Stop Motion Goes To School

Stop Motion Animation can be an outstanding -- and easy -- way to teach students about video. With VideoStudio Pro X4, a few toys and a little preparation, it can be easy to learn a lot about video and animation and have a whole lot of fun.

While we generally relish any opportunity to get out of the office, the VideoStudio team had a great time this week delivering a Stop Motion Animation workshop at the Upper Canada School Board's "Real to Reel Film Festival" in Brockville, Ontario.

Covering a massive expanse of Eastern Ontario, the Upper Canada School Board came up with a great idea to bring together students from its widely-dispersed schools to watch video productions they've made over the course of the year and learn more about multimedia from teachers, volunteers and one another. This year was their 5th edition of the filmfest and it showed in the excellent organization of the event, hosted at the Galaxy Theatres in Brockville.



Workshop Basics

Our contribution was to run a workshop on Stop Motion animation. As you can see in the embedded video, the recently-launched VideoStudio Pro X4 includes a simple-to-use Stop Motion Animation module that makes it simple to make a stop motion movie using a webcam connected to a PC.

Our set up was simple: the School Board provided 5 PCs (with VideoStudio Pro X4 installed) and 5 webcams. We placed these on 5 tables, arranged length-ways with a camera at one end and a black backdrop made of bristol-board at the other end. Teacher volunteers provided our stop motion subjects, raiding their classrooms' and own kids' supplies of Lego, so our budding animators would have some characters and scenery to shoot. And that was about it!

Once we had the logistics of the workshop in place, we were ready for our students. We had 5 groups of 20-or-so students come through each session. After 5 minutes or so of introduction to Lego Stop Motion (including to John Huang's amazing "The Treasure Hunters") and how to use VideoStudio's stop motion module, we unleashed our budding animators to their workstations. And to be honest, that was about it: with the right tools at their disposal and a bit of direction, the students together pretty much figured out what to for themselves!

Among the big learnings that stood out to the students:

  • Make many small adjustments - Taking lots of pictures of tiny movements gets better and more realistic results -- and longer movies
     
  • Mind the lighting - Our workspace had track lights over head, which were bright, but created significant shadows. If students moved around the table during the course of their productions, the lighting and shadows would change, creating distractions
     
  • Table shake!!!! - With 4 or 5 students working around folding tables, it was at times difficult to keep scenery and subjects in their desired place. (In some situations students turned to the always-useful duct tape solution)
     
  • Stop Motion is fun and easy (for students and teachers alike) -- Generally I found that the day's students found Stop Motion easy and fun to do. In each workshop, the students were on-task, creative, and collaborative. I did need to encourage students at times to play a little less with the Lego and shoot a few more frames (but then again I am personally susceptible to the same kind of behaviour).

    For teachers, Stop Motion is a video lesson that can be taught with limited set up, expertise and all without leaving the classroom. It also helps to show students how video works. In each of my introductory speeches, I talked in a simple way about frame-rates and how video basically boils down to a comination of many still frames. They then saw this for themselves as the learned on the animator's table that they needed a minimum of 15 frames or more to really create the illusion of motion.

Thinking of hosting a Stop Motion workshop of your own?
Do a dry run for yourself first (just to get the hang of it) and then go for it! Here's a sample list of materials, and a link to Jan Piros' tutorial on using Stop Motion in VideoStudio Pro X4:

(1) PC(s)
(2) Webcam(s)
(3) VideoStudio Pro X4 (free trial at www.corel.com/videostudio)
(4) Lego, clay or posable toys
(5) Backdrop or "set" (we used bristol board taped to a milk crate)
(6) Stop Motion know-how: http://bit.ly/jwQOqb or below!

 

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