Stop motion video - Lucas 10 years of age

Stop motion video – Lucas 10 years of age

Most children or those young at heart have met stop motion in some shape or form.
Whether in the form of the original Godzilla film, Shaun the Sheep, Coraline or any of the fantastic projects from Aardman Animations, it has existed long before 3D special effects were possible.

Even today it is an art which many insist on sticking to, and I do understand why.
It is so cool!

Creative thoughts are concieved

Creative thoughts are concieved

I didn't get into stop motion, before I found with an iPad in hand and a bunch of eager young ones around me.
As an animator, I have worked on / off with hand-drawn animations, and principles are basically the same.
So it was quite natural to emerge myself – and the kids – in to stop motion.

All the technical aspects about it can are now made possible by apps. Very few of us have the right cameras and programs to create it otherwise, and with great and cheap alternatives available for both iOS as well as Android, it is easy to get started.

Basically, it is just a matter of jumping into it and be fearless! Buuut… a few tips along the way helps 🙂

The basics


To understand what it is, we have to bring a little technical jargon to the table.

Stop motion is a series of images played back with a selected number of frames per second.
An object is photographed, moved, photographed, moved, etc. until the action desired is created.

A normal film has between 24 and 30 images per second (frames per second – fps). Some new films has 60 fps, but it's not something the eye is trained to see yet.

Stop motion doesn't need that many fps, and can easily be created with 10-12 pictures.
Right down to 6 fps can also be used, but it looks better with more.

Everything can be used to make a stop motion film. More on that later.

The more technical stuff

Before you begin, you must have the equipment ready of course.
You can use any tablet or mobile with a stop motion app on it.

I have previously reviewed the app Stop Animator for the iPad but has since moved on to iStopmotion. It's simply better.

For Android the app PicPac can be used, but try out a few.

There are many different kinds, but it is important to choose one that you like, and preferably has the feature the 'onion skin'.
It's a smart way to describe, that you can see the picture you have just taken, so it's easier to see where the next picture should be.

If you can get a stand of sorts, that makes your tablet / mobile to remain TOTALLY still, do it.

Believe me – the difference to your stop motion film with or without vibration is huge. In addition, one avoids unwelcome fingers in the shot much easier.
Just watch these videos. They are classic examples of what to avoid.

Until now I haven't had access to equipment other than iPads with covers on, so I made a 'DIY'’ solution with a table, boxes and instructions.

We quite quickly progress to green screen also, but at the moment. just ignore that.


Do-it-yourself stop motion studio

This picture shows how I made 2 scenes, so two teams of animators were able to work simultaneously.

I have since bought some equipment for myself, which makes a world of difference. I.e. a ‘tripod’ – a three-legged camera stand – as well as mounts for iPad and iPhone.
It may be obtained for aprox. 500 kr. in Denmark but far by cheaper, if you want to buy at Amazon or Ebay.

Otherwise you can use small racks such as. Gorillapods, which among others. can be twisted around poles, chair backs or things like that.

There are many possibilities, but the purpose is the same: get the tablet / phone to sit still!

The minor technical stuff
'Oil hourglass' and plus-plus'er

'Oil gizmo’ and 'plus-plus'

In order to make stop motion, you need something you can move around, and anything can be used.
I have used everything from plastic animals to LEGOs, and in practice the possibilities are endless.
I had a child, who made a stop motion with an – well, what would you call it – oil gizmo and plus plus'. It's the video at the beginning of the article.

It is imagination that sets the limits.

Don't be too ambitious to start with when it comes to props, backgrounds etc.
The possibilities are as mentioned endless, but the old adage that 'Rome was not built in a day’ apply here too.

The other things
There must be room for the necesities

There must be room for the necesities

Make sure, that there is room to roam.
Whether it is a table surface, a floor, windowsill or some 4., place is secondary.
Just make sure, that the whole thing doesn't take place in a tight space.
Minimum space must be, what can be seen on camera – preferably with space to move around. Especially, if there are more than one participant in the project.

Also make sure, that there is enough light.
A dim space is difficult to film in, and strange shadows are more annoying than interesting.

It's fine with good daylight or ordinary room lighting. Again, it's about keeping it simple, as to extend along the way.

Before you start

What do you want?

