Stop motion is an animated-film making technique in which objects are physically manipulated in small increments between individually photographed frames so that they appear to exhibit independent motion when the series of frames is played back as a fast sequence.
Stop motions are very amusing to look at and can have quite a mesmerizing effect if made well.
However, making a quality stop motion animation will take some of your time, so collect your patience. What makes an animation is hundreds of sequential images and I’m not exaggerating by saying “hundreds”. See, a 15-30 seconds long stop-motion animation can take as many as 300-600 photos! Kinda insane, I know, but the result is well worth it.
I'm sure you have a pretty good idea of how to take a photo, but making stop-motions is seeing for the end result and there are some basic rules to help with that:
Rule #1. Steady camera/phone
You have to fix your device in one position. Be it overhead or angled, the only things moving are your props/models. Decide on the angle you’re shooting from and find a way to fix your camera in that position. Sometimes you need to be creative about it, like finding a pole to run across or set your tripod in a weird looking construction resting on three different levels. Whatever you do, you want it steady, so you capture the motion of the object only. If your camera does move during the process you'll still be able to make a stop-mo, but it'll be not as entertaining because the viewer will be distracted by that camera motion.
Rule #2. Even lighting
Artificial lighting is a full proof solution for sure, because natural lighting being the prettiest is the naughtiest ever-changing thing (coming from a natural light adept). Since stop motion is basically a bunch of images taken from the same point over a certain period of time, even the smallest changes in light will affect the outcome, it will look "flickery". Still want to use natural light? Choose the days with a rather stable sky situation (sun or overcast). If clouds are running across the sky while you shoot a stop motion, they are actually a better subject to capture than what's on your set.
Note: Stop motions above are made using both kinds of light: artifitial on the right and natural on the left.
Rule #3. Use remote shutter release control
Remote shutter release will speed up the process at least twice. They make remotes even for phones nowadays, how sweet, right?!
By using a remote you avoid camera movements, which can happen if you have a shaky tripod, plus it’s an instant shutter release versus waiting for the timer to go off, which means quite a few precious minutes saved.
Rule #4. Take two to three frames per each movement
If you want the animation to look realistic and by that, I mean cartoon-like effect, the more duplicates of the same micro move you have, the smoother the final result looks. If you take only one photo per each move, the result will look choppy. Still can work for many purposes though, so this is optional.
There’s a bunch more to this stop-motion science (I'm no expert just yet) but these are the solid basics that will get you going if you wanted to make a decent watchable stop-mo but didn't know how to.
Next week I'll be publishing a post on ways to stitch the photos you took together, so make sure to check back or sign up to get notified when the post comes out!