Creating a stop-motion animation video is a fun camera project that can be enjoyed by the whole family. By shooting a series of still photos of an object and moving it in small increments between each shot, you can create a sequence of images that can be played back as a movie, creating the illusion that the object is moving.
Setting up your EOS camera for the best results is the easy part – breathing life into an inanimate object and adding some personality is where the real skill lies.
Here, professional animator Ed Jackson offers his tips for taking your first steps in stop-motion animation. Since completing a degree in stop-motion animation, Ed has worked for numerous clients in the industry – including Aardman Animations, where he has been involved in the Shaun the Sheep TV series, Nick Park's film Early Man, and the Shaun the Sheep movie, Farmageddon.
Ed demonstrates how easy it is to get started with stop-motion animation using a simple setup: a Canon EOS 250D, a couple of lights and a ball of modelling clay.
There's a vast range of objects in and around your home that can make great subjects for your project. For example, you could show building blocks assembling themselves into a structure, a bag of sweets unpacking itself, or toy cars racing around a kitchen worktop. Ed suggests starting simple, though, as he has done with his bouncing ball video.
"Plasticine or modelling clay is my go-to subject, because it's so easily manipulated. With the short film I've created, I've simply filmed the ball from above and moved it along a table, changing its shape to create the illusion that it's bouncing.
"My advice is to not initially get too carried away with setting anything up that's too complex. Keep the background plain and just focus on the animation. If you have a story, keep it short and simple – and try a little project first so you can test everything before diving into something that's very long."
The standard aspect ratio for movies is 16:9, but your camera is set to record still images in an aspect ratio of 3:2 by default. To make sure your stop-motion movie will be shown in "widescreen", change the aspect ratio in the main menu before you start shooting. Your EOS camera may need to be set to Live View mode in order to show this option.
Ed recommends setting the focus, exposure and white balance manually. Doing this means that the settings will stay locked in, and each frame of your final movie will have a consistent look. Using artificial light will also give you more consistency.
"You can shoot outdoors or near a window, but obviously natural light is changing all the time. Working in a dark room with a couple of table lamps gives you more control, but even then you might end up with some flickering in the final film, as you can see in my example. It adds to the overall effect."
Supporting the camera on a tripod will ensure that the overall framing doesn't change from shot to shot and every picture you take is sharp. An EOS camera with a vari-angle screen makes it easy to frame your shot, even when you're shooting from an awkward angle. "Make sure that everything is tightly locked down, because you don't want the camera to move at any time," emphasises Ed.
Using a tripod also gives you more freedom when it comes to setting an exposure. Keep the ISO at a low sensitivity, such as ISO 200, so the image isn't grainy. Take test shots at different apertures to see which look you prefer, and then adjust the shutter speed to make sure the image is bright enough.
Professional animators use advanced software such as Dragonframe to control the camera, shoot and review sequences, programme lighting effects and more. But you can keep things easy when you're starting out, and simply take each photo by hand.
Rather than pressing the shutter release button to take each photo, use a remote release. This way, you won't inadvertently move the camera during your sequence. If your camera is Wi-Fi enabled, you can also use the Canon Camera Connect app to shoot each frame and play back the images without touching the camera.