tips to start doing stop motion films

Tips for trying out stop motion videos

Over the years I’ve done a few courses related to blogging (well, more than a few, including a couple I’ve never actually got round to completing).  I’ve also done some photography courses helping me move to manual photography and an Art of Flower Photography course. I have to admit though, that phone cameras are so good nowadays, as well as the editing options, that I use my phone more often than not.

I always think it’s nice to have a challenge and try something new. While I’m never going to do a lot of videography because it takes so much longer to get good at. Even at the basic level, shooting and editing is a much longer process than photography. I’m also not a video watcher really. I prefer stills to watching youtube, although I’ll flick through Tiktok or Instagram Reels. Day in the life videos seem too much effort, but I noticed Xanthe’s stop motion 5 days of prompts course and decided to give it a go.

tips to start doing stop motion films

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What is stop motion?

Stop motion films are a method of filming movement with a stop start action and putting the images together to create a film. This could be animated models with every little movement captured, or items in a flatlay. They’re great for children to have a go at, as well as adults and with apps they’re a lot easier to make. If you have a smartphone, the only limit is your creativity.

How to make a basic stop motion film

Start basic and aim to get a 15 second clip, perfect for social media.  There are plenty of stop motion apps, but as part of the course we used Stop Motion Studio. The free version was fine to use. I do need to do a bit more investigation in the editing part of the app because there’s plenty you can do in it.

1, Prepare your set up

You’ll need a tripod or something to prop up your phone, and ideally either a remote (use headphones and the volume button works fine to take the shots), or set the timer. I struggled using a timer because I found my hands were always in the way. Unfortunately my voice control to take shots didn’t work through the app. But you could get round that by taking photos just in your camera, then importing them into whatever app you’re using to create the stopmotion.

Lighting can be an issue unless you can have no clouds moving across your windows, a long steady natural light source, a reflector or lighting setup to remove shadows. Some rooms in your house might be better than others, although you could diffuse strong sunlight by putting a white sheet over the windows.

2, Decide a storyboard

Ok, so you don’t need to plan, but I found that it makes it a more productive session, you’ll get it done faster, and will likely find you can start to finish in one smooth take.

3,  Choose your orientation in the app

For social media you probably want vertical or maybe square. For Youtube landscape, for all 16:9 is usually fine, but if you want to repurpose your film, then you’ll need to ensure it’s in the centre which could work for cropping. 

4. Set up your initial scene if it’s not a blank canvas

Turn your volume up so you can hear when the shutter’s taken the frame. It’s also useful to turn on ‘shadow’ so you can see your last move.

5, Don’t move the phone

It’s so easy to nudge it, and if you do it’s really hard to get it back into the right position to make the animation continue.

6, Keep out of the way

Unless it’s intentional keep clothing tucked in and hands out of the way. I’ve had to get rid of so many photos because I’ve had an arm in or my top’s tie has been in the corner of the shot.

7, Start shooting

Small movements, start basic and just move a few items, or you can have more items on your surface to move for a more complex stop motion.

How to get creative with stop motion videos

Think of items or colours, gather them and get started. Or try Lego or other toy figures. You can even get your children in on the act although you might need to increase the number of shots your timer is taking to put the shots together. Think food, festive decorations, drinks, make up, stationery, books. Keep them the same or mix up the items you’re playing with.

Only make small movements, otherwise the film will jump too much. You’ll end up with a lot of photos. Even just 15 seconds can be 70+ shots.

I’m now a bit hooked. I find that if I’ve prepped my ideas ahead of time, got everything out ready, I can get quite a few short films done in one sitting. I still need to try out more complication full stop motions and get some practice in there.

You can find my StopMotion Youtube playlist with a selection of my short videos, or they’re better viewed on my Instagram reels.

If you want to try out stop motion but need some more tips and advice, check out Xanthe Berkley’s website for more information on her stop motion free lesson. You cansign up for the newsletter to find out when her courses run.

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