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Stop motion animation

Stop motion animation

What is Stop motion?

Stop motion (also known as stop frame animation) is an animation technique used to create animation sequences, by capturing one frame at a time of any type of object that can be positioned and manipulated.

The procedure is simple overall; just position an object in front of the camera in its starting position, expose one frame of the film then slightly move the object and expose a second frame. This process is repeated until the object reaches its final position. Finally, when frames are played in sequence, they give the viewer the illusion of a moving object across the screen.

However, creating a full movie isn’t this simple. It becomes more complicated and requires lots of time to create tens of thousands of these small, repetitive movements and slight scenery changes. Putting these individually photographed frames together requires careful composition to produce the final playable film.

For example, imagine you want to create a video using stop-motion animation featuring a bunch of pens that move in a circular pattern. You begin by positioning the pens in a circle and take a photograph with your digital camera. You move the pens slightly in a clockwise direction and take another photograph. Then repeat this process over and over until you have taken hundreds of photographs.

These photos are then transferred to a computer that uses special software to create a video that quickly displays the photographs in the order they were taken. So, when you watch the video, you can see the pens move in a circle the same way you imagined it.

The Humpty Dumpty Circus was the first stop-motion animation film produced in 1898's, created by directors and producers J. Stuart Blackton and Albert E. Smith. The film brought wooden toys to life to depict acrobats and moving animals.

Stop motion

Stop-motion animation techniques include object animation, clay animation, Lego animation, puppet animation, silhouette animation, pixilation and cutout animation.

The type of object used to create the animation is the key difference among these techniques.

Stop-motion animation can also be combined with live action movie or video footage using a process called compositing.

It takes a lot of patience and an understanding of some basic techniques to make your animations not only move, but come to life.


It is important to remember movements that are closer together will slow down the action, while movements that are farther apart will speed it up.

Using combination of slow and fast movements can greatly improve the animation and make it more realistic. Just like in the real world, things sometimes move quickly or slowly, and sometimes they don’t move at all. Timing can have a great impact on the viewer’s attention. For example, pausing for a few frames is necessary before a key moment in the animation. This emphasizes a certain part of the film and prepares the audience to focus on one thing.

Calculating the frames needed for the final movie

It’s always a good practice to calculate the timing of the stop-motion moves before starting to shoot the film. This helps decide on how many images need to be added or removed from the animation to reach the desired outcome.

For example, if the final movie is playing back at 30 frames per second, every 30 images shot will equal one second of the movie. So if you want to make the movie 3 seconds longer, it’ll require 90 individual images and 92 moves of the objects to complete the action.

Begin with the starting position, shoot a frame, move the objects you’ve determined need to be moved, shoot another frame, then move the objects again, and keep repeating the process until you’ve finished shooting all 90 frames.

Finally, you’ll need to export these images to a computer program, designed specially to create stop motion movies, to join them together in their original sequence. Other software packages also exist that give the animators more control of the entire animation process.

  • You have to know how quickly our eyes see these frames go by, you should never add a hold for less than six frames or the audience will think it is a camera jerk or a production mistake.
  • Remember to check your DSLR camera’s User’s Manual for instructions on its particular menu navigation and dial layout.

Stop motion
Stefano Bessoni, Italian filmmaker, illustrator and stop-motion animator working on Gallows Songs. (2014)

What is the object animation?

Object animation is a form of stop motion animation which works with any non-drawn objects, such as dolls or toys, made of not fully malleable materials like clay or wax. These objects are not designed to look as a recognizable human or animal being, unlike model and puppet animation which usually use recognizable characters as their subjects.

Other examples of objects used in object animation include toy soldiers or construction toys like TinkerToy.


It's  a toy construction set for children, created in 1914—six years after the Frank Hornby's Meccano sets—by Charles H. Pajeau, who formed the Toy Tinker Company in Evanston, Illinois to manufacture them.

Tinkertoy set


Clay animation

Also known as Claymation, clay animation is one of the early stop-motion animation processes that and is still popular to this day.

Using clay or plasticine, different figures and characters are formed and then manipulated or moved in each frame, so when the frames are viewed rapidly in order, the viewer sees a continuous video motion giving some life to the animation.

This requires a consistent shooting environment, including consistent lighting and object placement, to maintain the illusion of continuity as the frames move by, making the objects appear to move by themselves.

