Friday, March 23, 2012

Lights, Camera, Stop Motion Action! Rachel Morgan Explains How

          As mentioned in my Wednesday post, the winner of the A to Z Video Challenge for 2012 is Rachel Morgan, whom many of you know from her blog Rachel Morgan Writes.    Today Rachel is visiting Tossing It Out to allow you to get to know a little more about her.  Since many years ago I used to dabble in making animated films in the old medium of 8 MM film, one of the several questions I put forth to Rachel had to do the her process of making the video that she entered in our contest.  Here she offers a short how-to guide on making a stop motion video.




What is stop motion? 


dictionary definition for you: a cinematographic technique whereby the camera is repeatedly stopped and started, for example to give animated figures the impression of movement. So if you wanted a video of your toy car driving itself around, you'd take a photo, move the car slighty, take another photo, move the car a little more, take another photo, move the car a little more, take another... etc. It's beyond tedious! But if you've got patience, the effect is worth it.

Why did I use stop motion in my A to Z Challenge video?

Anyone can take a video these days (most cellphones can do it) so it's not really that exciting anymore. I wanted to do something a little different, so I went for stop motion. I've found the idea fascinating since I watched the Wallace and Gromit short films when I was little. Those films would technically be called clay-mation (from clay animation). The characters are made from plasticine modelling clay, and it must be a truly painstaking job to make all the teeny, tiny changes for each frame so that the characters appear to move smoothly.

I'm not quite that skilled yet! The only thing I had to move in my video was my hand, and the movement in each frame was noticeable because I wanted to achieve that jerky "stop motion" feel (and it would have taken way too long if I'd wanted to make the movement any smoother!).




How can you do it?

You need a tripod, a camera and a computer with video editing software. Well, you don't actually need a tripod, but it makes life a whole lot easier (I know, because I've done this without a tripod before!). Computers with Windows should have Windows Movie Maker on them (or you can download it for free), and Apple computers come with iMovie.

1. Set your camera up on your tripod (mine was pointing down onto a table).
2. Arrange your subject in front of the camera (I had pieces of paper with words written on them, plus my hand).
3. Take your first photo.
4. Move the subject slightly (I moved my hand to reveal a letter or two of a word I was covering).
5. Take another photo.
6. Repeat this until you a) reach the end of whatever sequence you've planned, b) get really bored or c) deplete the life of your camera batteries.
7. Open up Windows Movie Maker (or the Apple version, which I've never used) and insert all your photos (in order, obviously).
8. Adjust the length of time each photo is visible for (I used half a second) so that the photos follow on from one another really quickly.
9. Add music, captions and titles if you feel like it.
10. Save the movie.



It really is very easy!


Rachel Morgan is the author of Guardian, the first novelette in the Creepy Hollow series. She was born in South Africa and spent a large portion of her childhood living in a fantasy land of her own making. These days, in between teaching mathematics to high school children, she writes fiction for young adults. 



         Thank you, Rachel!  As she says here, creating an animated film is fairly easy to do as long as you have the equipment, time, and plenty of patience.  I encourage you to try it yourself if you are interested in video making.   If you create anything you'd like to share with the rest of us, feel free to send it to me and I'll feature it in this blog.


           Be sure to stop by to visit Rachel at Rachel Morgan Writes and don't forget that she has a new book out.   For more information about her book Guardian (Creepy Hollow #1) please visit:
www.rachel-morgan.com
www.creepyhollowbooks.com


           Have you ever dabbled in stop-motion or other experimental types of film making?  Do you have a favorite film that was made using the stop motion technique?   Have you read Guardian yet?


         Just in case you have not yet seen Rachel's A to Z Video here it is again:














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38 comments:

  1. Most informative but I don't have a cam recorder, but will keep this should I in the future get one.

    Yvonne.

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  2. That was nice and sweet. That does take some patience!

    I also recall the old clay mation series on TV, Davie and Goliath, as well as Gumby.

    Thinking about those shows and what Rachel has done gives me more of an appreciation of the time one must spend on these stop motion flicks.

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  3. While stop motion does seem hectically difficult you did make an amazing job with it in your video Rachel. I don't think that's a sign everybody can do it so easily though, if everybody had you're directorial talent you wouldn't have won and you thoroughly deserved to win.

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  4. Thanks so much for hosting me, Arlee!

    Yvonne - You don't need a cam recorder to do this. You just need something that can take photos :)

    Jeremy - I can only imagine the vast amount of time it must take to make a feature length clay-mation film! (I just Googled it and Wiki Answers says it took 5 years to plan, film and edit Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Flip. That is a long time!)

    Yeamie - Thanks so much!

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  5. Rachel did a really great job with the video!
    Aardman's Wallace and Gromit flicks are great. And I wasn't even a kid when I watched them.

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  6. 'Have you ever dabbled in stop-motion or other experimental types of film making?'

    Yup. Took a couple of intro to video classes at University. Good times.

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  7. I think the stop-motion effect was the key that made this video so cool.

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  8. oh my... it takes me back to a time when we made star wars movies in the basement... in three-minute reels. i enjoyed your "how-to" and the video was great...

    jeremy [retro-z]

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  9. I've never tried my hand at a video. Pictures yes, drawing a bunch of sketches you could flip through and it looks like they're moving, yes. I had to do that for a school project and while I love to draw, it is also tedious to draw a scene, what feels like a million times, with just enough change to give the impression of movement.

    Thanks for the lesson. I'll have to give it a try. I sure liked your finished project Rachel. :-)

    Sia McKye OVER COFFEE

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  10. Wow, this was really interesting! I think stop-motion films are so fun and it's fascinating how it's done. Thanks for sharing, Rachel, and congrats on winning the video contest!!

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  11. Yvonne -- You never know when you might start putting your favorite songs to video interpretation.

