We wrapped up a week-long summer camp on StopMotion Film Making today at the Edmond Fine Arts Institute, and students showed off the results of their creative week of filmmaking during a “showcase” at the end of class. All told, each student pair created four films each. Day 1 was an experimental film learning the basics of the free SAM Animation software program. In day 2 we introduced storyboarding and the concept of dramatic structure. On day three students experimented a little with claymation / stopmotion with modeling clay, made a short claymation film, and started to plan their longer, final project. Final projects were actually created, with both stopmotion video and sound/audio effects, on days 4 and 5. Final projects had to be at least 30 seconds long, but students could decide what frame rate they wanted to use. Most used a framerate between 5 and 10 fps. SAM makes it very easy for students to change the framerate, which is nice, but this may have created some of the problems I had tonight when uploading these to YouTube. (See below for more details.) Students used microphones to record voiceover narration, and also used the PodSafe Music Network for music as well as Soungle and FindSounds.com for sound effects. All these sites for sound and music are listed on the music/audio resource page of our Celebrate Oklahoma Voices project. Some of the music they used did originate on other sites, and (of course) this provided a good context to discuss copyright and fair use. In the case of one group, which used a clip of “The Imperial March” by John Williams from the Star Wars film series, I showed them how to edit and fade out music using the free program Audacity. For the first three days of camp, we started by watching and analyzing several sample stopmotion films. Most of those examples are listed/linked on our workshop wiki.

Here are the students’ final projects! They did great and I think had a lot of fun learning about stopmotion. We met for three hours each weekday this week, from 3 to 6 pm. These projects represent about 5-6 hours of work for each student team. Students in the camp ranged in age from 9 to 14 years old. (If you listen closely in some of these videos, you may hear the voice of a guest actor whose name you know!)

The Final Fight by Uday and Ben (52 seconds)
This is the 3rd part of a fun trilogy they made using goldfish and other characters.

The Arcade by Ben and Spencer (32 seconds)
This is a movie about a character who falls into a video game and has to win at several games in order to get out.

The Three Sea Creatures by Supriya and Sarah (50 seconds)
This movie is a takeoff on “The Three Little Pigs,” where the villain is an evil goldfish.

The Alien Invasion of 92 by Cameron and Christian (50 seconds)
This movie is a brickfilm (stopmotion with legos) and uses some creative effects they thought of themselves.

I thought it would be very straightforward to upload these to YouTube, but for some reason a lot of frames were skipped in the initial Flash-encoded YouTube versions I uploaded. I’m not sure if that was a function of the original framerates at which these were encoded or something else. After reading several online articles about optimal QuickTime Pro export settings for StopMotion movies and YouTube, I adjusted the settings and used a fixed framerate of 10 for re-exported versions of these videos. That seemed to do the trick when I uploaded to YouTube, as the resulting Flash videos seem to have all the frames of the original videos included! The audio tracks are also in sync with the video track, and that was a problem with some of the videos for some reason the first time I uploaded them.

Parents gave very positive feedback following our “showcase” in which we watched all the films students created during the week. Several reported that their kids LOVED learning about and doing stopmotion, and couldn’t wait to come back to class each day this week! This was a lot of fun, but also quite a bit of work. I plan to share a lengthier reflection about “lessons learned” leading this camp soon. I may record an audio podcast with my 11 year old son, Alexander, who helped me facilitate the camp. He was a HUGE help, and it was great to see him sharing his expertise with other students as well as working to tactfully keep student groups on task. (Something which is often a challenge during cooperative learning, even when students are doing something fun and engaging like creating stopmotion films!)

We used all of our own equipment for this camp, except for several painter’s lights which were provided by one of the staff members. I owe a big thanks to the open source developers of maccam, since that driver allowed us to use two old, inexpensive webcams for student SAM projects. The big mystery of the week, which is still unresolved, is why my father-in-law’s Sony MiniDV recorder stopped sending video out the firewire cable after day 2. We tried everything to reset it, use different cables, etc, and nothing worked. Thankfully we had a portable iSight camera, 2 old USB webcams, and my old Sony Digital8 camcorder. On two occasions student groups had to try making videos with the built-in iSight on a Macbook laptop, and that was REALLY tough. An external camera/webcam which you can mount on a tripod or has its own support base is essential for stopmotion filmmaking.

I posted 70 photos I snapped with my iPhone during our workshop to Flickr this evening. Let’s hear it for creative filmmaking fun! :-)

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