Ever wonder how movies like Coraline or the Fantastic Mr. Fox were created? How the beautifully designed characters and objects in the film seem to move on their own as if by magic? This is done through the use of one of the longest techniques in the history of film making: stop-motion animation. At Urban Geko, one of our areas of expertise happens to be multimedia design, which is why I would like to share with you this tutorial on how to make a stop-motion animation of your own. Let’s get started!
1. Gather All the Materials Needed for the Animation
You can use any medium you choose whether it be drawing paper, legos, wire, clay, you name it. They just need to be objects that can be moved with great flexibility.
2. Ready a Digital Camera and a Computer with Tons of Memory
Stop motion animation requires the accumulation of hundreds and sometimes thousands of individual frames in addition to editing, transitioning and visual effects you might add to the film. As a result, this means you need to have a very large volume of memory if you don’t want to loose any of your work.
3. Create an Storyboard for Your Movie
Since creating the stop motion animation itself is very time consuming, the process will run most effectively if you already have a plan in mind of what to do. You can write out or illustrate a script that details exactly what your characters will be doing, how they will be interacting with their environment, whether you’ll include voiceovers later etc. If you need inspiration, check out this trailer of Coraline:
4. Set Up the Initial Position of Your Characters & Set
This will be the very first frame of your film and also serves as test to make sure everything is where you want it to be.
5. Position Your Camera on a Stable Surface in Front of Your Stage
This is extremely important because without a still camera your animation will lack continuity and smoothness as it plays from one frame to the next. It’s best to use a tripod, but if you don’t happen to have one lying around you can use a stack of books or a piece of furniture that will remain steady during your filming.
6. Adjust Your Lighting
Think about what type of mood you want your animation to convey. Is it a very happy scene in which you want very bright lighting or a horror animation where you want the lighting to appear very dark and grim? You can adjust the lighting throughout your filming process to fit the storyline of your animation as well.
7. Begin Photographing Your Movement Sequence
Now is when the fun begins! Take a photograph of the initial position of your character and set you already have in place then begin adjusting elements in very small movements, taking photographs each time. For example, if you’re making your character walk, you might just move their left arm first, then their right leg, then their head. What’s most important is to understand how all these small movements combine into one fluid shot. It may be helpful to perform the movement yourself to get a better idea of how long it will take.
8. Once You Have Finished Filming, Upload Your Frames onto Your Computer
Now you can begin using a simple movie-making software program (try Windows Movie Maker, Virtual Dub or for the more computer savvy, use AfterEffects) to add the finishing touches to your animation. After properly editing the piece so that all the timing is correct you can begin adding effects and transitions. Music and voiceovers are excellent ways to bring realism to your film.
9. Share Your Movie & Make Another!
Chances are, unless you’re a stop-motion expert, you’re film might not have turned out exactly how you imagined. This is why you can use what you learned and try it again! Remember practice makes perfect and it’s always best to share your work with friends or even others who are attempting the same artistic feat!