Getting Started With Stop Motion Animation



What is Stop Motion Animation?


Stop motion animation is a type of animation captured one frame at a time, moving the subject slightly between each frame.  It can be thought of as a series of still photographs. When the series of photographs are put together and played in sequence, the images come to life.  


Think of a flip book - each photo in the book varies slightly, creates movement in the subject, and together the images tell a story.


When Did Stop Motion Animation Begin?


Stop motion animation has been around since the late 1800s.  The first stop motion animation film released was The Humpty Dumpty Circus (1898), created by J. Stuart Blackton and Albert E. Smith.  Over a century later, Modeling Extraordinary (1912), a stop motion animated film created molded clay subjects, gained great popularity.  This was one of the first films to use claymation: a type of stop motion animation using clay figures.


As technology has advanced, stop motion animation has become less popular.  The development of digital animation makes the animation process faster and easier.  However, stop motion is still being used as a tool to make blockbuster animated films.


The extremely popular film, Coraline (2009), was completely created using stop motion animation. To construct the facial expressions of the characters in Coraline, animators 3D printed 6,333 faces which combined to make 207,000 possible face expressions!


Other popular stop motion films include The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Corpse Bride (2005), Frankenweenie (2012), and ParaNorman (2012).


The Creation of Coraline Image

The process of creating Coraline. 

Source: Animation World Network; Photo Credit: Galvin Collins


How is stop motion animation created?


Anyone can create a stop motion video with ease!  To begin, pictures must first be taken of the subject(s) in various iterations of movements.  The more pictures of each scene, the more fluid the finished video will look.


Once all of the photos have been taken, the next step is to upload them into an application or movie making software.  Desktop software such as iMovie (which comes free on Apple devices) and countless other free video editing software make it easy to turn your photos into a connected and fluid movie.  Stop motion apps are also available on both Android and Apple tablets and smartphones!


After the video is complete, it’s time to add music, sound effects, and voice-overs.  Audio elements are an important part of bringing your stop motion to life!


Watch to learn more about what stop motion animation is and how it's made!


Tips for Stop Motion Animation Beginners


  • It is best to keep the camera in the same location throughout the shooting process.  If preferred, the camera can be moved to a different location for each scene.

  • Keep your background in mind when filming.  To keep it clean and simple, use a piece of white posterboard as your backdrop.  If you are feeling more creative, paint the posterboard to make a more interesting background.

  • Add props to the “set” of your film.  Whether it be a toy car that the characters use to move about the town or a house made out of legos, props can help tell your story and add interest.

  • Plan ahead!  Create a storyboard of what scenes you want to shoot and the order you want to shoot them.  Storyboarding can also help with deciding what background and props you need in each scene.


Storyboard Example Image

An example storyboard.



How long does stop motion animation take?


The amount of time spent on a stop motion animation film depends largely on the length of the video being created.  While the 100-minute movie Coraline took 20 months to produce,  a 1-minute short video would be finished much quicker. When creating a professional film, producers say it takes about 1 hour of shooting for each second of the finished video.


The time spent to create a stop motion animation film also depends on the number of frames created per second.  The larger the number of frames per second, the longer the stop motion process will take.  However, with more frames per second comes a smoother picture and more professional looking film.


What do you need to create a stop motion animation film?


  1. A camera.  The camera on your smartphone or tablet will work just fine and make the editing process a little bit easier.  If you prefer to use a digital or DSLR camera, you will need to upload your photos to your computer or tablet to edit.

  2. An editing device:  A smartphone, tablet, or computer.

  3. Editing software or app:

    • For Apple Users: iMovie is a free editing software that will bring your photos together and create a video. iMovie can be used on iPhone, iPad, and Macbooks!  

    • For Andriod and Windows Users: Shotcut, Hitfilm, or DaVinci Resolve are free downloadable video editing software to be used on a desktop or laptop to turn your photos into a video.  On a smartphone, the Stop Motion Studio app lets you create and edit your stop motion animation for free!


Benefits of Stop Motion Animation for Kids


Girl Creating Stop Motion Image


  • The unique blend of technology and the physical world offer kids endless opportunities to be creative and learn.  Kids can create clay figurine characters for their film and use an iPad to bring them to life!  

