from the start. Use this same distance in subsequent shots to make it appear the ball is moving at a constant speed. Continue making individual shots until the ball is out of frame. This will appear that the ball is moving through your frame.

You could also move the camera and the ball together so the ball stays in the same relative position in the camera frame. This will appear that the camera and ball are moving together. This is called a tracking or dolly shot. There are many possibilities for the movement of subject (the ball) and camera.

If you make a mistake, you can simply delete that photo and shoot another one to replace it. Deleting mistakes as you go will save work in the editing phase, but be careful not to delete a good frame. Keep the photos in the proper order in which you want them to play.

Check your camera manual to learn how to transfer your photos to the computer. Make a new directory or folder for all the photos. Using your video editing software, move the photos into a new movie using the image sequencer function. In Quicktime Player Pro, go to the pull down for Open / Image sequence. Then Point it to the folder where you saved your images. Choose a frame rate, then play your movie.

In some editing programs you can specify how long each photos should appear. In Sony Vegas this is 5 seconds by default, but that is much too long. You will want each photo to appear for only a fraction of a second. This is what makes it a movie rather than a slideshow. The timing you choose will determine the pace of your video as well as how long it will run.

Video normally plays at 30 frames a second. So if you set each photos to play for three frames, (.33 seconds each) that means the viewer will see 10 photos every second. So to produce a 1 minute video, you will need 600 photos! (10 times 60) At this rate a 90-minute feature film would require 54,000 photos, but they would generally want a high resolution. Let’s say they wanted 15 frames per second. 15 x 60 x 90 = 81,000 photos. So keeping your stop motion projects simple and short is a good place to start.

Save your project often using different file names e.g. Animated Ball1, Animated Ball2, etc. This will protect you in case of a computer crash, power failure, or electrical storm. You can later delete the unnecessary files.

Experiment with different kinds of music and sound effects. Music will make an enormous difference in the final film. Obey the copyright laws. No point in creating a great video that has legal problems. You can also experiment with the playback rate. All video will ultimately be played at 30 frames a second so changing the play back rate will involve a couple of steps of rendering the video.

Producing good stop motion video requires patience and planning. Here are some fun examples:

This one is called Deadline. It shows what you could do with Post it Sticky Notes

This is all done on a desktop with Coke cans.

Western Spaghetti won a bunch of awards

Scrabble

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