How to produce a home-made stop-motion video?

Why create a stop motion video?

A stop motion video is the best low-budget option, to tell a story with creativity. Though stop motion is the oldest form of video, it still remains a very interesting way to represent your thoughts. If not done properly, many modern product-videos often look like an advertisement, and hence end up being boring. We wanted to tell our story, in a way that is fun to watch, conveys the message clearly, and simultaneously shows you our ‘wannabe artist’ side.

RemindMeThis-Stop-Motion-Tutorial

There are many guides on the Internet on how to create a stop motion video, but this is how we did it…

What do you need to produce a stop motion video?

  1. A Story
  2. Little bit of drawing skills
  3. Stationery – pen, paper, scissors, crayons
  4. Camera – though a DSLR is better, you can also do make it with your Point-n-Shoot camera. …In fact, even a webcam is fine.
  5. Tripod or glass-top table – or hire a brain surgeon to hold your camera real steady :D
  6. Dark Room – or do what we did : Just wait for the nightfall, before shooting.
  7. A Computer and some Free Software: Windows Movie Maker or iMovie, Audacity
  8. Microphone (a USB one is better, but one with an audio jack is also fine)
  9. A lot of patience (this is very important!)
  10. One spare day (yes ; it will take a full day)

The Setup

Camera-Setup-4Camera-Setup-2Camera-Setup-3

As you can see in the above picture, we have a camera on a tripod, facing the floor. Where we have placed a plain card-board taped to the floor (so that it won’t move while shooting). You can use any camera. If you don’t have a tripod, you can use a glass-top table and put your camera on it, facing the floor. (Or find a way to stick your camera as displayed in the first image ) And no ; holding it reeeeeeal steady will not work. ;-) )
We also have a light bulb hanging next to the camera. You may even use a table-lamp. The purpose of this illumination is to avoid any unwanted shadows, and provide consistent light towards on the card-board.
We connected the camera to a computer with a USB cable. This allowed us to look at the shoot on the screen, and capture it with a mouse-click. That way, we don’t move the camera. You can use a remote shutter release if your camera does not support a computer connection.

Now all you need is a dark room to start shooting. And like us, if you do not have a dark room, just wait for a nightfall. If you start shooting while the sun is up, then as the time passes (…and trust us ; this always takes longer than expected), your picture will have different color-tones and light & shade. And when you render your video, you will notice this change.

The Process

Storyboard-2

Step 1/5: Story Boarding

Just as in any movie, before you start shooting, you need a story. You need to decide the following things, as you prepare your storyboard. You will also need a script for the voice over; i.e. what you are going to say to explain each segment of the video.
What do you need to convey?
How many shots will you take?
What kind of animation will each shot have?

Storyboard-1

Now if you look at our storyboard, you will find that it is nothing fancy. Just a diary with a rough-draft of our though process.

Step 2/5: Sketching / Doodling

Sketching

Once you have the initial draft, you can start sketching it on paper/thin cardboard. If you are like us and not very good at sketching, use a fat tip pen to sketch. It will help hide your imperfections. Once all your objects are on paper, add life to them by colouring them with crayons.

Step 3/5: Cutting

Cutting

Now take a pair of scissors and start cutting your objects. You don’t need to be very precise in cutting, as the same coloured background will hide the jagged edges, if any.

Step 4/5: Shooting

Camera-Setup-1

This part requires a lot of patience. So be prepared. Now construct the kind of studio as mentioned in ‘The Setup’ section. And according to your story board, place your objects under the camera, and start taking pictures …lots of pictures! (In our case, we took around 900 frames.) If you want to induce animation, move your objects frame-by-frame and take pictures at each stage. So that when displayed at high-speed, they give the illusion of movement. More the pictures, smoother the movement. As your audience is aware that it is a stop-motion video, it’s OK if the animation is not as smooth as Disney cartoon.

Step 5/5: Rendering and Recording

The last part of the process involves the following freeware:
for video editing – Windows Movie Maker
for audio editing – Audacity

You can now easily import all you photographs to your Windows Movie Maker Project, and it will show them as frames. The speed of the video is governed by the time-duration of each set of frames; generally 0.3 sec will give you a decent degree of animation. Wherever some explanation is necessary, one can even ‘pause’ the animation. We used a 3 to 5 sec frame time, to explain most part of our video.

Once you are through, you can export your project as a video, or can even upload it to YouTube. But before that, don’t forget to record the voice-over with Audacity. You can use Windows Sound Recorder, but it lacks editing functionality. So you will have to start over, on every mistake… You can then import the recorded audio into your Windows Movie Maker Project and change the frame timing accordingly. Once you are satisfied with the end-result, you can finally export the project as a HD Video.

Final Product

Though this can be a tedious process, it requires a lot of planning, designing and creativity. And that is the fun part! At the end of it all, you will have a very unique product video, exactly the way you wanted.

The result of all this hard work looks like this:

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