5 Tips for Making a Stop Motion Video

5 Tips for Making a Stop Motion Video

Creating a stopped motion piece is the perfect way to unite your inner photographer and videographer through a trendy and fun medium. Blending the creativity of photography with the motion of video, stopped motion brings hundreds and thousands of images together to tell a sequential story.

Here are some tips for creating a stopped motion piece.

1. Brainstorm your visuals

Through stopped motion you have thousands of images to shoot, but you need to place the same kind of focus you had with one image, and apply it to many. It is probably helpful to discuss an “image” as a “scene”. So, in a movie, every element in a scene is important right? Each element helps to describe the story, thus making it stronger. Same principle is applied in the elements of a photo. Same principle is applied in stopped motion.

For these visuals, your story needs to be extremely strong. And by story, I mean, “series of images”. Just like in video you create a flow of progression from the “scenes” of your story, your “scenes” also must create a progression.

2. Create a storyboard for your stopped motion piece

If you go into stopped motion creation without planning and storyboarding, you will be sunk with a l.o.t. of time in post processing. In video, the medium is in clips. But in photo, the medium is in single images. Unless you have thought out what elements and scenes you want in your piece, you will have the unfortunate experience of sorting through thousands of individual photos to try and put the piece together. Take my advice. It is challenging enough to work with thousands of individual photo’s when you have your piece planned out. Without a plan, you will be left with trying to sort through what series of photo’s to move where, etc. etc. and it’s just incredibly complicated. So don’t do that. Story board.

I’m sure you’ve heard enough about storyboarding from the great “making of” specials on different movies, but practically, how do you dissect a story board?

  • Start with a script. You must k.n.o.w. what you want to communicate. Sometimes it’s easier to start this in writing. Write a story just like any other. Intro, which explains the characters and the core of the film. The development, in which more elements are introduced to further complicate or challenge what already existed. And then the conclusion and resolution of story and all it’s elements where your audience can take away the final message.
  • Mentally visualize your story. What visual elements create the intro, the development, and the conclusion? Will you need to alternate between wide angle and detail shots? Remember, the point of stopped motion is to literally CATCH MOTION. The series of HOW you catch that motion is what you need to visualize.

3. Shoot to NOT edit

The point of a stopped motion piece is not individual photos. The point is multiple image series capturing motion. You don’t have the time to edit each individual shot. You will be editing the series – culling and placing them into a timeline.This means that unless you “shoot to kill” you are going to be wasting a lot of time simply because you didn’t get it right the first time. Now, this is not to say that you don’t have the freedom to make artistic edits, but remember it is going to add more time. Using Imovie, Windows Movie Maker, or Final Cut Express will give you a variety of editing options for your disposal.

4. Add audio to give emotion and connect the story

Audio isn’t the main point of a stopped motion film, but it most certainly can strengthen the piece by magnanimous proportions. Sometimes the audio will simply be music. Sometimes it will be sounds. Sometimes it will be narration. Sometimes it will be all three. It truly just depends on the scope of the project. Sometimes it is easier to start with audio and add visuals, but it can be much simpler to plan audio when nearing the completion of visual assembling. Then I can determine how much audio to bring in and what the feel of it ought to be.

5. Consider output.

Done with your stopped motion piece? Export based on what you want to do with the piece. Posting it to web? Putting it on your phone? Burning it to a DVD? Consider how you are going to use the piece before completing your last step of output.

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Christina N Dickson is a visionary artist and philanthropist in Portland Oregon. Her work includes wedding photography www.BrideInspired.com and leadership with www.RevMediaBlog.com.

Some Older Comments

  • JM September 17, 2013 01:09 pm

    The idea of making my own stop motion videos surfaced a year ago. I got a good webcam, AnimatorHD, lamps, blue/green screens, rigs, putty, etc. The problem? I wasn't improving much as practicing felt like a chore. I kept at it but I realized that stop motion just wasn't for me. Decided to call it quits today. It sucks because I had so many cool ideas but unfortunately, the whole animation process felt like a big chore and a pain in the rear. I did manage to make a one minute long film but I never finished editing it as I made newbie mistakes that were difficult to edit out.

  • Colin December 29, 2011 05:23 am

    I also agree that a series of portraits hardly is stop motion video, but the general points of the story are correct, think.
    I just made the following stop motion video, first a story, then a story board, then I filmed. Technically, esp. lighting and background, room for improvement. The motion of the spiders turned awesome though. Never try stop motion on a thick carpet...
    Here it is, enjoy:

  • wendy January 21, 2011 08:59 pm

    sorry, I've seen some wonderful stop-motion videos, and this is not one of them. It's not even stop-motion, just single sots of random people. I played it with the sound off. It should have still told me a story, and really, it didn't.