You now know how to start, but what are you going to do?
If you are a pedagogue, teacher or some other kind of educator, you usually have a goal with what you are doing.

It doesn't help anything just throwing the kids into it, because they don't always know what to do with it.
Often it ends up – where the boys are concerned – with war-death-splatter, and for the girls – hi-how-are-you-now-let's-tell-a-story.
This isn't a crude stereotypical attitude but experience.

The vast majority of girls are good at making up composite stories, while the boys fall in the caveman trap.
Both needs help to exceed their own bounderies, but as a starting point, they have to create what you think they should be creating.

Within reasonable limits.

The introduction

If it's new to the children (and you, perhaps), you must show them the potential before you start.

It's easy to just say “Let's get started”, but it's not the same as being able to.
Because how do you progress?

It's important, that the children see how it works BEFORE they get into it.
If you haven't tried it before, of course you have to see what it's all about too.

Here's a video, showing how stop motion looks at different speeds.
Notice the differences. The children will easily be able to spot the idea why more fps are better (images per second).

Checklist before start

Now you are ready! Or.. are you? Let's take it from the top:

  • Tablet or mobile phone to record with
  • An app for stop motion
  • Something to do stop motion with (figurines, LEGOs, papers and other items)
  • A place with normal lighting
  • Something, that makes the tablet / mobile to stand still
  • A basic understanding of what stop motion is,

If you can tick all, it's time to move on to the action.

Three methods

As I said, there are many ways to do it.
Here are three approaches I like to use.

1) Find a generel topic (theme movie) 2) Plan start, middle and end (story structure) 3) What shall we play? (free fantasy with an adult as coordinator)
Find a generel topic (theme)

Whether you choose to involve the children in the process, or you make the decision in advance, it's an easy way to get started.

Have the elements to do the stop motion films ready, meaning. select whether you will work with LEGOs, pencils or make paper dolls.

Be sure to brainstorm ideas on the theme WITH children, since participation is always the best way to engage them.

With this approach it's not all planned in advance, but everyone knows what the theme is and contains.

It is recommended to make a sketch on the theme, besides brainstorming. The visual aspect helps.

Plan start, middle and end (story structure)
A storyboard emerges

A storyboard emerges

This approach is best, if awareness of story's structure is important.

This method doesn't always feel natural, and requires a lot more of you.

Here, a storyboard is a great help, where the kids, based on pictures 3 show what will happen, chronologically.

Be mindfull if the theme if is important, or whether the children themselves can make things up as they go along.
You help yourself by being prepared. An idea of an approach could be to get the kids to create their own versions of famous fairytales. or historical events perhaps.

Once again, it is important, you know what elements I have to make stop motion with. This saves time!

Wanna play? (free fantasy)
Freedom of imagination - full throttle

Freedom of imagination - full throttle

Are you ready to experience organized chaos, so use this method 🙂
Unleash your child's imagination, and see what happens.

It requires that you are aware of what you want the kids to achieve.
And participate! Let the children see you in action, because that is truely inspirering for them.

With this method, you yourself select the amount of chaos and preparation.
I recommend trying a fixed setting first. Especially, if it's the first time.

It can be somewhat confusing to throw a large group of children (and yourself) out into pure anarchy, if you have no experience to support you.

The next step

App smashing
Alva and Lilli recording voices for their stop motion

Alva and Lilli recording voices for their stop motion

If you really like the concept of stop motion, it can pay off with a little app smashing. Another fancy word for something simple: the use of multiple apps in order to create a product.

Edit the existing stop motion film, add sound or effects in for ex. iMovie or VideoShop for iPad, or similar for Android. Unfortunately, I haven't found an app for android, that's as good as the aforementioned - yet.

I have mentioned green screen, but not shared any details before now.

The process itself is very simple, and I have written about one of my courses using it here.
The plan is, that I on a later date write an article explaining it more in detail . So for now you have to 'settle’ 🙂

There are also many other possibilities, and again it's your imagination that sets your limits.

Further inspiration

Now you might as well throw yourself into it. Fearless and with imagination 😉

If you want a little more inspiration, you can look at the other articles and videos below Theme category about stop motion and green screen.
Especially the interview with Alva and Lilli, which after a course talks about, what is fun and great about stop motion. See it here (Danish only - no CC).