In this article I will show you how to create a basic animation, using materials such as LEGO bricks or Plasticine. In my films, I use a simple technique called ‘Stop-Motion’ animation which is essentially many pictures played together at a high speed to create the illusion that the object is moving. Stop-motion is a great type of animation because anyone can do it.
In this tutorial I will share tips on everything from story boarding, to set building, animating characters and editing.
What you will require
- Camera- I both a Canon 60D and a Logitech Quick Cam Pro 9000, how ever any digital camera or even most phones and tablets will work.
- Software- Dragon Frame (Highly Recommended), iMotion, Monkey Jam, Helium Frog
- Editing Software- for example, iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, Sony Vegas or Adobe
- Lights- (desk lamps will do (at least two))
- An interesting story
- Object(s) to animate such as LEGO, figurines or plasticine
- Tripod or something to firmly hold your scene.
Do not animate for to long! After some time it may lead to boredom and frustration!! Trust me! Take breaks maybe in between scenes or at the end of a chapter. Regularly save your work as your computer may turn unresponsive or freeze. When this happens it also leads to extreme frustration! Don’t get discouraged if your video turns out to be very short. An hour’s worth of work may turn into a 10 second video. It all depends on the pictures (or frame) per second (FPS) rate. You can use anywhere from 6-30 frames per second. I use 15 FPS. The more frames per second, the smoother the clip, but more time must be invested.
Step 1– Storyboarding
First, a good story must be thought of. Let your imagination run free! Think about the introduction, main plot and the ending and also your central characters. You can storyboard each shot by downloading my Free Storyboard Template
Step 2- Create Characters
Select and create the characters that you wish to include in your animation. Establish your mini cast and make sure they are able to be animated. I like working with LEGO minifigures as their limbs and the heads move, are flexible and interchangeable.
Step 3– Build your set
Now you can build your set for where the action will take place. Ensure the base plate and objects are fastened down firmly and that you have enough room for your hands to access the objects you are animating. Many of my sets are built using LEGO with simple coloured paper as backgrounds. Sets can be as simple or as complex as you like. I shoot in a small studio tent to reduce the glare form lighting, however this is not required.
Step 4- Position Camera
In stop-motion animation it is extremely important that your camera is held down securely. If moved or bumped unintentionally while filming, your shot could be ruined. Use a tripod, tape or even tack your camera down to hold it in position. If using a program such as Helium Frog, iMotion or Dragon Frame, a live view will open in your window. Make sure you can see your character and set.
Step 5- Set up a good lighting source
Good lighting is crucial for stop-motion. At least two lamps are necessary, a back light (to illuminate the character from behind) and a key light (your main source of light, often from the front or side). I recommend using two lamps for key lighting, one as a back light and another as a general set light. Blocking out natural light (the sun) is also necessary as your shot could flicker as a result of changing lighting conditions outside – for example if the sun is shining in your first picture, a cloud could cover it and completely change the brightness of the light for your next picture. Of course, lighting depends on the type of shot you are shooting. The key is experimentation and trying to achieve different effects.
Step 6- Commence Animating
Open your program / prepare your camera. If using a software I would recommend turning the FPS rate to 15 frames per second. Once you are ready, take your first photo. Move your object very small movements each time. Then capture your image, repeat moving the object and continue this process over and over. Do your best not to bump or knock your figure over as it may spoil the scene. Carry on doing this until your camera memory is full or you have reached the end of the scene or chapter. Again, they key is practice and experimentation.
Step 7- Import and Save
Once you have captured the images with a digital camera, it’s time to import them to a memorable folder or destination on your computer or mobile device. Give the shot a memorable name.
Step 8- Edit
Once you have filmed all your scenes, import and arrange them in your desired movie editing software. If you used a digital camera to take the pictures, drag each individual image into your movie editing software and then assign a very short length for all the individual images (0.07 seconds each). This can be time consuming and frustrating but worth it in the end. Next add titles transitions and effects to your film.
Step 9- Add Music and Sound effects
There are thousand of free sound effects website for you to chose from that offer high quality and royalty free audio. Simply download the sound clip and open it in an audio editing software such as Audacity for Windows or Garage Band for Apple products. Save and then import your clip into your movie editing software. Simple!
Step 10- Saving your Finished Film
Save your finished film in a folder such as “My Videos” or your own personal folder. Give it a memorable name so that you can easily find it.