Stop motion animation is one of my favorite topics to teach at year 9. It gives students a lot of freedom to imagine and storytell along with learning technicalities in basic movie making.
I have an interesting way to setup the stop motion theme. I picked up a box of assorted toys on TradeMe for $20 ( and keep adding to that box as and when I pick more toys up from various opshops) .
Students are divided into groups on a random basis ( or using a random name generator available freely on the internet).
Each member of the group picks one toy from the toy box ( random order, maybe by keeping their eyes closed). From the toys they have picked, the next stage is to write out a script using those characters. The script will then be looked over by their English teacher for improvisations and errors ( Cross curricular opportunity ). Once the script is approved, they then create the storyboard.
To reiterate the importance of storyboarding I show the students this video from the making of Toy Story. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOeaC8kcxH0) ( 8:51 long) Students get a gist of the importance but may still need explanation of how much depth to go into. I usually have a collection of exemplars made by past students which I would use at this stage. They clearly show how much detail is expected. Alternatively you could show pictures of storyboards made by students/professionals depending on how much detail you expect from them.
Next is filming. To understand filming ( in a short period of time) I split it up into Analysing and Practice. In the analysis, I show them video clips of movies with different camera angles. Each camera angle has its own advantage and can be used effectively at the right times. In the second part students use the camera to take a few shots of themselves and demonstrate their understanding of camera angles.
When they are confident of demonstrating understanding of camera angles, they can start working on their props. As my classroom is tiny with computers all around, there isn’t much of table space left. This makes the need for props to be compact if possible. Some students used office storage plastic containers (the ones available in Warehouse Stationery for $10 approx) to create their scenes which worked fine.
What camera to use? Through experience I have finally settled on something reliable and cheap ( not necessarily the most effective yet). I started stop motion using Sony Flip Cams(Bloggie). They take pictures at 12M @ 4:3, 8M @ 16:9 and 2M @ 16:9. They also come with a tripod mount which is highly essential for stop motion as you need to keep your camera steady. I next moved to some chunky DSLR’s because I needed manual focus for stop motion. But it wasn’t cost effective. I kept looking for handheld camera’s which had a manual focus feature but found just one ( was a Canon I reckon @ $400NZD).
My IT guy at school suggested to look at webcams and I came across a Logitech C920 which records HD and has a manual focus feature in its software. It also has a tripod mount screw which is perfect. Except for the fact that every picture has a countdown operating on the software which means a loss of valuable time. But nevertheless, it builds patience in the students 🙂
Editing software: Students use Windows MovieMaker at Year 9 which is ideal as it has a small learning curve. Accessibility of software and ease of use makes it ideal for this project. Students add filters of their choice to enhance their movies. Subtitles and credits are added to complete the movie. Stop Motion Animator, a Google chrome extension is also really good for making simple stop motion movies using webcams.
Advanced group: There will always be students who are more able than the others and it’s good to give them a challenge. In the areas of editing, students could try software like Adobe Premiere Pro ( you will need a license for it, but i highly recommend the student version as the Adobe bunch has some fantastic software which syncs up with Creative Cloud). Students can also try green screening their backgrounds as an advanced feature. Composition of music ( Cross curricular) to customize their movies using Sibelius or Garageband ( or tons of other free software on the internet) would be the next step.
Students can finally publish them to a channel they have made for this purpose or a class blog or a channel on Vimeo/Youtube/Schooltube etc. Make sure security settings are appropriately chosen based on what the expectations of the school are.