How to Create a Claymation or Stop-motion Video

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Need a cool project for school? Have oodles of free time? Try your skills at creating a video with claymation or stopmotion!

Claymation is an animation technique used with clay figures.  Basically, each movement is a new “shot” and the “shots” are connected together at the end to make a movie. Famous claymation cartoons like Gumby and Wallace and Gromit have made the artistic form popular.

Stopmotion is the original animation technique used to create cartoons.  You can use any kind of toy (legos, for example). This technique was replaced by computer animation. Old cartoons used this technique to replace drawings and cells. There is no clay involved.

how to create a claymation

Ingredients

  • 5 cups of patience
  • A detailed storyboard
  • Clay (for claymation) or toys (for stopmotion)
  • Backdrop for scene
  • Digital camera
  • 6 more cups of patience
  • Lots of time
  • Movie-making software (free or commercial)

Step 1: Plan, Plan, Plan

There is a really good reason that old cartoons are short. They take a long time to create. So, if you need a quick project for school, learning how to create a claymation and stopmotion are not your best bets.

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how to create a claymation

Think about it.  To have your character raise her hand, it can take about 30 positions.  If you want your character to raise her hand, wave, jump for joy, and run away, you might need hundreds of positions! If you add in another character, like a puppy, you need even more pictures.

So, before you get started, plan which form you will use (clay or toys), plan for a lot of time, and plan to do a lot of laborious work. The end result is worth it!

Step 2: Create a Story Board

Every good movie starts with a story board. A story board maps out every single scene (including audio and special effects) within a movie. There are all sorts of fancy ones you can pay to own, or you can find a lot of good free ones online.

how to create a claymation

For claymation and stopmotion, you want to make sure that you document every single movement that you will need shots for to create the exact movement of each scene. One excellent resource is offered free by Atomic Learning; you can watch free tutorials on Storyboarding and download free software to create one. Pizza by the Slice has some nice free storyboard downloads, as well.

Step 3: Build your clay models (or gather toys)

Clay is really fun to play with, but you will need to remember a few specific things…models that are too small are hard to work with when you have to change poses (a lot).  Large clay figures often fall over. Try to work with action figure sizes. Use wire inside the clay to keep the parts together (like a skeleton). This will make life so much easier when you change the poses.

stop motion animation

If you are working with toys, be sure all the parts work and that they can stand independently.  Also, be sure the toys aren’t too small or too big. Wes Fryer’s stopmotion camp has some great photos if you would like to see some examples.

Step 4: Start Snapping!

Remember this golden rule for both claymation and stopmotion: each new position needs a new photo. Even if it is just slight, a new photo needs to be taken. For example, if you blink, you might think it is just eye open, eye shut. But, if you really think about a blink, your eyelid is open, closes a quarter, a half, three-quarters, is fully closed, opens 3 quarters, half, a quarter and opens fully. That equals 9 shots (though you can save time and use the duplicates twice so long as no other part of the body is moving).

stop motion animation

Remember, you can never run out of digital film. Take lots of shots so you don’t have to go back and redo an entire movement. Get every possible angle you might need while the figure is in position.

Step 5: Load Images into Movie Program

Mac and PC users can use programs specific to the platform, but I find that Picasa’s movie maker works really well and is easy for my kids to manipulate.

stop motion animation

Simply load in the pics, set the flip speed to the lowest setting, and presto!

But, remember to load all of the pictures in order. If you want more polish, use Photoshop or Gimp to clear photo blemishes and trim edges.

Mac users can try using FrameByFrame or iMovie to create stopmotion videos. Windows users may try Windows Movie Maker or VirtualDub to export the sequential images as a video file.

Why Bother?

Claymation and stopmotion teach patience, attention to detail, photography and communication skills. Creating a movie from a lot of hard work is rewarding, as well!

Check out this final stopmotion video by Bang-yao Liu, a student at Savannah College of Art and Design. You can see how the movie was made here (Thanks to Cindy Lane for the lead!).

Have you made claymation or stopmotion videos?  If they are kid-friendly, please post the URL in the comments box!

More Resources: Kevin Hodgson has a great page devoted to using stopmotion in the classroom.

Images by Statico, Wesley Fryer, Chris Campbell, Leo Reynolds, Joriel “Joz” Jimenez, Capt Kodak

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