The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Stop Motion Video on Computer

Stop motion animation is currently gaining a new wave of popularity. It’s unbelievable how the technique that used to dominate the storytelling genre for kids is now used for all types of videos! It serves perfectly to illustrate tutorials, promote products, show work in progress, or just impress and entertain your audience.

How to create a stop motion video from scratch - step-by-step tutorial

And if you’re a parent of school-age children, you might already know that making stop motion videos can be a perfect DIY project to keep kids busy at home!

The best part about it? Stop motion is super easy to shoot even if you have absolutely zero experience, zero professional equipment, and zero budget. All is required is a bit of creativity and patience.

From this article, you’ll learn how to create stop motion videos. We’ll walk you through the setup process, the shooting, and editing. This is a no-budget tutorial, which means you probably already have all the things you’ll need:

  • Any camera. Smartphone, GoPro, DSLR – it doesn’t matter
  • Laptop (we’ll be using a Windows PC)
  • VSDC Free Video Editor (if you’re on Mac, use iMovie)

Need ideas, too? At the end of the article, we’ll share 7 easy ideas for stop motion animation that you can borrow for your project.

Before we get to practice though, let’s make sure we have the theory sorted out.

Still confused about what stop motion is?

If you know nothing about stop motion, at first, it looks like magic. Just think about it. Objects – dolls, Lego parts, food, or pieces of paper – move around and change their shapes! All without human presence.

Stop motion video example with paper - origami

In reality, a stop motion video is just a bunch of photos of an object taken between the moments when you manually change its position or shape.

Here is what the process looks like: you place an object, take a photo, make a teeny-tiny change, take another photo, make another change, take another photo, and so on. When you stitch all the photos together and play their sequence at high speed, it looks as if the object is moving independently.

The smaller the changes are, and the more frames you take, the more realistic your stop motion animation will look. We’ll talk about all these details in a couple of paragraphs.

How to make a stop motion video step by step

Now that you have an idea of how stop motion animation works, let’s see exactly how you can bring your ideas to life.

Step one: create a storyboard

If you’re making your first stop motion video, it’s always a good idea to have a plan. And if you get your plan sketched – that’s even better. Storyboards will help you with that.

A storyboard is a visual breakdown of your stop motion animation – either by frames or by groups of frames. This is what your storyboard may look like:

How to create a storyboard for a stop motion video

Source: Storyboard

Depending on your project, you will need to take from dozens to hundreds of photos. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming. Having a storyboard will help you ensure everything is going according to the scenario and you’ve shot all the frames you need.

You can create your own storyboard from scratch or find templates on Pinterest. Feel free to pick one and print it out for your convenience. Some creators prefer writing a bullet list of frames instead of sketching them. And if you decide to go that route – it’s up to you.

Step two: set up your camera

While the objects in your stop motion video will be moving, your camera shouldn’t. It is crucial for the frame to stay steady.

Sure, you will be able to fix minor frame shifts with the help of video editing software. However, to avoid that extra work, we strongly recommend using some sort of stabilization for the camera. You want to place it in one spot and leave it there until the end of shooting. Ideally, you shouldn’t even touch the shutter button.

What can you use? Depending on your camera, the ideal solutions would be a tripod, a gimbal, a selfie stick, a mount, or a car holder. If you have none of these, shooting will be less convenient, but still possible. Just keep in mind that once you find the position for the camera, you cannot move it even one bit.

Want to go the extra mile? Search for DIY ideas for an overhead camera rig or a smartphone stabilizer and use them to be on the safe side.

DIY idea for stabilizing camera before starting to shoot a stop-motion video

Source: Nofilmschool

Step three: start making pictures

You have the scenario, the props, and the camera waiting. Time to start the photoshoot.

Now, you might be wondering how many frames you need to take. To answer this question, we’ll need to do some math.

Regular non-animated videos typically contain anywhere from 30 to 120 frames per second. When you’re making a stop motion video, you want to have at least 10 frames per second for a decent looking animation.

The number of frames has a direct impact on the resulting animation. The more frames per second a video has, the smoother the motion looks.

Based on the number of frames, you can estimate how long your stop motion video will be. For example, if you’ve shot 100 photos and you stick to the 10 frames per second rate, the duration of your video will be 10 seconds. If you, however, decide to make a smoother 25 fps animation, the same 100 photos will result in a 4-second video.

The other way to think about it is the duration of each frame. If you want to create a 10 fps stop motion video, there should be 10 frames within one second. That means each frame’s duration will be 1/10 of a second or 0.1 sec. If you set the duration at 0.04 sec for each frame, you’ll get a 25 fps stop motion animation, and so on.

This brings us to a popular question:

How many frames are in 30 seconds of animation?

The answer is: it depends on the frame rate you select. If you choose 10 fps, there will be 300 frames in 30 seconds of animation. If you set a 20 frames per second rate, the animation will look much smoother, but it will require 600 frames. Easy!

Step four: merge photos in VSDC

VSDC Free Video Editor provides a convenient way to create stop motion animation. Once you’ve taken all the photos and uploaded them to your computer, here is what you need to do:

  1. Launch VSDC on your computer and start a blank project
  2. Go to the left-hand side menu and select Animation
  3. In the Pop-up object’s settings window, hit OK
  4. Go to the Properties window and click Edit animation object
  5. Set the width and the height based on the resolution of your photos
  6. Set the desired frame rate
  7. Select and delete the embedded .PNG file
  8. Hit Add images
  9. Select the photos from your computer and hit OK

How to create a stop-motion animation for free in VSDC

And this is it! Use the preview feature to make sure your stop motion video looks the way you expected.

