How to do stop motion for beginners

by Joost | Last Updated: November 14, 2021
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If you’ve thought about giving stop motion animation a try, now is the time.

Animations like Wallace and Gromit are world-famous for the way their characters are animated.

Stop motion is a common technique that involves using a puppet, made of various materials, and then snapping photos of it.

The object is moved in tiny increments and photographed thousands of times. When the photos are played back, the objects give the appearance of movement.

Stop motion is an extraordinary animation method accessible to anyone.

It’s a good way to express your creative abilities and familiarize yourself with the incredible world of movie-making.

Playmobil petting zoo stop motion
Playmobil petting zoo stop motion

The good news is that stop motion movie making is a kid-friendly animation style so it’s fun for all ages. In this guide, I’m sharing how to do stop motion animation for beginners.

Stop motion animation explained

Stop motion animation is a filmmaking technique that can make inanimate objects seem to move. You can take pictures by placing objects in front of a camera and snapping a picture.

You will then move the item a little and snap the next image. Repeat this 20 to 30000 times.

Then, play out the resulting sequence in rapid progress and the object moves fluidly across the screen.

Take this as a starting point and feel free to add your own flourishes to the setup as a way to make your own creations more fun and easy to share with your family and friends.

I’m going to talk about the finished project in a moment.

There are different types of stop motion animation, I explain the most common ones here

How is stop motion animation created?

Anyone can create stop-motion videos. Sure, large studio productions use all kinds of sophisticated puppets, armatures, and models.

But, if you want to learn the basics, it’s really not that complex and you don’t even need too many things to get started.

To start, pictures must be taken of the subjects in varying iterations of movement. So, you have to put your puppets into the desired position, then snap many photos.

When I say many photos, I’m talking hundreds and thousands of images.

The method involves switching the movement for each frame. But, the trick is that you only move the puppets in tiny increments and then take more photos.

The more images in each scene, the more fluid the video will feel. Your characters will be moving just like in other types of animation.

After the frames are added, it is time to add the music, sounds, and voices into a video. This is done once the finished piece is completed.

Stop motion apps are also available for Android and Apple smartphones, tablets, and computers.

They help you compile the images, add music and sound effects, and then playback the movie to create that perfect stop motion animation film.

What tools do you need to make stop motion animation?

Let’s go over the basics you need to start making stop motion films.

Filming equipment

First, you need a digital camera, DSLR camera, or smartphone, depending on what kind of quality you are looking for.

But these days smartphone cameras are really good quality, so it shouldn’t be an issue.

When making your own animation, you also need to have a tripod (great ones for stop motion here) to offer stability for your camera.

Next, you want to get a ring light too if the natural light is bad. The problem with shooting in natural light is that the shadows can wreak havoc on your set and ruin your frames.

Characters

You need to create characters who are the actors of your stop motion movie.

There are several ways to make stop motion figurines, but there are some of the most common ideas:

You’ll have to take photos of your characters making small movements for the frames.

Props & backdrop

Unless you’re only using your puppets as the characters for the scenes, you need to have some additional props.

These can be all kinds of basic objects and you can play around with them. Make little houses, bicycles, cars, or exactly what your puppets need.

For the backdrop, it’s best to use a sheet of blank paper or a white cloth. With some tape, sheet metal, and scissors you can create all kinds of backdrops and sets for your video.

When starting out, you can use one backdrop for the entire film.

Video editing software and a stop motion animation app

HUE Animation Studio: Complete Stop Motion Animation kit with Camera, Software and Book for Windows (Blue)

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Some people prefer to get a stop motion animation kit from Amazon because it has the software you need plus action figures and a backdrop.

These kits are relatively inexpensive and great for beginners because you don’t need to invest a lot of money to get started with stop motion movies.

You also need stop motion software to add sound effects, special effects, and animate your frames to create the illusion of movement.

Some video editing software (like these) also allows you to add your own voiceovers, edit the white balance, and tweak the imperfections.

For a more detailed look at all the equipment needed to make a stop motion animation film, check out our guide.

