How to Produce a Stop Motion Video
We like to experiment with all different types of videos, including stop motion videos from time to time. Stop motion is an animation technique that we’ve used to add quirky visual effects to our videos. We’ve experimented with this hands-on technique to celebrate the holidays, thank our customers, and evenadvertise Wistia.
In this guide, we’ll be covering a few basic steps for making your next stop motion video or sequence.
Stop motion works with all different subjects — people, cars, umbrellas… anything that can move is fair game. Heck, you can make two bananas walk down a street and do a jig if you want to! At Wistia, we’ve mainly focused on small-scale handmade stop motion scenes (because they’re more manageable), and we’ve learned a few things along the way about creating a makeshift studio. Read on to learn all of our secrets.
Setting up a stop motion studio
If you aren’t planning on building a more permanent stop motion studio in your office, here are a few quick tips to set up your own stop motion studio on the go!
Get yourself a solid table that doesn’t have wheels (or if it does, make sure you can lock them in position). This will make sure your setup and shot won’t move from frame to frame in your video.
Try to find a room where you can block out all natural light. Light from the sun can change quickly, and the slightest shift (from a cloud or the sun changing position) will be noticeable in your video. If you can find a closet that fits a table and your camera setup, you’re in luck. Conference rooms work great too! Your goal is to have flat, even light, just like you would use for a talking head video. A lot of times, one well-placed light with some diffusion will do the trick. You can use softboxes or key lights to achieve this effect, or a clip light can work just as well. Just watch out for any hotspots or reflections.
Seamless paper works great for stop motion videos. We’ll usually opt for the 4-foot paper roll as opposed to the 9-foot, since we’re working with a smaller video frame. We grab a couple of light stands, a cross bar, and our paper color of choice. Then, we use clips to fasten the paper to the table.
Once you’ve locked down your table’s position, you’ll want todo the same with your camera. For a quick stop motion setup, and not a permanent installation, we use just a regular old tripod. Make sure your tripod legs and center column are all locked down, as well as the tripod head. If you’ve got a sandbag handy, try clipping it to your tripod to add some extra weight.
Since stop motion is all pictures, you have complete control over the frame rate and the quality. We’ll usually shoot in JPEG instead of RAW for a quicker workflow in post, and set the quality at medium. Most stop motion videos are between 12fps and 24fps (1920×1080). You can decide what style you want to shoot in, so experiment
Shoot a few pictures before you start any action and a few more after the action ends. This will help with timing, and it might come in handy if you end up needing to insert black space into your edit. Blank frames can also be useful if you want to “pause” the motion at any point in your video.
If you mess up one section of the video, start that section over again. Just like shooting a live-action video, you can do multiple takes!
If production goes well, this process should actually go pretty quickly. Dump all the pictures into a folder and then head into Premiere. With Premiere open, go to File > Import and navigate to the first picture you took.
Select that picture and check “Image Sequence.” This will turn all of your pictures into one cohesive timelapse, which is essentially what a stop motion video is. From here, all you need to do is adjust the timing and pacing, add some music (and sound effects), and pat yourself on the back. You did it! Now get out there and starting animating!
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