What is Stop Motion?
Stop motion is an animation technique which allows static objects to appear as if they're moving, by taking individual pictures which are eventually run together like the frames of a film. Between pictures, slight adjustments are made to the objects, creating the illusion of movement. Examples of stop motion used in education include Slowmation and blackboard animations. Stop motion is a good choice if you want to create a small number of videos conveying complicated physical processes.
Stop motion can be extremely time-consuming: a video shot on a video camera usually runs at 24 fps (frames per second). Each photo taken for a stop motion project is one frame. If each photo takes 30 seconds, creating a five-minute 24 fps video will take 60 hours. While 24 fps is a much higher frame rate than you have to use—2 fps will work well in most applications—stop motion projects take a long time to create.
On the positive side, stop motion animation doesn't require a video camera, can be done with almost anything, and allows for a fine degree of control over the subjects of the video. It's also naturally engaging: people love watching inanimate objects come to life!
How Does It Support Learning?
Stop motion is just one way to create video which supports learning. Stop motion animation may support learning by:
Highlighting action and impact when telling a story. The example below illustrates this.
Have a look at this video by Health Animated, a group of upper-year UBC pharmacy students, for an example of what stop-motion animation can be used for.
Resources to get you started
- UBC's Design Principles for Multimedia: an overview of research and practice based principles for effective multimedia design, within a practical framework.
- What Makes an Instructional Video Compelling?: an interesting piece looking at factors like relationship to course content and conversational language, as contributors to compelling viewing of instructional media among students.
Instructional design support
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Benefits of video for learning
- "Students can develop a deep understanding of a science concept by bringing together different ways of making meaning: researching content, storyboarding, making models, using narration, labelling key aspects, etc."
- Gary Hoban, Associate Professor, University of Wollongong, Australia, who developed Slowmation
- "For a novice learner, I have found that concise expository summaries do very little to improve learning - a key for me is to start with misconceptions and show how misconceptions can morph into a complete scientific truth."
Stop motion animation using found objects
Animation is a great way to explain a complex process—learners can see it happening right in front of them. However, most forms of animation require a lot of time and training. To create even relatively simple animations, like this one, used in ZOOL 250 at the University of Alberta, require huge investments in time and effort: you have to learn animation software, and then create the animation, to say nothing of the cost of the software. While stop motion is still time-intensive, it doesn't require anything more than the ability to take pictures and edit video. This video, created by Dr. Rosie Redfield, quickly and effectively explains how influenza cells take up DNA, using candy and construction paper.
Dr. Steven Barnes, a psychology professor at UBC, created a series of chalkboard animations for several of the courses he teaches. Chalkboard animation was selected for what Dr. Barnes calls 'zoomability': he can easily transition from looking at the human body to individual neurons, allowing him to contextualize what's going on at a microscopic level with what's happening to the body as a whole.
While he does have an artistic background, the videos are created by tracing images projected onto the chalkboard, turning the projector off, taking a picture, ad infinitum. Creative commons images could be used to achieve the same effect, even if you have trouble drawing stick figures.
Stop motion animation using paper cutouts
Making the perfect objects for your stop motion project can be as easy as breaking out the pencil crayons and scissors. This video from the Digital Tattoo project explains data mining using a whiteboard and paper cutouts. If you don't feel like drawing, printed images would work, as well. For more a complete explanation of their process, click here.
What Do I Need?
The stop motion animation process can be broken into two parts: recording, and editing.
Stop motion animation is created by stringing together a series of static images, creating the illusion of movement. To create a stop motion animation project, you'll need...
- A digital camera
- A set of objects
- A microphone to record voice-overs (optional)
Almost any camera will work for creating stop-motion animation. When you're choosing a camera, look for the ability to hold a large number of pictures, take pictures relatively quickly, control exposure, and stay firmly in place. These are important qualities for several reasons.
Again, the majority of modern digital camera will fit the bill, including phones and webcams, but double-check that you're set up to use your equipment. An expensive camera won't do you any good if you don't have a tripod, or know how to use it.
|Set of objects
You can use almost anything for the subject/medium of your video. You're only limited by your imagination, and how you think you can best communicate your ideas. Claymation is a popular professional technique: clay figures, moved small amounts between pictures, can create very effective and realistic videos, although it's a hugely labour-intensive technique: the standard is 30 pictures per second of video. Stop motion animation with Lego, also known as Brickfilm, lends itself to stop motion relatively easily: figures hold their position, have a simple but full range of movement, and can be easily posed. Lego is relatively ubiquitous, easy to make complex shapes with, and entertaining—lots of people have memories of playing with it at some point.
A simpler technique is sticking to two dimensions. At the top of the page, Rosie Redfield used candy on a construction-paper background to illustrate the process of DNA uptake by bacteria, by drawing larger, static, shapes, and moving the smaller, mobile parts of the cell (represented by different kinds of candy) around between pictures. Blackboard animation, another kind of 2D stop motion, consists of images drawn, photographed, modified, and photographed again, on a blackboard or whiteboard. By making small changes to the images between pictures, the illusion of movement is created. Even paper cutouts moving on a background can be effective, and it's easy to customize your objects when you can print out or draw whatever characters you want.
When you're filming stop motion animation, it's important that you're in complete control over your lighting. If you allow any natural light in your presentation, small changes in shadows will become very obvious as the photos are time-lapsed together. A three-point lighting setup is ideal, but any lights will work as long as your pictures are well-exposed, and the level of illumination remains constant over time.
