I had the pleasure of creating a book trailer for my Young Adult Materials class, and my project partner (Ada) and I decided to take the opportunity to try our hand at stop-motion animation.

It was a fun and fulfilling project, but there are some things we learned along the way that would be helpful for anyone starting a project to know before they begin.

Some questions you should ask yourself:

#1: How much time do you have?

Ada and I managed to cut down the actual photographing for our film by taking only two photos per planned second of film (rather than the recommended 10 photos per second of film), so that part only took around three hours.

What neither of us expected was that it would take so long to actually craft all of the backdrops and characters you see in the film. We each spent several hours working individually on these pieces. (Though we both had a lot of fun!)

#2: How many photos do you need to take?

Ada and I planned each scene, wrote a script, and then recorded the audio for the trailer before beginning filming. This means we knew the following in advance of filming: 

  • Which backdrops and character pieces we needed for the film;
  • How long each scene needed to be in order to match the timing in the audio; and,
  • Therefore we also knew how many photos we needed for each scene.

Knowing all of this ahead of time was super important because it is very difficult to go back and take more shots later.

#3: Are you able to shoot the entire film in one sitting?

Ada and I managed to shoot the entire film in one sitting over the course of a few hours, which means we didn’t have to worry about setting up everything exactly the same for a second set of shooting.

However, if you know you can’t shoot the entire film in one sitting, plan which scenes need to have the same lighting so you can at least shoot those scenes in the same sitting.

#4: What supplies do you need?

We used a digital point-and-shoot camera and a tripod for our shoot, but we found that having more sophisticated supplies could have helped make the video a bit more sophisticated. Some advice on what to bring to your shoot:

  1. A camera with manual settings, not automatic
    • We found we had limited control over the focus, zoom, and light/colour balances because of the automatic nature of our camera.
  2. A remote to take your photos
    • I often bumped the camera when I pushed the button to take a photo, which made our video significantly more jumpy than we had originally anticipated it would be. A remote would have solved this problem.
  3. (Definitely, definitely) a tripod
    • This is one thing we did do right. Using a tripod meant we had to put less work into setting up each individual shot consistently.
  4. Sticky tack, pins, tape, etc.
    • We found having sticky tack on hand invaluable to helping us maintain control over our backdrops and characters in each shot.
  5. A variety of light sources
    • We initially struggled with creating unwanted shadows in our film and could have benefited from having alternative sources of light to better control this.

#5: How are you going to edit it?

We used Camtasia Studio 8 to put our video together with sound. We were easily able to control how long each photo was displayed on screen and had lots of options for cutting and editing the sound to fit the video.

While you shouldn’t run into trouble with creating a stop-motion animation with any kind of video editing software, you should just make sure to check to see what you have access to and if there are any limitations to the software you’re planning on using.