Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Multimedia Madness with Stop Motion

We are back to work and it's week 3 at our new school. I've revamped my MM program to allow for more student choice for each project. I want to share with you my approach to our first unit which is animation.

First, let me say that my PLN which is almost entirely Twitter based has come in extremely handy. Last weekend I tweeted asking about animation software and within a few hours I had many suggestions of great software (some free, others not). In the end I chose 2 programs which have worked very well so far.

First software freeware gem: Frame By Frame. Last year students had to use Photobooth and import photos into iMovie or Final Cut Express. While this had it's merits and they learned a lot in terms of the Final Cut interface and time code, Photobooth let us down. I should rephrase that. Photobooth did what it was supposed to do, capture images and store them for easy access later. It was not designed to have thousands of pictures taken by 3 or more groups a day who are curious, and like to delete each others' pics. Photobooth doesn't give an onion skin view of the previous picture, which is a MUST when doing stop motion. Enter Frame by Frame. This little freeware gem has an onion skin feature, frame rate that can be easily adjusted and easy connection to external Firewire video cameras. Win, win, win!

Students are blogging about their experiences and sharing tutorials as part of the class this year as well. There is a minimum of 2 posts per week. I'm not looking for novels here, but having them think and reflect about their projects will pay great dividends, not to mention the sharing of their frustrations and successes with others. Some are related to video clips of stop motion on Youtube, some about upcoming Hollywood Films, like Fantastic Mr. Fox. I encourage you to take a couple minutes to watch the 3 short videos about the making of this amazing film. 24 pictures per second added up to over 125,000 separate images for this movie!

I even share some stop motion from 1974 done with super 8. Just out of high school my dad did a "study of animation" in his bedroom with two incandescent light bulbs and some onion skin paper. The result was great, and the students appreciated the work that goes into animation, while learning that nerdiness certainly runs in the family!

The students' final project for the unit is a showcase of all they have learned. They can do pencilmation, stop motion with the isight cameras or use another great freeware program called Pencil. Currently 95% of my class is using it for their final project. While it takes some getting used to, the ability to create keyframes and again use onion skinning in addition to drawing tools make it prefect for animation class.

The coolest application of this Pencil is for rotoscoping, one of the most amazing ways to animate. Taking individuals frames of video, you trace over each frame and then put back together and you can add the original sound back. I was inspired by the film Julian in the Woods to try it on my own last weekend. It took me several hours just to trace a few frames of my son.

Assessment of their stop motion films has come from class discussions and blogs guided by me. Student generated criteria is molded by yours truly into working rubrics that students can relate to. email me if you would like a copy of our Stop Motion rubric, we'd be happy to share: coolpoolteacher at gmail.com.

How awesome is it that I get paid to make creative, cool projects with students?! Samples of their work will be posted on our class Youtube Channel at the end of the week! Meanwhile, here's a short clip of a student who is experimenting with lines in Pencil:


  1. I'm trying to create a news program at my elementary school. It seems like a never ending process as I only have one day a week to work on this. Might you have a few suggestions on where to get a Dummies guide? We have several interviews already and they're even edited using MovieHD. Now I just need to put the clips together and create an opening dialog. Not having any assistance or resources is causing a dilemma, any suggestions?


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