How to Make Stop-Motion Animation

Instructor: Melissa Olivieri
Stop-motion animation is a popular technique in filmmaking, and it has been used to make many classic movies. While time-consuming, it's a fairly straightforward technique. Read on to learn how you can make your own stop-motion animation movie.

What Is Stop-Motion Animation?

It may not be terribly hard to make a stop-motion animation movie, but it is time consuming and tedious. That's because stop-motion animation involves taking a series of many photos and stringing them together in consecutive order to create the effect of movement. The technique involves moving certain components of the scene slightly with each frame to create the desired effect.

It's much like a flip book in which each page is slightly different, so that the image appears to be moving when you use your thumb to fan through the pages rapidly. You may be familiar with the technique from many popular movies, including Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas and the classic series Gumby.

Note that the subjects in the stop-motion animation movie can be anything, whether it's people, clay figurines or appliances. You generally can expect to take at least 10 photos for each second of video for smooth, flowing motion.

How to Make A Stop Motion Movie

After coming up with a premise for your movie, you'll need a digital camera and some type of video editing software, such as iMovie or QuickTime Pro. You'll also need supplies to create the scenes of your movie. For example, if you are making a character out of clay with a painted poster board background, you'll need to gather clay, painting supplies and poster board. Easy right? Well, that all depends on how elaborate your idea is and how long you want the movie to be.

Let's say that you want to make a stop-motion claymation movie about a snowman melting in the sun, and you want to keep it pretty basic. You could create a background that shows the sky being cloudy and snowy. Then, you'll take many shots of your clay-made snowman--at least 600 frames for every minute of video, altering the snowman ever so slightly with each shot. You might move him to appear as though he's dancing or walking, until the background changes slightly to show the sun coming out. As you snap images, make the snowman smaller and smaller to mimic melting.

After you've captured the images of the scene, upload them to a computer and begin creating a fluid movie using your video editing software. Say you're using iMovie. After opening the application, you'll select 'File' and then 'Start A New Project' in the menu bar, and give your movie a title. Then, import all of the images into the project and assign each image a set amount of time to display. For stop-motion animation, each frame will be displayed for a fraction of a second.

If any of the photos are out of order, you can easily rearrange them. After you've arranged all of your photos, playback the series and fine-tune as needed, such as by speeding up the movie by displaying each image for less time or by adding music to accompany the visuals. Be sure to take your editing software's tutorial and use the help section for assistance with editing.

Tips for a Better Stop-Motion Movie

Here are a few tips that may help make your stop-motion animation movie better:

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