I get asked a lot about the animation projects my students do, so here is a page all about it. Working on animation projects in the classroom or computer lab can be as simple or as complicated as you wish to make it. Programs kids can use to animate range from free to “I need to write a grant for this.” There are other considerations, such as video editing software, lighting, cameras, microphones, etc.
Here are the two basic setups.
Stop Motion Animation
- Video camera or digital camera
- Stop motion animation software (such as iStopMotion by Boinx Software)…or not. You can do this with a still camera, it just requires more planning.
- Video editing software
- Materials for sets, characters, objects
Stop motion is usually thought of as “claymation,” but students can use a variety of materials besides “clay.” I’ve had a student make a stop motion with origami paper and it was really great. Everyday objects can be used in creative ways to tell stories or to demonstrate understanding of concepts. You don’t have to foot the bill for a bunch of modeling clay (but where that is concerned, Model Magic is the least messy and is cheap). Using stop motion software makes filming easier because these programs have what is called an onion skin, which basically is a translucent layer of the last shot, allowing students to see how much they have moved the figures (or if bad luck has it, if someone bumped the camera).
Using a regular digital still camera to take pictures as opposed to using software can be done. You have to pay close attention to what is being moved and keep that camera in one place. Keep in mind, a choppy, lumbering stop motion will have at least three frames per second. For smoother movements, a faster frame rate (more frames per second) and smaller adjustments to the figures is the way to go. There is something to be said for less frames per second–the bigger movements, smaller number of shots needed means less chance for the filming to become tedious. Afterward, import the pictures into a video editor and set each frame to .3 seconds or so, and play it back to see how it looks. Remember that you can also use action cycles, which is using video editing software to repeat a small section of frames over and over again, such as walking or talking.
As a Mac user, I am not versed in stop motion animation with PCs. So, I can only offer a lesson plan with the software and computer that I use.
- Animation software (such as Stykz, Kerpoof Make-a-Movie, Powerpoint, iStopMotion, Scratch, Pencil, etc.)
- Video or digital camera (if using iStopMotion)
- Video editing software
- Art supplies
This option for animation can be a lot less exhausting, and more importantly, less expensive. Stykz, Scratch, and Pencil, for example, are all free, more traditional 2D animation programs that you can download for Mac, Windows, or Linux. Kerpoof, an online suite of art and writing applications (www.kerpoof.com), is free for educators and allows you to set up student accounts. The “Make a Movie” feature is super fun, very cartoony, and tells stories with speech bubbles, text boxes, and scene transitions. Characters can be animated, you can add titles and fade-outs, even special effects. Also, they have a break-dancing Humpty Dumpty character. Yes, it ends badly.
Don’t count out presentation software like Powerpoint or Google Presentation (free, by the way). By setting the slides to transition very quickly (less than a second), you can get a neat animated effect similar to a flip book.
Lastly, you can line animate with iStopMotion. Draw a little, take a shot, draw a little, take a shot, etc. Also, the flip book style animation works with this program as well, but that is a big project to undertake.