Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego

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<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 .
<br>Do this:<br>
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.

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-03-08 06:10:25

Animation Basics

If you work with clay, build simple figures which you can rebuild in case of damage or dried-out clay.

Before you publish your first movie and you and the viewers get frustrated, keep in mind that you need 6-24 pictures for just a single second of film.
If you let a character run through the whole film in 4 pictures,
no one will really be able to see it when watching the movie
(only you because you allready know its there,
allways think in the way a new viewer would watch the film).
Do not rush your movie, let it go slow and introduce the characters so the viewer
knows what is going on. If you use text in your movie, just shoot a few dozen frames.
Play the movie and read the text aloud slowly, three times. If the text is out of sight faster then you are done reading,
it is visible way to short.

Lip-Synch is a importaint chapter, if you want to make your figures talk. For Clay, you can simply attach a small line of clay, for lego/figures you could use a black sticker.
Lipsynch can be difficult, especialy because of the timing. Say your sentence aloud a few times and stop the time you need to complete it. If you talked 3 seconds and you chose 15 FPS for example, you would need a 45 picture (3x15) talk-animation.
Usualy you should sit infront of a mirror and watch the way the mouth moves depending on the sounds, but for animationfilms it usualy is enough if the mouth moves in 2-6 different ways. I usualy just let it move randomly, most the time no one even notices, only on close ups. Let the mouth in the same position for 3 or more frames, otherwise it will be to fast.
Walking is another difficult subject. Ever really looked at the way someone walked?
Since inserting pictures here is not the best choice (long loading times), just look at these Links:



Or at my small running samples at<br>
http://www.shawcartoon.com/test/running.gif http://www.shawcartoon.com/test/running.jpg
If you use figures without legs or static legs (plastic toy soldiers for example) you should make them "waddle", so it does not look like they hover across the scene.
Make them go forard but move to the side back and forth (Not too much otherwise it would look like that they look to the left and right).

Cutting the movie
After you recorded and hopefully saved your movie(s), you will need
<br>www.am-soft.ru/avifrate.html (its a very tiny tool that can change the FPS Speed, backup your files first)<br>
and especialy<br>
<br> which is a free video-editor. If you have something like Windows Movie Maker, go for it. it will work too, at least for most stuff.
Here you can rightclick and import Mediaclips, so you can put your Movie-Parts togethrt to one big move (in the right order of course).
You can cut parts and also insert sound. Nice about "Zweistein" is, that it can save/export several Videoformats and uses all available compression-methods.
For recording and editing audio, just go to http://audacity.sf.net and download the latest BETA of audacity, which has voice changer and many other features.
All you need is a microphone, and if you dont own one, buy one! They cost between 1-10 Dollars, and the quality will be OK for such a project.
<br>Soundeffects can be found everywhere, for example on google.com or Flashkit.com - good luck! :-) (Also you can buy CDs rather cheap with sounds on them)
For robovoices search for "text2speech" on google or in this forum, there are several free tools such as "AnalogX Sayit" or Readplease (i think that was free).

Make a Flash for Newgrounds
Ok, if you have Macromedia-Flash, USE it :-) Goto "File"- "Import" and ad a preloader (available at Newgrounds), since many of these tools do not ad preloaders.
this is a free small tool to make a swf/Flashfile out of your movie.
Open your movie, enter the same FPS as you used in your movie(s), and lower the quality so it will load faster, then SAVE it :-)
http://www.blue-pac.com/products/turbinevideo/download/default.htm Offers a free version, but with ad

That's about it!

That was it- of course there are even more free programs to work with, but this should get you more then started.

Oh, a few more things just popped into my mind...

Print your Movie and make a flip-book-animation:

Convert your Movie to a GIF-File and edit single frames, remove them or change their speed:

Burn your Movie on a CD and throw it into your DVD Player:

MORE Film-to-Flash converters:

My first atempt:
Rest of my site:

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-03-08 06:13:32

Sorry, i initaly intended to make a HTML Site, and i forgot that Newgrounds will print <br> as it is. Ignore <br>s :-)

Also, i did not mean interlaced, i ment interpolated (Webcam resolution).

Have fun! Ask questions here.

