Does your child enjoy drawing?
How about playing with action figures?
Does he or she have a flair for the dramatic?
If your answer to all three of these questions was a resounding “yes!”, you might want to consider introducing them to the world of stop-motion animation.
To be sure, the process of creating a stop-motion video is a bit more involved than the process of, say, creating a comic book full of still images.
However, you certainly can help your child create simple stop-motion animations without breaking the bank – introducing them to a whole new world of artistic expression in the process.
Here’s what you’ll need:
A Camera and Accessories
Obviously, you’ll need a camera in order to create stop-motion animation.
But, again, you don’t need to go overboard, here. For your purposes, most modern digital cameras should do the trick. If you already have one, great! If not, you can easily find one that will fit your needs for less than $200. (Of course, you can use your new purchase for more than just this activity, too!)
You might also want to consider purchasing a zoom lens in addition to your camera’s stock option. Though not absolutely necessary, it could add some flare to your kiddo’s first videos.
The other piece of equipment you do need is a tripod. This ensures the camera remains steadily focused on your child’s scene, and allows them to focus on all the other (literally) moving parts of the process.
Animation and Effects Software
After you and your child have taken enough still shots to create an animation, you’ll still need to actually put them all together.
Software such as Dragonframe allows you to do so with relative ease. With Dragonframe, you can watch a created animation “on the fly” via an attached USB device – meaning you won’t need to upload your still frames to your computer just to see how your video turned out. You can also use Dragonframe to do some minor editing while shooting your animation, as well as after the fact.
You might also consider checking out Adobe After Effects, which, as the name implies, allows you to add special effects to your kiddo’s animation after it’s been created. Again, though not essential, your child will definitely get a kick out of everything After Effects can do.
A Quick Note on Camera and Effects Software
If your goal is to simply gauge your child’s interest in stop-motion animation, and you want to start small, consider using your iPad, along with the iStopMotion app to help them create their first stop-motion film.
While this is a good place to get started, if your child really shows an interest in the process, you definitely want to consider investing in the equipment mentioned above.
When we say “support equipment,” here, we really mean support equipment.
In other words, you need materials that will allow the “characters” of your child’s animation to stay upright (or in whatever position they need to be placed in). Think metal tubing or metal strips, blocks of wood, and dowels – anything that can be placed behind the characters to steady them during shooting while remaining out of the shot.
For “floating” or “flying” characters, your best bet is to purchase a spool of aluminum wiring. This will enable your child to position the characters in the exact position needed to mimic a flying sensation from shot to shot.
Lastly, you’ll need some heavy duty tape to keep everything in place as needed. Obviously, clear tape (such as packing tape) works best in terms of staying out of view of the audience.
Materials for the Show
Of course, your child’s movie needs characters, right?
This part is all up to you and your kiddo. You might simply choose to use stuffed animals or action figures. Or, you could go the Tim Burton route and create your own characters out of clay. Your child might even decide to draw characters in various positions, swapping out each illustration as need be throughout the video.
You’ll also probably want to create a backdrop, a well. Again, your child might draw their own, or they could create one with construction paper and other materials. Or, keeping it really simple, your child might just use their own room as the background. It’s up to them!
The final thing you and your child need to bring to the table is an open, imaginative mind, patience, and the willingness to experiment, fail, and try, try again.
If your child really wants to dive into the world of stop-motion animation, you should definitely consider signing him or her up for Club SciKidz’ Camp Stop Motion Explosion. At our five-day camp, your child will learn the ins and outs of stop-motion animation – from preparing and designing films to editing and presenting them. Happy creating!