Stop Motion Animation

Tip: Lighting

Flicker is the consequence of variable lighting, but it can disrupt the flow of an animation and break the illusion of movement by drawing the viewers attention elsewhere. Continuity of lighting – lighting levels, direction and colour balance – are important to ensure that when you cut between shots, visual continuity is not disrupted.

  • Work in a space that has controlled lighting and is unlit by any other source of light (use blackout curtains if shooting during the day to avoid unexpected intrusions, such as car lights passing by or the shadows of leaves fluttering in lamplight).
  • If you use electric lighting, ensure the energy source is constant and the bulbs are not old as this will make them likely change in colour temperature and vibrancy during the shoot.
  • Avoid fluorescent lighting which flickers imperceptibly to the human eye but is registered by photography.
  • If you choose to use natural light (an unusual choice, but increasingly popular), you would most likely choose either a very clear sunny day or a completely overcast day, but not a partially cloudy day.
Tip: Exposure

As with filming, to ensure continuity, you will need to set the white-balance of your camera and ensure that the exposure settings are set to manual and remain the same throughout your shoot. As animation is made up of still images, rather than recorded video, you are able to shoot in much lower light conditions than video. You are also able to use long exposure in your camera to very exciting effects.

Tip: Camera Movement

Another common problem for beginner stop-motion animators is ‘camera shake’. Just as with continuity of lighting, continuity of frame is essential in animation and is the primary mechanism on which the illusion of animation depends. As a general rule, in order for the audience to believe that something is moving within a frame there must be some elements of the frame that are kept constant. A constant rate of change such as a very slow pan of the camera would also work, however this is difficult to achieve without the appropriate software or hardware. (See more in Part 4).

A note on stop-frame animation software:
Computer software has been developed specifically developed for this process: Dragon Frame (professional pc), Monkey Jam (free), iStopmotion (iPad) and Stop Motion Pro. These enable you to review your animation with onion-skinning while you are making it and lay down audio tracks on the timeline and produce your animations entirely within this kind of software without the need to use your editing software.