Introduction: How to Make a Simple Stop Motion Video

About: I've always been a creator at heart, and I hope this channel highlights some of my many interests. I always loved to paint, sketch, and sculpt growing up, and recently began to do woodworking and wood turning…

As a thank you to my subscribers on YouTube and IG, I thought I'd make another stop motion video. I've had to find information from many places to come up with a process on how to do this, so I thought I'd share what I've learned with the Instructables crowd.

Items I use to make a stop motion video:

  • A camera on a tripod or fixed location. It is very important that the camera does not move during the shoot.
  • A remote for your camera (I like this one) - This prevents you from slightly moving the camera each time you take a picture (and you'll be taking A LOT OF PICTURES. - SO MANNNNYYYYY!!!
  • Lights. I like this set from Amazon -
  • Actors - I'm using pepper mills.
  • A set - I like to keep it simple and just use a white background, but you can certainly get elaborate here!
  • Props - I raid my daughters toy closet for these. Lots of Barbie accessories to choose from. You can also make your own with modeling clay.
  • Software to edit the movie. I use Sony Vegas Pro 16, or iMovie

Step 1: Making Your Set & Props

Before we can start the camera clicking, we need to be sure we have everything we'll need. This includes your set, actors, and any props you'll need.

  • The Set

I like to use those tri-fold backer boards you can find at Target or Wal-Mart. This will help you keep out background clutter that can move and distract your audience. You are containing your shot to less variables.

  • The Actors

For my video, I use these pepper mills I make and sell at craft shows. I make them in large batches and then have an army to play with before my next event. You can also use dolls, army men, or make your own out of clay. There are a few instructables out there on how to make your own actors.

  • The Props

As I mentioned in the intro, I raid my daughters toy closet for items to use in these videos. You can also make your own out of modeling clay and paint them yourself.

Step 2: Storyboard Time!

So now you have your set, actors, and props, you are ready to shoot! But hold your horses, partner. Before you go through the million clicks on your camera, you need to know where you're going. Even for your first video, think through all the shots you want to get ahead of time. You REALLY don't want to take unnecessary shots or miss something. An ounce of prevention can cure a pound of illness (or something like that!)

I was lazy and outsourced all the creative ideas to my 9-year old daughter. We came up with a talent show in which each of the peppermills have a certain talent. Have fun with this step!

Step 3: Frame Your Shot

Let's not get too fancy here, and stick with a single shot per scene. There are ways to get a moving shot in stop motion, but that's some next level stuff that I won't get into here. Mainly because I have no idea how they do that voodoo magic.

You'll want to be sure you are wide enough to capture all the movement for the entire scene. Be sure your focus is set and does not change in the middle of your scene. It can happen pretty easily - I had a whole karate scene i had to chop (get it? CHOP!) because of poor focus.

A fixed lighting source is also needed for this. Sunlight can cause unwanted shadows, and clouds can wreck your shot too. You want to be sure the lighting remains constant. The set I linked to in the intro works well for me.

Step 4: Frame Rate and Details to Keep in Mind

Most TV programs are shot at 24 frames per second. Animation, however, is shot "on two's". That basically means they shoot 12 frames per second, but insert each shot twice. For me, this is nice to know, but we can speed up or slow down your shots when we get to editing. We'll do what feels like a good pace and if it's not perfect, we'll do better next time. This is a "learn by doing" process.

The biggest tip I can give is to get a helper for taking the actual pictures. It saves so much time to have someone there to click the picture while you focus on the movements. Be sure to let your helper have a turn moving the pieces while you click the picture too.

When you are moving your pieces between each photo, try to make it a very small move. If you are wanting to convey speed, then move them a little more.

Another detail to keep in mind is the use of extras. Thinking back to your favorite movies, there are people in the scene that have no lines, but fill out your scene to make it more real. I used an audience in my scenes - just a small wiggle every other picture will make them come alive (figuratively of course, this isn't my nightmare where they come to life and try to kill me.)

Step 5: Editing Your Video

Since most of you will be using different software to edit this, I'll keep this high-level. When you add your media to your library, remember to add each picture twice. Animation puts each picture in the film twice, remember?

Most programs have a way to set the default length of a picture you insert into your video. Since we won't want to edit this for each picture we input, if you set the default to 0.2 seconds (12 frames every 60 seconds, or 12/60 reduces down to 1/5, or 0.2), you'll get the 12 frames per second. Adding each frame twice gets you to 24 frames per second.

That is really the only tricky part to stitching all of the pictures together. Watch what you've just made, and decide if the speed feels right. I like to use the "group" function to keep the pictures stitched together, and then speed up or slow down the scene as needed.

And that is the basics. I hope you see that this really isn't that hard. I'd love to see any stop motion you've made. Be sure to tag me on Instagram @StudioJLT with your movie!