Stop Motion Tips For Beginners

A few basic tips to set up and execute a fabulous stop motion.

Hannah Hellyer

We recently bought an overhead tripod to film a sample stopmotion for a potential client. It only ended up being a 15 second sizzle, which took us maybe 3 hours including editing, but since then I can’t seem to keep myself away from that beautiful 3 legged beast. Over the past two weeks I’ve been stop-motion-ing everything from post-it notes to easter eggs.

I am by no means an expert at this strange art form, but I’ve managed to learn a few tips and tricks along the way which should help anyone who wants to have a go at making a basic stop motion video.

1. Never move your tripod

I learnt this the hard way when I’d spent 2 hours shooting a stop motion only to go to edit it and realise the framing had totally changed half way through. It’s important to spend the time setting up your framing properly, making sure the tripod is in a sturdy and fixed position, and being very careful not to move it or trip over it half way through your shoot!

2. Keep the lighting consistent

This one took me a few videos to work out. When I was playing back the images from my initial stop motions there was a weird yellow flicker throughout the footage, it seemed like a few frames were white and a few were yellow. When that was all slapped together into a fast moving motion, the change in lighting was really obvious, and really hard to edit out in after effects. After a bit of googling I worked out it was the fluorescent light in our photo studio that I had on during filming. A big no-no according to the internets.

The best kind of lighting to use for stop motions are profile lights. Ideally you’d have these on a stand, and be able to position them during the setup to make sure the light is coming in from the right angle and stays consistent throughout filming.

3. Find a great backdrop - and keep it still!

I’ve been experimenting with all different kinds of backdrops, from table tops to cardboard sheets and even large pieces of fabric. Having a textured backdrop is a great way to make your stop motion look a bit more interesting, but make sure you secure it to the surface you’re filming to keep it still throughout the take. Again, another mistake I learnt the hard way when I reviewed my footage and the whole sheet of cardboard had shifted during filming!

4. Buy a clicker

I’m sure clicker isn’t the correct industry term, but you know what I mean. A plug in for your camera that allows you to stand back and click rather than muck around trying to use the button on the camera itself.

Originally I thought this was a huge rip off ($70 for a canon clicker from a store in Sydney), but after I’d done a few stop motions I realised how much time and energy it saved. A must have for your stop motions.

5. Lots of small, concise movements

Now you’ve got your set up sorted, making the actual stop motion is the fun part! Small movements and lots of photos are great to make the footage quite fluid. You can also do a few tests before you start, and use your hand to move the objects through the motion while taking a video to see how it comes out.

If you’re making any edits and using text / logos in after effects, keep that in mind when you’re positioning your objects so you have space for them to sit in the frame. Otherwise the best advice I could give is just have fun with it!