The Magic of Aardman education resource

How to create a stop motion animation

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How to make a stop motion animation

Stop motion animation can be tricky to begin with because you’re dealing with small movements and heaps of images which we call frames.

Animators often work for hours and only end up with seconds of movement! But it is extremely rewarding.

What you’ll need

Animation materials (essential)

You can use all kinds of things to make a stop motion animation: Lego, paper and cardboard – but we recommend using modelling clay or plasticine to make characters just like Aardman Studios do, and coloured paper for backgrounds and settings.

Stop motion animation software (essential)

There are loads of programs out there for PCs, Macs, and tablets. We recommend:

Web camera (best!), iPad or tablet (great!), or digital camera or smartphone (still doable!)

Using a webcam or camera on a tablet is easiest, but if you don’t have either you can still make a stop motion animation. There is stop-motion software for a smartphones and some digital cameras can be plugged directly into a computer and will work with stop-motion animation software.

Tripod or similar (essential)

Use something to keep your camera or device steady whilst you record your frames. Keeping your camera steady is essential! Octopus stands work really well for webcams and smartphones.

Editing software (non-essential)

Some stop motion animation software lets you put the finishing touches on your film, but you may need to use editing software like iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. That way you can add music, sound effects and even dialogue. If you don’t have anything to edit with, that’s fine! You’ll still end up with a good looking film.

Getting started

Step 1: Create the setting for your scene

Make sure it’s a space big enough that your camera won’t see outside that setting; dressing the inside of a cardboard box with at least one side cut out works well.  It’s better too if you have a space where you can set up your camera in different positions, that way you can get close-ups as well as wide or long shots.

Using a box for your stop-motion animation set can work really well. Make sure you decorate inside though.

Step 2: Create your characters and props

If you haven’t created characters yet, don’t forget to read through the sketch to clay section of this resource.

Step 3: Experiment before you begin making your masterpiece

Two of the most important things to think about when making a stop motion animation are frames and movement and it’s worth experimenting with and exploring the relationship between the two before you start filming your amazing film.

Activity: As well as experimenting yourself, try online animation activity from Pixar in which you can experiment with frames and movement on Mike from Monsters Inc.

There’s also another online activity which will help you understand frame rate. In this activity you can go even further with your frame rate experimentation.

Task: Either with your character or a real life person, raise an arm out to the side, and capture one frame. Now move that arm directly up your head, pointing straight up, and capture another frame. Now move your arm to the other side, so you’ve created an arc, and capture one frame.

*Experiment by repeating the above, but this time taking more frames (we recommend three) for each movement.

Watch: If you’re using Aardman’s Animate It software, here’s a handy video on how to get started.

Playback your footage. Did your character move slowly, or quickly?

Now, start again but this time start with an arm to the side, and move it along the arc with smaller movements – so at the side (capture a frame), a quarter of the way towards being vertical (capture a frame), half way to vertical (capture a frame) arm vertical (capture a frame) and so on until your arm completes the arc.

*Experiment by repeating the above, but this time taking more frames (we recommend three) for each movement.

Play back and compare. What do you notice when you made smaller movements? What did you notice when you took more frames for each movement?

You should hopefully see how frame rate and movement will affect your film, and the smoothness and speed of your animation.

Watch: Looking for stop motion tips? Then click the image link below and watch the short video from ACMI called Tips for bringing things to life: Stop motion animation.

More info

Step 4: Start capturing frames!

It’s time to start capturing frames for you stop motion film!

Remember what you learnt about small and large movements, and what happens when you take one or three frames for each movement. So start moving your characters and objects bit by bit, capturing at least one frame for each movement.

Tip: Ensure your camera shot is in focus. Depending on your equipment you should be able to adjust the focus either via your camera, webcam settings, or computer.

Depending on what stop motion animation software you’re using, you might notice it has a tool called ‘onion skinning’. What this does is show you the last frame you shot as well as what your camera is seeing live at the same time.

This is a really useful tool because you can see exactly how small or how big you make your next movement with your characters.

Your software should have a timeline so can you also see how much footage you have captured. Remember, you don’t want your animation to move so fast that your audience can’t really tell what is happening, so play back every now and then to check your progress.

Tip: When you capture frames, check to see they appear in your timeline. If they aren’t, something might be wrong.

Step 5: Set up new camera shot and camera angles as you go

Keeping the camera still when you’re capturing your frames is really important, but you don’t want to shoot your entire film from the same position.

So once you’ve captured the action or movement you want, move your camera to a new position to capture the next piece of action or movement from a different position. Try a variety of shots, such as a close-up (where your camera is close to a character or object), a mid-shot (where you see a character or two in the shot, but not much of the background) or a long-shot (where you see lots of setting and maybe your characters in that setting)

Activity: Look at the three images below. Which ones do you think is the close-up; the mid-shot; and the long shot?

Congratulations, you now have the makings of a stop motion animated film! Well done too on completing the Wallace and Gromit and friends: Magic of Aardman animation kit.

Interested in making another stop motion film? You might want to enter Screen It, our student film making competition. We accept animations, live action films, and video games. Click on the link below to find out more!


Screen It

More info