Introduction: Make Your Own FlipBooKit Animation

About: FlipBooKit is from kinetic artists, Mark Rosen and Wendy Marvel. They create moving art that tells stories and tickles our sense of nostalgia. In late 2011, their series of motorized flipbooks based on the mot…

The basic FlipBooKit comes with a neat animation from Eadward Muybridge's horse studies. A number of other artists' animations are available to purchase on the FlipBooKit website, but I'm going to show you how to make your own custom flip cards, using printable labels and blank cards available from FlipBooKit.

There are a number of ways this can be done, including using videos, stop-motion, and hand-made illustrations. In this tutorial, I'll show you how to make videos with a camera or phone, edit the video down, use the website's Maker Tool to process and choose the frames you want, and put it all together.

Step 1: Materials

Step 2: Looping

If you've seen many videos on Vine, you're probably familiar with looping videos. Any video can be repeated, but there are a few things to keep in mind if you want it to appear seamless.

1. Think of a video loop as a circle; by the end, everything should be back as it was in the beginning, even if it's just going back to an empty scene.

Examples of videos that will work well for this are doing a repeated motion, like a dance, moving in a circle, running from one side of the screen to the other, or falling down and standing up again.

2. It's a good idea to make a quick plan with rough sketches of what you want to make, especially if it's going to be stop-motion or illustrated. I like using sticky notes to help organize.

3. Use of as much of the frame as you can, so your animation will show up well. Each frame MUST measure 800 by 667 pixels*, which is big enough for some detail, but make sure the movement isn't too subtle. You'll also notice from looking at an assembled FlipBooKit (see pictures), that there is a small gap between the top and bottom cards. Because of the way this machine works, movement in this center area won't show up as well, so you want to make sure that most of your activity takes place in the top or bottom of the frame, as opposed to the middle.

*in 2016 the maker tool was upgraded to a better interface and a higher resolution of 800 pixels x 667 pixels (the old version was 400x334)

Step 3: Shooting

1. Use a tripod.

It's important to keep your camera still while shooting, especially if you plan to do stop-motion. You might use a commercial tripod or make your own such as these.

2. Use good lighting.

Shoot in a well-lit room, with a couple lamps to get additional light right where you want it. For printed flip book cards, we definitely want to have a lot of light and contrast. A dingy, low-contrast video will make for an animation that is really hard to see.

3. Frame your shot.

If you will be walking onto the camera, where will you be able to walk in the room and still be in the shot? Put tape on the floor that marks the boundaries of your camera's view. (This can be done in small scale too, as shown in the photos in this step.) It can also be helpful to make additional tape marks on the floor if you want to return to the same place.

4. Repeat.

It takes a little time to start and to stop a movement, so, especially if your action is a repeated motion like dancing or moving in a circle, it's a good idea to perform it several times in a row. This way you have a variety of options, and you can edit it so as to look continuous.

Step 4: Editing Your Video


With the 2016 upgrade of the Maker tool, you may not need to edit your video.

Just make sure that it is less than 50 megabytes in size.

If you need reduce you rvideo size, you might have a video editing application on your computer already, such as QuickTime Pro, iMovie, or Movie Maker. There are online video editors, like wevideo, Magisto, and of course, YouTube's video editor. There are also plenty of options for your mobile device, so if you record your video to a phone, you might be able to edit it on your phone as well. I used QuickTime.

Step 5: Using the Maker Tool

Go to the FlipBooKit website, and navigate to the maker tool. From here you have a few options.

If you're uploading a video, click or drag your edited file on the gray "upload video" box. It can take a little time to upload and process, depending on your connection and the server. When it's finished processing, you'll see a low-resolution preview (don't worry, the final images will look much nicer). If everything looks the way you want it, click the button to create your printable template. It will generate a pdf that you can download.

You may notice that the images look a little strange in the pdfs, with the tops and bottoms not matching (see pictures). This is normal, I'll show why it does this in a few steps.

Step 6: Editing Stills

If you're happy with the final product, you can download the document to print. If you'd like play with the images, you can download your animation as individual frames and edit them in your software of choice. Perhaps you'd like to change the colors, apply filters, or add text. In the video I shot with a wire figure and umbrella, I went into Photoshop to edit out the wire my figure hangs on, so that it appears to fly without supports.

Drag all of the edited images to the "upload 24 frames" box on the Maker Tool and it will create a version that is ready to print onto the labels.

Once again, this can take some time. Grab a cup of coffee, watch a kitten video, or put on music and dance around for a few minutes. You don't have to watch a bar go across the screen, galloping horse or no.

Step 7: Print the Labels

Load the labels into a printer and print the pdf you downloaded from the web tool. It's a good idea to print some test pages on regular paper so you can check the alignment against the label sheet.

If you don't have access to a printer, or if you'd like higher quality than your printer can provide, you can always take your file to a copy shop or office supply store, and have them print it for you.

If you don't have a color printer, you can even print it in black and white and color the images after you've printed them. For my animation, I decided to go over the figure with black pen to give it a little more contrast.

Punch out the sheets of cards and make a stack to prepare for the next step.

Step 8: Attaching Labels

Now it's time to attach your printed labels to the cards. I mentioned before that this misalignment of the top and bottom of the pictures is normal. This is because each label goes onto both sides of a single card, the top and bottom halves of each picture actually belong to different frames. Since the sprockets, the tabs, go at the center of each frame, you need to make sure that the center of the label wraps around the edge with the sprockets.

It can be a little difficult to align these labels evenly if you peel them all the way off, so here's an easier method. You'll need a flat surface.

1. Peel the bottom half of a label from the backing and fold it up to meet the upper edge of the label. We're simply folding it in half and giving it a nice crease. Don't take the top part of the label off the backing yet.

2. Take a card and place the sprockets/tabs edge on the backing right next to your crease. Keeping that edge in place, fold it down and align the sides of the card to match the sides of where you pulled up the label.

3. Hold the card in place with one hand, and use the other to smooth the folded part of the label onto the card. The top part that is still attached will help you keep everything in place.

4. Peel the rest of the label off, flip it so that the sticky side is up and press the sprocketed edge of the card against the table.

5. Keeping the edge pressed to the table, hinge the card down until it meets the other side of the label and smooth it in place.

6. If you wind up with any wrinkles, run your finger over them until they smooth out.

See the photos or video for more help.

Step 9: Inserting Cards

The Maker Tool does another helpful thing; it puts faint grey numbers at the top right of each label so you can put them in order, just like the default horse cards. Organize your cards.

Next, we're going to insert the cards into the spindle holes. If you've watched my assembly video, you might have made these marks on your spindles, which are made next to every sixth hole and help you put your cards in straight.

Put in the first card, flip it down, then insert the second one just above it and flip it down. Continue until you have all of the cards in place. Be careful not to skip any holes.

Step 10: About Stop Motion

Since stop motion is such fun, and such a great tool for education, there are a lot of applications out there for doing stop motion specifically, with features like ghosting the previous image, and previewing your existing animation. One desktop option is HUE animation, and new mobile apps appear all the time. The one I used for the stop motion segments of the tutorial video is called Stop Motion Studio for iOS, and it has both a free and paid version. You can do everything you need in the free version, paid will give you a few more options and features.

Step 11: Fin

And there we are, a custom animated FlipBooKit. Make sure to check out FlipBooKit's Instagram page to see a ton of animations that others have done and to get some more inspiration. And of course, make sure to share your creations! Have fun, and thanks for reading.