My kids have been interested in different forms of animation and movie-making for many years now, so we were thrilled to receive the Stop Motion Animation Kit from Stopmotion Explosion. With this kit, we can create our own movies using props and characters of our own, including Lego animation.
Stopmotion Explosion was developed by two brothers, Nate and Ryan Eckerson, who as homeschooled teens created LEGO stopmotion movies. Others wanted to know how they did and how might create movies themselves, so the Eckerson boys wrapped up their knowledge and experience in this awesome little package, just for us!
Included in the kit:
- HD 1080p Web Camera
- CD with software and downloads such as a storyboard template, sound effects, movie samples (If you do not have capability to run the cd, instructions for how to download the software and access an on-line ‘hub’ are also included)
- Stopmotion Explosion: Animate ANYTHING and Make Movies book with close to 300 pages of how-to instruction, inspiration and details for creating all sorts of animated filmography.
- A Quick Start Guide
Setting up the software and equipment was easy. So easy, in fact, my 12 and 14 year olds installed it all on their own! Using the Quick Start Guide, our older laptop computer (Windows 7 operating system) and the cd provided in the kit they were up and running in less.
The title says “animate anything” – and you truly can! In less than 8 hours my 12 year old daughter created two short films with a little help from her 14 year old brother – one starring a few of her little stuffed animals and another starring a butternut squash! If you watch closely, you’ll see there’s a little something new or an added extra-something each time he dances across the screen.
Stopmotion Explosion gives thorough, yet easy to understand, instructions on all aspects of creating an animated stopmotion video. There are 17 chapters covering topics such as:
- how movies work.
- creating stories.
- building sets.
- cameras, lights, sound.
- composition and animation.
- files and formats, frame conversion.
The book gives excellent explanation and guidelines, clearly explaining all you need to create high quality videos. Creating an action scene using stopmotion takes a lot of patience, plenty of trial and error and a bit of determination. Having this reference manual, with all the foundational concepts in one place makes the task less overwhelming and definitely do-able.
First things my kids noticed was the emphasis on lighting, and a stable camera. The bendable, adjustable base on the camera from this kit allowed them to set it so that the camera angle remained consistent and steady. They set up in the kitchen, which had good overhead lighting and a window for natural light, but also brought in an led reading lamp to make it even better.
After experimenting with the program and camera, it was time to learn about how to edit, add text and titles, how to add sound effects and music. So much to learn! So much potential! So many possiblities!
I asked the kids to brainstorm all the different ways things they could use to make movies. They have some really terrific ideas. An animated cartoon using their own drawings, a LEGO action movie complete with hovercraft and laser beams, laundry-come-alive as it goes from basement floor into washer and then into dryer – awesome ideas, right?! Well, mom had a few ideas of her own (wink, wink.) What about a video ad for her small business? Yes!
I gave Noah and Bekah a general idea of what I wanted. They took my request and brought it to the screen exactly as I envisioned it! You can see their final product below:
I gave my children free-reign with this product. They set it up, put it use, used some critical thinking and problem solving skills, created projects all on their own. I am now planning how to use this camera kit to help my high school students to earn a high school credit in Film Making, so it isn’t all just for fun. It’s for education, and may future career goals as well.
To wrap things up, I’ll let my son (14 years old) summarize the process. He says you should:
- set up camera and light. Make it steady and have plenty of good lighting.
- have a script and/or storyboard.
- know where you want the objects to end so you know how your pieces need to move.
- have the camera hooked to your device’s usb port before you can start your animation.
- use ‘onion skin’ feature to insure you have exact placement and how much movement you are getting.
- set your piece/characters/props and then click the ‘grab’ button to save the shot.
- move objects slightly – anything that is going to show up as “in motion” in the final movie and ‘grab’ an image again.
- add visual effects by editing in things like blaster bullets or exploding objects. Edit out things like fingers or hands that are holding props.
- decide the speed you want your photo frames to run (fps) once you’ve grabbed all your photos, then click the ‘make movie’ button. This puts all the individual photo frames into one long movie.
- import your movie to an editing program like imovie where you can add sound effects, voice-overs. You can add titles and credits, change the color and look of photo frames, etc.
- back up and save your work!
Watching the videos my children have made takes me back to my own childhood. I grew up in the era of old-time claymation. I watched Gumby and the classic Christmas specials. Who remembers Davy and Goliath? My kids are having a ball, learning new skills and sparking their creativity using this Stopmotion Explosion kit. And I now have my own in-house advertising team.
I have a long list of ideas for them – birthday videos for far away grandkids, animated Bible stories for VBS, a presentations of family memories for an upcoming reunion. And what about school projects? They’ll be able to step up their power point presentations or approach book reports from a whole new angle. This little camera and the step-by-step guide have opened their world to innumerable possibilities!
Many other families from the Homeschool Review Crew are using the Stop Motion Animation Kit from Stopmotion Explosion with their children and in their homeschools – stop by to visit them and see what they are creating – just click on the image below.