A Beginner’s Guide to Stop Motion Animation (On a Shoestring Budget)

Stop motion films are making a comeback. With the long and successful run of digitally animated productions, artists who subscribed to the old-school methods of animations were having a difficult time coming to terms with the dwindling popularity of Claymation and stop motion films.

Now that their films are being recognized, most notably the Academy Award-winning, “Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit”, stop motion animation has returned to the forefront of people’s minds and hearts.

To begin creating your own animated film, you must first purchase a camera. Many stop motion filmmakers use simple webcams, many of which are available for less than $40.00 (some are even occasionally advertised as free after rebates). Connect the camera to your computer, and you are almost ready to go!

It is essential that you have a good animation editing program in order to piece your movie together. Visit www.giantscreamingrobotonkeys.com and download a free copy of MonkeyJam software. This is an excellent program which is used by many professional editors today. And, best of all, it is completely free!

For lighting, gather up as many lamps as you can find. Take off the shades and place them around your set. Another trick is to use work lights that may be readily available in your garage. Remove the grills, and hang them above and beside your set.

Now that you have your basic equipment, consider the story you wish to tell with your film. Are you going to create an experimental stop motion film which explores what really happens when people close their refrigerator door, or do you want to break out that old box of LEGO’s under your bed and create a parody of a once important, pretentious film?

Gather together the items you might like to use as your characters or props. If you wish to build sets and create shapes from clay, let no-one discourage you! But remember, for a first film it may be a bit easier (and more economical!) to pry your daughter’s Barbie doll from under the sofa and dust off her hair.

Create your set in a place that is convenient for you to capture frames on your webcam. You may want to clear off the surface of your computer desk in order to utilize the space for filming the scenes of your movie. Once your characters are positioned, move them in very slow increments in between frames. Refer to your software program as often as you shoot your film! Compare the pictures that you take with the ones you took before. This will ensure a smooth flow and continuity to your character’s movement.

When you have finished shooting your film, and want to add some sound effects, visit www.grsites.com/sounds. You will be able to browse through one of the largest free sound clips collections on the internet.

If you follow these steps, an entertaining and fun film can be created for little to no money. Upgrade your equipment over time, and focus on the craft. Above all, remember that practice makes perfect!