Rich Stachon | February 2016
The Process of Production: Stop Motion Animation (Part 2)
Last month, I started to explain the process of production my students go through while creating stop motion animation. This post will focus on the final two sections: Process of Production and Post-Production.
Process Of Production
In order to create a stop motion animated film, you need to possess a few important things. First and foremost, you will need a device to film the animation with. You can use either a digital camera, tablet, or phone.
Quick Tip #1 Use what you have, and build as you grow. If you don’t have access to a cart of iPads, don’t worry. Use the equipment that you have already have. If it has a camera, you can animate with it. I started teaching stop motion animation nine years ago with three digital cameras. Each year, I would find a way to purchase another camera or two. Within a few years, I had plenty of cameras to go around.
Quick Tip #2 Tripods are great, but not always necessary. I would say that using a tripod is a must if you will be using digital cameras to animate. There really isn’t anyway around it, students will have a hard time holding the camera at the same position for long periods of time. A tripod, in any circumstance, will add overall steadiness to all stop motion animation.
Recently, my students have used iPads to film their animations. In order to use a tripod with an iPad, you need a separate mount to secure the device. I currently have access to two different styles of iPad mounts. The first is called the Makayama Movie Mount. This mount is a bit on the expensive side, but also includes a macro lens with it. The second iPad mount we use is from ChargerCity. This mount is less expensive, but does not include any extras. However, both mounts do the job of keeping the iPad in place while students animate.
If you are creating stop motion animation with an iPad, you will need to use an app. There are plenty of stop motion animation apps out there to choose from. The two apps that I have experience with are Stop Motion Studio and iStopMotion. Both apps work well for any in class stop motion animation lesson.
Quick Tip #3 Use the app that works best for you and your students. Prior to using any app in class, you should test it out. Free doesn’t always mean bad, and paid doesn’t always mean good. Make sure you have a vetting process of production that all apps go through prior to having entire classes use them to create with.
Prior to having my students begin filming their stop motion animations, I have them practice for one class period. Students use this practice period to animate everyday objects like tape, scissors, pencils, and pens.
Quick Tip #4 Practice and play are important! Allow your students the time to get used to the equipment. Have them experiment with making objects disappear and reappear in a different place. Give them time to simply make mistakes and learn from them.
Quick Tip #5 Small movements and lots of photos. Remind students that small movements and lots of photos are the keys to a smooth stop motion animation. Too often, I see student work that looks choppy and robotic. This is due to students moving objects too much between each photo being taken.
Now that students have the proper equipment, and have had time to play, it’s time to start filming their animation. Before the process of production starts, I ask that all groups have their storyboards out and ready to go. Without a storyboard, students have troubles remembering what they are animating and/or what they had already animated. Have designated areas of your room set aside for each group to animate in.
Quick Tip #6 Have groups animate in the same spot everyday. Consistent lighting is wanted for a quality stop motion animated film. Purchasing lighting equipment for each setup in your room may be unreasonable and unaffordable. By having your students film in the same area each day of production, their light will be consistent. It doesn’t matter if the lighting is good or bad, having consistent lighting gives the animation an overall better quality.
After students are finished filming their stop motion animations, images are exported to an app for editing. Editing includes: adjusting frame time, deleting unwanted pictures, and placing the groups of images in order. Any basic video editing app will do the trick. Mac users can use iMovie, and Windows users can use MovieMaker. These apps are quite intuitive and allow your students to make quick and easy edits to their short films.
Quick Tip #7 Review their projects before moving on. I know this sounds obvious, but allow some time to review the groups animations once they are finished editing. This is a great time to discuss with your students what sound effects and theme music they might use in the next stage of post-production.
Music and Sound Effects
This is the final stage of creation for students. At this point students have an almost finished stop motion animated short, but it has no sound.
Quick Tip #8 Don’t slack on the sound! Adding theme music, sound effects, and/or voiceovers is crucial in the success of any stop motion animation. Sound sets a mood, adds to a story, and pleases the viewer. Students can find plenty of theme music and sound effects within the app to use throughout their project. There may be some sounds these apps don’t have. No worries, have students create their very own sound effects and voiceovers.
Quick Tip #9 Ask different people to record sound effects and/or voiceovers. Many students dislike the way they sound during playback, especially on their own project. Though, I have found that those same students enjoy recording sound effects and voiceovers for others. Animations should be complete once all the sounds are added, and then it is time to share. I usually have a stop motion animation viewing day where each of my class watches all the animations created. After each animation is shown, I give students a few minutes to asks questions and/or comment on what they had just seen.
Quick Tip #10 Lay down the ground rules first. I always have a quick conversation with my students on proper questioning and commenting etiquette. Keeping things positive and asking only animation related questions are appropriate.
There are many ways to teach the process of production, and learn to create stop motion animation. Please post a comment if you teach stop motion and tell us what works for you. If you need help getting started, or have a question, just ask!