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Stop Motion Animation for Kids: Courses, Camps, & Parent Guide

Even in today’s world of CGI and computer-generated effects, nothing quite beats the charm and creativity of stop motion animation; even today it can really capture people’s imaginations – particularly kids!

In fact, at FunTech we offer courses and summer camps for kids who want to learn how to produce their own stop motion animation movies. You can see the dates and locations in our courses guide.

But if this is a new subject for you, and you want to explore whether it’s a subject your child could become interested in, please do read on. Below is our parents’ guide to stop motion animation for kids.

What is stop motion animation for kids?

Stop motion animation is a technique that takes two or three-dimensional figures (often made out of plasticine due to the malleability) and posing them across a series of photographs.

When these photographs are shown in a sequence, such as a flicker book or run as a film, it creates the illusion that the character or object is moving fluidly by itself. This is similar to traditional hand-drawn animation, although this means that each ‘frame’ doesn’t need to be drawn from scratch as all it takes is a small movement of a part of the figure between frames.

Stop motion has remained practically unchanged in terms of method since its invention in the 1800’s, although with modern technology including high quality cameras and computer programs to help speed up the process it has actually become easier and more accessible for kids and non-professionals to have a go.

Are there any famous examples?

Yes, you will have undoubtedly seen some form of stop motion animation before, either on TV or in cinema.

For example, you might have grown up watching the TV character of Morph, first seen on Tony Hart’s art program Take Hart in the 1970s. In more recent times, the creations of Aardman Animation studios, such as Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run are also classic examples of stop motion animation.

The magic of stop motion animation is that these animations can run for as little as a couple of minutes to as long as a feature-length movie.

And thanks to the improvements of technology over the decades, it has become far faster and easier for amateur animators to create longer, high quality stop motion animation films from a young age.

This now means stop motion animation is something that kids can enjoy with relatively simple and ubiquitous equipment.

How does stop motion animation work?

The basic tools needed for stop motion animation is as simple as a camera like the one on your phone, a computer and something to animate. This can be anything from a paper figure, a posable doll or a clay or plasticine character.

For more complicated scenes, kids can use backgrounds, props and other characters (although for beginners, it is best to start with animating a single character).

It’s then time to decide what to animate. Clay figures are usually used for stop motion animation, because they are highly malleable and allow for more complex movements compared to plastic dolls who’s arms and legs are stiffer and will appear less ‘alive’.

Kids can then plot out what they want their character to do. This can include storyboarding a simple sequence which can be as simple as walking across a scene or sitting down.

The temptation is to want to push the envelope and try and start off with a more complicated story or action but starting off with a more simple action will allow you or your child to get familiar with the process without being disheartened if certain things don’t work out.

How kids can create their own stop motion animation movie

Here’s how kids can do their own stop motion animation movies with a very simple explainer:

Once the characters and camera are set-up, your child can start taking pictures.

Between each photograph, fractionally move the part of the character you want animated before taking the next photograph. For instance, if you want your character to point at something, start with their arms by their sides and fractionally move on of their arms forwards and upwards until it is pointing out ahead of them. If you want a more realistic movement, have their upper arm move first, bending the elbow, before the upper arm brings it up to point fully ahead.

Depending on how fluid you want the movement, this sequence of photos can vary in number between 5 and 30+ individual photographs. The more complex you want your stop motion to be, the more photographs you will have to take.

This is where the patience of stop motion animation comes in: Taking each photograph and moving the figure fractionally between the frames can be a painstaking task and can get rather tedious after a while. However, that dedication will pay off in the end, meaning that sticking with the process (even if it takes a few days, between taking breaks away from it) will provide a better final result.

Once all the photos have been taken they can be imported into video editing software to stitch together the final result – more on that a little lower down the page.

A successful finished animation will inspire and encourage your child to try again with another animation, their attention span and passion for the project growing and allowing them the patients to produce longer and longer animations.

How long does it take?

All forms of animation take time but stop motion animation is renowned for taking time and effort, especially when compared to more modern computer animation techniques.

This is mainly down to the time it takes to take each photograph and move each character to create a fluid motion.

Stop motion animation studios such as Aardman animations and Laika studios typically make only around five to ten seconds worth of footage per full working day!

This is why these studios only release a single film every couple of years, as the animation process takes that long to create a single feature length film. However, this is because the movies they make are massively more complicated than a single animated figure, involving dozens of different characters and scenery moving simultaneously per frame.

The length of time that it takes to create around one minute of footage depends on the complexity of the animation, the experience of the animator and how long they spend on the animation per day.

Some minute-long animations can take between as little as a day and as long as a week to fully complete, again depending on the amount of animation that you are working with.

If you are wanting to create a short animation of a single figure performing a single action, then it should not take more than a couple of days at most.