    Jeremy -- Gumby was one of my heroes when I was in college. That's when I experimented with stop motion.

    Matthew Waffles -- Rachel did it with finesse.

    Rachel -- Thank you for being here today and for the helpful information. Who knows? You might have inspired some budding filmmaker.

    Alex -- I haven't seen any Wallace and Grommit films yet though I've seen excerpts.

    Suze -- Do you have any samples to share? I have some on 8mm that I hope to transfer to digital one day.

    Matthew McNish -- It did add something unique.

    Jeremy -- Yes, the 3 minute reels and the wind-up camera. Fun times for sure.

    Sia -- I used to make the flip books in class when I was bored. I even did it in some of my textbooks for some students to enjoy in following years.

    Laura -- It is a fun thing to dabble in. Thanks for stopping by.

    Lee

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  12. I want to add, I made my first "Dog" video... and used the free editor from Windows... it's not stop motion, but I am happy...

    thanks again for the post, learning something new everyday!

    Jeremy [Retro-Z]

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  13. Love the vid and stop motion in general oh, and Wallace and Gromit and Aardman animation! Stop motion is not used enough these days, I actually took a stop motion class in college and it was good fun! Great post!

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  14. The Hoth battle in Empire is the most amazing stop-motion ever.

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  15. Alex, Matthew, Jeremy - Thanks, guys!

    Suze - I wish I could have taken those kinds of classes at university!

    Sia - If I could draw decently, I'd do that! I tried it with stick men once. The effect was still cool, even though the stick man was kinda boring!

    Laura - It was fun to do, even though it took a while :-)

    Missy - You're another person who got to take a cool college class! My BSc courses were mostly kinda boring!

    Andrew - If it's the "most amazing stop motion ever" then I guess I'll have to look that up!

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  16. Way to Go Rachel! Entertaining post. Thanks for featuring her, Lee.

    My daughter uses Movie-Maker. You've reminded me that I have a resource right here at home.

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  17. I was inspired by Rachel to try stop-motion for one of my A to Z posts, so I'm really glad she described her process. We'll see how mine goes - if I can make it work, it will be for the letter 'i'.

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  18. Anita - You should ask your daughter to show you how to use Movie Maker.

    Jocelyn - Yay! I must try and remember to visit your blog on I-day :-)

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  19. Love this video and the music too! Thanks for putting this together for us. Very cool!

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  20. I've never tried stop motion; or any other type of film, for that matter. It looks and sounds like fun, though. :)

    Read and enjoyed Guardian!

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  21. I haven't tried stop motion myself, but I've helped a few students set it up - they've loved it! :)

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  22. My video for the video challenge was kind of like that, except I used Paint program to create all the pictures, maybe closer to old cartoon movies than stop motion. It sure took a lot of pictures, maybe two hundred or so, but with Paint, you can just copy and paste and fill in the missing color as you go along.

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  23. I loved your video, Rachel! I didn't do one. I know, I should have tried.

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  24. Stephen - You're welcome!

    Golden Eagle & Gemi - Maybe you guys should try it out sometime :-)

    Ron - I remember yours. I want to try one out on my computer sometime, as opposed to taking photos.

    Ciara - It's too late for the challenge, but it's not too late to still make a video to advertise the challenge!

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  25. Tim Burton did the stop motion animation thing better than I ever could, so I am not even going to try.

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  26. Ah it seems so simple now, thanks for the explanation. I might just give it a go! :)

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  27. Wow, didn't realize that is what it was called. How cool is the entire process and just to have that creativity! Thanks for sharing...getting revved up for A to Z Challenge myself!

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  28. Hi Y'all,

    Love the idea...now if my Human will only figure out video...

    Y'all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

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  29. I find this absolutely amazing. It takes time and lots of talent to be able to make these videos. Amazing.

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  30. Nellie - Yeah, I could never hope to be as good as Tim Burton!

    Anna - I hope you do give it a try :-)

    Tracy - I'm a little unprepared for the A to Z Challenge still, but also getting 'revved up'!

    browndogcbr, Miranda & Pa Ul - Thanks!

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  31. Great information. Thanks for sharing it. The video was cute.

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  32. The results were great. Thanks for sharing the technique!

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  33. Thank you Rachel for taking time to leave this post and a big thanks to all who left their comments.

    Lee

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  34. That seems like a lot of work, but really awesome, too! Thanks!

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  35. This is a nice and easy tutorial that Rachel made for stop motion video, here. I will have to come back to it if I consider doing something with stop motion in the future.

    No, I haven't dabbled in stop-motion but did consider buying an 8mm film camera a few years ago. Not too long ago, I got a 16mm camera that I still haven't done anything with to this day. *sigh* SMH, I know!

    I did, however, toy around with some ideas last year for a comedy short film that I might apply experimental techniques on. I put those plans to the side, however, to work on another short movie that I planned to finish shooting before the end of Winter -- and unfortunately, I missed that boat.

    Since I don't watch a lot of animation or stop motion films, it would be unfair for me to select a favorite at this time -- truth be told, I can't even really think of one off-hand that I've watched.

    No, I haven't read The Guardian. I am currently reading like three different books...all non-fiction, that I am not even sure if I will finish reading them.

    This tutorial makes stop-motion seem to simple and easy to do that I just might try and put something together!

    ~Nicole
    Blog: The Madlab Post
    @MadlabPost on Twitter

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  36. Stop motion takes a lot of work in time investment, but it's relatively easy to accomplish.
    Nicole, you should give it a shot.

    Lee

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  37. How very informative. I made a stop motion video years ago using cut paper and a video camera. Frankly, this technique sounds a million times easier. What is this A-Z thing you guys are talking about? Just kidding. Everybody knows! This is going to be great!

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