Clay animation

A History of Clay Animation

The term ‘claymation’, trademarked 1978 by Will Vinton, combines the words ‘clay’ and ‘animation’.

However, clay animation has been around long before the Claymation term was even coined, since the early film era during early 1900’s.

Like most animation techniques, clay animation required more than one individual to create. The first clay animation film was “The Sculptor’s Welsh Rarebit Dream" (1908) by the Edison Manufacturing Co.

This film was initially created as a trick film and directed by Edwin S. Porter (a film pioneer and director of several trick films with Thomas Edison). Trick films were films using the stop trick special effect, discovered accidentally by Georges Méliès.

An old trick was making subjects seem to magically appear or disappear, by simply turning off the camera, and moving the subjects out of the frame and then turning the camera back on.

Clay animation became more popular in 1916, when two artists named Helena Smith Dayton and Willie Hopkins produced a clay animated film along with a wide range of subjects.

Willie Hopkins produced more than fifty clay animated segments for the weekly Universal Screen Magazine.

With the increasing popularity of cel animation by the 1920s, three-dimensional forms of animation like clay became less and less popular.

In 1921, clay animation appeared again in Modeling, an Out of the Inkwell film from the newly formed Fleischer Brothers studio. It included eight shots of animated clay, which was a new implementation of the clay animation technique into an existing cartoon series and was one of the rare uses of clay animation in a theatrical short.

In 1972, Andre Roche, an artist and illustrator at Marc Chinoy’s Cineplast Film Studio in Germany, created a set of clay-animated German-language-instruction films for non-German-speaking children, and called it Kli-Kla-Klawitter for the Second German TV channel, and another set for a traffic education series, called Herr Daniel pabt autf, which means Mr. Daniel pays attention.

Another animator, Craig Bartlett, developed a variation of clay animation that added a more 3D stop-motion feel to his films. He used clay painting, and also some clay images that rose off the flat plane towards the camera lens, giving a 3D look for his series of “Arnold” short films.

Clay animation was also used in the production of many computer games and television commercials.

A History of Clay Animation

The Neverhood (also called The Neverhood Chronicles, released in Japan as Klaymen, is a 1996 point-and-click adventure game developed by The Neverhood, and published by DreamWorks Interactive. The game follows the adventure of a claymation character named Klaymen as he discovers his origins and his purpose in a world made entirely out of clay. When the game was originally released, it was unique in that it featured all of its animation done entirely in claymation, including all of the sets, rather than 2- or 3-dimensional computer graphics, like many other games at its time.

Claymation techniques

Write a Script

A Claymation process starts with writing the script. Planning the storyline of the animation, the different key events, and also the dialogue of the characters. Even if the clay characters are designed to not be very talkative, the animation should still tell a story.

Claymation techniques

Find music and voice recording

The right music track and voice recordings add great value to the animation. The music or dialogue don’t need to be overly-complicated, as what really matters is choosing the appropriate sound to complement the animation to achieve the best results.

Music can have a huge impact on the mood of animation. A slow lingering piano, or a lone violin imply a sad mood for the animation, while an upbeat and cheery music could help impose a happy mood. Matching the Claymation with the right music tone is necessary to convey the desired feelings.

Gather Materials

Working on a clay animation requires preparing the materials needed for production, those include:


Make sure the clay will not harden when exposed to air. Purchase the desired clay colors.

What is the Best Clay to use for claymation movies stop motion animation?

  • The Kiln-fired hardening clays

Kiln-fired hardening clays require extreme heat to harden after shaping them. Ceramic clay and porcelain are the most popular examples used in pottery and producing high-gloss and colorful sculptures.


  • The non-hardening clays

These are more popular in clay animation due to their ability to create soft and movable characters. They are oil-based by nature, and that prevents the clay from hardening even when heated or exposed to air and humidity for long periods of time.

Plasticine or plastilena clays often played with by children, are common examples of non-hardening clays, and they are available in various colors on the market.

The non-hardening clays

  • Oven-Baked hardening Clay

This type of clay remains soft and moldable, and begins to harden when it’s baked in medium to high heat temperatures.

The polymer clay that is also used in Claymation belongs to this category.

