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Stop Motion Basics

by Mark Hogan

Making the Simple Animation Models

Make your models uncomplicated, simple and bold. Use primary colours. You don’t need a lot of details and so forth.

You only need two or three facial features to animate. Any more than that it becomes complex and expressions will be hard to emote to the viewer. Think of Gromit for example. He does not speak and most of his emotions are expressed using his eyes, eyebrows and ears.

You only need a few body features to animate.  For example arms, legs and head. Although many stop motion characters may merge the head and body into one for example and have no legs or arms at all.

Ensure the features are easily seen by the viewer.  Make them big and bold. See the fantastic Aardman "Purple and Brown" characters. Notice how basic they are ..with bold arms / legs yet full of life.

Aarman's Purple and Brown

Watch those legs or supports as the model you make has to able to stand up on its own.

Although it is a difficult discipline do create a storyboard of some kind. It does not have to be complicated or well drawn. Scribble it on a piece of paper if needed.

The storyboard can act as a bullet point record of the events that take place in your stop motion animation.

Estimate the length of time (in seconds ) for the various events in your animation.

You can sketch on your storyboard images for the various events. Stick figures are do not have to be a good artist.

Filming your animated Movie

Choose your favourite stop motion animation software, sometimes called  'frame grabbing' software

If you are using a camcorder via Firewire its best to ensure the camera is connected to the power supply and the tape removed the tape. If you are using a Web camera make sure you have the driver software installed before filming.

Frame capture Advice


You can get very good results with 15 frames per second. If you really want smooth results than you can try 20 frames per second.

Capture 12 to 15 frames when introducing or opening a scene before your characters animate or move. This is sometimes called setting the scene. But also remember 15 frames is only 1 second at 15 fps. So it will pass very quickly.

Its normal to capture one frame per movement but you can experiment with two frames if you wish.

A pause usually lasts a half a second that means seven to eight frames for example between characters talking back and forth to each other.

When you want to make  your character blink just take 3 frames with the eye closed (at 15 fps )

To finish out a scene take twelve to fifteen frames.

Remember that all movements must be small so the animation is smooth and flowing

Review your movie as you go along. Some software has a loop function which can be useful. Also remember to save your movie regularly or better still use an auto save function if your software has it.

Editing the animation


Some modern stop motion software allows editing your animation as you film allowing you to delete bad frames etc.

You may want to extend some scenes by copying and pasting them.

New programs such as iKITMovie allow you to add Sounds,voiceover  and music during the filming or capture process so you don't have to use another editing program to finish your stop motion movie.




Mark Hogan - Article Copyright (c) 2008 .. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2008 All rights reserved. Stop Motion Animation Central Site for 3D Animation Brickfilms Claymation ( clay animation ) Movies and Tutorials