Contact Us at +44(0)7791109049 george@gfphoto.co.uk  
George Fairbairn
Photography, Social Media Content, and Stop Motion

Blog

5 Ways to Improve Your Stop Motion Animations

5_Five_Ways_to_Improve_Your_Stop_Motion_Animations.jpg

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Stop Motions

Stop motion animation is one of the most popular ways that brands are creating content on social media today. It’s eye catching. It’s engaging. It’s easy. These three things are what makes it so popular, not only today, but throughout history. With the rise of social media, and the need to create original content almost daily, stop motion has seen a huge surge in popularity.

What is Stop Motion Animation

The most basic definition of stop motion is a series of photographs that create movement when played at a high rate in sequence. That is it. There are many different types of stop motion animations, and many different ways to employ it to create a video. But, at it’s most basic form, it is simply playing a series of photographs at a high rate.

Many of the stop motion animations that I create for social content are pretty basic. They are a series of photographs with small changes made in between each shot. When played together at a higher rate, it creates the sense of movement and video. The video below is a perfect example of this. It’s short, very simple, but creates fun and eye catching content.

Why Stop Motion

Stop motion is extremely popular amongst social media creators for a number of reasons. The most popular reasons are:

  • eye catching - quite often you are bringing to life something that isn’t typically brought to life. This stops viewers and forces them to look.

  • engaging - stop motion animations (if done correctly) will bring about something that makes people want to engage with the content. The right caption and post goes a long way to helping, but the animation gives you the ammunition for creating engagement

  • Anyone can do it - It can be incredibly easy to create an animation. There are a host of apps available for your phone that will allow you to create one with your phone. You don’t need expensive equipment to create a stop motion animation.

How to Make Them Better

Given the accessibility of creating stop motion animations, you will see a lot of them on social media. You will also see a lot of bad ones on social media. People generally have the right idea with their animations, but they aren’t taking the time and steps that will make them better. Below, are 5 ways to make your stop motion animations better, even if you are just using a phone.

1. Use a Tripod

It might sound obvious, but if you aren’t using a tripod for your stop motion animations, you aren’t making the best animation you can make. No matter how steady your hand is, you are going to see shaking in the final animation. This shaking can easily be fixed by shooting your animation using a tripod. There are plenty of tripods for phones as well as cameras. They can vary in price from very cheap to very expensive. Your tripod doesn’t have to be fancy when you are just starting out. You just need something to keep the camera or phone still.

2. Use Consistent Lighting

Another common mistake that I see with stop motion animations is inconsistent lighting. The three most common mistakes I see with lighting on stop motion animations are:

  • Bad or non-existent lighting

  • Changing lighting

  • Shadows from the people creating the animation

All three of these things can easily be avoided, and sometimes you don’t need to spend any money. The first thing you can do is to NOT use the lighting in your office or workspace. Overhead lighting from the ceiling is almost always going to be the worst lighting that you can use. Not only that, but it will inevitable cast a shadow onto the scene if you are shooting it from above. Instead, setup your scene next to a window. Window light is almost always good light, especially if it’s an overcast day. The problem with window light though is that as the sun moves, so does the light. If your shoot is going to take more than a few minutes, be prepared to see the light shift.

Invest in lighting. You can get continuous lighting kits for photography quite cheap online. You don’t need anything fancy here. If you are shooting on a tripod (which you already should be now) you just need something to cast light onto your scene consistently and in the same direction. A lamp will work just as well as expensive lighting equipment will. The important thing here is to use dedicated light for your animation.

3. Keep it Clear

Keep the area you are shooting your stop motion animation in clear of other people and animals. There is nothing worse than getting part way through your animation and having something come along and bump the table or knock things over and forcing you to start over. You don’t need to have a dedicated space for your animations. But, it is a good idea to make sure you are shooting somewhere where you won’t be influenced by outside influences… even yourself. Take care when animating and don’t bump things or knock things over!

4. Know Your Frame Rate

Now this one may not initially fall into the “easy” ways to improve your stop motions… but it is, I promise. Even if you are using an app on your phone, they will almost always tell you the frame rate, or give you the option to set your frame rate.

What is a frame rate? Put simply, the frame rate is the rate that the photos will be played per second. Typical stop motions for social media are shot at either 6 frames per second (fps), or 12 frames per second (fps). This would mean that at 6 fps you would need 6 photos for every second of video. At 12 fps, you would need 12 photos for each second of video. This is important in creating good content and is one of the easiest ways to improve your animations.

A common “mistake” that you see in stop motion is that something starts moving, and then either suddenly moves very fast, or very slowly. This is usually because the creator didn’t know their frame rate and had to make a sudden adjustment to finish the animation. If you know your frame rate ahead of time, you can easily visualise or calculate your movements. This is especially true for very simple animations where you want one thing to move from point A to point B. If you are shooting at 6 fps, and want the object to take 3 seconds to move from A to B, you know you need 18 photos to get there. It doesn’t have to be exact, but knowing this will make the movement more fluid and less “jerky” and make a huge difference in the perception of the animation.

5. Plan

This is something you are most likely already doing, but probably not enough. You most likely have your idea, and know what you want to happen and in what order you want it to happen in. But, most of the time that is where the planning stops. Things that you should take into account when planning are:

  • How long is the animation going to be

  • What frame rate am I going to shoot at

  • How long does “this” happen

  • How long does “that” happen

  • How am I going to make “this” happen (propping things up with blue tack, rotating objects, making them float, spelling things out)

  • Where is the light and am I (or someone else) going to get in the way of it

  • What angle(s) do I want to shoot from, and what angle(s) are best for it

The list honestly could go on and on. But, the truth is the more you plan the easier the stop motion will be to shoot and the better the result will be.

Conclusion

Creating stop motion animations are extremely fun, and can be extremely easy. Creating simple animations can be done by almost anyone with a phone and an app. Taking into consideration these 5 simple tips will instantly make your animations better… and it won’t cost you that much money.

Once you get beyond simple animations, things can start getting a little complicated. Different frame rates for different objects. More editing of the finished animation to remove props, strings, and other accessories used to create the animation etc etc. When it gets to that point, it is probably time to hire a professional. A professional stop motion animator will do everything I listed out above (if they don’t, I would question their professionalism) and will be able to do it in a faster time period that you would be able to.

Most importantly, have fun. Stop motion is all about creating something fun and engaging. Virtually anything is possible, once you figure out how to do it, and you can create truly original and engaging content.

If you can think of other tips to improve you stop motion animations, please feel free to post them below.