Oven-Baked hardening Clay

  • Air-Dried Clay

There are also types of clays that quickly dry up after a few minutes or hours of being exposed to air.

These are the water-based air-dried clays. And an example of which is the WED clay.

Air-Dried Clay

  • The best clay for your Claymation

The non-hardening plasticine clay is the most suitable type of clay for clay animation due to its nature to stay soft and moldable even after long exposure to air or room temperatures.

However, clay animation usually consists of both hardening and non-hardening clays together. The hardening clay types, like polymer, are needed to create non-moving parts or characters, and are also useful for creating internal supporting frames to the softer clay.

The best clay for your Claymation

The Animation Toolkit replacement lip sync kit is a product specifically designed for lip sync in stop motion, is designed to look as if has been sculpted from plasticine/clay.

How to sculpt?

The following steps demonstrate the sculpting process:

Sketch your design

Sketching helps to visualize the sculpture from different angles, and gives a better idea of certain details and pieces.

It doesn’t have to be great drawing, but it just needs to provide a solid road-map for what’s the sculpture is going to become.

Also, sketching the sculpture to scale can be extremely useful. However, it can be difficult when it comes to very large sculptures.

Build your armature

Armature is a fundamental part of every sculpture. It’s basically the supporting structure or skeleton that holds the clay together and keeps the pieces from becoming too soft and easily broken.

The armature is usually made from wire, or other supportive material, depending on the size of the sculpture and the availability of the materials. Even toothpicks can work for smaller sculptures, while PVC pipes can be useful for larger ones.

Sketching plays an important role in building the armature. By looking at the sketch, the main pieces of the sculpture can be defined, along with the essential lines that connect different key pieces together.

Add your filler

The filler is usually made out of a cheap, light-weight material. It serves to fill in the major parts of the inner sculpture body, while cutting down material costs and keeping the weight of the sculpture down, making it easier to move around and less likely to break.

Common filler materials include tin foil, newspaper, and masking or painter’s tape.

Forming Your Sculpture

  • Larger sections first

With the armature and fillers in place, it’s a good practice to start forming the larger sections of the sculptures first. Start with shaping the broadest parts, and lay the foundation of the sculpture. For example, if you’re working on a person or an animal, it’s better to start by forming the larger muscle groups first.

  • Add smaller sections

Start adding the smaller sections to more carefully define the shape of the sculpture. The process is quite smaller to working with larger sections, just make sure to cover the smaller areas with clay or other sculpting materials.

Following our example of sculpting an organic creature, these smaller sections would represent small muscle groups, and also additional parts like the tail or hair.

  • Sculpt finer details

Now it’s time to start defining the finer details of the sculpture by slightly reforming the materials, adding or removing tiny clay pieces, or marginally shifting sculpting materials into place.

This stage also includes finalizing and smoothing out the larger pieces of the sculpture, and carefully carving their smaller details, like the protrusion of the nose or the tilting angle of the eyes.

Unlike the first two stages, where you could only rely on your hands, this process may require you to use certain sculpting tools to assist in carefully carving the very small details.

Generally, with sculpting tools, large tips are used to create the broad details, while finer tips are used to create details. Scoop-like tools create rounded areas. Tools with a loop are used to scrape away the material. Anything with a sharp edge can be used to cut.

Texturing Your Sculpture

First, it’s necessary to identify the appropriate textures that will work with the sculpture. You can come up with your own ideas, or try to mimic what the object could like in the real world. Usually the texture used is a mixture of different materials, including wood, hair, fabric, fur, etc., with each type of material assigned to a specific part of the sculpture. Each type of texture is usually dealt with on a different level, and requires specific knowledge to handle.

Once you’ve mapped out the overall texture of the sculpture, you can start texturing it one section at a time, using the appropriate tools.

The curing process is finally applied to the sculpture. It’s the process of making the clay hard as needed, by exposing it to certain conditions. Some clays need to be air dried, others baked, etc. This depends on the type and nature of the clay used in sculpting.

A best practice here is to not overdo the curing process to avoid burning.

Adding Finishes

Painting adds the desired look and feel to the sculpture, especially if the materials used in sculpting were not colored according appropriately, or at all. There are several types of painting techniques that could be used.

Picking the right paint largely depends on the type of materials used. Acrylic paint, for example, is suitable for most types of materials, while enamel paints are better if using polymer clay.

