Disclaimer: This article was written by a fan of stop motion, not someone who has worked with this technique before.

Stop motion is cool, nothing more, and nothing less. This technique has been used for years to transform objects into locomotive beings. I’ve recently fallen in love with this technique myself and I can’t stop raving about it.

Here is the low-down:

Stop motion isn’t time lapse. On one hand, stop motion is an animation technique that physically manipulates an object so it appears to move on its own by moving the object in small increments between individually photographed frames. This method creates the illusion of movement when the series of frames are played as a continuous sequence. On the other hand, time lapse is utilized by taking still photographs of a live environment at regular intervals so that the frequency at which film frames are captured is much lower than that used to view the sequence. Thus, when played at normal speed, time appears to be moving faster and thus lapsing.

Stop motion is mostly used in the film industry and at one time, it was long thought to move objects by magic. The first use of this technique in film dates all the way back to 1898 in the Albert E. Smith and J. Stuart Blackton film titled, “The Humpty Dumpty Circus”. In this film, toy circus of acrobats and animals are seen coming to life. From there on, stop motion has been used in several other motion picture films like, King Kong (1933), Clash of the Titans (1981), Star Wars Trilogy, as well as many of Tim Burton’s films, notable ones being, The Nightmare before Christmas (1993) and The Corpse Bride (2005), and much much more.

Of course due to technology advancements with the passing of time, CGI has now taken over some of the significance that stop motion ushered into the world of animation. This switch to more advance technology is also partly because creating an entire film in stop motion is arduous as you’ll have to physically manipulate the position of an object, take a photograph and then repeat that again until the object has moved the entire length you want it to move – imagine, creating a 2-hour animated film entirely in stop motion? This will be a pain, hence why several software and techniques have been created in its place. Nonetheless, for those still interested, a great software to work with when creating a film or video in stop motion is, Dragonframe.

Apart from implementing the right technique when creating a video in stop motion, there are also three basic concepts that every aspiring young filmmaker would need to keep in mind.

  • Time

dinosaur stop motion

Taking your time to fully embody the movement of whatever object it is you want to work with is key. As you will need to make every movement look as natural as possible to the audience. The other thing to remember is that movements that are closer together will slow down the action, while movements that are farther apart will speed it up.

  • Motion Arcs

stop motion

Since not all movements happen in a straight line, because if they did, we’ll all appear to be floating, it is imperative to implement the curved path of movement known as an arc. Using arcs in your animation will create realistic movement that is natural to the eyes.

  • Overlapping Action

stop motion

Always stagger movement by a few frames to create a natural animation. This technique becomes incredibly crucial when dealing with complex scenes involving multiple objects moving separately or the elaborate movement of one character (i.e. playing an instrument, multiple characters at a party, etc).

There are several other stop motion concepts but the concise list referenced above was gotten from Josh Funk’s article titled, “The Three Essential Stop Motion Concepts Every Animator Should Know”.

Other cool things to note is that stop motion can be utilized in both 2D and 3D animations. In 2D, you simply draw out the characters you want to work with in your film by either drawing them on paper, capturing a photograph and repeating these steps or using a cut out of the objects you want to work with and then giving them a free range of motion in your film. The other avenue for stop motion is in 3-D animation using clay or play-doh objects, action figures, dolls and much more.

Some examples of stop motion films/videos:






The brass tacks of it is that stop-motion is pretty neat and it’s a technique for anyone that is an aspiring filmmaker or videographer interested in breathing life into inanimate objects.

IMAGE CREDITS: Natalia, Santi Molina, Jonas Smith and Efrén Rodríguez