Stop motion video animation has become quite the obsession! I love it. It’s magic.
The process can be time-consuming but I’m always amazed at the animation magic when I stitch it all together.
When I started experimenting around 18 months ago, I had to learn by trial and error….lots and lots of error. Today I’m sharing my kit, tips and the tidbits of advice I wish I had been given. They would have saved me hours!
My Stop Motion Video Animation Kit
Camera – I use a Canon 60D DSLR and shoot in RAW for optimum results and the ability to tweak the lighting and colour. Instagram also tends to compress video so I need the quality to be as good as possible from the outset. Plus I may repurpose my video animation content for YouTube and other platforms. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t use your phone. You can!
Tripod – as essential as the camera. Without one, your stop motion video animation will literally be all over the place and the effect won’t work.
Remote control shutter release – even touching the camera to take an image can cause the camera to move. This will be a great addition to your kit.
Lightroom – I tether my camera to Lightroom so my photos appear directly in the library. I can then batch edit them, paying attention to lighting, colour and the crop. You can also release the shutter from within Lightroom if you don’t have a remote control to release the shutter.
USB Cable for Tethered Capture – most modern DSLR cameras will come with a USB cable. You will need this for the tethered capture.
Video Editing Software – I use Premiere Pro now, but started using iMovie, which is absolutely fine. PC users can choose from other free video editing programmes such as Windows Movie Maker (although I haven’t tried this program myself).
Laptop Stand – I absolutely love my laptop stand. It’s saved my back! Laptop stands are adjustable in height and because they are light they can be moved around easily depending on where you are shooting your stop-frame video animation Try the Pulse Stand for Laptop/Projector
A Lens Band (for overhead shots) – Heavy lenses on DSLR cameras can ‘creep’ meaning they’ll extend or zoom unintentionally. I’ve shot an entire sequence before only to discover the lens on my camera ‘zoomed’ in slightly. So frustrating!
You can of course use your tripod to adjust the height of your camera, but sometimes you just want to use the camera zoom for a slight tweak. The lens band will keep the camera lens in a fixed place, thus omitting the temptation to scream when you have discovered the lens has shifted. I use the Lensband Zoom Lens Creep Reducer.
Lighting – natural light from a window will do a grand job at lighting your image HOWEVER you’ll be amazed at how quickly light changes. The subtle changes in light will result in flickering on your stop motion animation. Therefore I use a continuous lighting kit like this one.
Backgrounds – similar to flatlay photography I use a selection of coloured paper backgrounds, painted wood and photo boards.
A selection of props, products and paper – I make many of my props using paper. I also love scouring the pound shop, craft shops and charity shops for interesting props to use in my animations.
Useful Tidbits I Wish I Had Been Told
- As mentioned above, you may notice a flickering light on your stop motion video animation as a result of subtle changes in light (usually daylight). Ideally, you would shoot in a blacked-out room. But, like me, you probably don’t have a dedicated photography studio. Instead, block out as much light as you can. Or shoot at night if that’s your thing.
I cover the windows in my space with thick cardboard to stop the light. Also turn off any artificial lights, especially fluorescent lighting as this will result in flickering on your stop motion.
- If you are using an DSLR, make sure your ISO isn’t set to auto because this can also cause a change in light, which results in flickering.
- Be careful where you stand! I work on a ‘mezzanine floor’ in an office. So the floor is quite springy. Unless you are working on a concrete floor, most floors will have some kind of movement to them. Make sure you don’t place your feet next to your tripod as that can cause movement too.
- Tape your background down. Again I’ve ruined many an animation by accidentally catching the paper when I’m moving elements around. Masking tape is perfect and cheap.
- Save your animations as MP4 Format H.264. You can use a video converter such as MacX VideoConverter Pro. I use Premier Pro to do this now, but there are lots of free options out there depending on what PC you are using.
- Turn the grid on your camera. For square video se a 1:1 ratio and for standard landscape video format set the grid to 16:9
- Use the ‘live view’ mode to see your scene through your camera’s viewfinder. This helps you make sure your props and products are well composed.
- Set your camera’s focus to manual. As you move object around, you don’t want the camera to refocus.
- Think about frame rates. The more frame per second the smoother the animation will look. I work at around 15 frames per second. That is literally 15 photos for every second of film. Don’t forget the speed of your video can be tweaked in the software you are using afterwards.
My Early (Bad!) Example of Stop Motion Video Animation
This tulip butterfly video was one of my first attempts at stop motion animation. It’s a good of what not to do! There’s flickering light, the lens has crept slightly, I knocked the paper because it wasn’t taped down and generally the timing isn’t great. But hey, I had to start somewhere right?!
Do remember, that the beauty of stop-motion video animation is its slightly naive quality. If you make mistakes, actually they can add to the charm of your piece. Don’t be afraid to experiment!
If you have any questions about stop motion just ask by leaving a comment below.
Have an inspired day
See some of my latest stop-motion video animations in my portfolio section for clients such as Selfridges and Marks & Spencers.
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