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-03-08 08:39:25

Hi again, i just checked the file size of the first Movie2Flash program, and it is rather big if you include sound.
While http://www.crashsoftware.com/ is OK for short movies and Films on CD, it might create too huge films for Newgrounds.
Try these if you get better results:

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-03-08 16:45:13

Hi again, I have collected some good links on the subject today, which you might find interesting.

Big site with lots of animations, infos and links

Stop Motion secrets

no/small budget effects...

Another great site...

Have fun!

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-03-16 18:17:06

I have found another VERY usefull program, which has more features then "SMA".

It can also edit frames and does not simply create an AVI file.
it is a very nifty tool to make animations and Stopmotion films.

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-03-18 18:12:46

I've been playing around with monkeyJam and new materials. I have decided to NOT use clay, since it will dry up and looses shape when you do not have time for a few days.

Here is a small sample i did just a minute ago. (see bottom link)

I have bought a big soft cork board with wodden frame ($8) and a few pipe cleaners (WIre with furr coating, $1 for a bag full.)
Depending on the length of the wire, you can make a puppet out of a single pice. The pants are made out of felt (or use old clothes), since its cheap and available in many nice colors. Yes, I stiched it myself ;-)
In the clip below the shirt is not on yet.
I will make feet, hands and heads out of air-drying, light weight clay, since i wont need them to change shape, and they need to be light weight because of the single wire structure.

I used pins on the feet of the puppet, so it can walk...
Feet out of clay or whatever are either too light or too heavy (the puppet wont stand on one foot, and is hard to keep on one spot).
I find this solution real clever, it is easy to work with, plus no tipping over anymore.

Here it is with a "blueprint" of the wire. Only 12 fps but you'll get the idea ;-)

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-03-18 18:29:17

wow...7 posts in a row

Id look at it...but I dont have the attention span...

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-03-18 18:33:07

Yeah, a pretty long monologue, but i could not fit it all in one post, since there is a limitation.
It is just a quick written tutorial & Software referance for stopmotion and some basics on technique... I have added another program i found the other day- everyone interested in stop motion should take a look at MonkeyJam, it is real great.

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-03-19 04:46:51

Anyone here on the BBS doing StopMotion films?
What FPS/Framerates are you using?
What do you use for light, what kind of clay, cam, and so on?

C'mon, i dont want to make this monolgue any bigger :-)

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-03-19 04:58:49

Good Idea, right now I am still working on a booklet for my students and a website with info on stopmotion... but a tutorial in flash would be nice, since i could upload it :-)

I might do that, thanks!

Do you do stopmotion films?

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-03-19 09:26:24


I do a little stopmotion myself so I liked this!
but I don't work with a webcam, I use a digital photocamera... does that program SMA work with that? (I don't kow if you know it, but now I can't use the program....)

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-03-19 14:28:49

SMA is cool, but you should try "MonkeyJam" I posted a bit later ( http://www.giantscreamingrobotmonkeys.com/monkeyjam ). since it has more features.
Not every digital Camera will work, since they do not all have a standard video device driver. SMA also has problems with digital camcorders as i noticed the other day...

The MonkeyJam-FAQ states:
"Most Digital still cameras are not set up to be controlled by the computer. A few companies have made cameras that can be controlled by software but there is no standard so each company implements their own programming API. I doubt that MonkeyJam will support software control of Still cameras until a standard is implemented. "

Also, since the latest version, twain/scan-drivers are supportet, and some stil cameras can be used as such an image device. You may be able to import pictures through that function if it will not work as cam.
Go ahead, give it a try. As an alternative, MonkeyJam can load jpg/png/bmp-images (SMA cant), so you can just import images from your camera folder.

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-03-19 15:48:02

Thanks :-)
I will put together a website-tutorial and/or a flash tutorial for stopmotion since this tutorial is rather hard to read (lack of multiple picture inclusion, ecetera).

I switched to MonkeyJam completely now, and I think the wire figures with clothes and pins on the feet will work very good.

What cameras do you guys use?

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-03-20 08:19:18

At 3/19/04 03:48 PM, schorhr wrote:
What cameras do you guys use?

