Short animated films or “Shorts” are very popular now on video viewing sites such as YouTube. From the popular and all-time favorite Lego to the man and dog tandem of Wallace and Gomit, these shorts are not only popular to children all over the world but also to adults. But how do you create these shorts? You create them through STOP MOTION.
Stop motion is a software that enables anyone, professional or not, to bring inanimate objects to life through short films. It allows users to make a physically manipulated object appear to move on its own. The inanimate object is moved in small increments while it is captured individually in frames. The object captured in frames will create the illusion that the inanimate object is moving while the frame is played in a continuous sequence.
Most of the time, animators use dolls, clay or puppets for their animation. However, Stop Motion is not only limited to inanimate objects. At times, pictures of scenery and even humans are used for animations. A stop motion using clay is called “Clay-mation” or clay animation while a stop motion using objects is called “object animations”.
Compared to CGI, Stop motion offers lower entry price, superior texture display and the appeal of its distinct looks. The Stop Motion is often used in children’s programming and commercials and comic shows. Film makers such as Tim Burton used stop motion in making his 2005 film The Corpse Bride. The younger generation of film makers begins their experiments in movie making with stop motion, all thanks to modern stop motion software and online video publishing.
Stop Motion in History
Stop motion has been around for a long time especially in the film making industry. Albert Smith and J. Stuart Blackton used stop motion for Vitagraph’s the Humpy Dumpy Circus which was released in 1897. The movie was about a toy circus of acrobats and animals that comes to life.
Stop motion was also used in certain scenes in the movies such as Fun in a Bakery Shop in 1902 and was also used in French trick films by Georges Melies. In 1907, J. Stuart Blackton released The Haunted Hotel and it was a massive success. Segundo de Chomon filmed and released El Hotel Eléctrico the same year, and used similar techniques as the Blackton film. In 1908, a film by Billy Bitzer entitled A Sculptor’s Welsh Rarebit Nightmare was released. Romeo Bossetti impressed audiences with his object animation tour-de-force, The Automatic Moving Company in Italy, 1912. The stop motion pioneer in Europe was Wladyslaw Starewicz, who created and released The Beautiful Lukanida in 1910, The Battle of the Stag Beetles also in 1910 and The Ant and the Grasshopper the year after.
Modelling Extraordinary was one of the first clay animation films which were released in 1912. Willie Hopkins’ 54 episodes of “Miracles in Mud” were released in December 1916 on the big screen. In the same year, the first woman animator, Helena Smith Dayton began her experiment on clay stop motion. She released her first film in 1917, an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Willies O’ Brien’s work on The Lost World is well known, but he is most admired for his work on King Kong, released in 1993, a milestone of his films made possible by stop motion animation.
After learning under O’Brien on the film Mighty Joe Young in 1949, Ray Harryhausen would go on to create memorable films over the next three decades. These included It came from beneath the sea (1955), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) and Clash of the Titans (1981).
Eliot Noyes Jr., an independent clay animator, is an Oscar nominee for his 1965 film Clay and for his 1975 film Sandman where he used stop motion to animate sand lying on glass. Will Vinton and Bob Gardiner team up in 1975 to create the film Closed Mondays which was the first stop motion to win an Oscar. Vinton continued his use of stop motion for his films and produced successful short film experiments including The Great Cognito, Creation and Rip Van Winkle which were all nominated for Academy Awards. Vinton made a documentary called Claymation which he shared his process and style of animation. The Oscar-winning film The Sand Castle in 1977 used sand-coated puppet animation.
In 1978, Disney hired independent animator-director Mike Jittlov to do the first stop motion animation of Mickey Mouse Toys for Mickey Mouse’s 50th anniversary celebration. A year later, Jittlov impressed everyone upon the release of Disney’s feature film called The Black Hole.
Stop motion model animation was also used in the 1970’s and 1980’s for films such as the original Star War trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The first feature-length clay animated film, I go Pogo, was directed by Marc Paul Chinoy in 1980.
The final sequence of Terminator also used stop motion animation. Spielberg’s Batteries not Included also used stop motion. Stop motion feature films were also released in the 1990’s including Fantastic Mr. Fox, $9.99 and The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb.
How to Make Your Own Film
So after reading the list of movies that utilized Stop Motion you think to yourself “Can I do that?” The answer to that question is a resounding YES! All it takes is for you to have a laptop, camera and the object of your animation.
- Create a Theme
Create a story in your mind. Do not forget the characters and each scene that they will be in. Afterwards, create or collect the inanimate objects or pictures or even humans that you’ll need for the short film.
- Create Your Set
Create your set or the background in your story. It could be a beautiful theme park, a scary mansion or a little bit of both. It’s up to you.
- Set Up Your Camera
You should set up your camera in front of your set. Make sure your camera can capture the whole set including your characters. Also make sure to have a support to steady your camera or your film will be chaotic.
- All About the lighting
Provide a good lighting for your set. Use a lamp or a flashlight. Unless it is your theme, a dark set can actually ruin your film.
- Take Photos
Place your character in its initial position and take a picture of it. Then, move the character bit by bit and take a photo of it, the smaller the movements are, the better. This will provide the illusion that the object is actually moving. Repeat the movement sequence until you achieve the desired movement. Afterwards, save all the photos taken where you can find it easily in your computer.
- Put it All Together
Import all photos to movie maker or other video making program that you have. Then place the photos in a sequential order. Use titles or credits if needed. Add the background music that suits your theme. Review the video and do necessary adjustments. Save your work as a video or movie file.
- Upload Your Movie
Upload your film in video viewing sites and enjoy watching it.