  • The process of creating a stop motion video encourages children to plan out how to tell a story.  Storytelling is an extremely important skill to learn at a young age. Stop motion can help young kids master the art of storytelling by guiding them to think about the sequence of events and the movements of the characters.

  • Stop motion is a simple and hands-on process that kids can understand. It is easy to learn and fun to master!

  • Stop motion introduces children to the process of movie-making!  It can help kids understand how their favorite TV show or movie was made and encourages them to make one of their own.


How an Everyday Family Made a Business Out of Stop Motion Animation


Joseph Summerhays spent almost 30 years creating media for TV, film production, apps, and websites in New York. In 2009, he noticed the rising prominence of smartphones and social media apps like YouTube and Facebook, and he suggested that his kids try making their own stop-motion animation video on the kitchen table.


Before the family knew it, the boys’ little table top animation led to a walk on the red carpet opening night at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Animating Kids at the Tribeca Film Festival Image

Joe and his sons imagined a program that would allow any kid to share a story with sound and motion using stop-motion animation and simple technology. Three years of blood, sweat, and editing later, Animating Kids! was born. The skills taught in these online lessons can be used by any device or application, making them applicable for generations to come.


Since the origin of Animating Kids!, students and fans have created over 30 hours of stop-motion animation, the equivalent of almost all of the Pixar movies put together.

Live Animating Chefs Lesson


Making Learning Stop Motion Easy With Animating Kids!


Animating Kids! set out to create a fun and kid-friendly way to learn stop-motion animation. The online lessons are short, simple, and teach a variety of skills as “cooking demonstrations”.

The teachers, called the Animation Chefs, are the four sons of Joseph Summerhays, who has a long history of work in film and media. The brothers have taught over 1000 kids since the start of the Animating Kids! program in 2009.

The online lesson plans are helpful for all ages, and adults can use them to guide their teaching of the fundamentals of animation to children. The skills taught in this program are in depth enough to get even elementary-aged kids on track to film school.


Animating Kids! Stop Motion Animation Programs


With the Animating Kids! program, students can purchase a series of fun and engaging online lessons, with “recipes” that teach a variety of stop-motion animation skills. These skills range from mastering the technology behind filmmaking, like device set-up and sound design, to general movement, like stretching, shaking, and spacing to create speed, to more complex animation, such as facial expressions and lip-synching, to name a few.

In addition to building useful filmmaking skills, Animating Kids! also sharpens academic skills, such as math and physics, writing, experimentation, and problem-solving all come into play when creating an animation. In addition, the programs can create discipline through guidelines and deadlines as well as build collaboration, should your child work with a team.


Animating Chefs Photo


What are the levels of mastery in stop-motion film?


The experts at Animating Kids! divide mastery into 5 levels of difficulty, and each level is defined by a different-colored hat. The levels, in order of increasing difficulty, are as follows:


1. White Hat Recipes: The Basics

These are basic principles, vocabulary, and skills in stop-motion animation that can be applied to essentially any medium.


2. Yellow Hat Recipes: Combining the Basics

After learning the fundamentals, these online lessons will teach you to combine your current skills and special effects to make more complicated animations.


3. Red Hat Recipes: Character Animation

By this point, general stop-motion animation skills have been covered, so these recipes help you develop a character through emotions and poses.


4. Blue Hat Recipes: Bring a Story to Life

No animation is complete without a story. The Blue Hat lessons allow you to bring a film to life through storyboarding, dialogue, set building, timing, acting, sound effects, editing, and voice-overs.


5. Black Hat Recipes: Projects, Ideas, and Professional Development

This last set of online lessons are the most advanced and cover the Animation Chefs’ specific methods and skills that they have built over the past 9 years. This level is constantly being updated as the Chefs develop new processes and strategies.


How Kids Can Start Animating Today!


It’s easy to create stop motion animation using applications on the devices you already own.

Kids get creative while learning about moviemaking and storytelling. Animating Kids! can help bring the magic of stop motion to your home.  Get children involved using the short, easy, pre-planned hands-on lessons provided by the Animating Chefs.


So what are you waiting for?  Get started creating stop motion animation films with Animating Kids!


Share your stop motion animation video with us!