A while ago, I had the idea to make a stop motion animation. It took a while to take the idea from concept to completion, but here we are! (The video is at the bottom of this post.) I wanted to give a little insight into what went into making this project.
First of all:
What is a stop motion animation?
Stop motion is a method of animating where you take a picture for each frame of the video. So, for example, if you wanted to animate a toy Lego jumping across the screen, you would position the Lego, snap a picture, reposition him in the next pose, snap a picture, and repeat.
My first step was to plan what I wanted to animate.
I knew I wanted to make the video about the autistic protagonist in my novel Flying in a Cage. I wanted to find a way to show a bit of what she sees.
I spent some time listening to music on Audiojungle.net until I found one that spoke to me. I watched other stop motion videos and read some articles on stop motion for beginners. One of the things that they recommended in those articles was to go with 15 or 10 frames per second. I decided to go with 10 frames per second. It was a nice round number that is easy to do math with.
Next, for storyboards, I opened a pack of index cards and I drew a bad thumbnail sketch for each segment. Next, to the thumbnail, I jotted down how many seconds that segment would last.
I used scrapbook paper for the background and for the cut out shapes. For the girl, I also used little paper fasteners (I found them on Amazon here) so I could move her limbs around independently.
Since I don’t have a tripod, I had to come up with a way to prop up my camera and keep it steady. I set up two piles of books and placed a cardboard box across the top, kind of like a makeshift little desk. I cut a small hole through the bottom of the cardboard box and placed my camera over the hole.
I didn’t have professional lights, so I gathered three lamps from around the house and placed them around the setup so that the scene would be brightly lit. I had to be careful not to jostle any of them so that the lighting in the video wouldn’t flicker. (I didn’t realize it right away, but when I moved around, I cast a shadow on different parts of the scene. It’s more noticeable in the first few seconds of the video.)
My camera was jostling, so I used some masking tape to keep it steady. It wasn’t perfect, but better than nothing.
I kept my stack of index cards nearby, as well as a blank paper. If the first index card said 2 seconds on it, I would write a 20 on the blank paper, so I knew that segment would take 20 frames. Then, after each snapshot, I made a dot on the paper to keep track of what I was up to. There are for sure better ways to do this digitally, but this method worked for me.
Once the pictures were on the computer, I brought them into the video editing software and placed the music in the background. (I realized one segment didn’t look good, so I went back and redid it.)
I had a lot of fun working on this, but it was so time-consuming. If I would ever work on such a project again, I would consider investing in a tripod. Also, I might use little toys instead of paper cut-outs. I spent so much time cutting…