  • Ryan McKenzie January 1, 2011 07:35 pm

    'David Says:
    October 3rd, 2009 at 3:41 am
    I love creating stop motion animations and there is a great piece of software for the Mac that makes it really easy – istopmotion. The only negative is I can’t seem to get it to work live with my Canon 500D. There is a great write up on how to use it'

    I am also having this exact same problem with my 500D and need to get it sorted asap. Was wondering if you have figured out how to do it yet? And if so give me some advice on what to do..

    Cheers David

  • stopmotion rookie November 18, 2010 03:17 am

    Not a terribly good article. I just started doing S.M for my esoteric hobby. I storyboard while I play my hobby , capturing shots etc then bundle it all into the msft or mac movie software. They dont have many special effects but its good enuff for what I need.

  • Chad Wilson August 11, 2010 02:24 am

    Nice post. Making a Stop Motion Video should require lots of pictures. But to make a perfect stop motion video, you should create a storyboard. Adding an audio also contribute to connect the story

  • Bahad?rhan May 8, 2010 09:40 pm

    Thanks for all of these tips. I like stop motion video technique and share some videos about it on my own website and I wrote an articel about stop motion technique

  • FAF May 3, 2010 05:08 am

    Grand Central Station with REM music


    Me making a Tur-Duc-Hen <–(What is a Tur-Duc-Hen http://cajunturkeyco.com/tur-duc-hens.html)

    Join the Time Laspe Flickr group

  • Stefan January 31, 2010 09:01 am

    Check this one out:

  • Tyler durham January 22, 2010 07:48 am

    I meant alot of fun and bring them to life. Stupid iPod lol

  • Tyler durham January 22, 2010 07:47 am

    This might sound silly but I make stop motionn videos with wrestling action figures. I plan out the marches then bring Thames to life with action figures. It takes alot of patience but is loads of funny. And no, that video is NOT a stop motion!!! Good article though. God bless.

  • Eric Schultz October 10, 2009 04:26 am

    I thought I'd share a recent stopideo and add another tip for your readers. I added different leveles of "old fashioned" and "pann-xoom" to actually give the images anactual movielike feel. I made this for my brothers band and some of their new musc that is coming out.

    Check it out over at : http://www.thegiftofphotography.com/schultzstudiomt/articles/

  • Adrian October 9, 2009 09:33 am

    People who comment with less than politeness on the literal or otherwise description of this article (or anything else) are just showing their immaturity and lack of ability to speak in a constructive manner and should give respect to a well intended and fun article, which, as usual, simply means to inspire photographers in another technique. Keep up the excellent work Darren, it inspired me, even after 40 years of work. I'm sure this comment will create more adverse knockers but that just shows them up again. Keep it positive fokks.

  • Jer October 4, 2009 04:05 am

    I mean that video doesn't belong anywhere near an article on stop-motion. Honestly, you put in "Stop Motion" into a YouTube search and the best result to illustrate your point was a 2-star video of a bunch of random portraits??? I'm not in the habit of talking trash about well-intentioned articles, but this is just silly. Who's editing this stuff?

  • Bostjan B. October 3, 2009 09:42 pm

    Here is something stunningly beautiful I came across this week. It sort of fits in this category:

    Hope you'll enjoy it.

  • CanonRebelz October 3, 2009 12:24 pm

    Good job. I recently have done 2 time-lapse videos, like stop motion, but they are not really the same.
    Have a good day.

  • Jamesdon October 3, 2009 06:47 am

    why couldn't you have posted this sooner! really could have used a bit of help but here it is anyway...

  • sunny October 3, 2009 04:30 am

    you mean like this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmkLlVzUBn4 ;-)

  • Keri October 3, 2009 04:23 am

    http://rossching.com/ does some great stop motion videos and he also add behind the scenes/how to videos

  • Charles Candles October 3, 2009 04:16 am

    Long time ago I try to make a still movie using my Nikon and this is what I end up with. I have to say it was a lot of fun. But it requires some planning before start shooting.


  • David October 3, 2009 03:41 am

    I love creating stop motion animations and there is a great piece of software for the Mac that makes it really easy - istopmotion. The only negative is I can't seem to get it to work live with my Canon 500D. There is a great write up on how to use it http://www.totalapps.net/apps/istopmotion-animation-for-the-masses/

  • sbunting108 October 3, 2009 03:12 am

    Interesting post I have seen some stop motion videos on TV before but have really never thought of making one before! I may have a try tonight at making one if I have enough time!

    Thanks for sharing this with us Christina

  • sarah October 3, 2009 02:53 am

    Another terrible DPS article. That video is NOT stop motion.
    "Stop motion (also known as stop-action or frame-by-frame) is an animation technique to make a physically manipulated object appear to move on its own. The object is moved in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a continuous sequence."