How to Make a Simple Animated Movie

6477031937_b2d96b4f9dWhen you were a kid, did you ever make a movie by taking a pad of paper and drawing a stick figure on each page, changing the figure a tiny bit on each drawing; and then, when you’d finished, watching the “movie” you’d created by flipping rapidly through the pages?

6477036597_897c848c60Well, making a stop-action animated video with your computer is very similar, but instead of drawing pages you take many still digital photos of a scene, and for each one you move your subject–maybe a doll with movable limbs–just a little bit.

After you’ve made your photos–hundreds are needed to make a smooth movie lasting just a few minutes–you import those onto the time line of a video editing application, like Mac iMovie, or Windows Movie Maker.  Then you must set the fraction-of-a-second time default duration for each frame. Finally, you record a sound track for your movie and import that onto the sound track line of your video editor.  Then you’re ready to render this movie as an .MP4 or .MOV file for uploading to YouTube or Vimeo, or a similar streaming site.

6477038909_52a84027e7On a recent trip to London I visited the very old Wandsworth Quaker meeting house.  Rachel Davis, the teacher of the children’s religious education class there, invited me to watch her students making a stop-action video of the story of the birth of Jesus.  The part of the project they liked best, she said, was making scene backdrops, and dolls to represent Mary, Joseph, angels, shepherds, and wise men.

Noticing that one of the shepherd dolls had an eye patch (see the drama’s characers at left), I figured this would be a delightfully imaginative rendition of the nativity. I just received the YouTube link to their finished product yesterday, and was not disappointed! I think you’ll find the dialogue a hoot.  Make sure your speakers are turned up.

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—  TCDavis

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