A step-by-step guide to making stop motion animation

Well, now that you’ve read through the basic “how-to,” it’s time to think about creating your own stop motion animation.

Step 1: create a storyboard

Before you can start making your movie, you need a well-thought-out plan in the form of a storyboard.

After all, having a plan is the key to success because it makes it easy to plan each movement for your objects and puppets.

You can make a simple storyboard by sketching out all the scenes of the film either on paper or on your tablet or computer.

Even for short 3-minute videos, it is better to have a full script of what you’ve created and done during the video process.

Simply write what your characters will do and say in a scene and make a story out of it. It’s important to think about coherence so the story actually makes sense.

It’s very easy to make your storyboard from scratch and sketch it on paper.

Alternatively, you can find free templates on sites like Pinterest. These are printable and easy to use.

Also, if you aren’t a visual learner, you can write down all the actions in bullet point form.

So, what is a storyboard?

Basically, it is a breakdown of all the frames of your short film. So you can draw out each frame or group of frames.

This way you’ll know how to position your action figures, lego bricks, puppets, etc for each set of photographs.

Step 2: set up your camera, tripod & lights

If you have a DSLR camera (like the Nikon COOLPIX) or any photo camera, you can use that to shoot your film

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If you have a DSLR camera (like the Nikon COOLPIX) or any photo camera, you can use that to shoot your film.

A camera on your smartphone/tablet should work great too and make editing a little easier.

Motion is important, but while you want the objects in your film to appear as if they’re moving, you can’t have any trepidation or movement coming from your camera.

So, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you need to keep the camera steady.

Thus, for the images to turn out well and avoid blurriness, you need to use a tripod that ensures the frames remain steady.

In the case of minor frameshifts, you can usually fix them with the right software.

But, as a beginner, you don’t want to spend so much time editing the video, so it’s best to use a stabilizing tripod for your smartphone or camera.

So, you need to set this all up first. Place it in the best spot and then leave it there, without tinkering with the shutter button until you are finished. This ensures it doesn’t move around.

The real trick is that you don’t move the camera and tripod around at all – this ensures that all, not just one frame turns out perfect.

If you are shooting from above, you can take things one step further and use an overhead camera mount and phone stabilizer.

Once the camera is perfectly set up, it’s time to add additional lighting if necessary.

The easiest method of creating good lighting is to use a ring light nearby.

Natural light is not the best idea in this case and that’s why a ring light can really help you shoot high-quality images.

Step 3: start taking pictures

The cool thing about stop motion animation is that you’re not filming, but rather taking photos of your scenes.

This method has its advantages:

Ok, so you have the scenario planned out, the props are in place and the camera is already set up. It’s now time to begin your photoshoot.

How many frames per second do you need?

One of the issues people have is figuring out how many frames you need to shoot. To figure it out, a bit of math is required.

A video that is not stop motion animation has approximately 30 to 120 frames per second. A stop motion video, on the other hand, has a minimum of 10 frames per second.

This is the ideal number of frames per second if you want to create a good animation.

Here’s the thing: the more frames per second your animation has, the more fluid the motion ends up looking. The frames will flow well so the movement appears smooth.

When you count the number of frames, you can determine the length of the stop motion film. For a 10 second video, you need 10 frames per second and 100 photos.

A common question is how many frames do you need for 30 seconds of animation?

It depends on your frame rate selection so if you want 20 frames per second for a high-quality video you’ll need no less than 600 frames!

Step 4: edit and create the video

Now it’s time to put each picture side by side, edit and then playback the videos. This is an essential part of making your stop motion film.

You can use one of the video editing apps or software I previously mentioned to do this. The free programs are quite good too.

Beginners and kids alike can use a complete stop motion animation set, like the HUE Animation Studio for Windows which includes a camera, software, and an instruction book for Windows.

For Mac users, Stopmotion Explosion is a good option and it works with Windows too! It includes the camera, software, and book.

If you want to use digital or DSLR cameras you must post your photos on your computer for processing. iMovie is a free editing app that will put your pictures together and create a video.

