Learn how to make your own stop-motion animation with these tips from the Aardman team, those clever people behind the likes of Shaun the Sheep, Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit.
Follow these simple steps, add a good dose of imagination and patience, and you can create a short model animation in which your characters give the impression of really moving.
1. Characters and props
Decide what or who it is you’d like to star in your animation. This could be anything from plasticine models in the style of Shaun the Sheep to toys, food, cutlery and clothes to real people. All you need to do is adjust their position throughout the filming to create the illusion that they’re moving. A quick tip for creating plasticine characters is to keep them simple – you don’t want pieces falling off as you’re adjusting their limbs.
Before you start any animation, come up with a story that you want to bring to life. This could be as simple as a character or two coming on to the set and doing something very visual – like falling over – which will make people laugh! The more characters you have, the more time-consuming it is to animate them all, so use no more than three characters to begin with.
3. Sounds and voices
Lots of classic animation characters have memorable voices, such as Lancashire lad Wallace. Others do their thing with just a couple of interesting sounds, like Gromit and Morph. If you do introduce speech into your animation, you can be really sophisticated and get your characters’ mouth movements to synchronise with what they say by recording the sound first and then animating the mouth afterwards. Or simply dub your or your friend’s voice on the animation afterwards. Try playing with sound effects, too.
Create a backdrop for your animation, a stage on which your characters will perform. This could be as simple as a cardboard box. Why not decorate it with paint or cut-outs from magazines?
Model animations need good lighting. You can use a household lamp to do this. To soften the lighting and avoid harsh shadows place another lamp on the other side of the set, so that it is cross-lit.
You can shoot the frames in the old fashioned way with a video camera or mobile phone, or you can try Aardman’s simple-to-use Animate It! stop-motion software. You can download a free 14 day trial of the software on your computer or get the Animate It! app for your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. It includes a really useful ‘onion skin function’ which allows you to see the ghost of the last frame, helping you position your characters before you capture the next frame and keeping the animation smooth. The PC version also allows you to record and import sounds.
To give an impression of movement, carefully adjust parts of your props or characters (things like ears, mouths or limbs) and capture this on camera. Take care not to change anything that is meant to stay still. A rule of thumb is that 12 adjustments, each one captured twice on camera, will add up to about one second of film. The bigger the movements between the frames, the faster the action and the jerkier the animation.
You’ll need to play back your animation and check that the movements you’ve made look realistic and not jerky. It’s at this point that you can also remove or reshoot any frames where you’ve made a mistake – or even add in some new ones to perfect your animation. There’s a whole editing function on Animate It! which you can use to tidy up your animation at the end.
Now all that’s left to do is share your animation. Why not try it out on friends and family first, then share it with the world on YouTube?
Making Shaun the Sheep animations
Visit the Eden Project during February half-term to build your very own Shaun the Sheep model with the expert help of Aardman’s animators, in one of our Aardman Animation Model-Making Workshops. Animate It! with Shaun the Sheep runs until Sunday 24 February 2013.
If you can't make it to Eden, check out Aardman's new Shaun the Sheep's Farmyard Film Kit, which contains lots of countryside backgrounds and farmyard sound effects for you to use at home, plus instructions on how to make your own Shaun the Sheep model out of clay. If you need any inspiration, watch the short movie our team made of Shaun at Eden.
More Animate It! tips from Aardman
There are loads of great animation tip and ideas on www.animate-it.com. Check out this video of Aardman animator Steve Edge in which he shows you how to make your friend fly through space in a teacup!