After deciding on the type of paint to be used, the sculpture is prepared for painting by washing it with soap and water or rubbing it alcohol.

Prepare the sculpture for painting by washing it with soap and water or giving it a quick wipe down with some rubbing alcohol. You might also want to apply a base coat if necessary, so the paint doesn’t seem too striped.

After the main paint has been applied to the sculpture, glosses and glazes can be added to certain areas as needed, to make them appear more realistic. And to make the sculpture look even more realistic, you can finish it off with adding some real materials like fabric or hair.


Proper lighting is key in shooting most sorts of animation, and stop motion is no different.

Daylight serves as a great light source for the scenery, but it can’t be relied on throughout the different periods of the day. Also clouds and any objects that might cross the path of the sun would result in unexpected shadows.

That’s why artificial light can be better for shooting clay animation, as it provides consistent picture lighting, given that sunlight is blocked from entering the shooting room.

A stop motion animation usually requires two lamps at least, to provide proper lighting, and reduce or avoid shadows.

There are various factors that come into play when setting up the correct lighting for a scene; how far the lamps are positioned from the objects, the type of lighting lamps used, and the intensity of light. Proper lighting should do the job without reflecting too much heat onto the objects. Keeping the lamps back enough would reduce heat to a minimum, but may result in casting a shadow of camera or animator onto the set.

Choosing the type of lighting plays a role in the process. Florescent lighting, for example, generates the least amount of heat. After deciding on which bulbs to use, comes the decision of choosing lamp holders. Lamps should be able to move around freely, while being firm enough. Ideally you want the ability to move them around whilst having them firm enough, so they won’t wobble as you move around your film set.

Usually, a minimum of two lights is needed. One to provide the overall soft lighting for filming, and another act as a key light to create modelling and shadows. A third added light can be used as a back-light to add some depth that lifts the characters away from the background.

Lighting Kit - PROKIT Chelsea Kit

Begin Shooting

Shooting begins after the stage is set, and the objects are in place. A tripod is setup in a stable place, with a remote trigger of a couple of seconds delay on the shutter to avoid shaking on taking the shot.

The camera is usually set to manual control, so the ISO and Aperture settings are locked, because automatic settings can result in a final output with flickering lights, due to the difference in settings for every shot.

In traditional (film) photography ISO (or ASA) was the indication of how sensitive a film was to light. It was measured in numbers (you’ve probably seen them on films – 100, 200, 400, 800 etc). The lower the number the lower the sensitivity of the film and the finer the grain in the shots you’re taking.

In Digital Photography ISO measures the sensitivity of the image sensor. The same principles apply as in film photography – the lower the number the less sensitive your camera is to light and the finer the grain.

Higher ISO settings are generally used in darker situations to get faster shutter speeds.

What is Aperture?

It is a hole or an opening through which light travels. More specifically, the aperture and focal length of an optical system determine the cone angle of a bundle of rays that come to a focus in the image plane.

Canon 60D Exposure

Post Production

Photoshop helps a lot in post-production with its wide array of effects, that could enhance the images of the clay animation. The images are then joined together in an ordered sequence using computer software. Music and sound effects can also be added to the animation in this stage.

Examples of Claymation movies:

  • Plasticine Crow (1981)
  • The Wrong Trousers (1993)
  • Monkey bone (2001)
  • Corpse Bride (2005)

Claymation movies

What is Legomation or Brickfilming?

Another form of stop-motion animation, and probably one of the easiest ways to get started with stop motion, is legomation or brickfilming. It’s the shooting of LEGO® mini figures to create short animation films. The term 'brick film' was originally coined by Jason Rowoldt, founder of Brick films.

The reason why this type of animation is quite easy goes back to the fact that legos usually don’t need a lot of work or magnets to stay in place, because a plug board helps a lot in holding the mini figures in the desired positions. And you also don’t have to worry about the lego characters breaking or smudging like clay.

Brickfilms are usually made using stop motion animation techniques, but some films can include computer-generated imagery or full 3D live action. There’s a small difference between Legomation and Brickfilms, and it’s that Legomation is produced using only LEGO® or Mega Bloks, while Brickfilms can implement computer or flash animation.

