Stopmotion ExplosionIf you're not familiar with the concept of stopmotion, it is essentially taking several pictures, slowly altering the scene, repeating until your "movie" is finished, and then playing them in quick succession so it looks like you're seeing the movement/motion. It's like the flip-books we used to draw in school! It's quite a bit different from those apps the boys were using, which did all the video animation aspects for the kids.
Stopmotion Explosion has taken this to a new level by providing a book, as well as a complete kit with a camera and software, both of which the crew has been reviewing. I have been reading the book Stopmotion Explosion by Nate Eckerson. With 17 chapters, it will take you through the history of film and give you a very thorough overview of how to create stopmotion movies--from the animation, to the script, to lighting, to choosing cameras, to editing--and quite a bit more. There were neat recommendations for creating smoke clouds and other special effects that I certainly couldn't have come up with on my own.
He gives recommendations for cameras as well as video editing software. There is a download section on the website (password protected) where you can download free software and sound effects. Since the book can't flesh out full tutorials, it will point you to video tutorials online whenever applicable.
What Did We Think?You might be surprised that I started the project with my 6 year old instead of my 9 year old. That's because I'm not technically inclined, my 6 year old was even more anxious to start, and I figured he would have more mercy on me. My oldest is more technically inclined, and has higher expectations. I knew there would be a learning curve, and I wanted someone who would be patient with me!
I let Emory pick out what he wanted to use for his video and he created the scenes while I grabbed the shots with my digital camera. Then we transferred everything to Windows Movie Maker (recommended in the book) along with some audio clips that were from the Stopmotion Explosion downloads.
I won't go into the technical side of using the program, since it's just one that they recommend and they can direct you to tutorials, but it's worth noting that this part was beyond my six year old. If you're going to be doing stopmotion with young children, be prepared to do the heavy lifting, so to speak.
Anyway, our first attempt was short and sweet.
Darth Vader Defeats
Once I got through that first video, it did get a little easier to start figuring things out. More natural light was definitely necessary, keeping the camera still, that type of thing. I did find myself referring back to the book frequently. It's solid information, and more than enough for a beginner. I wouldn't call myself knowledgeable about stopmotion animation yet, but I feel like I can help the boys work their way into better videos as we trial and error together.
The reading level of the book, and the fact that it requires quite a bit of computer use, means your younger students (below 3rd grade I suspect) are going to need quite a bit of parental involvement, while upper elementary and middle school students will likely still need some oversight, but not to the same extent. Teens can be unleashed and should be able to crank out some pretty neat projects once they learn the basics. I'm glad that Elliott is a bit more adept at computers and figuring this type of thing out (he loves working through video tutorials) so he doesn't need me as much as he digs into this. His big project is going to be Minecraft related is all I know.
Overall, It's not my thing, but this review wasn't about me. My job as mom and home educator is to act as a facilitator and mentor, and help them work through projects and become more independent. Stopmotion is actually a great project for my boys where they can take the lead. I can see why they enjoy it. It's a lot more time-consuming than I expected, but if they are willing to put in the effort, then I am willing to support their interests. I plan to share more videos as time permits and they learn more and develop their skills, so stay tuned!
The crew has had a lot of fun reviewing the Stopmotion Explosion kit and book, so check out what their families have been creating!
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