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Stop Motion Animation Made Easy – Part 1

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Have you ever watched a movie like Wallace and Grommit  or The Nightmare Before Christmas or even films like Toy Story or Up and wished that you were good enough to do that? Have you ever marveled in amazement in what it takes to animate and the frames and frames of footage that have to be created and put in place to produce even one minute of video. The intricacies of this kind of project have to be mind-boggling, right?

Well, I’ve got good news! Animation and creating animated projects is easier that one might think. In fact, not only is it easy to do for one person….but better yet, it’s even easier if you use a team approach with interdependent roles! In fact, it is proving to be, in our district, one of the most engaging ways for students to create a culminating project. They can create movies fast and they love it so much they can’t STOP!!

Stop-motion animation is essentially collecting a series of photographs and rendering them together at a rate of anywhere from 8 frames a second to 30 frames a second. Thanks to some amazing web 2.0 tools, kids (even our youngest) can do this with ease.

At the most basic level, for stop-motion animation projects to be created, you need a storyboard/script, camera, some props, and software that “sticks” all the photographs together. If you are using a PC, a good option is Jellycam. Jellycam has a quick and simple tutorial that will walk a learner through the specifics of the software in just a couple of minutes. It allows the user to easily capture and manipulate the pictures taken with a web cam within the program. Users determine how many images per second and can play back the video as it is being created. It also allows for adding credits and music within the software. JellyCam is a completely free download.

Creating a stop-motion animation project can also be easily created on an iPad2. One favorite App for doing this is StoMo. In this App, you capture images directly into your iPad using the capture button. You can set the rate of pictures being seen per second, arrange and re-arrange the images captured, playback projects as you work on them and use either the front or rear camera. When you export the project to the library, the images are rendered together and the “film” is put in the iPhotos library to be viewed. StoMo does not allow users to add music, voice over, or text to the film but once a project is finished it can be exported to iMovie, Moviemaker, or some other movie editing software to add music, voice over, or text.

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Both of these applications have a key feature that is critical for stop motion creators – onion skinning. If you think about the skin of an onion, it is somewhat transparent. In stop-motion animation it is critical to be able to see the last image taken and be able to compare it to the one about to be taken. Onion skinning allows for the creator to move objects in the films as much or little as desired. Another classroom benefit of onion skinning allows for students, who’s “filming” schedule is often interrupted by the bell, to come back the next day and pick up where left off. They can see the last image captured and begin from there on a new day.

As a teacher, the best part of stop-motion animation projects is that the students REALLY need each other to complete a quality project quickly! In a group of four students each has a vital role. One person serves as the project manager, or director of the project. That person focuses on the vision and directs the project as it progresses. One person needs to focus completely on the software. That person knows exactly how the software works, captures images, and keeps the program running. The other two members of a group are moving manipulatives (characters and props) to create the animated sequences. It takes everyone in the group doing their parts to be successful.

Check out some examples of student stop-motion animation projects below and start planning a project for your students. Stay tuned for the next Stop Motion Animation installment sharing more classroom examples, how-to’s, tips, and resources for classroom stop motion projects.

How might your students express what they have learned with a stop motion animation project in your classroom?

Allison Byford is the Instructional Technology Coordinator with the Springdale Public Schools in Arkansas and is an eMINTS PD4ETS graduate.