Introduction: How to Make a Stop Motion 'Silent' Film Using JellyCam

About: I'm a retired Pre-School teacher.

I’ve always been fascinated by stop motion films. I grew up with “Gumby” which was a very simple version of stop motion. Through the years the art form has developed into more complex examples, “Wallace and Grommet” and “The Fantastic Mr. Fox”, to name two. There seems to be a big appeal to children, Yet, it seems that adults are captivated by the technique as well.

Step 1: Introduction

All summer I've watched the love/hate relationship between my dog, Bunny and the squirrel that seems to have adopted our backyard. Yes, we call her Squirrel and the dog knows her by that name. We'll say "Squirrel's here," and Bunny runs to the door to watch and, sometimes, bark. As soon as it's time to go out, Bunny runs to the last place she saw Squirrel to sniff around and see which direction she went.

Step 2: Set-up

You will need a location:

  • a well lit place to work space
  • a table or counter either large enough the fit both your scenery and your laptop
  • if you're using a camera instead you'll need a tripod for stability

Step 3: Supplies

You will need supplies for your background:

For a neutral backdrop for your movie you can use white space, or dark space either gives open depth or you can construct your own scenery to match your story. since my story is about animals, I chose constructed an outdoor scene.

Step 4: Storyboard

Before you go any further you need to decide on a story, characters, and how you'll present your story.

Mock up a storyboard, this is a visual outline of what happens from the beginning of your movie through to the end. You might format the beginning credits and ending credits later in the process but leave a space for them in your storyboard.

Step 5: Supplies for Background

These are the supplies I'm using for the background.

I decided I need a tree, grass, sky, and a door.

I'm using the white space as the backdrop to move my cartoons.

I kept the little left over pieces in case I need to add to or repair the back ground.

Step 6: Creating the Story Cards

In order to give the illusion of an old fashioned "silent film" I'm using story cards instead of audio.

I used a bright window as a light-box in order to trace each card of dialog twice.

This should give the lettering a 'shaky' look when I photograph the cards.

Step 7: Photographing the Story Cards

With the camera set on a tripod and the focus set at a specific depth,

I set each cards on the same spot marked by a post-it note as center, that way each card is in the same spot and the 'shaky' effect I'm going for will only be the lettering.

Step 8: What That Looks Like. . .

Here are examples of the tiny differences in the storycards. Not only are there variations in the writing, some changes are added when editing the photos. These changes include color and brightness adjustments, as well.

Step 9: Drawing the Story Characters

I used free online clip-art and free coloring book images as templates to draw my characters.

Using tracing paper to have each character keep their appearance as I draw them moving..

Step 10: Keep the "look" Going

To continue the illusion of the shaky silent film look, the cartoons are also traced over with tiny variations. So here I am at the window "lightbox", again.

Step 11: Label the Storycards and Set Up Supports

Because the cartoon drawings are so similar, I've labelled the back according to the action, in which order the actions take place, and which is tracing (a) or (b). This is so I can quickly tell the tracings apart just by looking at the back of each. It is important to take a photo of each, and alternate insertion into the sequence in order to maintain the "shaky" effect.

TP tubes are cut to the same height and used to hold each image. This allows a sliding motion without having to manually 'pin' each cartoon to the background (time consuming) or manually holding the cartoon on a stick (too shaky).

Step 12: Taking More Pictures

JellyCam allows you to use the camera on your computer to take photos, put them directly into your sequence, and fit them together smoothly, a method called 'onionskin' or 'ghosting' depending on which tutorial you checkout. My computer did not have the capability to shoot photos, so I used my phone and digital camera.

As you take the 'motion' photos be careful of stray shadows. Most of us will see the obvious shadows but the camera sees differently. The shadows that give us depth perception look different through the lens. Notice, the shadow under the bird gives depth of field whereas the shadow behind the cards is distracting.

