As it becomes easier and easier to create animated films at home, we wanted to offer some tips to help you get the kit you need and start animating!
Step one: The hardware
The first thing you’ll need to decide is what materials or objects you’d like to bring to life with animation. Each medium has its pros and cons. Plasticine is a popular choice and is great if you like the idea of things transforming or changing size in your animation. Cardboard cut outs are a relatively sleek and hassle-free option and one of our personal favourites. Other options include sand, drawings, real objects or even yourselves!
Once you’ve chosen the material that will form the characters, scenery and ‘props’ in your animation, you’re going to need something to photograph them with. After all, an animation is simply a sequence of still images! This could be a webcam, DSLR camera or even the in-built cameras in your laptops, tablets or phones. If you’re using a webcam or DSLR camera, just make sure you can connect it (usually with a USB cable) to a computer which will store all the images you take and build them into an animated video.
Step two: The software
The software you use to create your animations will vary depending on the type of device that you’re animating with. If you’re using a camera connected to a computer then we’d recommend a program like DragonFrame for a Mac or for Windows, however it would be worth looking at other software more suited to your set-up and equipment. If you’re using a tablet or phone then iMotion for iOS or Motion for Android are good choices.
Step three: The prep
Before you can start animating, you need to think of a story and, if you have time, it’s good to draw a storyboard too. This is a visual plan of your story where you’ll draw a picture of how you want each scene to look and give each picture a caption to help you remember exactly what happens in that scene.
Once you have this, you can start setting up your first scene. Think about where your scene takes place and create a backdrop that sets the mood and tells your audience where your characters are. When you create your characters and add them to the scene, make sure they are the right size for the backdrop. You may also need to create multiple versions of the same character in different positions, clothes or sizes.
Step four: Animate!
Once your scene is all set up, you can position your camera to start photographing the scene (making sure the camera will stay still while you animate). Each animation software works in different ways, but the principle is the same – it will give you a view of what the camera sees and it’ll have a capture button which sends a signal to the camera to take a photo. Each time you take a photo, you should move the objects and characters in your scene a small amount and then take another photo. It’ll also have a playback button which will play through all the photos you’ve taken in quick succession to give the illusion that the characters have been moving around in front of the camera with a life of their own.
Step five: The export
Once you’ve animated all the scenes from your story, it’s time to save the animation in a format that you can watch and share with your family and friends. Again, this process will differ depending on the device you’re using. Just make sure you are clear on where the software is saving the animation to. If you want to show your animation to a wider audience then consider uploading it to YouTube where millions of people will be able to enjoy watching it.
If you’d like to see some examples of animations that have been made on our Chocolate Films workshops, then check out our gallery here.
We hope this guide has been helpful and have fun animating!