However, while that process may become shorter as you gain experience, the time you spend creating animations may grow far longer as you experiment with more and more characters and scenes.

This can be seen through the evolution of the Wallace and Gromit films, with their first animation A Grand Day Out lasting only around 24 minutes, while their most movie Curse of the Were-Rabbit lasting for a feature-length run of 85 minutes, around three times the length of their first adventure to the moon.

How to get your kid started in stop motion animation

  1. You don’t need state of the art equipment: or a lot of materials when you first start out. It can be as simple as a basic digital camera and something simple to animate. This can be anything from a pile of LEGO, a lump of Playdough or plasticine or even a paper cut-out. You don’t have to rush out and spend a packet on a professional-grade camera, your phone’s in-built camera on a makeshift stand will do just as good.
  2. Find a decent editing software: This is more for simplicity than anything else, if you are looking to create a video of the animation. There are dozens of free to download and free to use stop motion animation programs and apps made specifically for beginners.
  3. Keep your ‘set’ well lit: Its not good making an animation in a dark room, or one with constantly changing lighting. By having a strong light source illuminating the ‘set’ of your animation, such as a lamp or a main ceiling light, you will be able to keep the lighting consistent and be able to see everything that is going on.
  4. Have fun! Stop motion animation is meant to be a fun activity that shouldn’t be taken too seriously, especially when starting out. Making it feel either to yourself or your child as being a chore or something they ‘need’ to do will mean that they will lose interest or not find it fun anymore. Seriousness is for the professionals, and even then, it is important that you still love what you do.

Alternatively, your child could attend one of FunTech’s course or camps to get even deeper into stop motion animation in a structured, fun, and safe environment.

You can explore the latest stop motion animation summer camp dates here, or call us for more information.

Why should kids learn about stop motion animation?

As with many hobbies and activities, many parents want to know whether there is anything applicable to be learned in the long term. It’s all very well and good that your child is spending hours on their animations, but will this help at all towards future school or career prospects?

We believe it will, and education and futures are at the core of what we do at FunTech.

By encouraging your child to follow their passions, they can engage their creativity and explore what they love to do. Whether the passion is video games, animation, writing or playing sports.

Through allowing your child to engage with the things that they love, they may discover that they have a talent or a passion for something that they want to pursue as an adult.

Stop motion animation itself can introduce to children several key skills that allows them to teach themselves and engage with things they may not have otherwise realised they have an interest in. Hobbies such as animation often acts as a gateway to other skills and careers, even if your child doesn’t fancy animation itself as a career prospect.

  • Camera skills: Whether it is just a basic digital camera or their camera phone, or if it is a more complicated professional camera borrowed from a family member, as they explore stop motion animation they will often learn how to operate different cameras and their individual settings, including lighting, different effects and exposure. This could potentially lead to a continued love of cameras, as well as potential future careers in photography or film.
  • Computer skills and photo editing: Computer skills are becoming a very important thing to have in today’s more and more digital world. Professional photography, as well as other jobs involving digital design, often relies on being able to edit, manipulate and play around with photographs through editing software, elements of which your child will discover through using similar editing software when putting together their animations.
  • Creativity: Animation is all about trying things out and seeing where they lead. Suffice to say that in allowing your child to explore animation they will learn more and more about different creative processes, not just in photography and animation but also scriptwriting, storyboarding, art and audio. A lot of different things go into creating an animation, and it may well turn out that your child discovers they are more interesting in writing, designing or acting then they are with animating the characters, leading to other creative pursuits that are more suited to their passions.

Stop Motion Animation for kids summer camps

If your child has shown interest in animation either at school or at home, or you are looking to encourage them to bring out their creative side, we here at FunTech have a series of summer camps operating throughout the South of England and London. You can explore all date and location here.

Incorporating a variety of different skills, including photography, animation, computing and using editing software, this five-day camp gives your child hands-on experience with creating their very own animation.

Using both collaborative and independent learning, we will guide your child through the storyboarding process, as well as scripting and planning out their animations.

Over the course of the week, they will get used to the ins and outs of building their sets and characters and setting up their equipment and software. Once their stop motion is completed, they will then be able to use a series of overlays and chroma keying to improve its look and add audio to make it a proper film.

Each day starts at 9am and finish at 5pm (although earlier drop offs and later pickups are available for an extra fee), and each have a 90-minute lunch break, with shorter 15-minute breaks taken throughout the day to get them up and about and away from the computers and the cameras.

We know the importance of fun in learning, meaning that our camps are a mixture of academic and fun, incorporating play so that it doesn’t feel like a school atmosphere. For more information about this camp, check out its information page or request for a call back.

At 4pm on the Friday, we will host a world premiere of all of the animations created throughout the week, which friends and family are invited to come and see!

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