Stop motion is essentially a technique used in the video industry where a camera stops and starts to show the illusion of movement. Think of it like a flip-book where a drawing is nudged slightly through many pages, and when you flip through the book the drawing looks as though it is actually moving on the page. If you think about it, video is just moving pictures moving at a very fast rate (about 30 pictures per second for standard video). What is interesting about stop motion is that you can displace time by making objects appear or disappear. By starting and stopping the camera in different places or by changing angles, you can make things that seem impossible to do now possible by using illusion of frames. For example, you could take a picture of a donut and make it slowly disappear bite by bite without showing anything but the donut in the shot. Or you could have food dance around a table doing choreographed dances, or if you are absolutely insanely driven you could create moving graffiti art like this guy:

 

This film as you can probably tell took a long time and actually involves creative storytelling and time lapsing as well as stop motion to create this masterpiece. You can start a lot smaller than this of course and actually get some pretty cool results!

Here is what you need:

1. An Idea

Never underestimate the power of a good idea. If you can imagine it then you can create it (well maybe not always, but you can try!). When you have something interesting and it should be at least mildly interesting or no one is going to want to watch, you have to put your idea on paper. I usually stick with old school methods and draw out my main object that I am going to move in the shot, what sort of environment I will use to interact with, and the angles and locations of where I am moving to and from.

2. Method of capture

Once you have your idea you have to figure out how you are going to shoot your stop motion piece. You can do this with pretty much any camera but it makes things a lot easier if your camera has a self-timer. See I grew up without smartphones and when I was experimenting with stop motion I would have to set my object where I wanted, walk over to my camera and snap a picture. I would repeat this process 200 to 300 times in order to get a 15 second animation. Those days are over now so a self-timer can really come in handy when you need to move an object over a distance. A tripod is very important if you want your final animation to be stable and not jump all over the screen. Keeping your object in frame and on the same level are crucial to make a believable result. You are going to want to experiment with how much you move an object, what you remove or add to the scene because it takes time to master this art form.

 

3. Editing Software

Ok so depending on how long you want your animation to last will depend on how many pictures you took. As I mentioned earlier, standard video is seen at 30 frames per second. So if we do the math you would need 150 pictures to have a 5 second stop motion animation. Don’t get scared off just yet, some editing software can slow down the rate at which the pictures come through, giving you more time for your animation with little change in quality. For instance, editing systems like Adobe Premiere and After Effects can slow down your project all the way to 1 frame per second if need be. There are free editing software that come on PC and Mac computers that should be able to get you started. Windows Movie Maker and iMovie are the two popular ones that should get you in the right direction. You will need software in order to import your images, line them up, and set the duration of each image as well as the frame rate for your whole project.

 

However you decide to do it, experiment with different ideas, different angles, different frame rates, and have some fun!