Stop Motion Animation
Stop motion animation is the art of creating a moving picture (or film) by taking a series of pictures then playing them in sequence. This is a technique that tricks the eye and the mind into perceiving it all as real motion. Have you ever seen the roll of film that they play at the movie theatre? Picture how that is a series of pictures, yup. And when you play them at a certain speed the images are blended into a seamless movie.
Now, that is only one half of what stop motion really is. The really neat thing about it is the "stop" part of the term. The real part of all this is the fact that you can make yourself some kind of a little set up and take a picture of it. Then you move your set up just a little bit and take another picture. This is where the "stop" comes in. You stop and take a picture, then do it again.
The following picture shows this progression of pictures quite nicely. It is just a series of pictures taken of a small plastic tank on a diorama. If you look across the pictures you can see that the tank has been moved just a little bit for each picture. When the pictures are played in rapid sequence it looks as if the tank is smoothly moving across the image.
A little more about Stop Motion Animation
One of the beautiful things about this technique is that it lends itself to almost unlimited creativity. You can use just about anything as the subject and tools of a stop motion animation. And I mean just about anything!
This picture shows two figures made with pipe cleaners. They are part of a stop motion animation. The pipe cleaners are an easy way to do animation because you can move them just a little bit, stop, and take the next picture
And this picture shows a dry erase board used in a stop motion animation. In the case of something like this you might draw a picture then erase small parts of it to show how things move.
A very popular form of stop motion animation, often called claymation, is the use of clay or dough to create your figures and or your sets. This picture shows a clay lizard. An important thing about something like this is that the clay is often too soft to get smooth animation so you would place a wire frame in the middle of it so it keeps its shape for the various pictures.
What do you need?
You do need a few things to get started in this hobby and let me outline them for you. First off you need your subject or subject that you will be animating. I have given you some great examples of these above but all of these show stuff that is made! You can start with just some objects like legos, or small cars, thimbles or anything else. The whole objective is to make it move!
Digital Camera - You will need some kind of a digital camera so you can take your series of pictures. This doesn't have to be fancy and depending on the software you use you might even be able to use a web cam.
Software for putting the animation together - This might be a little bit trickier but you need some kind of software that you can load all those pictures into. The software takes those pictures and plays them in order, thus creating an animation.
- Microsoft Movie Maker - A lot of computers that have Windows also comes with a program called "Movie Maker". This will work very well for your animation making. And you might want to check see if you have it on your computer. If you do I have a complete tutorial on how to use it right here: Making a stop motion animation with Movie Maker. (It's not hard at all)
- Adobe Premiere - Is the program that I use to make stop motion animations. It is video editing software, not specifically for stop motion but it does a nice job.
- Dragon Stop Motion- This is professional grade software for making stop motion animations.
- There are lots of other programs out there including MonkeyJam, MotionMage, IKITMovie and more.
Once you have yourself set up with the basic materials you just have to go ahead and start shooting the pictures! Typically, if you are a beginner you can just experiment with the motion of things. But real soon you will be thinking about how to make it better and one of the best ways to do this is to come up with a story! People love stories and it doesn't have to be complex. This video will show you how to do it.
Books, Resources and More
- StormTheCastle.com Stop Motion Animation Tutorials- Tutorials on all kinds of stop motion including clay, paper, figures, pipe cleaners and more.
- Wikipedia page about Stop motion and some nice stuff about the history of it
- Youtube playlist with several excellent stop motion animation videos