DIY animation: what is stop-motion animation & how to try it at home

By Thevagi Selvamaney

Lecturer, School of Creative Arts & Design 

What is stop-motion animation?

Stop-motion animation is a filmmaking technique in which objects are physically moved in small increments and captured one frame at a time so that when played back, they will give the illusion of motion. If one thinks of a flip book, stop motion is similar, only, it uses physical objects instead of drawings. This kind of animation takes a fairly long time to execute as it is estimated that twelve frames (or pictures) are about one second of video. There are a few types of stop-motion animation and they include manipulating objects, clay, people, cut-outs, puppets, and more.

People have been using stop motion for years. Get to know this old-age animation technique before high-tech CGI was even a thing. Which type of stop-motion animation you choose will determine your limitations. The material and physical nature of each type comes with its own challenges.


Types of Stop Motion Animation

Object Motion

This is also known as ‘Object Animation’, and it’s simply the moving of objects per frame. Because you get to create stories using any of the objects around you, there is great possibility here.


Claymation involves altering clay objects in each frame. Using wires and clay, you can get incredibly inventive and creative with the types of figures we see onscreen. Classic examples of this are Gumby and DreamWorks’ Chicken Run.

Pixilation Stop Motion

It is not used all the time because it means ‘animating people’. It takes a long time so the level of patience you need for an actor to move just a little bit in every frame, and the number of frames you’d need, will not only test their patience but probably your budget assuming you’re paying them. The amount of control they have with their movement is also a factor. But if done well, this kind can look interesting. Sometimes though, it kind of gives some people a headache.

Cut-Out Animation

Cut-out-motion or animation is great because there are so many things you can do with cut-outs. For example, 2D pieces of paper may seem lifeless, but you can colour them and cut them to express a level of detail unlike any of the other styles. The cartoonish route you can experiment with is a ton of fun, but also significantly more controlled through your own art and detail. However, cutting up hundreds of pieces of paper may be a little overwhelming.

Puppet Animation

Puppets can produce some interesting results and tell very unique stories, but the trouble can come later, when you’re dealing with a ton of strings in the shot. Experienced stop-motion animators probably have no problem with this but it may not be the best type to work with initially. These are conventional-style puppets. Often, animators refer to their wire-based clay covered figure as a puppet, which also falls under claymation.

Make a Stop-Motion Video at Home

Now that you have a good understanding of what stop motion is, it’s time to try it. Rob from Science Filmmaking Tips takes us through his process of doing stop motion at home. Click on this link and take a look.

Here’s What You Need

If you have a smartphone, you’re nearly good to go. Many stop motion apps are free, and special add-ons are available with additional fees but they are optional. The app entitled Stop Motion works well, especially for your first few stop-motion projects.

Don’t kid yourself into thinking you need fancy cameras or expensive software to pull this off. You really don’t. If you have the relevant gear, even better. If you have a reliable DSLR, it would be awesome.


Launch the Stop Motion app in your phone and start taking pictures. It captures one picture at a time and adds each one to a timeline. You can scroll through these shots and see if any looks off, and simply delete them.

What to Consider Before Stop-Motion Videos

1.Your camera needs to be steady

Having a good setup helps with this. You’ll see in the video how Rob sets up his iPad to avoid any shakiness in the frame. Most likely though, you’ll either be using a tripod to limit camera shake or set your phone down in a stable position.

2. Don’t touch the camera

You’ll have the cleanest looking stop-motion animation if you avoid hitting the button every time. Try triggering the camera to a picture by using either a remote trigger (not expensive) or just set a timer on the app to take a picture every few seconds.

3.Shoot manually

No “auto” setting for anything here – keep your shutter speed the same for each frame taken, such as aperture and white balance. All of it needs to be the same for each picture taken. You can choose the settings first and lock them on the app. If you’re not working with the app, just make sure your settings are the same for every picture. If you keep them on auto. As you move the objects, the settings will adjust themselves, potentially creating a flicker from frame to frame.

4.Get your lighting right

Shooting indoors is best because it’s controllable and keeps us away from ever-changing light. Be mindful of windows, and of course it depends on how in-depth you’re getting. For your first test run, just keep the lighting basic, where you can clearly see your objects, and where the light won’t be changing much. Sometimes being outside of the frame can cause shadows, and minor flickerings can be seen. Some people like that flickering, sometimes it even goes with the animation, but just make sure that it does go, and that it isn’t jarring to your project.

5.Frame rate

You don’t need to get too in-depth with this early on, but you do need to know how many frames you need to shoot to get the sequence you want. Typically, as mentioned above, twelve pictures or frames equals about one second of video. Your video may only be a few seconds, otherwise you start getting into that super jittery-looking stop motion.


As you’re shooting your silent stop-motion animation, you can think of unique ways to add in your audio later. Notice how Rob does it as he scrunches up paper for his opening of “52 Things.”

Have fun with it!


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