Jonathan is a certified teacher who has taught in the UK and in the US. He now works as a digital learning consultant.
The Popularity of Stop Motion Effects
Stop motion movies date back to the early 20th century. However, they have seen a resurgence of late, with popular releases like Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run, Coraline and Frankenweenie topping box offices around the world. So, how do moviemakers create these effects?
The premise is simple. You take a series of still photographs, each one just slightly different from the last, and you play them back to back to simulate a motion picture video. All it really takes is patience, creativity and the right equipment. Watch the video below for an excellent overview of some stop motion basics on the iPad.
Planning How to Make a Stop Motion Video
All movies need a story. The better the story, the better the movie. Once you have the big picture in your head, think about how you might want to record it either on paper or digitally in an app. Brainstorm your best ideas and try to formulate them all into a sequence that makes sense to the story you want to tell.
Some people like to script out what they will do for each scene, while others like to create storyboards that give a more visual idea of what will happen at each stage of your movie. You could even do a combination of both. It might sound tedious, or a waste of your time, but as any teacher will tell you, the better your story is planned, the more cohesive it will be when you have finished filming and editing your project. Watch the video below to see how one stop motion video idea was brought to life with Lego!
Choosing Materials and Backgrounds for Your Movie
Backgrounds can be fabricated out of cardboard, poster paper, or fabric, depending on your needs. They can be as simple or elaborate as you like, so long as they don't distract the viewer from the story you want to tell. They should complement the main subjects, (as in the Lego video above), in order to help draw the audience into your animation.
Clay animation, also known as claymation, is a popular genre of stop motion videos, but it is not the only option for budding film makers. You can use almost anything you want to make a stop motion movie. The next stop motion video idea uses ingredients that you would typically need to make pizza. It is very effective, but you could just as easily use dolls or action figures with movable joints, household objects, or human beings like in our first example. At the end of the day, it all comes back to your story and the narrative you want to tell.
The Right Equipment to Make a Stop Motion Movie
You don't need a lot of equipment to film a small-scale stop motion animation, but there are a couple of things you will definitely want to consider as part of your studio setup.
- Lighting: You want to make sure that your background and subjects are well lit for the scenes you are trying to portray. This helps your iPad capture as much detail as possible and avoids grainy images that distract the viewer. Often a goose-neck desk lamp, or two, may be all you need, but if you are filming on a larger scale, studio lights may be better. The difference lighting makes can be subtle, but it will be noticeable.
- Stand or Tripod: It is crucial to keep your iPad steady when shooting your stop motion animation. There are a number of ways you can do this, but mounting your iPad on a tripod with a Makayama Movie Mount, or a sturdy, adjustable iPad desktop stand, is a great way to get the stability you need. In short, a stable stand, or mount, is one of the quickest ways to add a professional looking feel to your stop motion video.
The Best Stop Motion Video Apps
You can't go much further without a good stop motion iPad app. If you do a quick search in the App Store, you will not be short on options. Some are free, and some are paid, but which ones are really worth your time? If you just want to experiment and try out some ideas, the free iMotion HD app is well worth a look. The free version has everything you need to get started, but it's not the only one. Stop Motion Studio is another solid app with similar features.
Paid apps tend to offer more features, and this is immediately obvious with an app like NFB StopMo Studio. It has numerous additional features like multiple tracks, annotations, and title slides that make it worth the extra money if you have some to spend. The free Lego Movie Maker app is another popular option and although it is a little more expensive than some, the IncrediFlix Animation Studio is a powerful app that might be all you need to bring your best stop motion video ideas to life.
Lights, Camera, Action!
At last, it is time to start making your stop motion video! There are definitely some dos and don'ts when dealing with stop motion animation, so before you begin, here are my top tips to maximize your chance of success.
- Stability: This is something that is worth repeating. To get the true effect of a well-produced stop motion video, you need to have your iPad secure and stable. When filming, the iPad stays exactly where it is, and your subjects move around the scene, not vice versa. You need a good iPad stand.
