Have you ever wandered if it would be possible to do your own bit of stop motion animation?
Well this easy guide and video will get you started on a journey of a life time. There is so much that can be done with stop motion, you just need to get started, have some fun and practice!
Stop motion is one of the oldest forms of animation, and it’s really simple to do. Well it can be simple and fun, and it can also become as complex as you want – have you watched Kubo and the Two Strings? That’s all done with stop motion, and a few gadgets to help… But this post is for beginners, and I’m going to show you how to make stop motion animation in just 3 simple steps!
Stop Motion is the best way to start learning about animation, no matter what your longer-term goals are. If you want to make animated films, or learn any form of animation at all, even work in related areas, then starting with some stop motion will quickly give you the foundations to build on. Whatever you want to do in animation you need to understand how movement is created and how the moving image is constructed, and this is tied into an understanding of how our brains work. Stop Motion animation will teach you the fundamentals for understanding this and it’s very easy to learn.
You may have heard it referred to by a different name, maybe “Stop Action Film” for example. There are lots of different things you can do with stop motion animation, you can choose which type you like the best and have a go using the steps in this post. So here I will show you how to do it in three simple steps.
First you’ll need a checklist of what you need to get started, as a beginner (there is more to it in the professional sphere, but this is part of a beginners guide and you don’t need much to just get you started). There are also some stop motion animation kits which you can buy which make great gifts. Secondly I will talk you through the step by step process of how to make things move. Ready?
Checklist of what you will need
At the very least you need something to take your pictures with. For professional animation a good quality digital LSR will be what you need, but for a beginner it’s not. Why? Because if you use a digital camera you will then need a computer and software to put the images together as a sequence and then it can start to get expensive before you even start, and for all that I have another post. For a beginner you are better off using a smart phone or a tablet – why? Because there are loads of free or very cheap apps for smart phones that make it really easy to make stop motion. It’s ideal if you have a phone which takes great pictures, I think the Samsung 8 or 9 is best.
Stop Motion Apps
You’ll need a stop motion app for your phone or tablet. I have a review of the different apps that you can get, so have a look here and chose one that suits you best. Make sure you download this app onto your phone or tablet before you start, most of them are free, and many have an upgrade for just a few quid. Make sure your phone or tablet is fully charged because it will be on and active for a while, and it would be a shame to have just got started, only to run out of power.
Tripod and phone holder
A tripod on its own will not be able to support your phone, because phones are not built to go on tripods. Tripods have a standard thread for stills cameras, and all stills cameras will be compatible with tripods, they are made for each other. But phones and tablets have no female thread, so what do you do? You use a special phone holder that will attach to the tripod and will hold your phone firmly. These have finally become popular in the last few years, before that we just had to use lots of home made solutions! I have a post here reviewing the best holders for phones and tablets. I also have a review of tripods too, so you don’t get caught out trying to use the bendy ones that move when you touch the phone!
Ideally, to get the best results you may want controlled lighting. If you can find a dark room, or cover the windows, and use camera lights then you will get better results. This is because natural light changes all the time, and we don’t notice it much, but if you take a photo, then another a minute later, you might see quite a change. Then when you watch a whole sequence you will see the light flickering all the time and it might be distracting. Here is a review of the kind of lights that will help you with this.
Something to animate!
Have a look at my guide to the different types of stop motion to get some ideas of what you can do with this technique, and how its being used by professionals and beginners alike.
If you want to animate characters here is a post introducing you to what you will need to make stop motion puppets for beginners and how to make and animate them.
Step by step process of making stop motion
1. Step one set up the camera
Believe it or not the most common mistake people make is in not securing the camera properly are at all. So here it your first task. Set up the tripod, attach the phone holder, secure the phone in place. The tricky thing here is that the buttons on the side of the phone must not get caught in the holder. Make sure you have a stop motion app on your phone and also that its fully charged, as you’ll need it on for a while!
What you need for this step:
- Phone holder
- Smartphone with a stop motion app installed
2. Set up your scene
The backdrop will need to be wide enough so that it covers the camera’s view. Now you have your camera set up its easy to see how wide that is. Backgrounds and sets need to be wide enough so that you can’t see the edge in the frame. Remember the viewing angle of the camera will mean that things further away will appear smaller, so printing out an A4 background may not be big enough. Always arrange your set whilst looking through the camera so that you can get it just right for that camera lens. They will also need to be sturdy enough not to wobble or fall down when you are animating. Put your characters in the scene and arrange the lights so that it all looks nice. Always check the scene and arrangement by looking through your phones camera. Next you will need set the app to fix the focus and exposure, which I show you in the video.
What you need for this step:
- Background scenery
- Characters/objects to animate
3. Animate and capture
To start animating, take a picture then move your character, then take another picture and so on. Think of each action that your character does as a sequence of incremental movements, and take a picture of each part of the movement.
Make sure that onion skinning is turned on so that when you move your character or object you will see a shadow of where it was in the frame before. This is how you get to see how far you have moved it from the previous frame. Remember that moving your object a larger distance each time will make the movement appear fast and moving it a small distance each time will make it appear to move slowly.
When you view the shot back in the app, remember to change the timing to about 12 so that it looks smooth, but you can set it to around 5 if you haven’t done many frames.
What you need for this step:
- Whatever the opposite of clumsy is!