It's also worth noting that LEGO- is from the Danish phrase, which means "to play well"  The Lego history began in 1932 in Denmark, when Ole Kirk Christiansen founded a small factory for wooden toys in the unknown town of Billund in the south of the country. To find a name for his company he organized a competition among his employees. As fate would have it however, he himself came up with the best name: LEGO® – a fusion of the Danish words “LEg” and “GOdt” (“play well”).

Brickfilms usually use the art of MOC (My Own Creation) development, which gives each film a different feel depending on individual building styles. The real challenge in Brickfilms is to get creative to deliver special emotion and communicate with the audience, since legos are typically limited in their range of movement and expressions.


A digital still camera is used to capture modern brick films. The captured images may need to be altered to create special effects for each frame. There are many computer programs that assist in such editing procedures, however, many seasoned brick film makers prefer to use a dedicated stop motion software, like MonkeyJam or Dragon Frame.

Finally, more visual effects and the soundtrack can be added using a compositing software like the famous Adobe After Effects along with a video editor.

Lighting Brickfilms

Having up to four light sources or lamps is the ideal lighting setup. However, two should work quiet well. If you are using four lamps, then they should be categorized as:

  • A Back light - to illuminate the subject from behind. It’s placed behind the subject and provides definition and subtle highlights around the subject’s outlines, separating the object from the background and providing a three-dimensional look.
  • A Background light - to illuminate the background of the set. A Key light - the main light source to illuminate the subject or scene. This light has the strongest influence on the scene, and is placed to one side of the camera or the subject at anything from 15 to 45 degrees, so that this side is nicely lit, and the other side has some shadow.
  • A Fill light - to illuminate or fill in shadows created by key light and reduce contrast. It’s placed on the opposite side of the key light, and is usually less bright and softer than the key.

It’s important that the key light, which is the primary light used in filming, is not too hard or too soft. Placing the four lights correctly can take some experimenting, but reaching the right positioning and the correct intensity, along with the right quality eventually lead to a satisfying result.

The use of four lights is called three-point lighting, as the background light is not counted since it does not illuminate the subject directly, but it works with the backgrounds.

Lighting Brickfilms

Although Brickfilms can be easy when it comes to positioning objects as mentioned earlier, they can have some problems with lighting that are not normally encountered when filming people or other larger objects.

This is due to the small size of most legos and their highly-reflective nature. There might be white spots on the shot lego characters or bricks even with the three-point lighting system because they can get really shiny when reflecting lights. This can be overcome by either moving the lights further away from the legos or by using more greaseproof paper or similar material that make lights a bit softer.

Tips for better brickmation:


15 FPS is the standard for most professionals when it comes to making brick films to create a smooth animation. The lowest acceptable framerate, however, is 12 frames per second.

Shooting and Lighting

Setting the camera settings to manual reduces flickering due to using the very same settings across the different shots.

Also wearing dark clothes on the set while animating can help reduce undesired light reflections.

Example of brickmation films:


Puppet animation

Puppet animation is another form of stop-motion animation that developed from object animation, where puppets are used instead of objects.

Similar to the process of object animation, a puppet is shot in a frame then moved slightly and another frame is shot. Puppets took object animation a step further since they can be easily moved to feature more movement ranges and facial expressions than other objects, and are more able to imitate human behavior.

The Russian animation pioneer, Ladislas Starewitch was the first to make a puppet-animated film called ‘The Cameraman’s Revenge’ (1912) and then proceeded to produce another puppet animation named ‘Le Roman de Renard’ (1929-1930) which means “The Tale of the Fox”, its story was based on the 11th century of “Reynard the fox”.

Puppet animation was used in the film King Kong (1933). The Nightmare before Christmas (1993) is also a stop motion musical fantasy horror film directed by Henry Selick.  It featured 227 puppets to represent the characters of the film, along with 400 heads to allow the expression for various emotions.

The writer and director Tim Burton also often uses puppet animation in his work, like he did in Corpse Bride (2005), which is another animated horror musical. These days puppet animation is most commonly used in children’s cartoons and films.

The differences between claymation and puppet animation

The key difference between claymation and Puppet animation is obviously the material used in both. The same object modeled in claymation will look different when made in puppet animation. Objects made with clay will usually look glossier while puppets could convey more emotions.

