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Getting Started in Stop-motion
So, you’ve been stuck at home during lockdown for nearly a month and you thought now’s the time to become a stop-motion ...
When getting started in stop-motion animation, one of the first questions people ask is what equipment they should have. It can be intimidating knowing where to start and what is compatible, looking at professional and basic options. However, you can create great stop-motion animation from a phone or tablet as well as the latest industry camera, the new mirrorless Canon EOS R. This blog will give you a great starting off point for some essential equipment you need to get started on your own animation journey.
There are only a few basic bits of equipment and software that you will need in order to begin creating your very own stop-motion animations.
· A camera
· A prop/subject of your choice to animate
· Stop-motion software
· Editing software (optional if you’re making a film)
Having these things will put you in great stead when starting out. The quality of these can vary, but as long as you have a system you’re comfortable with, you will be able to start making your own films very quickly.
A+C wasn’t always a commercial studio with three studio spaces and 6 stages as it is today. It started with a garage, hired equipment and a passion for the animation process. Over the last 13 years as a studio, we have expanded, learned new processes, and progressed to the point that we have worked on projects in various styles from Claymation to Papercraft for clients worldwide. Despite this, there are pieces of equipment that we still use today that we started with in that garage 13 years ago.
When choosing a camera for animation, it is probably best to start with what you’d like to achieve and what your budget is.
Webcams are cheap and are a great way to start out. You can even use the built-in camera on your phone or tablet device. The quality of phone cameras now has made them a viable solution when starting out in creating your own stop-motion animations for the first time.
Webcams have great compatibility with almost all stop-motion software that uses a USB connection. Another advantage to webcams is their size, meaning you have greater freedom in how you can frame your shot, even on a small set.
If you find that you are enjoying creating your own films then the next step would be to buy a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera. DSLR cameras are used by all professional production studios for animated commercials, TV series and feature films.
The two main brands to look for in DSLRs would be Canon or Nikon although there are others available. These can cost hundreds of pounds second-hand or thousands brand new.
You’ll also be able to use a variety of different lenses, which is another cost that needs to be factored in as well. At our studio, we use a number of lenses, wide-angle and macro depending on which shot we’re setting up for.
To create stop-motion animation it is important to keep the light consistent, so there is no ‘flicker’, which is created by an unregulated changing light source. The most important thing to keep note of when lighting your set is to make sure there is no natural light, as this cannot be controlled.
Due to the length of time that stop-motion takes to produce, the sun moves along with clouds causing a lot of flicker issues. Avoid this at all costs if you want consistent and controlled lighting throughout your animation.
As for what lights you should use, we would recommend LED lights. They are easy to get hold of, do not overheat during filming, are cheap to use and have a long life, meaning they could last you a fair few years if you find the right light.
Make sure you use an LED light that connects to the mains, as you wouldn’t want a battery-powered light to run out mid-way through filming. This would be a nightmare to change without disrupting the set and light itself.
However, pretty much any light can be used when you are first starting out. Modified lamps and ceiling lights are sometimes all you need. Specialised lights only need to start being introduced once you become more confident and ambitious with your ideas. At the studio, we use a number of Arri, Kino-Flo and Dedolight kits which run through a programmable desk.
Choosing a style for your animation can sometimes be one of the hardest things that hold you back from getting started. Experimenting with tests and styles would always be our recommendation to see what you enjoy. There are a number of books and exercises when starting out. There are so many options to choose from including Papercraft, Claymation, puppet animation, or even household products that you want to bring to life.
With the exception of the household product animation, each of these will require crafting materials in order to make them. One of the items we use all the time here at the studio is aluminium animation wire. It is perfect for animation as it holds its shape easily when bent, making it great for holding small props in the air as well as creating internal skeletons for your animation puppets.
Really, anything you can think of can be used as a prop in stop-motion animation and experimenting with animating different objects in different ways is what helps you develop your own style.
There are so many options when looking for stop-motion software. We have narrowed it down to three options that we feel will cover you no matter what level you are animating at.
Dragonframe is the industry standard of stop-motion software. It is used by all major studios, such as Aardman and Laika. It is widely compatible with most cameras, as well as having an intuitive interface with lots of features to play with and help you when animating.
AnimaShooter is a piece of software that is perfect for anyone just starting out with PC-based stop-motion animation. It may have fewer features than Dragonframe but the main advantage of this software is its price, as it is considerably cheaper than Dragonframe.
The final option we recommend is a phone app called Stop Motion Studio. It is a beginner piece of software for anyone starting out. It is free for the basic version, with the full version only costing £5. The app uses your phone camera and is great to just set up and quickly shoot something. Your finished shots can be transferred to your PC ready for editing once the animation has finished.
When starting out, you will only need some basic editing software to combine all of your different animated shots into one animated film. Some of the most popular choices for editing would be Final Cut, Adobe Premiere Pro and Sony Vegas Pro. These all require a PC to use, but they are essential in the final step of creating your own films.
If you are getting more serious and ambitious about your shots, you will need post-production software. This will allow you to do things like remove wires from shots and colour correct your footage to a greater degree. Having effects software to hand will really boost your stop-motion films.
The best thing to take into consideration when thinking about trying stop-motion animation is that no matter what resources you have available, it is completely possible to make them work to your advantage.
Whether you are filming on a professional camera or a phone, creating your own props or animating things you find around the house, as long as you have a creative idea and some patience you can make compelling stop-motion animations.
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