The world of animated music videos is one that allows for experimentation and short storytelling. It’s an opportunity to be creative over a few minutes, using animation to give meaning to the lyrics and rhythm of the music. Stop-motion animation techniques have been applied in so many amazing ways in music videos that we felt that we just had to talk about some of our favourites! Here are our top 10 stop-motion animation music videos for you to enjoy.
1: Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer
Arguably this video is the most famous use of stop-frame animation in a music video. Sledgehammer was a smash hit in the 1980s, and we think the video can take some credit for that because it’s just so good! Animated by Aardman Animations very early-on in the studio’s prestigious history, the video uses so many different techniques to bring the song to life. Pixilation is the most used throughout. This is the process of animating a person in the same way you would a stop-motion puppet traditionally. The technique becomes even more impressive when you see that Peter Gabriel perfectly lip syncs to the whole film despite it being done frame by frame. A great video that is still one of the best out there even today.
2: James – Moving On
Making a person feel emotion with your work is always the aim for any animator. To achieve this with very minimalist puppets is a no easy task. In this video, animator Ainslie Henderson hits the mark with truly powerful effect for this beautiful, elegantly animated video. All characters and visual elements are created from yarn, and the video uses this as an integral story point. It focusses on the themes of loss and rebirth and may well bring a tear to your eye.
3: The White Stripes – Fell in Love with a Girl
Everyone at our studio loves this video – 1. because it was directed by Michel Gondry and 2. because the whole thing is made using LEGO (we love LEGO). The video is fast-paced and colourful to match the upbeat and energetic song. Rotoscoping is a technique used in the animation. This involves using overlay footage and tracing or copying the movements to create a very realistic and flowing animation. This process is usually saved for 2D animation, but seeing it being used for LEGO stop-motion is amazing.
4: Kina Grannis – In Your Arms
Sweet in two ways, In Your Arms uses 288,000 jelly beans in creating the animated backgrounds of this music video. Beautiful 2D animation is used as a base for the stop-motion that takes place throughout the video, all the while Kina Grannis is interacting with the entirely animated environment. Throughout the video we transition between different scenes with a seamless flow. It’s a joy to watch and perfectly fits with the music.
5: Coldplay – Strawberry Swing
Another video to utilise pixilation but on such a large scale! The video follows a superhero as he faces lots of challenges during his adventures. The video is shot from above a street that becomes a chalk-drawn backdrop for everything that is going on throughout the video. Taking a top-down view when using this technique allows you to create the illusion of lots more movement. This coupled with a dynamic and ever-changing background really makes it feel like you’re going on a journey.
6: Radiohead – Burn the Witch
A real blast from the past for some of you, Burn the Witch uses the same style of puppets from the animated TV series Camberwick Green. This show from the mid 60s showcased the daily lives of the residents of a small British village. Radiohead took this simple and charming style of animation and completely flipped it on its head by using it to present a similar story to The Wicker Man. This juxtaposition between the simple designs and the harsh subject matter make for a really interesting short film. Coupled with the music, the animation only gets more and more sinister as it goes on.
7: Husky – Ghost
Using cross stitch in animation seems like a momentous task. However, the video for Husky’s song Ghost shows that it can be done. Using a base of 2D animation and live action footage, hundreds of individual frames of animation were stitched and photographed to create a handmade and textured feel to the whole animation.
8: Fleet Foxes – Mykonos
Some stunning paper-craft animation throughout this music video, which takes you on an abstract mystical journey. Mykonos almost feels like a storybook when watching it. The film looks as if it almost takes place entirely on a 2D plane which really adds to this feeling, as well as the one point of light used to illuminate the film. This creates dark shadows throughout the whole animation that give it a striking look. On top of all of this, the film opts to maintain a simple design, mainly focusing on building up its sets using triangles. A truly unique look is created that is definitely worth checking out.
9: Keane – Bedshapped
Lots of more traditional stop-motion techniques were used throughout this video, with its main character being a beautiful puppet. Combined with this and the gorgeously grim setting of a dilapidated city is the use of photographs of the band themselves and eventually, transition into fully drawn 2D animations. This combination of 2D and stop-frame is quite striking and creates a unique effect that fans of animation methods can enjoy.
10: Oren Lavie- Her Morning Elegance
The final video on this list looks at pixilation once more, although this time on a much smaller scale. Everything that happens in this animation occurs on a bed. The only changing factors are what is on the bed and the lighting used for each shot. An over the top but dreamy walk movement is used for our central character that really emphasises the fact that she is asleep, tying into the theme of the bed nicely. Lots of different settings are explored throughout the film that really make the space being used feel a lot bigger than it actually is.
We love stop-motion music videos. They are the playground of ideas for many directors. Creating these short films allows for experimentation, which leads to some beautiful visuals and creative storytelling. If you enjoyed the videos we spoke about in this list and want to find out more about how animations are made, why not download our guide to the stop-motion animation process!