With puppet animation you don’t need to worry about a melting object or accidentally disfiguring a character. However, you will probably worry more about the fabric of the puppet and how not to make it too restrictive to the puppet movement.

Puppet animation

The Cameraman's Revenge (1912) animation:

A jilted husband takes his revenge by filming his wife and her lover and showing the result at the local cinema. This was one of Starewicz' first animated films, and stars very realistic animated beetles.

Silhouette animation

Silhouette animation features animated characters as moving shadows, similar to shadow puppets animation, except that the latter uses sticks to control the puppets. Silhouette animation, inspired by shadow play, works by backlighting cardboard cut-outs that make up the different figures in the animation.

Moving the silhouettes required cutting out different body parts and re-attaching them using small wire hinges.

Silhouette animation

The first silhouette animation featured in the film industry was by the German movie director Lotte Reigniger. Some of her best-known work includes Cinderella (1922) and The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926).

Silhouettes can be used in multiple methods of design from the abstract to the symmetrical and beyond. Whether you have it in mind to design a specific type of creature/character or something more abstract, you can begin the silhouette process by pasting down large black shapes on a 3/4 point of view or by mirroring shapes to be used in terms of a front, back or top down view. One of the best things about this quick design method is you don't need to focus on hands, feet, fingers, eyes and all the little intricacies that take up time. As seen below in some examples, you can produce broken shapes and ghost line effects while you let your mind fill in the gaps. You can worry later and work out the missing elements once you have chosen a strong dominate shape.

It's important to recognize that your design needs to provide a striking impact on the viewer from multiple angles, so although a silhouette shape may appear strong and iconic from the front or side view, you need to continue to play around with multiple angles to really come up with something memorable and recognizable no matter where the camera's POV (point of view) appears.

Silhouette animation as invented by Reiniger is subdivision of cutout animation. It utilizes figures cut out of paperboard, sometimes reinforced with thin metal sheets, and tied together at their joints with thread or wire (usually substituted by plastic or metal paper fasteners in contemporary productions) which are then moved frame-by-frame on an animation stand and filmed top-down with a rostrum camera – such techniques were used, albeit with stylistic changes.

Stop German

Most recently, several CGI silhouette films have been made, which demonstrate different approaches to the technique as 2D, vector animation, 3D figures rendered as silhouettes mixes 2D characters and 3D backgrounds, both of which are combination of live action CGI.


CGI (Computer-generated imagery) is the application of computer graphics to create or contribute to images in art, printed media, video games, films, television programs, shorts, commercials, videos, and simulators. The visual scenes may be dynamic or static and may be two-dimensional (2D), though the term "CGI" is most commonly used to refer to 3D computer graphics used for creating scenes or special effects in films and television.

Most of people would think this silhouette videois also a silhouette animation, and made with the same process. Well, actually it is not. This silhouette video used real person as its center and main character, and was made with a green screen method. But the development starts by compositing two images or video streams together based on color hues, which are meant to give dark effects to the main figure and allowed the visual in background area remain visible. This media format was commonly used in mysteries and detective movies, they are very popular on the television during the 70’s.

The cost to produce this kind of clip is much higher than the other version described above. It requires you to hire, or have an entire production staffs that have the techniques and training to execute such projects.

Hiring a real actor and setting up a good green screen background will cost you an arm and a leg. Other elements such as cameras and graphics designer will also add to the sum you have to pay.

Pixilation animation

Pixilation is another form of stop-motion animation, and it’s really simple to get started with. All it really takes is having a camera, and the ability to organize the shots in sequence to create an interesting film. This makes it popular among beginners looking to get into this form of animation. However, having proper thought process, a computer with decent software and a tripod can make the animation much more fruitful.

The technique is as simple as repeatedly shooting live actors with a slight change of pose in each frame. It can be used to make an animated film with real characters and environment, creating some sense of a surreal world which can exaggerate the mood and personality of a character, and breaks the laws of physics.

Pixilation dates back to the 1910s, however, it really took off when Norman McLaren, a Scottish animator, came out with his famous pixilation film, Neighbors. It reflects anti-war themes by showing two fighting neighbors.

Due to the fast and energetic nature of pixilation movement, many pixilation films adapted humor in their stories. The same technique, however, can be used to represent more serious subjects.