Play around with different kinds of movement and remember to play back what you have captured to check that you are learning what kind of sequences result in what kind of movement. Have fun!… and don’t worry if you make a mistake, you can delete single frames in most apps if you accidentally took a frame with your hand in it!
It doesn’t take that long to make a sequence and to be honest the process is quite mesmerising, besides it’s nice to get lost in the world of your character. Here is a useful video in addition to the one above showing you the frame by frame process of stop motion.
Leave a comment and let me know how you get on!
There is quite alot that goes into this type of animation however I think it looks very cool when it comes together. I love how the cupcakes moved around, boy it takes alot of patience too!
You give alot of good resources and tips here and a good article for beginners. Thanks for sharing!Cheers, Sharon
Thanks Sharon, it does take patience, but not as much as you might think! Once you get into the flow, it doesn’t feel slow or difficult. Its like reading (or writing) a book for the first time, you might be daunted by the sheer number of words and pages, but once you get into the story you forget that you are reading (or writing) one word at a time, and it just flows. Thanks for the comment, and hope you give it a go!
This is incredible. I have never try this but while I watch the video I got so many ideas on what can I make with this program. Although it is good for kids to have fun it is also great for adults because you can even make some money by producing the animations.
Great Daniel! You are right it is actually great for everyone, kids and adults alike. If you have an online business you can add a bit of stop motion into your YouTube videos now, it’ll make them more fun! As the blog progresses I’ll be showing you how to make professional stop motion too, and other forms of animation… so stay tuned!
Very good post! Actually, I have thought a lot about it but just got the time to look after some ideas how I could make simple animation movies (or stop animation movie). I did not know it is call stop motion 🙂 Also very good, that you give examples how it could / should look like.
I have a smartphone though but I am not really sure if it is good enough. From what megapixels do you think they become good to watch movies? It there any other feature that I should check on my (or my husband’s phone) to choose the right phone?
For me as a complete beginner it was very useful that I could check before starting what I will need, thanks for your article and looking forward to your answer before I start!
Hi Kisumu, thanks for your questions! The apps that offer you the ability to output HD quality will be making a video that will be 1280×720 pixels. This is the smallest or basic HD video quality thats required online, and generally what apps on your phone will be making, this is also the size that YouTube and social media are happy with. As long as your phone can take a photo of this size you are fine. However to be honest most smart phones will be taking photos much, much larger than this, and the app will reduce it when it renders the video. The Stop Motion Studio Pro version can make larger videos on some phones, but really if you want more resolution than a standard HD video, you’ll want to move onto professional equipment. To get started, to learn about Stop Motion (which is a specific approach or type of animation), the smart phone apps are a great way to learn. There are other forms of animation which I will cover in other posts. Thanks for your question, I will have to cover this topic in another post, since other people will have the same questions! Thank you. Good luck and have some fun!
I’ve always seen stop motion animation and thought that it was so cool. I didn’t realize that it was that simple to make, not that it’s easy and does take time but for some reason I thought that it was much more complicated. I’m going to look into this and see what app would be best for me. For the shots of an object moving by itself, would you tie a string to it on the bottom so that it’s not visible?
Thanks Victor! Yes its very easy to get started now, easy free apps and smart phones makes all the difference. It can also become complicated when you want to get more professional, but this is a great way to learn, have fun and get to try it out. To shoot an object moving my itself you don’t need string because you are not shooting ‘live action’ you are shooting each frame one at a time. If you shoot frame by frame you just have to move the object by hand between each frame. All movies are made of a series of frames, ‘live action’ simply means that it has been filmed ‘live’ at playing speed whilst something happens in front of the camera, filming at ‘live’ speed would mean that you have to tie string to an object and then pull it along whilst filming it. But stop motion shooting allows you to make the movie clip one frame at a time, so that you can make an object appear to move any way you want it to. Its an optical illusion that we are making. You can see in the video the way I moved the puppet, move any object the same way, one frame at a time. the best thing is to give it a go, just experiment with a free app, and it will become clear. Thanks for the question!
This is a great post, because me and my wife wants to make videos.
To make stop motion videos, we always thought is will be so hard, but the thing is that putting this in our videos, will make it much better rewarding, and we would have more views.
It seems we don’t need anything professional, so next week we will start making them!
I have a samsung S6, will this camera be sufficient for that?
Thanks for sharing it!
Great to be able to help. Yes its a great idea to put some stop motion into your videos, it will definitely add some spice to them and make them more watchable and fun to make too. Yes any phone will do the S6 is fine, the S8 does have a particularly good camera… Make sure you use a stop motion app that allows you to export HD, If you don’t have the best camera, make sure that the lighting is as good as you can make it. I’m about to do a review of phone holders too! This post is all you need to get started. Professional equipment will make better results, but its best to start with what you have and learn how to do it and get started. Thanks for your comment, good luck, and don’t forget to ask if you need more help.
Wow! You have no idea how long I have wanted to know how to mke animations. All I have ended up doing is looking at nonstop tutorials and to say the truth was stuck in tutorial limbo land. Thanks to you I can go ahead and learn it easily. I am also going to bookmark your site. Thank you
Great news Alex, so glad I have been able to help! I’ll be adding lots more on how to make animation too. There are so many different types of animation too, have a look at my guide to the different types of stop motion here. Later I’ll be exploring 2D animation, and 3D animation, then gaming animation. On another site I’ll be looking at animation for marketing content too (explainer videos, whiteboard animation). So glad to have found a fan, please get started with some simple stop motion, and go on from there!