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If your favorite movie is The Nightmare Before Christmas and you’re an aspiring filmmaker then you may one day want to try and make stop-motion films. Now I am a fan of Laika Entertainment because the filmmakers their are well-known for making spectacular stop-motion animated features such as ParaNorman, Coraline, and the one I can’t wait to see, Kubo and the Two Strings. There’s something about about that particular animation style and cinematography viewers can admire. The reason why it’s not as popular say live action features is because the process to successfully doing so is painstaking slow.

Check out a clip of my first stop-motion project of me being shot at by a toy model tank.

You can already tell the toy’s movement isn’t so fluid, and the image moves slightly because I bumped the camera during production.  Recently, I posted a question on various filmmaking Facebook groups on what advice experienced filmmakers would give to first time stop-motion filmmakers. The feedback so far has been terrific.

Here are some tips before shooting  your own stop-motion video. I wish I had done more research before I started, and hopefully these tips will help you on  your quest to making movie magic.

1. HAVE PATIENCE!

Right off the bat, if you’re interested in venturing off into stop-motion cinema you need to have patience! Stop-motion cinema is hard to pull off, and it requires a lot of your time and dedication to improve your craft. Don’t think because you’re not having to deal with real actors you have more control over the outcome of project. It’s going to take time and good production skills (camera work, lighting, audio) to properly achieve your vision.

Try making shorts with what you have in your basement, garage, or any other controlled environment and see what happens. Some of the best stop-motion videos on YouTube are made with legos and action figures. Use your imagination but have patience. Grab couple of your friends and just have fun with it.

2. MOUNT YOUR CAMERA AND DON’T TOUCH IT (USE A REMOTE)

Experienced filmmakers have advise to build a hard mount for your camera and….DON’T TOUCH IT when starting principle photography. Meaning, instead of manually shooting the frames do it via remote.

I ran into a similar situation when I shot my first stop-motion project. The position of the camera kept changing through out the video because I kept adjusting the lens and manually shooting. All I had was a tripod holding my camera. I thought I was going to touch the camera less than I actually did and my project paid dearly for it.

You can go to YouTube and look up tutorials on how to build a mount or just buy one on Amazon. Make sure to look at videos on how to use a camera remote to make sure your shots are steady and clean.

3. WATCH A TON OF YOUTUBE TUTORIALS

YouTube is an excellent source for entertainment and hands-on education, so watch as many tutorial videos as you can. Stop-motion cinematography is difficult to pull off and you won’t always get the shots you want. It’s like surrounding yourself with as many teachers and mentors as possible. Some stop-motion animators I would suggest watching would from channels such as:

Those videos  are extremely informative and great for wanting to break into stop-motion filmmaking. These animators and others will teach you the importance of lighting, video production, animation software, and outlining your story.

4. LEARN THE 12 PRINCIPLES OF ANIMATION

The ability to animate objects is figuratively the art of bringing something to life. In turn, you will need to know how people, animals, and things move in their respective environment and everyday life. You will need to know how exaggerate or elevate the patterns of an object’s movements for the purpose of creating a visual narrative. To illustrate this, you should  watch and study the 12 Principles of Animation by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston Tutorial by AlanBeckerTutorials.

  1. Squash & Stretch
  2. Anticipation
  3. Staging
  4. Straight Ahead & Pose to Pose
  5. Follow Through and Overlapping Action
  6. Slow In and Slow Out
  7. Arc
  8. Secondary Action
  9. Timing
  10. Exaggeration
  11. Solid Drawing
  12. Appeal

Most of these principles in this tutorial is dedicated to learning drawn animation but they still apply to telling stories through stop-motion animation. Learn them well and you will have firm grasp of the basics of animation and narrative storytelling.

5. MAKE MISTAKES AND LEARN FROM THEM

This goes without saying you will mess up, and you will mess up big time! Whether you are just starting out or you’ve have been doing stop-motion filmmaking for years, making mistakes helps us learn and grow. But after you make a mistake learn from it! Practice makes perfect, but practicing the right way will build skill and talent. Remember don’t let your first couple of failures get in the way of finishing something great.

Please send us links to some of your stop-motion short films in the comments below for us to enjoy. We’d be happy to do a shout out of your work on our Facebook page.

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About the author

Is a Brigham Young University-Idaho graduate with a Bachelors Degree in Communication. He has experience in journalism and video production. One of his favorite movies is Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. His favorite superhero is Spider-Man. He lives in Rexburg, Idaho with his lovely wife.

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