Step 13: Making the Pictures Move

In whatever medium you use for your images or characters the movements between shots need to incremental. The more distance each move makes the 'choppier' your look. Smaller moves makes for a smoother look but requires more pictures to be taken. Since I was aiming for the silent movie 'shaky' look, I used larger and smaller moves randomly. these were the three images to show birds flying away. If I needed a smoother look I would have had to draw more intermediate sizes and taken more photos.

Step 14: Setting Up the Stop Motion Programs

I chose to work with a stop motion program called JellyCam. Looking into the various programs available this one was mentioned as being easy to use and could be downloaded to laptop and handheld devices. JellyCam needs AdobeAir as an underlying program in order to run properly. This is not the same as Adobe Flash Player, which your computer may already have. The download is free and directions for download comes with Jellycam, which is also free.

Step 15: Get Your Photos Together

In order for the program to access the photos, they need to be on your computer or accessible from the internet. Be aware any photos from the internet may have copyright restrictions. I put my photos into three folders. One folder had all the story cards which I tried to shoot in the order I was going to use them (more or less). the next folder had the photos I took with my phone because of the way I had to download them from my phone to the computer. The last folder had the cartoon photos from the camera which, again, I had taken in the order I was planning to use them.

Step 16: Editing the Photos

Any editing you need to do should be here. The JellyCam program doesn't allow for editing photos once they are uploaded and converted into slides. Changes such as size,cropping, rotation (sometimes a phone photo will be at the wrong orientation), and focus need to be taken care of here..

Step 17: Special Effects

This is also where special effects should be applied. Things such as tone changes that add mood

and reversals that will be part of the storyline. Notice the birds coming and going. I ended up not using the birds coming but I made that image reversal in case I wanted to put it in later.

Step 18: Starting to Build the Video

"Create" a video and give it a name. Clicking on Make will start the process. Then click on Picture Files to use photos from your computer. Browse for Pictures will take you to a screen that allows you to pick where you're pulling photos from. Pull up the file and click on the photo you want first in the sequence, then hold down the 'ctrl' key and click on each photo you want to upload with it. Try to add them in the order you want but remember if you get some switched you can rearrange them in the video program. release the 'ctrl' key and click on Open.

Step 19: Uploading Photos

The photos will show up as slides in the bottom window. You can arrange them now if they are not in the order you want.

I uploaded my photos in the order set out earlier in my storyboards. Since this was my first time, doing this in sections made it easier to keep the sequence in order as I went. Pulling from three different files helped me to keep track of where I was in the process.

This also allowed me to skip pictures that were errors or didn't match the look I wanted. Notice the photos that are 'off color' compared to the photos that are all the same tone..

Step 20: Put the Slides in Order

Using the Make tab lets you upload photos. Using the Edit tab lets you put the slides in order and allows you to Play what you have so far, tells and lets you adjust your frame rate, and how many slides in your video. This function helps you check for missing or out of order slides as you go. It's easier to fix things as you go rather than at the end of the process.

Step 21: Timing and Frame Rate

I found when I clicked Play, there were some scenes that went by to fast and the story cards weren't visible long enough to read. I didn't have enough slides but this program has a Duplicate feature that allows any slide (or all if needed) to be reproduced as many time as you want. Another adjustment that affects how fast or slow scenes go by is the frame rate. The more frames per second equals a smoother look but the faster the rate the more slides needed.

Step 22: Finishing Up

Once you have the video looking like you want it, it's time to Save and Create video. Type in the name of your video as you want the final name to be. Click Browse to choose where on your computer you want the file saved and click Create Vid. The video is now on your computer. In order to play back the new video it has to be uploaded to YouTube, the instructions say to click the Go ToYouTube tab. That didn't work from my laptop, so I pulled up and clicked on Upload and Browse, and opened the file. When the upload status says complete, a URL will be assigned to the video. Click on Publish and 'You Are Live'.

Step 23: What "Bunny and Squirrel" Looks Like

This is the URL assigned to my video:

But unless I am in the 'Publish' window I can't bring is up or link it here.

The URL for "Bunny and Squirrel" when the video is playing in YouTube is:;

Bunny and Squirrel.