- Movement: When adjusting your scene and taking the shots you need, small movements mean smoother movements. If your subject moves too much from one shot to the next, your video will be jerky and harder to watch. Slow and steady wins the race. This applies for live subjects as well as inanimate ones. It takes patience, but the end result is always better when you do it this way.
- Variety: Try to vary the angles and type of shots you will use to add interest and tell your story in a more creative way. Think about wide, medium and close-up shots, or high, low and reverse angles. These will help your movie stand out from the rest and make it much more interesting for the viewer.
- Patience: Filming a stop motion animation takes time, so it is good to take a break in-between scenes to help recharge your concentration levels. Try filming one scene a time, then save it back to the camera roll. You can join the clips together later in a video editor. This practice is also a good way to ensure that you don't lose any of your hard work if the app happens to freeze or crash without warning.
More Stop Motion Video Ideas
Want to take it a step further? Try using a green screen background with your iPad to give you even more options in the editing room. The video below from Tricia Fluglestad—an innovative, tech-savvy art teacher—is a perfect example of that. After she showed her students how to make a stop motion video, they used a stop motion app to make a wooden mannequin dance against a green, tri-fold display board. When they were done, they used green screen effects to add their art work to the background. The end result is very effective and a great celebration of student creativity. You can see the finished video below.
Green Screen Stop Motion Art Movies
Editing Stop Motion Video
The final step is editing your video clips. Not everyone wants to edit their movies, but if you want to add titles, music and other effects, a video editor is what you need. Some stop motion apps like NFB StopMo Studio have a basic editor included in the app, but you will get much more control over your final product if you export the movie to the iPad's Camera Roll and then bring it into a more full-featured video editor like iMovie or Splice.
When you edit in iMovie you can cut, trim and combine all your individual scenes together into one, non-stop animation. You can also add text for titles and credits. However, perhaps most importantly of all, you can add audio. Stop motion movies are silent unless you add some kind of audio track. This could be a music that you have composed in Garageband, a song from the iMovie audio library, or something from your iTunes collection. You can even record your own narration if it helps tell your story in a more effective way.
A Fun and Challenging Project
Stop motion can be a challenging medium, especially given the time and effort that is required to create even a small amount of footage. However, it can also be incredibly rewarding. The unique look and feel of a stop motion video is universal in its appeal, and it will always be a great way to tell digital stories.
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2014 Jonathan Wylie
Jonathan Wylie (author) from Iowa, USA on July 14, 2015:
Thanks eugbug. I appreciate the support!
Eugene Brennan from Ireland on July 14, 2015:
This is a great creative activity for kids, and I would like to dabble in it myself also.
Voted up and shared!
Jonathan Wylie (author) from Iowa, USA on May 28, 2015:
Yes. If you search the Google Play store for stop motion, you will find plenty of options for Android too. Try Stop Motion Studio. It is a good place to start.
Rajesh Bhuin from India on May 27, 2015:
I did not know that you can make videos with Stop Motion Effects on iPad. Is there any such good app for Android?
Jonathan Wylie (author) from Iowa, USA on April 14, 2015:
I haven't seen anything that does it with photos, like described above, but you can do some stop motion animation drawings with sites like http://www.abcya.com/animate.htm or http://parapara-editor.mozlabs.jp/sandbox
Hopefully one of those would work. If I find anything else, I will add it below. Maybe this is the topic of a brand new post :)
Ron Hammer on April 14, 2015:
Have you come across any good stop motion apps for the chromebook? My wife's school has purchased several chromebook carts and she is hoping to use them for a stop motion project with her students.
Jonathan Wylie (author) from Iowa, USA on May 15, 2014:
Thanks for taking the time to read it Raymond :)
Raymond Philippe from The Netherlands on May 15, 2014:
Jonathan, I sure enjoyed reading about Stop Motion Effects. The videos were fun to look at and educational.
Although the premise might be simple but it does, as you quite rightly noted, needs a lot of planning, material and equipment to deliver a decent Stop motion video.
I might well try out the free iMotion HD app you mentioned. Although I am not very handy at this creative stuff.
Thanks for introducing us to the world of stop motion video.