Do your kids like to watch movies?
Looking for a project that taps their vivid imaginations and tells a story?
Make a stop motion video with your kids.
It’s an educational activity that’ll cultivate your child’s creativity, reinforce valuable life skills and create long-lasting memories.
In this article I’ll show you how to make a low- to no-cost stop motion movie with your family.
Why Make a Stop Motion Video?
Stop motion, defined by Merriam-Webster, is “a filming technique in which objects (such as clay models or LEGO bricks) are photographed in a series of slightly different positions so that the objects seem to move.”
It’s fun to make a movie with your kids! You’ll engage your creative muscles in a whole new way as you reinforce writing and storytelling skills; design sets, characters and props; and explore the craft of movie-making.
Making a movie helps strengthen life skills such as storytelling and leadership, teamwork, organization, critical thinking and communication. And kids’ confidence will get a boost when they inspire, move or entertain people with the final results.
The only obstacle to making a stop motion movie is the limit of your imagination (and maybe the size of your memory card!).
“Kids today are using devices like the iPad the same way previous generations used coloring books,” says Matthew Pearce, an Internet content creator with over 85,000 subscribers and 12 million views. “Technology is finally catching up with their imaginations, allowing them to not only watch, read and dream of fantastic stories, but to be the creator of the stories themselves.”
This article shows how to make a movie using the LEGO® Movie Maker app on an iPad. A good Android option is Playframes – Stop Motion from the Google Play store.
The basics of stop motion movie-making are similar on all apps. If you need additional info on stop motion software, just go to their sites or do a YouTube search.
The free Lego app, available on the iPhone and iPad, helps you make quick stop motion movies.
Regardless of what system (iOS or Android), computer (Mac or PC), app or program you use, the general steps to make a stop motion movie remain the same: Come up with an idea, write or make up a story, put together your backgrounds and props, shoot your movie, edit, save and share.
You Will Need
- Story ideas
- Pencil and paper
- Smartphone or tablet camera (iOS or Android)
- Movie-maker app (the LEGO® Movie Maker app from iTunes or Clayframe on Google Play)
- Stable camera base, such as a tripod
- Props: toys, clay objects you make with store-bought clay/dough or homemade “dough”
- A backdrop/stage, like a presentation board
- Construction paper, markers, crayons and other craft materials, as needed
- Shot location(s)
- Video channel or site where you can upload and share your movie
15-30 minutes+ to brainstorm ideas, come up with a story and gather props and background items
60 minutes or more, depending on story complexity, shot setup and length of movie
At home or outside
The key to any successful movie is a good story. This is true for Hollywood studio movies and independent movies. Your movie will join the ranks of the indies.
#1: Write or Choose Your Story
Have a production meeting with your family to brainstorm ideas. Hint: Start with a short movie and save a longer idea for your second filmmaking endeavor. This is exactly how professional studios work when they make movies.
Go around the room and share ideas. Try to combine everyone’s thoughts to come up with a short movie idea that has a beginning, middle and end. It’s great if you can add a moral or lesson to the movie.
You can also base your movie on a recent family experience.
Once you have an idea, write it down. It can be as short and basic or long and detailed as you want.
Have a family meeting to come up with a story for your movie. Image source: iStockPhoto.
Another option: film a story your child has already written, since your kids have probably written some cute and well-structured stories in school. If the story is already illustrated, then use those pictures like a storyboard to plan your movie.
Write a new story or use one already written by your child at school.
Once you have your story and know how you’ll convey it, you shouldn’t need to buy anything new to make your movie.
#2: Find and Make Props
Based on your story, make a list of the characters and props you’ll need for your movie.
For characters and props, use toys you have around the house. You can buy or make dough to create any additional characters or objects you need.
Use toys you have on hand or in storage as characters in your stop motion movie.
As you gather props, don’t be afraid to improvise. It won’t diminish your story at all. Your audience will even be charmed by a pet rock with a painted smile, if your movie’s done well.
#3: Choose Your Locations and Create Backdrops
Once you have your characters and props, make a list of locations you can use. Take full advantage of cool nooks and crannies in your home or backyard for the setting.
Use a presentation board to create a backdrop for your movie set. It’ll really make the story pop. We covered my 4th grader’s science project with construction paper to make our blue background.
Cover a foam trifold presentation board in construction paper and lean it in a good place, like against your car’s front tire.
When you choose a location, keep in mind that you’ll need space for the camera. Don’t box yourself into a corner (literally)! Make sure there’s enough room around your movie set to place the camera and take pictures from all different angles.
