This article is a follow-up to my previous article to detail how I created my stop-motion film “Passing By.”

  1. Choosing Your Subject

    This part is fairly subjective. For stop-motion films, just about any subject can be entertaining in stop-motion, but in limited quantities. Harping on the same location or subject for a long period of time will bore the viewer. I consider the jerkiness of stop-motion is best suited for fast paced themes. For instance, in “Passing By,” rather than dwell on the train for an extended period of time, I have it interspersed throughout the film. You’ll be able to get a better feel for this when you get to the editing stage.

  2. Taking the Photo

    Your camera should be set to continuous (burst fire) mode, which depending on your camera and storage card speed, can offer 1.5 to 5 frames per second. Make sure you set your camera to manual exposure at a consistent exposure level. Nothing is more distracting than having the exposure change from one frame to next, a couple times a second. This may also entail avoiding natural light if you’re shooting multiple scenes indoors, as the change in daylight will seem amplified.

    If you wish to make your film in widescreen and your camera does not support it, don’t worry, the photo can always be cropped later—simply keep this in mind when you take the photo. I set the camera’s resolution to maximum possible, so if I wanted to do some cropping, the final image could still reach my target resolution of 1920 x 1080.

  3. Editing the Photos

    This is the most crucial step to making your stop-motion look professional. Every single frame in “Passing By” was heavily edited before importing into the NLE. While this may seem like a daunting task, batch processing in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom makes it a breeze. Since each scene has approximately the same levels and lighting, each scene could be batch processed as a whole. I applied the desired settings to one photo from a scene, and then copied the settings to the rest of the photos in the scene. The process was repeated for each scene in the film. Below is a demonstration on how I batch processed the photos from the NYC scene.


    Lightroom Batch Processing Demonstration (Click for High-Resolution Video)

  4. Importing into a Non-Linear Editor (NLE)

    This step is really going to depend on what NLE you use; I used Sony Vegas Pro 8. Before I even had a song picked out, I imported all the photos into Vegas. Then I pre-rendered all the footage (at very high video quality) with no audio, and then re-imported it back into Vegas. I did this simply because my computer played a rendered video better than thousands of pictures in the timeline. From this continuous video file, I created a bunch of sub-clips for each scene. Subdividing each scene into its own clip allowed me to put the scenes in any order and trim them as needed.

  5. Editing

    This step is also fairly subjective. If you plan to use music, you should choose your song prior to editing. Choosing your song beforehand will allow you to edit based on natural divisions in the song (i.e. to the song’s beat). In “Passing By,” the first scene establishes a particularly length coordinated with the song. If you tap your foot, it’s about eight beats. Each subsequent scene is the same or a multiple of the first clip’s length, for example, the first train scene is sixteen beats. This allows you to maintain a desired consistency in throughout the film. Experimentation is key, try different songs, different orders, etc. until you get a feel for the direction you want.

  6. Rendering

    I rendered the project at 1920 x 1080 progressive at 15 Mbit/s using the H.264 codec, as it’s pretty much the standard for HD video. I rendered the audio using PCM uncompressed, as I was had a FLAC source.

Click here for the results. Hope this is a good starting point for many of you. Reply with your results or some comments/questions.

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5 Responses to “Guide to Making Stop Motion Photography Films”  

  1. 1 Jenn

    Hey Adam,

    I just saw Passing By on vimeo and am so glad you posted this guide! I’d seen stop-motion stuff before, but yours was spectacular! I’m going to try to do one myself soon, but I’d love to hear your suggestions for NLEs – particularly less expensive ones!!

    Thanks!

  2. 2 Adam Pitel

    Jenn,

    Thanks for your comment, I’m glad you liked it. As far as NLEs go, I’ve tried Adobe Premiere and Avid, but I keep coming back to Sony Vegas. It allows you to do very powerful stuff with ease, so you spend more “editing” and less time figuring stuff out. Check out http://www.vimeo.com/sonyvegas for some good films made using Vegas.

    I suggest at least giving it a try, there’s a 30-day trial available here: http://www.sonycreativesoftware.com/products/vegasfamily.asp

    Hope that helps.

  3. 3 mike

    Hey Adam, trying to get my head around this stop motion stuff- thanks for the tutorial!

    check out this link:
    http://www.mediastorm.org/0011.htm

    tell me if i’m wrong but it seems that your piece is batch processed so all frames are the same length. In this mediastorm presentation the frames are different lengths to coincide with the music- my question being do you have any idea what the easiest way of doing this would be?… or is there no choice but to import single frames and set the length of each?

    thanks for any insight you may have!

  4. 4 Adam Pitel

    Hi Mike, thanks for your question.

    The batch processing in Lightroom was just to modify each frame’s appearance. The length and positioning of each frame is completely controlled by your NLE. In the example video you posted, they vary frame lengths for different stills to line up with the music. The easiest way to do this is by setting up a ruler (from the File -> Properties menu) in your timeline that corresponds to the tempo of your song. In addition, you can enable the metronome (from the Options -> Metronome) which will give you a beat to work with.

    If you want to get the same effect they have in your example, some frames you’ll have to adjust manually to fit a certain length–such as the ones they seem to “pause” on momentarily. For sequences consisting of many frames, you can adjust the “New Still Image Length” (in Options -> Preferences -> Editing). Then, when you drag an image to the timeline, it will reflect this new length. You can adjust this value many times throughout a project–it will save you a lot of time.

  5. 5 ShanghaiChanges

    Hi everyone,

    I just wanted to share with you a video that I’ve been working on for the past 3 months. It’s a time lapse or stop motion video of a building in Shanghai that’s being redecorated on the outside (cladding). Watch how the windows and the roof changes.

    Here’s the YouTube link:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLnyZCGBLYc

    For those who have problems with YouTube connections here’s another link:

    http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XNzQzNTk4NDQ=.html

    Let me know what you guys think

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