You can use any sources of light you have on hand. Desk lamps with flexible or movable arms work very well: you can position them so your shot is illuminated exactly as you need it, and they're sturdy enough that they shouldn't move over the course of your shoot if you're careful.
Here are a few useful links if you're looking at microphones.
To get the best results, you probably don't want to use the same software you'd use for normal video projects for your stop motion project. You're concerned with different things: how long each image stays on the screen, being able to adjust for things like slight shifts in your camera, and subtle changes in lighting between individual frames. While you can use a normal piece of video editing software, like Windows Movie Maker or iMovie, you'll have an easier time if you use a piece of software designed for stop motion. If you'd prefer to use a normal piece of video editing software, head over to the video basics toolkit for some suggestions.
How Do I Do It?
Step 1: Plan
Questions to ask
Curate or Create? Does a similar resource (to the one you're envisioning) already exist online somewhere? You may want to check Creative Commons licensed sources as well as resources in the Public Domain to start with. If there are images, slide sets, or other works you want to use that are appropriately licensed, ask yourself if you can use them and build some context around it specific to your goals. In other words, can you curate content by building some activities or context around resources that already exist, or do you need to create something new? Here is an example of curated content (discussion questions, self-assessment, etc) around a YouTube video describing MOOCs.
What are the objectives? Identifying broad goals can help you define what your students should learn and understand, while the objectives provide specific and measurable outcomes (Gagne, Wager, Golas & Keller, 2005 in Frey and Sutton, 2010). Consider:
What should the impact be? Consider the potential impact your project will have on the learning environment. How will learners use the video/slides? Will you need to create some guiding questions, things to watch for, and follow up activities so that learners can use what they learned? You may want to consider what activities the presentation may replace (eg. tutorial, lecture) and how you can use that time for other activities to support the learning from the presentation. In addition, knowing the needs of your learners helps you target the content and approach to them - making it more likely that you will be producing a useful learning resource.
How will the resource be assessed? Consider the measures you will be using to see if your presentation has had the desired impact on learning (test scores, performance in collaborative activities, etc.). A good instructional design principle is to ensure alignment between learning objectives, assessment and the activity (associated with the presentation).
What's the timeline like? Check with colleagues who have made stop motion videos to get a sense of timeline. If this is your first time, allow a lot more time for recording, editing, re-recording, and tweaking the entire presentation, than you think you need.
Testing your equipment
Once you have gathered your equipment and software, experiment with it. Test everything: create a test presentation and audio track, and export them to your editing software to familiarize yourself with the process and reveal any issues with file format or audio quality you'll want to fix before production. Make sure your chosen tools can do what you need them to.
Step 2: Script & Storyboard
Every minute you spend planning your project is worth two or three minutes of designing, recording, and editing. Before you do anything else, download and fill out this worksheet. Here's the completed worksheet for an example presentation. Try to be as detailed as possible: it'll make life easier later on.
One of the most important features in the planning worksheet is the 'Generate Concepts' section. Going through this will help you break your content down into easily digestible sections. This is called chunking content, which is an instructional design technique that involves breaking down large themes into manageable chunks or concepts. For example, if you intend to cover 4 concepts in a single video of 20 minutes, four five-minute videos might be a better strategy. Recent research indicates that the optimal length for student engagement seems to be be 6 minutes or less. (Guo, 2013).
Carnegie-Mellon's principles for learning, Merrill's First Principles of Instruction, Gagne's 9 events of instruction and Mayer's principles for multimedia development are useful references for helping you think about how to approach your presentation as a learning resource. Points 3, 4, 7, 8, and 9 from Mayer's Principles are especially pertinent.
After you've selected one chunk to start with, you can fill out this storyboarding worksheet. Here's the completed storyboard for an example project. You can fill this out however you want to: for more traditional video projects, storyboards usually include sketches of each scene with notes attached, but you can feel free to use text, draft your script, sketch diagrams you might use, or some combination of those and other techniques. Try to be complete: having a mental and physical image of each scene will help you put everything together.
Create a script
Writing a script will save you time in the long run. Include what you want to say, and when you want to say it, with respect to what's happening on-screen. Once your script is complete, you'll get a sense of the flow of your project and can be able to make decisions about editing more easily.
Step 3: Take pictures
Gather your equipment
Set up your recording environment
You have a couple of things to consider when setting up your recording area: lighting, camera stability, and your ability to adjust your set of objects.
Take your pictures
If you've set everything up nicely, you shouldn't have any problems taking the pictures you need.
Record your audio
The quality of your audio factors greatly into the perception of your video: a small increase in audio quality is worth a much larger increase in video quality.
Find B-roll content
While most commonly used in documentaries, B-roll footage (supplemental or alternative video intercut in the main shot) can be useful in all video projects. Check out these three sources of learning and UBC-related B-roll footage.
Whatever material you include in your video, make sure that you aren't violating copyright law by using it. Have a look at these links to find out more.
Step 4: Edit
What your editing process will look like depends on what software you use: a program made specifically for stop motion will have features a standard video editing program, like Final Cut, won't have. There are too many programs to list specific tips and tricks for all of them: make sure you pay attention to the checklist items and the tips at the bottom of the page.
While there are a lot of options for editing videos, UBC staff and faculty can use Lynda.com to view tutorials on video editing in Camtasia (available to UBC staff, students, and faculty) and Final Cut Pro. You might also use Audacity, a free and open-source program, to record and edit your audio.
Step 5: Publish
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