Stop Motion Animation Class

Yesterday I spent a day volunteering at the school again. Mostly, I spend my time speaking with students individually on an improvised basis, but also, I have scheduled classes. One, was my role as assistant to my son, who now teaches a class in animation to a few of the younger students. For the past few weeks, Noah, assisted by his friend Oren work with a few of the lower school boys. Up until now, the class has mainly focused on the limited animation features found on the Nintendo DS, the personal handheld game system you see many children with on buses, planes etc. The DS has a camera built in with a limit of about 115 frames which can be animated. The problem being, that getting that animation to the computer, is not so expedient.

But yesterday we took a different turn. Instead we worked with a standard digital camera. I had purchased a small, table-top tripod, so the camera could sit stationary. Being that the ordinary camera these days can take thousands of shots, depending on how you set the resolution, makes it possible to short stop motion tests.

Only two of the younger boys attended the class, but this actually made things easier. Stop-motion, like all animation, is an exercise in patience. To get something to move smoothly, you have to restrain yourself from moving the object along the planned trajectory too quickly. I did my own pre test the day before the class.

click to see animation

We began with a short claymation test which was about 10-12 shots, which is very quick when put together. Animation is standard 24 frames per second, which means that you need 12 – 24 images for every second of film. For an 8 year old, that would require a ton of patience in order to be willing to move an object extremely slowly and carefully, but Warren and Timothy both showed a great deal of willingness to understand the process. Below, I have assembled the final tests, with several time lapse images at the end because the boys were getting bored already and wanted to move onto something else.

I can control the timing of each frame when I pull all the images into Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop has an animation feature which allows for creating animated gifs and short video using image layers. We shot approximately 170 frames (photos) which were then downloaded into the computer. You can then ask Photoshop to import the entire folder as a “batch” into layers. I only did this after downsizing all the images so that it would process quicker. After assigning each layer to a frame of animation, and choosing the amount of time I want each frame to display. In Warrens’ moving book, I was able to give it .1 seconds per frame because he took his time moving the book which mad for a smoother animation. For the other, I assigned .5 seconds, so the movement is jagged and slower. I hope to develop this class into something more formidable, provided we have interest from the students. Stay tuned.