<pre>Welcome to my tiny StopMotion tutorial!
So what is StopMotion / ClayMation?
Surely you have seen "Chicken Run", "Bob", "Wallace&Gromit" or any other stopmotion films on Newgrounds.
A photo of Clay-, Lego- or plasticfigures is being taken, then you move the figures a tiny bit, and you take another picture, and then the whole thing repeats.
If you play the pictures in a fast sequence, it looks like the figures move by themselves.
Since web-cams don't cost much anymore (5-20 dollars, check froogle.com, ebay.com or your local store), everyone can make a simple stopmotion film!
The best thing about this: You dont need to buy any software- not even Macromedia Flash.<br>
I've been searching the Web for weeks now to get all neccesary programs together, so if your web-cam does not include any software for stopmotion, just download the tools I will mention durring the tutorial.
Getting a WEBCAM
Ok ok, enough intro talk.
<br>The first thing you will need is a webcam, as mentioned above. They start at 5 bucks, but you might want a decent USB webcam.<br>
Things to watch out for:
-Resolution should be 640x480 (thats about 300 000 pixels), NOT interlaced
-It should have a lens-adjustment so you can adjust the front to make things nearby sharp.
-It should have a USB connection, since its fast and standard
These are all "should haves", which means it would be good, but if you buy a camera for 5 bucks you cant do much wrong (as long as it works...).
As I said, check ebay or http://www.froogle.com where you can search for prices. Enter "Webcam" and later enter a price range (5-20 dollars).
Check if it will work with your Windows version!
Buy some figures or clay & accessories
This sounds easy, but can be a real mess. DO NOT buy Playdough or any other soft clay, unless you want to make some simple figures.<br>
Soft clay like this will not keep shape, so if you take a break, they will fall or move, which means you can not continue where you have stopped, since you would see the change in the movie.
<br>Don't buy cheap clay; some brands will stick to your hands and the color will be all over the set, the other clay, and on your clothes. Trust me, i know this.
<br>There is some special clay for these things, and it is usualy not as heavy (which means it keeps shape better) and also does not dry out too quickly.
In my first atempt http://www.shawcartoon.com/clay I used tinfoil underneath the elephants belly, to save expensive clay. You might want to pick up a roll of that too.
So, what else will you need- Maybee a plastic or wodden board to work on, colored paper as backgrounds, plastic knives to work with the clay, and many things more. Put a bowl of water and a towel next to the things so you can clean your hands. If you touch black clay and then start working with white clay, you'll know why ;-)
There shall be light
<br>...and lots of it. Light is very importaint, especialy if your takes makes dark pictures.
<br>Desklamps work fine, just do not point them directly at your scene. Point the light at a wall or a object, so it falls back diffusly, otherwise you will have heavy drop-shaddows on everything in your movie.
<br>Surely you could use daylight (windows, outside...), since it is perfect light, but the downside is that you will see that the sun's angle changes durring a long scene, plus clouds will produce ugly brightness-changes, which will show as flickering in your movie.
Getting started with SMA<br>
Ok, now for the first free program in my list:
<br>SMA - Anasazi<br>
You can find it at great sites like http://www.animateclay.com/download.htm
SMA is a small litle tool, there is not much to say. Also check for the update version on the download site.
First install your camera, plug it in (D'oh!) and open SMA which usualy installs in c:\sma .
Goto the "Options"-Menu, click on "Capture Options..." and a setting-window will pop up.
<br>If you are familiar with animation, "fps" should open a drawer in your brain. FPS stands for "Frames per Second".
The human eye is not very fast, it will see a fluent animation if you run through a sequence of 24 pictures per second.
If you want to make a professional movie, you should choose 24 FPS, but that would also mean you need 1440 single pictures for a lousy minute of animation.
<br>Dont worry about the human eye, it will still be OK if you choose something between 6 and 15 to start with. I also have a tool which can alter this later on.
<br>Before you "OK" the Settings, click on the button "Video Format..." and
choose 640x480 or something similar. This will increase the picture quality, but will require a fast Computer and will produce larger files (with a videoeditor you can decrease the size later).
<br>Now OK the settings-windows and you will return to the main program. If you do not see the camera-signal yet, go to "Options" and to "Source..." and choose your webcam.
<br>Put a figure or two infront of the camera and click on the "Start"-Button above the black box which will count the frames.
<br>After you took your first picture, move the figures just a tiny bit
(remember, you need as much pictures for a single second of animation,
as you chose in the FPS settings!).
After you moved your figures a bit, click on the button again, which is now labled "capture".
After you have repeated these actions a few times, click on the PLAY-Arrow below the frame-counter, and you will see your first movie.
This Preview is not verry acurate, so it might not play at the right speed or it will stop for a few seconds for no reason at all, just ignore this.
After a while you should get a feeling for the FPS rate. Click on "DONE" to save the Movie. If you press cancel, it will be lost!
Save once in a while, you can join the seperate files later on.