I have always been fascinated with stop motion animation after learning about how Nick Park made Wallace and Gromit, but I never did anything about it until this year. I’ve always said that having children is 90% routine and 10% inspiration. I picked up my camera and tried it because my son was wanting to have a go.
1. Use iMovie to put your photos together. It is brilliant. Totally brilliant. We have a green screen and we’ve put in random backgrounds, we can speed up or slow down things and even import other video recordings into our stop motion work. It is hard work to learn and I still have a lot to learn trust me!
2. No matter how many photos you take it probably isn’t enough. I thought 300+ photos was excessive for one Lego set. It isn’t. It is quoted you need 10 stills for 1 second of film for the picture smoothness and quality to be there.
3. Don’t use auto-focus. I can’t remember where I read this tip but my work with the auto-focus on was often jerky even though the camera was in the same position and on a tripod. Turn it off and your finished film is much smoother.
4. Play with your lighting. Try and avoid shadows so move your light source around until you eliminate them. I use bright white light because normal room lighting is quite yellow and it interferes with the final colours on the film. The lighting is on a tall moveable tripod.
5. When using Lego I stick down the base plate with cello tape (making sure it can’t be seen in the final photos), which keeps everything in one place. If you don’t want to stick it down, use the camera viewer centre marker or a small dot on your surface to mark where your item should be. I have two enthusiastic children helping me with mine; if you are doing it on your own you might not need to stick anything down.
6. Photography backgrounds are pretty expensive. I bought a cheaper version green screen from Group On which came with the frame for about £20. But for my white background, (don’t tell anyone but) it is an old 100% cotton cot sheet. Iron it every time before filming and it provides as good a background as an expensive photography one.
7. I will sound stupid now! Don’t forget when using a green screen anything green in your film will also be greened out. I didn’t think about that at first and my final colours were totally wrong on one video. I only realised right at the end when I applied the green screen in iMovie.
8. Experiment. Try different things before you decide how you will film it.
9. While a top of the range SLR camera will provide better photos an iPhone or iPad will do just as well. In fact Apple App Store have some very good apps, like Stop Motion or Lego Creator. This makes it a much more child friendly process because you aren’t worrying about your expensive camera.
10. We film from our kitchen table, with a background and light source. If I did a behind the scenes photo session you’d see my clean washing and dishes by the dishwasher! You can produce animation anywhere, not always in a custom-built space or studio.
11. It is supposed to be fun! I sometimes forget this when trying to control two children and do the photography.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my top tips. I am a beginner, I am doing this animation with the help of two children and we can still produce some fairly professional looking videos. If you haven’t seen any, drop by our You Tube channel, if you like what you see or your children like them, please do hit subscribe and keep up-to-date with all our videos.