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Monday 3 October 2016

Stop Motion Animation Fun with Goldfish

Between swim team and karate classes, my girls are generally pretty busy after school. Weekends, however, are a different story. I like to keep weekends free from regular activities so we can be free to do whatever we want without having to work around a schedule. We tend to spend a lot of our weekend time just hanging around at home relaxing. It's nice to have a little down time after such a busy week, but at the same time it can get a little, well... boring! To keep the kids from heading straight to the tv I like to have a few activities up my sleeve to keep them busy. Simple things like painting, coloring, building with Lego, playing board games, or making puzzles generally go down pretty well, but sometimes they want to do something a little bit different.

A while back we visited the Children's Creativity Museum in San Francisco and the girls made their own animated movies. They had a blast making their little movies and have been asking if they can make their own at home. Stop motion animation is actually really easy to make at home with just a few items: a camera (or smart phone/tablet), a tripod, a background, and small items to be the star of the show. You can really use anything: toy animals, dolls, building blocks, toy cars... even food! We decided to go down the food route and made Lola's animation with one of her favorite snacks. Goldfish crackers!

Goldfish crackers are a big hit in our home when it comes to snack time so we've always got a pack or two in the pantry. They're oh so moreish and the whole family loves them. With their smiley little faces, Lola decided that Goldfish would make the perfect characters for her animation. Well, that, and it gave her a fantastic excuse to them afterwards!

Here's a look at how we made our animation...

What you'll need:
Camera (a smart phone or tablet would work well too)
Tripod (or similar to stabilize the camera)
Backdrop (we used a sheet of white card)
Goldfish Crackers (or other small items to be the star of the show)
Optional lamp (if natural light isn't sufficient)

Start by setting up your backdrop. We used a large sheet of white cardboard placed on the dining table. We decided to keep it simple, but you could decorate the backdrop if you like. The backdrop can really be anything you wish.

Set up your camera on a sturdy tripod, angled to be looking directly down at your backdrop. It may take a few adjustments to get the set up to your liking. The tripod is really important as the camera needs to stay still for the animation to run smoothly.

If your lighting isn't bright enough, additional lighting can come in handy. It was a little dark in our dining room so I added a studio lamp opposite my tripod.

Now for the fun part... creating the animation!

If you're not familiar with making stop motion animation, this is how it works: You take a photo of an item, move it a little, take another photo and move it again. Repeat, repeat, repeat until you have finished your story. In this case we ended up with just under 200 photos for Lola's movie.

As we were using a sturdy tripod I just clicked the shutter button after each time Lola moved the Goldfish crackers. Alternatively, if you're worried that you might move the camera when you press it you could use a remote control, or use the self timer mode on your camera. If you use the self timer mode, make sure to set it as short as possible (say, 2 seconds) otherwise it will take a long time to take all of your photos!

As far as the plot for the movies goes, we just kind of winged it. Lola started off with just one Goldfish cracker in the shot and slowly she made others join it. Her movie was originally going to be about math (counting and simple addition using the Goldfish crackers) but after a while she decided it would be funny if her hands crept into the picture to snatch the Goldfish away to snack on. I think someone was getting hungry!

Once Lola was finished moving the Goldfish crackers around to make her story it was time for me to take over with the technical stuff - and time for Lola to eat all of her movie stars!

To create the animation I used iMovie, but there are lots of different programs out there that you can use, including apps for your phone/tablet that cover the whole process.

To create the animation in iMovie, open a new project and drag the photos (in order) into the browser pane. The default for still images in iMovie is that they will run for 4 seconds, which is far too long for a smooth animation. You will need to change this to 0.2 seconds. Select all of the photos, and click the "Information" icon in the viewer pane. The duration should appear on the right hand side. Change it from 4.0 to 0.2 seconds.

While you still have the photos selected, there is one more important change to be made. iMovie automatically uses a setting called Ken Burns for photos. This makes the photo zoom in and pan across the screen while it is playing. This makes for an incredibly jerky animation! To fix this, you'll need to click the "Crop" icon in the view pane and select the "Fit" option.

Now drag the images to the project pane at the bottom.

I added music to Lola's animation from the built in sound effects, but you can add anything you like from your iTunes library or your computer. I also added a couple of shots with titles which I created in Photoshop, but you can use the built in titles in iMovie if you prefer.

Once Lola and I were happy with how her animation looked I exported it to YouTube to share.

And here it is!

I hope you enjoyed Lola's little Goldfish movie as much as I do. We had so much fun making it together, and it was especially fun making it with something so delicious!

Interested in making your own Goldfish crackers story like we did? Enter it in the Goldfish Tales Animation Xperience and you could win $5,000! Click here to find out more on how to enter and what you could win!

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