It all pours down to controlling the movement and expressions of the characters to provide the desired results. For example, experimenting with pauses can express desperation or sadness through a slower motion.

There are various ways to get creative with pixilation. Smoothing out the action through multiple frames require discipline and practice in adjusting the poses of each character.

This can be very funny looking. But, if the movement of a character is smoother, then the effect can lean more toward serious interpretation. Expression and performance play a key role, but we are concentrating strictly on movement. So, if an actor being shot frame by frame moves slowly and constantly and the camera operator continuously shoots frames, capturing the in-between of action at a more even pace, the action will be smoother, mimicking live-action movement. A minimum of time should be spent between shot frames. If the person being shot is moving constantly in a particular direction, then he/she will be better registered in placement from frame to frame than spending minutes between frames adjusting position and losing that registration.

Shooting on twos, fours, and more

Mixing both smooth and weird movements provides an interesting dynamic feeling to the animated film. A great example of this is A Chairy Tale, an animated short produced by Norman McLaren and Claude Jutra in 1957. They usually shoot a footage at half speed of the normal live action, which is usually 12 frames per second, and speed it up using different frame manipulations.

Many modern cameras made for recording live action videos now support shooting at different frame rates. However, if using a regular still camera, or a less modern one, the continuous shooting technique helps vary the look of the pixilated film.

Shooting stop motion or doing heavy subject manipulation between frames requires calculating how many frames or pictures are needed for every increment of the subject movement. And since moving human subjects can be physically challenging, it’s always good to reduce the amount of demanded work. Shooting two pictures for every movement and playing it back at 30 frames per second accomplishes the same result as shooting at 15 frames per second with a playback of 15 fps.

In film, the projected playback rate is 24 fps, so many animators shoot two pictures per movement, played back at 24 fps. But if this film is to be transferred to video, then it needs to be stretched into 30 frames per second. This is done by averaging out two frames every five frames of footage. Some problems might arise if there were some special effects to be added in post-production, since every frame needs to be a clean distinctive image. The effects need to be added at 24 fps in this case, and stretched to 30 fps afterwards.

Lighting is always a key element in shooting animation. It sets the overall mood and atmosphere and helps define objects in the scene. Pixilation animations can be shot both indoors, with a more controlled lighting, and outdoors, with the natural harsh light. Artificial light has made it possible to shoot in different environments and modern lighting has been exploited to achieve great results in setting the scene, as well as generate new creative methods to manipulate light on camera.

An example is painting with light, a technique which utilizes an LED light in a dark environment, and a DSLR camera with its shutter speed set to a long exposure of at least 2 seconds, enabling the moving source to draw a streaking light frame to frame.

LED light

Examples of pixilation films:

Neighbours (1952 film)

Modern video (Target Dreaming Girl Commercial):

Cutout animation

Cut-out animation is another simple animation technique which falls under the category of stop-motion animation.

Cutout animation is produced using flat characters, props and backgrounds cut from different materials, like paper, cardboard or fabric. It involves moving these cutout objects and photographing them at each stage using a still camera which shoots them straight ahead. 

Most cutout films offer some characters cut from photos to serve as the main figures, and are coupled with a narrative that tell a story about them.

The main parts of a figure, like the arms, head or legs, are usually cut in separation of their body, and are slightly moved or manipulated, then reassembled through each frame. The silhouette animation technique was derived from cutout animations by applying back light, instead of top light like in regular cutout animation, to the cutout objects. This back light projects detailed shadows or silhouettes of the cutout which are then worked on to develop an animation.

Yuri Norstein’s Hedgehog in the Fog is an example of an elaborate and beautifully executed use of this technique.

Computers have also revolutionized cutout animation. The images are scanned to the computer, replacing the physically cut materials. This has enabled the cutouts to go back and forth in time using computer software, and are easily duplicated. Tweening necessary frames is also much easier using a computer.

Cutout animation

Example of cutout animations:

Charlie and Lola is a multi-award winning cutout collection 2D animation series aimed at a pre-school audience. It is adapted from the award-winning children’s books written and illustrated by Lauren Child.

Born Free Cut out Animation Short:



This software is not too expensive and is very user friendly. It’s useful for beginners who want to take stop-motion as a hobby, while also offering some more professional features like DSLR support, onion skinning and chrome keying. 


Chapter: 5