Ever since I first saw the Clay Animation Kit from Tech4Learning at the TCEA conference in the late 1990s, I have yearned for an opportunity to play with its contents and have fun making my own claymation videos! Members of our immediate family are BIG TIME fans of claymation movies like those of Wallace and Gromit. My 4 year old daughter’s favorite movie of all time is “A Close Shave,” and it amazes me how these films have encouraged her to develop a pretty sophisticated sense of humor. (Incidentally, production is ON for the next Wallace and Gromit film, “A Matter of Loaf and Death.” Read more on the official production blog.)
Stopmotion and claymation films are not only fun to watch, they are also a BLAST to create! About four years ago, when my oldest was in kindergarten, we spent quite a few hours together creating three “Stopmotion Western Classics” with his set of lincoln logs and the characters which came with the set. My favorite of the three movies is definitely “Minders Rescue,” which features some musical excerpts from Clint Black as well as the old Flash Gordon theme by Queen. 🙂
My long awaited opportunity to play with the Tech4Learning Claymation kit comes next week! I’m taking a week of vacation from work to teach a class on “Stop Motion Filmmaking” for our church’s Fine Arts Camp for 3rd through 9th graders. I’m very excited to have this opportunity!
This evening after dinner, my 10 year old and I spent two hours creating a quick sample movie with an old Mavica digital camera I have (yes, it would still take floppy disks if I owned any!) and Frames software. As expected, it took about 30 seconds to get oriented to the Frames software options and create a reasonable stopmotion movie with it. (In other words, like all good software, it was very intuitive and easy to use.) Frames is cross-platform, so we can use it on our Macs at home as well as the WindowsXP computers at the church where the fine arts camp is being held. The Claymation kit came with the software and licenses for five software installations.
The short (1 min 16 second) movie we created tonight has 105 photos used as frames, and about six still frames for the intro and outro. We obtained our music from the Podsafe Music Network. This isn’t a Spielberg quality film, but it was fun and gave us some good experiences getting familiar with Frames software and reviewing the stopmotion filmmaking process. We borrowed some of my 4 year old’s NASA play toys, and titled this epic video, “A Day On The Moon.”
Several things were reinforced during our moviemaking time this evening which will be helpful tips to share with students next week:
- Keeping the camera and tripod still is vital and one of the most important things to do in a successful stopmotion movie.
- Be aware of lightning and shadows, and minimize unnecessary or unwanted shadows if possible by moving to a location that is not between the light source and your set.
- Taped together manila file folders make a reasonably nice backdrop for a set. (Thanks Tonya Witherspoon for this tip!)
- Make very small movements for each frame of the movie. It takes a LOT of frames to create just a few seconds of video! (The default setting in the software program “Frames” is half a second per frame, but you can alter this as desired.)
Monday we start the stopmotion workshop with students at the Fine Arts camp. It’s going to be a fun and exciting week! I hope Alexander is going to be my camp assistant, but I don’t think he’s made up his mind yet if he’s going to attend or assist his dad!
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