Note, that you’ll be able to change the frame rate at any point. Just select the animation layer on the timeline and go to the Properties window. Then hit the Edit animation object button and adjust the frame rate. Each time the frame rate changes, the duration of the video will be changing accordingly.

Step five: add titles

You might want to add titles or captions that will appear at the selected moment and provide context for your story. You can easily add various text objects to a video in VSDC.

Use the left-hand side toolbar to create a text object and adjust its appearance: size, font, color, style, and other parameters. Next, drag the text to the designated area in the scene and set the moment when it should appear. To do that, you can just manually drag the text layer on the timeline or find the Object creation time parameter in the Properties window and set the exact frame (or second) when the text should appear. In the same window, specify how long the text should stay in the scene.

Step six: add audio

No matter what your story is about, you probably don’t want to end up with a silent movie.

To add music, use the Shift + A shortcut and import an audio file from your computer. Then cut it if needed, change the volume, apply the fade-in effect – in other words, tailor the audio to your needs.

One of the go-to places with a large collection of royalty-free music and sound effects on the Internet is the YouTube audio library, but feel free to check out other marketplaces offering similar collections.

Step seven: export your stop motion video

When you’re done editing the video, go to the Export project tab and select the desired format. The best options would be the “Web –> for YouTube” profile or “Web -> GIF”.

How to save a stop-motion video to the computer in the correct format

Note that you’ll be able to adjust the quality, the resolution, and the framerate using the Edit profile button located under the preview window.

How to make a stop motion video: tips for beginners

Before you dive right into the shooting process, check out these quick tips to avoid common beginner’s mistakes.

Tip 1. Keep it steady

We can’t stress it enough: the area where you’re shooting, the camera, the camera settings, and the light must be steady while you’re taking pictures. If you’re shooting on an iPhone or a tablet, Rob from the Science Filmmaking Tips channel recommends downloading an app to control the shutter button remotely, so you don’t have to touch the device every time to take a shot. Another option is using time-lapse apps that will help you take pictures automatically with time intervals. They are called intervalometers, and they minimize manipulations with the camera during the photoshoot.

Tip 2. Watch the shadows

… and don’t rely on the sunlight. That’s a small addition to the previous tip about keeping the light steady. If you’re shooting near the window or outdoors, the light in your photos will vary from picture to picture. And unless having a changing light is a part of your story plot, it may mess up the result.

Tip 3. If you can’t find the desired sound effect, record it

Sometimes, the free sound effects available in online libraries are not what you are looking for. Other times, you just don’t know how to describe the sound you need, and therefore it’s hard to search for.

If that happens to you, consider recording your own sounds or voice commentaries.

7 Stop motion video ideas for beginners

For this chapter, we’ve compiled a list of popular stop motion video ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Most of these videos are created with a 30 frames per second rate.

Toys come alive

You’ve probably seen Lego stop motion videos hundreds of times, so how about we skip this idea and go straight to animating one of your favorite toys? This adorable stormtrooper walk is created by Snooperking for the Videvo marketplace and it looks way too real!

Toys coming alive is a popular stop-motion animation scenario

Work or growth in progress

Okay, we know this is not exactly the same pepper, but you can borrow this idea and apply it to lots of scenarios showing a dynamic over time. On the Internet, you’ll find stop motion videos of plants, flowers, pets, bellies, and babies growing. Some of those took months to shoot, but the result is surely worth it.

You can easily show work in progress using stop-motion videos

Drawing and painting

Want to take the artist out of the picture? Then create an illusion of a drawing that appears on a piece of paper by itself.

A drawing that doesn’t include the artist - stop-motion video idea

Wrinkled paper

Paper is often used for stop motion animation, both as a stage prop and a background. The video below is courtesy of Videezy, and if you have a channel on YouTube, you can use this idea for a video intro or an outro.

Wrinkled paper is an excellent prop for a stop-motion video

Visual tutorials

Stop motion is a perfect technique to illustrate and explain almost everything, including science and technology, even if you know nothing about filmmaking! Check out this short animation illustrating file downloading from the global network to a local folder.

Cooking videos

What can be more satisfying than cooking videos? Perhaps, cooking videos with no people in them. Just look at this pasta marching to the saucepan! Feeling hungry yet?

Food stop-motion video ideas

Marketing videos

If you are a business owner, you know that video marketing is at its peak right now. You also know that video production can be pricey. Unless you know how to make stop motion videos! Shoot your product in action, create an explainer video or a fun teaser for social media. The opportunities are endless.

Marketing videos shot with the stop-motion technique

How long does it take to make a stop motion video? (it’s probably faster than you thought)

We hope you have a clear idea of how to make a stop motion video and now are off to a great start!

But here comes another popular question: how long will it take you to shoot your first animation? Well, that entirely depends on your approach and the storyline.

Let’s try to do basic calculations for a simple project. Say, you want to create a 30-second stop motion animation and you have everything ready for the shoot. If you use an intervalometer app, and it’s set to take pictures every 10 seconds, it will take you about an hour to shoot enough frames for a 10 fps video (given that you’ll be able to move fast and change the object’s position within those 10-second intervals). Double that if you want to go for 20 frames per second. Add another hour (give or take) for the setup, image uploading, and merging – and voila! You have a 3-4 hour project for a rainy day.

Sounds like fun? Then happy editing and good luck.