Hey Marcus, Long time no see, Great tuturiol by the way!

i use a Logitech Quick cam, which does the job :-)

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-03-20 12:25:54

Hi, thanks :-) I'll put it in a decent form soon.
Unfortunaly I am moving to a city 400 miles away, and its chaotic.
Hopefully next month will be a bit more calm.
Yeah, those cams are pretty good, creative labs makes nice ones too. I have tried some cheaper models a while back, but, once again, you are getting what you pay for ;)

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-03-20 15:44:08

Allright, thanks for your help!!
I will try it very soon, I'm working on something at the moment

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-05-03 17:09:11

*diggs old post up*

Hows animating going? Any new films yet?

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-05-03 19:55:52

At 3/20/04 12:25 PM, schorhr wrote: Hi, thanks :-) I'll put it in a decent form soon.
Unfortunaly I am moving to a city 400 miles away, and its chaotic.
Hopefully next month will be a bit more calm.
Yeah, those cams are pretty good, creative labs makes nice ones too. I have tried some cheaper models a while back, but, once again, you are getting what you pay for ;)

Yeah i have a creative cam, and its really good. Ive been thinking of making a movie with it, but im not sure if i would ever submit it to newgrounds.... hmmm....

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-05-04 06:14:52

Unfortunaly stop-motion films are not very popular on Newgrounds, maybee because its basicly non-flash content and only video, plus many stopmotionfilms are really terrible... But with a bit of practise and patience (and a decent cam) stopmotion films can eventualy turn into great little movies :-)

I would say: go for it :-) Even if its just a short movie, stopmotion fans like me will watch it.

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-05-04 07:59:26

Yes it would be. I will probably make one too, but i just moved to a new city, and I dont have space & time to set up a few scenes to make a tutorial just jet... but i will :-)

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-06-20 04:36:00

Hmm...Why can't i see your website? It like to watch some of your work...

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-06-20 11:30:20

ShawCartoon.com is currently offline, due to trouble with my previous host, before i switched to aruba.it...

It will be online again somewhen soon, sorry for the trouble.

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-07-22 18:01:46

Hi there fellow claymators,

Paper SFX and I have talked a bit about building a site for stop motion beginners and artists, but we still have troubles finding a good domain name / name in general.

We had a few names gathered, but i will not post them here since someone might registers the domain just to be plain mean :-)

Since it should not be about Clay only (probably lego, wire, figures, foamlatex, and maybee flash animation & game scripting) it should not be fixed to the word clay (but can be).

We would apreceate any ideas,
not only for the domain name, but also for the site's content
(tutorials, pictures, movieupload, etc etc.)

Happy animating!

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-07-22 18:14:40

Well, since I can't think of good names, ill just submit an idea.

A clay platformer! Using high-resolution images to make walk cycles, attacks, enemies and much, much more! I'm happy.

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-07-22 18:18:41

Yes, that would be fun maybee, like the lego adventure (rpg though).

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-07-22 18:27:06

I'm going to be testing around with lego soon, i'v been looking at those harry potter ones lol, they look tempting.
Also, i have an animation book that shows something called "Roomation" where it basically shows a normal run of the mill bedroom, and the contents of the room come alive- curtains opening, clothes running rampant, toys creating havok, it looks like great fun. Something i might have a go at :)

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-07-22 18:29:54

Yes, here i once saw something like that.
Pans, pots, fridge and food came alive, made a meal, setted themselves on the table, and two guys started eating (they where actually stop-motionized while a knive spreaded butter by itself).

Stopmotion can be art and good, i understand if people do not like it too much, but it is really hard.

Still, anyone can think up a good name for a site?

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-07-22 18:38:15

At 7/22/04 06:29 PM, schorhr wrote:
Stopmotion can be art and good, i understand if people do not like it too much, but it is really hard.

Hehe normally the only ones who like stopmotion are those who have made one themselves, I took around 1500 photo's to make up my new stopmotion movie, at around 12fps its only around 2 minutes!

Response to Quick StopMotionTutorial- Clay&Lego 2004-07-22 19:04:21

Well, i dont know many people who dislike wallace & grommit :-)

Yes, it changes a lot if you have actually made stop motion and experienced the work involved. It is like doing a frame by frame animation but with objects, which can be much more work.