#4: Download the Movie-Maker App
For our movie, we used the LEGO® Movie Maker app. It’s free to download from the app store with a general link from LEGO. Android users, check out Clayframes for your stop motion movies.
Here are other movie-maker apps you can explore for use with iOS or Android systems.
We used the LEGO® app for our stop motion movie.
All the stop motion movie-making programs help you do the same simple thing: Take a picture, move the subject a little bit and take another picture to show the changing action.
The LEGO® app does all of the hard work of traditional ‘picture-taking’ stop motion, because you don’t have to take multiple pictures of each position in order to create incremental movement.
The app cleverly repeats and blends the photos to give the appearance of movement. It is a time-friendly program that offers immediate gratification when you hit Save.
#5: Set Up Your Title Card
The LEGO® app will prompt you to set up your title card. This will include the movie’s title and director.
The LEGO® app prompts you to set up your title card.
If you’re using another app, make a homemade title card using construction paper and crayons or markers. Or print one up from your computer.
#6: Start Your Movie
Place your props on the backdrop for your opening image.
Set up your first shot.
With the LEGO® app, just follow the prompts.
Follow the prompts on your app to make your movie.
When the scene is set, take your first shot.
Take the photo for the opening image.
If you don’t like the photo, delete it and take it again. There’ll be a lot of trial and error in your filmmaking process and that’s okay.
#7: Take Another Photo
Move the pieces and literally move the plot of your movie forward.
Photograph the incremental movement of your props.
Move the prop, take a photo. Move the prop, take a photo. Repeat until you have photographed all of the action in your movie.
Improvise if you need to. The characters in our story had to get swallowed. My daughter wanted to use “something red,” so I grabbed a nearby umbrella. It totally worked!
We used an umbrella to represent the red tongue when our creatures got swallowed.
Remember, this is your story. Make changes as needed with the resources you have on hand.
#8: Edit Your Frames
Follow the prompts to edit your frames as you go along. You can edit sound, music, speed, etc.
Edit as you go along.
On the LEGO® app, click on the edits and select the correct action from the list.
#9: Add Dialog and Sound Effects
Add dialog with a thought bubble viewers can read or by recording a voice into the movie.
One way to add dialog is through a thought bubble.
When appropriate, add sound effects to convey different actions taking place in your story.
The LEGO® app offers a fun list of sounds to use for your story.
You can also record a soundtrack for your movie if you use Clayframes or another app. Just check the app’s tutorials if it’s unclear how to do it.
#10: Build Your Movie
The LEGO® app will prompt you to build your movie. Just wait for it to render and watch it.
One click of a button and the app does the movie-making magic for you.
Edit the movie if you want before you share/upload it.
#11: Watch Your Movie
Once your movie is built, watch it as a family. Here’s our finished movie.
Check out our movie: “Barbarian Nacho.”
Have everyone share their thoughts and make suggestions about the movie. These apps make it easy to edit if you need to make changes.
Consider showing the video to a friend and asking for notes. Someone suggested adding voices to the “Barbarian Nacho” video. Unfortunately, something was amiss with the settings on the iPad so voices couldn’t be added. But it was a great suggestion that would have added another layer of interest to the final product.
Once the movie is finished, watch it as a family or share it with friends. Image source: iStockPhoto.
Stop motion movie making is a great activity that can entertain others. Once you’re satisfied with the finished product, share it on social media by posting it on a channel. We created a channel and shared it on YouTube.
You can opt to share your video globally or privately. What a simple way to easily distribute your movie and create buzz! A caution to consider is whether you really want strangers commenting on your family’s creative work. YouTube gives you the option to opt in or out of comments within the video manager.
If you are looking to become an Internet sensation, keep your expectations realistic. Some videos/pictures can take years to gain popularity and others only take days or a few hours. Remind your kids (and yourself) that it’s not the number of video views that matter, but the lessons learned and memories made!
Some Final Thoughts…
Shooting a stop motion video is an excellent way to bond as a family, while enforcing life skills for your kids.
With time and practice, you may even inspire your kids to parlay these skills into a filmmaking career. For example, the first movie renowned director Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids) made was in a form of stop motion known as Claymation. Your child could be next!
The possibilities when making a stop motion video are limitless. Make movies with your kids and enjoy hours of creative fun and a lifetime of warm memories.
What do you think? What’s your favorite stop motion app?Do you have a good stop motion app tutorial you recommend? What movie did you make as a family? Share your stop motion movie-making tips and the link to your film in the comments.