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 basically pictures played together at high speed to create the illusion that the object is moving. Stop-motion is a great type of animation simply because anyone can do it.
In this tutorial I will share tips on everything from story boarding down to editing.
What you will require
- Camera- I use the Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000, how ever any digital camera works.
- Software- Helium Frog (Highly Recommended- free), Monkey Jam, Dragon Frame
- Editing Software- Window Live Movie Maker, Sony Vegas, iMovie
- Lights- (desk lamps will do (at least two))
- A story
- Object(s) to animate
Do not animate for to long! It may lead to boredom and extreme 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 frame per second (FPS) rate. You can use anywhere from 6-30. I use 15 FPS The more frames per second, the smoother the clip, but more time must be invested.
Step 1– Story Boarding
First, a good story must be created. Let your imagination go wild! Think about the introduction, main plot and the ending. You can storyboard each shot by downloading my Free Storyboard Template (Morgspenny Productions)
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 limbs and the heads move and they are interchangeable.
Step 3– Build your set
Now you can build your set for where the action will take place. Ensure that it’s fastened down correctly and that you have enough room for your hands to move the objects. Many of my sets are built using LEGO with A3 prints as back grounds. Sets can be as simple or as complex as you like. I shoot in a small studio tent to dampen the 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 while filming, your shot could be ruined. Use a tripod, tape or even tack your camera down. If using a program such as Helium Frog, Monkey Jam or Dragon Frame, a live view will open in your window. Make sure you can see your character and set. For digital cameras, look through the view finder or display and do the same.
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). 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. Of course, lighting depends on the type of shot you are shooting. The key is experimentation.
Step 6- Begin Animating.
Open your program / prepare your camera. If using a software I would recommend turning the FPS rate to 15 frames per second (15 pictures per second of film). Once you are ready, take your first photo. Commence! Move your object bit by bit- very small movements each time. 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 experimenting!
Step 7- Import and Save
If you have taken the images with a digital camera you need to import them to a memorable folder or destination on your computer. If you create the scene using Helium Frog or MonkeyJam save the file as an .avi file. Give the shot a good name such as ‘Lego Apocalypse Scene 12′ . * Helium Frog will save the complete video clip and the individual photographs so make sure you have enough disk space.
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
The internet is covered with thousand of free sound effects website for you to chose from. Simply download the sound clip and open it in an audio editing software such as Audacity for Windows or Garage Band for Mac. Save and then import your clip into your movie editing software. Simple!
Step 10- Saving your Finished Movie
Save your finished film in a folder such as “My Videos” or your own personal folder. Give it a memorable name so that you do not lose it.
Now that you have saved your film you can burn it to a disc, store it on you mobile or tablet or upload it to video sharing sites such as Vimeo or YouTube. If you have any questions please contact me.