For Andriod and Windows users: Shortcut, Hitfilm, or DaVinci Resolve are examples of free downloadable editing software for use on a desktop or laptop (here are our top reviews for a good one).

The Stop Motion Studio app allows you to produce and edit stop motion animations for free on mobile devices.

Music and sound

Don’t forget to add sound, voice-overs, and music if you want a cool animation.

Silent movies aren’t nearly as fun to watch so you can import record and then import the audio files or use free audio.

A good place to find free music is the YouTube audio library, where you can find all kinds of sound effects and music.

Be careful with copyrighted material when using YouTube though.

Tips for stop motion animation beginners

Make a simple backdrop

If you try to make things too colorful and complex with the backdrop, it can mess up your video.

It is cleaner and streamlined if you used a white poster board. The way it works is that you move the camera to different places for each scene without moving the actual backdrop.

But, if you’re feeling truly creative paint the poster board for a more interesting background but with a solid color. Avoid busy patterns and keep it simple.

Keep the lighting consistent

Do not shoot in direct sunlight at all it can be too unpredictable.

It’s more effective to shoot outside the house instead of in the kitchen using the lights there.

Two-three lighting bulbs need sufficient heat to provide a lot of light and reduce harsh shadows. The natural light doesn’t look so good in our brick films. 

Photos may be oddly lit and it can be really noticeable in a film.

Take time to voice your characters

If you intend on adding voiceover to your film, it is better for the script to prep your lines before filming.

This way you understand precisely how long each line takes each of the appropriate pictures.

Use a remote to take pictures

Keeping your camera upright is crucial for stop-motion animations.

To make sure that pressing a button on the shutter will not move the camera, use a wireless remote trigger.

If you shoot stop motion from your iPhone or tablet you could use your smartwatch to be a remote-controlled device if it has such a system.

You can also use another method of changing phone camera time with a digital time clock.

Shoot manually

The lighting should be consistent across the cameras. The shutter speed, image sensor, aperture, and white balance for each photo must always be the same.

This is why you should always use auto mode which adapts the settings when they are changed.

FAQs

Why is stop motion animation a good skill to learn for kids?

Children who learn stop motion animation also gain a new set of skills.

Even when learning about animation online, the experience is interactive and also practical because the child physically makes the film.

These learned skills range from mastering the technology behind the filmmaking process like device setup and sound design to more complex animation such as facial expressions and lip-synching techniques.

In addition to gaining useful filmmaker skills, the program also sharpens academic skills, such as math and physics writing, experimentation, and problem-solving all come into use when creating animated films.

The training programs help you create discipline through the guidelines and deadlines and will build collaboration if your child is working with the team.

Programs may also create discipline and foster cooperation among people.

Here’s Heidi explaining stop motion animation for kids:

How long does stop motion animation take?

The amount of time required for each stop motion animation can depend upon the amount of video that is made.

The first 100-minute film Coraline took 20 months in production but the producers say that each second of the finished film took approximately 1 hour.

The greater the number of frames per second the less time it will take the stop-motion process. However the shorter the frame the smoother and more professional film the longer the production time.

The number of frames created per second also depends on how many frames per second.

For the most basic and short stop motion video, you can have it done in about 4 or 5 hours of work.

How do I edit a stop motion movie in Movavi Video Editor?

Is stop motion animation easy?

Maybe easy isn’t the best word, but compared to fancy CGI animation, it’s not as hard. As a beginner, you can learn to make a short stop motion animation film in a day.

Of course, you won’t be making Pixar movies, but you can animate anything. The editing software makes inanimate objects come to life and you can have a fun stop motion animation in hours.

You can make a stop motion quite easily if you know how to take photos on a digital camera or smartphone so just brush up on those skills first.

Takeaway

After you’ve finished making your first stop motion animation, it’s time to take the next step and upload it to YouTube for the world to see.

As you’ll quickly learn, there are so many fun ways to create stop motion animation at home.

Just imagine using your favorite action figures or dolls to bring a story to life.

Since you only need basic equipment, you can make a really interesting stop motion film using free software and cheap objects and you’ll have a really good time along the way!

Read next: What is pixilation in stop motion?