Stop Motion Tutorial in 4 Simple Lessons

Creating characters, setting backgrounds and lighting, must have equipment, DIY tips and tricks, learn editing and master stop motion animation software, take from the experience of the biggest stop motion studios in the industry and much more.

This stop motion tutorial is meant to serve as a guide for aspiring animators, as well as a textbook for both animation students and professionals. It’s divided into several parts, each explaining different steps or processes of stop motion, or the equipment required to complete them. The tutorial also covers most common types of stop motion animation, a historical overview of the media and current trends. The final section is dedicated to studying and employment opportunities for (future)stop motion animators.

animataurus stop motion animation tutorial

Stop motion animation is, simply put, a process of creating animation using photography. You take pictures of an object, edit them, and create a video. It’s a process of manipulating an object and thus creating an illusion of movement. You can use literally anything to create the animation: puppets, apples, people, paper etc. Stop motion was the 3D animation of the pre-computer era. If you wanted to animate something using 3D models, instead of drawing every frame by hand, that was the only option. Even though the most common way to animate today is by using a computer, a drawing tablet, and several different types of software (which seemingly makes puppet animation redundant), stop motion is becoming more and more popular as a separate art form.

animataurus stop motion tutorial

This technique gives the animator endless possibilities, and it’s (in my opinion) the most creative form of animation. However, it’s also by far the most time consuming, it requires tons of patience, concentration, attention to details, and who ever attempts to create serious work using it definitely has to prepare for endless hours spent during the process.

The good thing is that anybody can do it. It requires almost no initial investment, you can do all the work yourself, and one of the best ways of becoming a good stop motion animator is by practicing and learning from your mistakes.

You will need models to shoot, a scene, a background or a setting to shoot them in, a camera to shoot them with, a stable tripod or a rig, uniform lightning, and editing software. This stop motion tutorial will explain each of these steps, the equipment required for them, as well as tips, tricks and advice on how to improve, how to learn and where to learn from.

Stop motion tutorialStop Motion Animation by Melvyn Ternan is perhaps the best stop motion tutorial for beginners. Ternan is a professor of animation at the Hallam University in the U.K., and he has worked in all areas of animation, which makes him a reliable expert in the industry. The book is well written, simple to understand, and the practical information given is easy to apply. It’s suitable for all ages (as is stop motion itself), and it should serve as a great source of base knowledge.

Evolution of technology (the integrated display revolution)

A major advantage of using this media today is the fact that the equipment required for creating stop motion has become much easier to use, much cheaper to buy and widely available. Technology has shortened the animating process by half, and made it ten times simpler.

Even fifteen years ago, digital cameras didn’t have an integrated display on which you could see the shots you took. You had to use secondary cameras for the video (and that is if you were a large studio with top notch equipment).  I won’t even mention what it had to be like to animate a whole film using analog cameras. The earliest films, at the beginning of the 20th century, were done using film cameras, and the animators had no idea what their work has turned out like. If there were any mistakes with the light, the camera or anything else, you simply had to do it all over again.

Nowadays, any digital camera or even any smart phone with an app can get you animating in seconds. Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (2005), was the first ever stop motion feature shot by a digital still DSLR (Digital single-lens reflex camera) camera, shortly after which first live view cameras were introduced and the “modern era” of stop motion has begun.

Today stop motion is a major part of the film industry, with greats such as Aardman, Laika, and many other studios, which have created masterpieces nominated and awarded numerous times at some of the biggest film festivals in the world. At their level, the process is highly advanced, and the work is distributed among specialists, each in charge of a team running one part of the filming process.

The beautiful thing is that a single person is still capable (with tremendous effort) of creating a wonder similar to Kubo and the Two Strings or Wallace and Gromit by themselves, since stop motion is the most creative, the most adjustable, and the most flexible type of animation. We hope that you will find this stop motion tutorial a useful start, and a good resource to start you off in your career. These are only the basics though, and even if they are the only thing needed to start animating, there is a lot of work to be done, a lot of practicing and a lot of failures. However, using these tips, you can get an idea of what you should be doing, which equipment you should buy, and how you should be expanding your knowledge of stop motion animation.

“Get out and make films. There are so many cameras now to suit any budget, so there are no excuses.”

Nick Park

Part 1 – Chroma Key (green screen), backgrounds and lightning

 

In the first chapter we will be going over the basic principles of using green screen in stop motion. We will also cover background design, DIY tips and tricks, materials and equipment. Finally, this chapter will include a guide on how to set up uniform lighting, as well as which types of light to use and where you can buy them cheaply.

Part 2 – Cameras

 

The second part of this stop motion tutorial is dedicated to the most important tool you will be using – the camera. What are the most important characteristics of a camera used for stop motion and which are the most reliable brands? We will provide a list of several best cameras in different price ranges, their pros and cons, maintenance advice, accessories etc.

Part 3 – Software

Stop motion software is what makes a difference between an animator and an enthusiast or an amateur. Once you have a story, the characters, the equipment, and once you’ve shot your film, editing is the process that will transform it from a cluttered mess of photographs into a movie. This chapter will answer questions such as which is the best professional, as well as free software for editing stop motion, how far can you get without investing money etc. The choice between different animation software companies is much easier to make when it comes to stop motion, as opposed to software for 2D or 3D. Find out the pros and cons of most used software.

Part 4 – The Art of Puppet Making and Puppet Animation

 

The most common form is animation using puppets. We will be going over the entire puppet making process. From materials and tools for the armatures and the joints, to clothing, hair, fillings etc. We will provide simple steps with which you can make puppets at home, using cheap, widely available materials and tools. This chapter will also include tips and secrets of some of the most famous puppet animation studios, as well as uncommon ways to make your characters come alive.

 

 

We hope you will find this stop motion tutorial a usefull tool on your animating career. Please don’t hesitate to send us any feedback, questions or suggestions at animataurus.info@gmail.com, or contact us via our contact page. Any input is greatly appreciated.

If you are enjoying the lessons please share the articles and spread the word! Thanks and happy animating!

Continue to Part 1 – Chroma Key (green screen), Lighting and Backgrounds

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