What I personally love about stop motion animation, is that anyone who owns a phone or digital camera, can start working with the technique. There are quite a few types, some more complicated than others, but ultimately, each one is available to try. So what is stop motion animation and how can you make videos at home?
What is Stop Motion?
Become an animator with stop motion
You don’t need fancy equipment or CGI to learn how to do stop motion. That’s probably the coolest part about it.
Stop motion is a form of animation that is easy to do, but can take a very...very long time. Why? Well, let’s first define it so we can see what it takes to create this kind of animation.
Stop Motion Definition
What is stop motion animation?
Stop motion animation is a filmmaking technique in which objects are physically moved in small increments and captured one frame at a time so that when played back, it will give the illusion of motion. If one thinks of a flip book, stop motion is similar only it uses physical objects, instead of drawings.
This kind of animation takes a fairly long time to execute as it is estimated 12 frames (or pictures) are about one second of video. There are a few types of stop motion animation and they include manipulating objects, clay, people, cutouts, puppets, and more.
Types of stop motion animation
- Object-Motion — moving or animating objects
- Claymation — moving clay
- Pixilation — moving or animating people
- Cutout-Motion — moving paper/2D material
- Puppet Animation — moving puppets
- Silhouette Animation — backlighting cutouts
People have been using stop motion for years and years. Get to know this old age animation technique before high-tech CGI was even a thing.
It’s important to note that this kind of animation can take a really long time because as mentioned above, 12 frames equals about one second of video. Depending on which type of stop motion animation you choose, will determine your limitations. The material and physical nature of each type comes with their own brand of challenges. The video below talks about those below.
Can be called Object Animation as well, and it’s simply the moving of objects per frame. You’re unlimited with what you can do here, because you get to create stories using any and all of the objects around you.
ClaymationClaymation involves altering clay objects in each frame. Using wires and clay, you can obviously get incredibly inventive and creative with the types of figures we see on screen. Classic examples of this are Gumby and DreamWorks’ Chicken Run.
Pixilation Stop Motion
Animating people! Not used all the time for the most obvious reason. It takes a long time so the level of patience you need for an actor to move just a smidge every frame, and the amount of frames you’d need, will not only test their patience but probably your budget assuming you’re paying them.
The amount of control they have with their movement is also a factor. But if done well, this kind can look pretty cool, sometimes though, it kind of gives me a headache.
Cutout-motion or animation is pretty cool because there are so many things you can do with cutouts. 2D pieces of paper may seem lifeless, but you can color them and cut them to express a level of detail unlike any of the other styles.
The cartoonish route you can experiment with is a ton of fun, but also significantly more controlled, through your own art and detail. Though, obvious downside? Cutting up hundreds of pieces seems overwhelming.
Using puppets can produce some pretty cool results and tell very unique stories, but the trouble can come later, when you’re dealing with a ton of strings in the shot. Experienced stop motion animators probably have no problem with this, but may not be the best type to work with, initially. These are conventional style puppets.
A lot of times animators will refer to their wire-based clay covered figure as a puppet, which also falls under claymation. Traditional marionette style puppets aren’t as commonly used.
Silhouette Stop Motion
Using a thin white sheet or blanket, place the objects or actors behind the sheet and using a backlight, illuminate their shadow on the sheet. You can easily create some beautiful silhouette animation without spending a fortune.
In fact, on that same note, now that we know the basics, let’s try to do stop motion ourselves. You’ll see below, it doesn’t take expensive equipment to pull off.
How to Make a Stop Motion Video
Make a stop motion video at home
Now that you have an understanding of what stop motion is, let’s try it. Rob from Science Filmmaking Tips, takes us through his process of doing stop motion at home. Take a look.
As mentioned, using stop motion in your videos isn’t complicated, but it’s also even cheaper.
Here’s what you need
If you have a smartphone, you’re nearly good to go. Many stop motion apps are free, and special add ons are only about 5 bucks. The app literally entitled Stop Motion works well, especially for your first few stop motion projects.
Don’t kid yourself into thinking you need fancy cameras or expensive software to pull this off. You really don’t. But hey if you have gear, even better. If you have a solid DSLR, awesome.
Dragonframe for example, is a fun stop motion software that runs about $300 and you can do some pretty cool stuff with it. This is great if you own a small business and are trying to put out professional quality looking videos, fast. But again, you don’t need it.
So with your smartphone, open up the Stop Motion app, and start taking pictures. It captures one picture at a time and adds each one to a timeline. You can scroll through this shots and see if any look off, and simply delete them.
What to consider before stop motion video
- Your camera needs to be steady!
Having a good setup helps with this. You’ll see in the video how Rob set up his iPad to avoid any shakiness in the frame. Most likely though, you’ll either be using a tripod to limit camera shake, or set your phone down in a stable position.
- Don’t touch the camera
You’ll have the cleanest looking stop motion animation if you avoid hitting the button every time. Try triggering the camera to a picture by using either a remote trigger (not expensive) or just set a timer on the app to take a picture every few seconds.
- Shoot manually
No “auto” setting for anything here - keep your shutter speed the same for each frame taken, ISO, aperture, white balance, all of it needs to be the same for each picture taken. You can choose the settings first and lock them on the app. If you’re not working with the app, that’s okay too, just make sure your settings are the same for every picture. If you keep them on auto, as you move the objects, settings will adjust themselves, potentially creating a flicker from frame to frame.
- Get your lighting right
Shooting inside is best - it’s controllable and keeps us away from ever changing light. Be mindful of windows, and of course it depends how in depth you’re getting. For your first test run, just keep the lighting basic, where you can clearly see your objects, and where the light won’t be changing much. Sometimes where you are outside of the frame can cause shadows, and minor flickering can be seen. Some people like that flickering, sometimes it even goes with the animation, but just make sure it does, and isn’t jarring to your project.
- Frame Rate
You don’t need to get too in depth with this early on, but you do need to know how many frames you need to shoot to get the sequence you want. Typically, as mentioned above 12 pictures or frames equals about one second of video. Your video may only be a few seconds, otherwise you start getting into that super jittery looking stop motion.
As you're shooting your silent stop motion animation, you can think of unique ways to add in your audio later. Notice how Rob did it as he scrunched up paper for his opening of “52 Things.” Have fun with it!
Best Stop Motion Movies
If you still need some inspiration on stop motion videos, check out our next post that explores the best stop motion movies ever made. Maybe those were worth the years of production?