Just imagine creating the figure below, and then making it walk, all by itself, across the surface of Mars! Imagine a fascinating world where everyday objects magically move at your command.

lego on mars

You can make your own spectacular movies using a simple special effect called stop motion animation.

Maybe you haven't realised, but you've probably already seen shows on TV or at the cinema which were made with stop motion.  Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, Wallace and Gromit, and Shaun the Sheep are just some of the clever productions which use stop motion to bring the characters to life.

What is Stop Motion?

To understand how stop motion animation works, you first need to know how a movie is made.  A live action movie is made up of a whole lot of still pictures called frames.  A movie camera takes lots of pictures very quickly one after another.  If all those pictures are shown back to you, one at a time and also very quickly, your brain is tricked into thinking that your eyes are seeing real movement.  This is called Persistence of Vision.

With animation in movies such as Toy Story or The Lion King,  each picture or frame is drawn by hand or with a computer.  These pictures are then put together to make the movie.

Stop motion animation (sometimes also called stop frame animation) is kind of a mixture of both live action and animation.  You set up a scene, take one photo, then move the scene just a little bit.  Then you take another photo, and repeat.  When all the photos are put together, you create the illusion that objects are moving.

Make Your Own Stop Motion Movies

You can create characters and sets using everyday objects ... toys, pebbles, pantry items, flowers ... whatever you like.  Lego works well.  Modelling clay is great because it's easy to work with and it lets you be imaginative.  You can even use paper. 

clay elephant

To make your own stop motion videos, all you need is an idea, a camera with a stand, a computer or device with an app or software to put your photos together, and a lot of patience.

The reason for needing patience is that to make just one second of your movie, you will need at least 12 photos.  The more photos (frames) per second, the more smoothly your movie will move.  The movies you see at the cinema show 24 frames per second.

You can use the camera on most devices (like a phone or tablet) to shoot your movie.  You must be able to keep your camera completely still, so you will need some sort of tripod or stand.  You can make a simple stand for a phone or tablet using Lego or bulldog/binder clips (instructions here).

It is also important to be aware of the light around you.  Changes in lighting are very obvious in stop motion, so remember that the sun moves and shadows move with it.  It's best to try and light your scenes yourself if you can.

All of this is great advice, but really the best thing to do is just get started and learn as you go.

Start with something simple, and then as you learn you can move on to make more complicated movies.

This great video shows how it is done ...

Once you have made your movie, you can keep it to yourself, or show it off on a video sharing site like YouTube.  If you decide to share, don't forget to send us a link so we can check it out!

Stop Motion Apps & Software

There are lots of different types of apps and software available to create stop motion movies.  What you need will depend firstly on your computer and camera device, and then how much you want to be able to control each part of your video.  The more features on the software, the more professional you will be able to make your video look.

If you have an iPad, try iStopMotion for iPad.  You can also download a free app called iStopMotion Remote Camera, which lets you use your iPhone or iPod touch as the camera.  Boinx also makes iStopMotion software for your Mac.

For Android devices, try Clayframes.  You can give it a try for free by downloading Clayframes Lite.

from Google play store


Remember when choosing software that the more advanced settings on apps will give you control over camera settings like exposure, focus or white balance.  These will help your finished film look more realistic, but will also make the process more complicated.

Professional Stop Motion Animation

If you'd like to learn more about stop motion, this interesting video shows how much planning and work goes into producing the show Timmy

We hope you're inspired to try and create your very own stop motion movie!