Encourage Budding Animators with Stopmotion Explosion was made possible with a copy of the Stopmotion Explosion Animation Kit from Stopmotion Explosion for review as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew.
For a while now, we’ve seen so many cute videos out there with things like Legos that seemed beyond our family’s realm of creation. Or, maybe it was just MY lack of knowledge that had me thinking that way. With the entrance of Stopmotion Explosion in the house, the sky is now the limit whether it is a story brought to life using a combination of items in the house or eventually cute videos for content here on the blog.
What Do You Need to Begin Learning Animation?
While it might not look like a lot, what you receive with the complete Stopmotion Explosion package is everything needed to get started on the process of creating films using a stop motion film technique. They have bundled together a 720p webcam camera which allows for manual focusing (something many mainstream ones do not offer!), software on disc, and the book Stopmotion Explosion: Animate ANYTHING and Make MOVIES.
You will also need a computer (preferably a laptop for portability!) that can work with the webcam and software. We soon discovered that our older laptops (about 6 and 7 years old) did not want to recognize the included webcam which is attached to the computer via a USB connection.
As for the included software, they do have a process for those who do not have a DVD drive on their computers. So, don’t let that piece of equipment be a stumbling block!
The Animation Process
Once you have your computer set up for using Stopmotion Explosion, the animation creation process can begin. I am going to highlight the basics for this post and highly recommend that any budding animator get ahold of at least the Stopmotion Explosion: Animate ANYTHING and Make MOVIES book for all the nitty gritty details.
Depending upon the age of your child, you might actually have them start writing out a script. This isn’t something I’d expect my 6-year-old son to really consider as he just wants to have ‘fun.’ But, for older kids hoping to earn a technology credit at the middle or high school level, then script creation is key.
Next, you need to gather all the materials you will need to make the film. For my boys, that means gathering up all the cool figures and pieces from Lego and Playmobil playsets. It also includes considering how to eliminate background ‘noise’ (e.g. clutter in the room) using items like a trifold poster board in a neutral color.
For the actual recording, you need the camera (included in the kit), a computer to accept the input of images, and good lighting. I felt a bit vindicated over our low-cost lighting option after seeing the same fixtures suggested in their book. If it works, then don’t try to ‘fix’ it with a more expensive solution. (Below is my set up for food photos in my kitchen.)
The recording process can take quite a bit of time. Each frame is collected and saved by pushing the grab button and then saving the file when you are satisfied with everything. As the file is saved, you will see a playback of the image string at the frames per second you designated. We kept to 15 frames per second which produces an acceptable final product.
NOTE: When you are done with your project, you will be asked if you want to save the individual photo files. I highly suggest doing this in case you have any issues down the line as those photo files can be imported into a new project in SME Animator. Additionally, if you have the individual photo files, you can edit the individual frames and then add it back to the sequence of frames for the final video.
The book shows examples of the still shots you’d need to create the illusion of a figure walking, etc. Making the slight adjustments for each frame required can be a tedious process. This is a big reason for having a script with sketches of what they want to see on the screen. That way you can take a break and not have to rethink what you are going to do next when you return to the filmmaking process.
For the short video project we’ll share in a moment, we ‘filmed’ and saved files in short scenes. Those can be ‘glued’ together using Windows Movie Maker to create the longer film. This software is available on Windows-based computers at no charge and relatively simple to learn. Apple users can find a tutorial on the website on how to use iMovie, too.
Stopmotion Explosion offers a variety of resources, like tutorials, on their website to help make your projects pop. We are still digging through the options and learning how to do things the boys are seeing in their mind’s eye. Plus, you can see user submitted final projects that are likely to inspire your young animators. Just be careful or you might find you’ve spent hours just watching all the neat videos!
Introducing Animation Project
I will admit that having to use an older computer had us a bit limited with what we could do. Rather than using Windows Movie Maker to piece together the short video segments generated by Stopmotion Explosion, we pieced them together in YouTube’s video maker. The downside is that you have less ability to add things like titles compared to other software options.
Overall, this is a fabulous way to get your children interested in learning. With the need to write a script, you can even use this across multiple subjects (language arts, social studies or science, and technology) in your homeschool. Worst case scenario is that the kids only want to pull this out on those rainy or especially cold winter days when going outside isn’t an option. Personally, I find it to be a great way to spend that kind of day!
A photo posted by Laura (@lauraoinak) on
Don’t just take my word for how we found this to be. Visit Stopmotion Explosion Review post on the Schoolhouse Review Crew website to see what other homeschooling parents thought about this and other self-paced courses.