Monday, October 12, 2009

How to Do Stop-Action Videos (A Tutorial for LiHD Families):

Edited in 2014 - Yahoo Video has removed all personal videos, so I've had to redo this post. I can't embed videos anymore, but there are links to most of the videos on YouTube now.
First a little background – Last year, Panasonic had a challenge for the LiHD families. They were going to choose a family to attend the Olympics in Beijing, and they asked us to submit essay entries. Well, we did our essay, but we really wanted to go, so we thought we should send a video as well. We really thought lots of families would send a video because we all had this cool video equipment, so we thought we’d better do some sort of special effects. We wanted to try and use the green screen, but we decided stop action animation might be a little easier to do.

Terry and I had grown up with Gumby and Pokey and also Mr. Bill from Saturday night Live, and we had seen some stop action animation videos on YouTube. So we did some google searches to find out about the technique and brainstormed possible ideas. The result was a stop action “torch run” through our yard and a claymation Olympic ring sequence at the end of our short video. We were really happy with the results. We knew even if we didn’t win that we had really created a great memory.

This link is to the video we submitted.

The kids caught on to the technique and spent quite a bit of time over the next few days doing videos. Rebecca made a claymation dance movie, and Nathan made an Indiana Jones Lego movie. Here they are below, complete with music:

Claymation Dancing

Indiana Jones Lego

Now for the instructions:

• You will need three pieces of equipment – a digital camera, a tripod and a computer with movie editing software (you can use Pinnacle, Microsoft MovieMaker, Roxio or iMovie). We used Pinnacle as it was the software we had received from Panasonic, so I will give directions that are more specific to Pinnacle but could be adapted to any software.
• Set your camera to the lowest resolution. This is important as you will be taking lots of pictures and if they are on high resolution, it is much harder to work with them in your software program. The boys have several movies that still haven’t been constructed because they accidentally forgot this step.
• Do a trial movie first – we suggest something easy like going down the stairs sitting cross-legged or showing a piece of clay growing bit by bit.

• Set up your scene and tripod. Try to keep the action in a small enough area that you do not have to move the tripod during the entire scene.
• Take your photos. If you make a mistake, just keep going. You can delete it later. You will need about 500 pictures for a 2-minute video.
• Once you have your pictures taken for your trial movie, import them into your movie software.
• Go to Edit movie
• Select all pictures
• Set the time on the pictures to about 0.05 seconds.
• Add titles and music if you wish.

Now you are ready for a bigger project:

• First, you need a plot. Here are some ideas:

1. Rebecca has had fun with Claymation dancing. Our daughter is great at making nice looking figures from clay, but you could have plenty of fun with Playdough. After all, Mr. Bill wasn’t that artistic.

2. You can also use Lego figures to make action movies. My boys have made movies using Indiana Jones Lego, Star Wars Lego, and Secret Agent Lego. If you need good music to go with action movies, I suggest getting a John Williams CD or one from Henry Mancini. Even though this music isn't "cleared" for use on videos, I think it’s OK to use it on your TV at home. At least, I don’t feel guilty since we did purchase the music! So far, yahoo video has allowed the music on all our videos to stay!

3. You can make yourself a musical instrument. We did this with our Chopsticks video. We used chairs at an airport to represent a keyboard. If you do this, when you add the music, you will need to use a metronome to get the timing exact.

Chopsticks Video
 (sorry, but this video got lost when Panasonic took down their website)

4. For the holidays, you can try setting up the tripod while you trim the tree, wrap a package or make cookies. Just have someone taking a picture every 30 seconds or so. Then add holiday music. We did this last year while setting up our tree, and we also did a “disappearing pumpkin pie” video.

5. Do a school assignment – this is how this Hamlet video came about!

• Set up your scene. Try to keep the light source steady. For instance, if you’re filming outside, you need it to be sunny or cloudy but not constantly changing or your video will not look as real.
• Set up your tripod, take your photos (don’t forget to lower the resolution) and load and edit them just like you did your trial movie.
• When finished, we usually save the movie three ways: as a file, as an upload to YouTube or Yahoo, and as a DVD.
• Then share your video with the LiHD family!

And now, for a video never before shared with the LiHD family. Here is a video made by my youngest two sons, Caleb and Noah (who were 8 and 10 when this movie was made). It would have been featured long ago, but an argument broke out over what music to use!

Secret Agent Movie

Hope you are inspired! Our next goal is to learn to use the green screen. We understand the concept, but we haven’t actually tried it out in a video yet.