Sunday, May 01, 2016

Stop motion animation in the classroom

Who remembers making flip books when we were younger? We created them by drawing a small image at the bottom corner of a book page and drawing it again, a bit changed on the next page, and so on, and then “flipping” the pages to see the items move.
First popular in the late 1860’s, the creation of flip books has become quite an art form nowadays…people even create flip books for a living! Here is one of my favorites.
Hand-drawn animations began to be turned into feature-length films in the early 1900’s. Disney and Warner Brothers turned animation into a successful commercial venture with their production of movies and cartoons.
Animated videos today still may start with hand-drawn images, but, through the use of wireframe software and computer animation software, animated films are now created with computers and specialized software. Discovery Education Streaming has a great five minute overview of this process that would be interesting to both middle and high school students. However, stop motion animation with physical objects is still a very valid art form!

Stop motion animation productions, which manipulate physical objects to create the animation, have been a popular project in schools for many years. Traditionally, clay was used for the items in the animations, but, today, everything from staplers to iPads to Legos to bits of paper to any real object are used in stop motion animation projects. Here is one that I created to illustrate the move to an iPad to replace many items found in a student backpack.
Stop motion animation projects can be used across the content areas as students create projects to demonstrate they understand or have mastered the concepts being taught. The National Film Board of Canada has a wonderful series of online tutorials to help teachers learn both ideas about its use in the classroom and the process of creation.
Some of the projects they suggest students might create as a formative or summative assessment have students:
  • Interpret a scene or passage from a movie, novel, poem or play
  • Recount a story that seeks to preserve cultures and traditions
  • Re-enact a short fable, legend or myth
  • Visually exemplify how math can be used to solve real-world problems
  • Visually exemplify mathematic principles such as the isosceles triangle, pi, or Pythagorean theorem
  • Demonstrate the transformation of objects
  • Illustrate a math strategy
  • Visualize a part of the human anatomy and how it works
  • Visualize a molecular structure or growth of plants or animals
  • Visualize how levers, pistons or pulleys work
  • Simulate chemical reactions
  • Help them visualize molecular concepts, electrons, protons or micro- scopic work
  • Tell a story about lives, events, places, environments or eras
  • Visually depict world discoveries or significant historical events
  • Represent a certain time period in relation to a famous historical figure
  • Depict controversial topics such as world disasters or wars
  • Depict geographical concepts
  • Depict a healthy activity or lifestyle
  • Address a social or self-esteem issue
  • Present a health promotion topic
  • Address unhealthy behaviours—such as bullying, smoking, addiction, eating disorders, peer pressure
  • Provide a lens into the consequences of poor health choices
  • Provide a representation of an artwork from a particular era or place
  • Provide examples of different art forms
  • Portray an interpretation of a dance or art technique
  • Tell a theatrical story
  • Reproduce and reinterpret original animated artistic works
As with any video creation, students should first create a storyboard to sketch out their ideas for the animation video they are going to create. This should be followed by a written script including the outline of the action/characters. The next step would be to determine what medium they are going to use for the objects in the video– will it involve real people, clay figures, Legos, classroom supplies, or something else? All of the assets should be gathered and/or created before the shooting of the animation video begins.
The actual process of creating the stop motion animation video is simple– students put a camera on a tripod, create a “stage”, put the item(s) to be animated on the stage, and take the first photo. Then, they move something on one of the objects on the stage, take the next photo, and keep repeating this process until the story/video/demonstration is complete. (One rule of thumb is for students to take 10 different images for each second of video they want to create.) Once the photos are taken, they are moved into a video editing piece of software like iMovie or Adobe’s Premiere Elements or use an online tool like WeVideo.

One of the hardest parts of creating a stop motion animation project is keeping the camera still. With digital cameras, each time a student take a picture, the camera moves a tiny bit resulting in a shaky final animation.
Apps for the iPad have solved this problem and added useful features which make it easy to create a smooth animation. My favorite app for creating stop motion animation projects is Boinx Software’s iStopMotion for iPad. It is well-worth the $11.99 for a single copy and it is worth contacting the company or looking to see if it is in the Apple VPP for multiple copies. The companion software for this app is free and is called iStopMotion Remote Camera. Here’s how it works– the iPad is set up so the camera is trained on the stage. The second iOS device, which has the Remote Camera app installed, actually triggers the camera on the iPad so there is no need to touch the iPad that is looking at the stage and the animation stays smooth! Of course, iStopMotion for iPad has tons of other features including onion-skinning which allows the students to see a light overlay of the previous image taken when moving their item on the stage for the next shot. Here is a sample of what that looks like. And, when all the shots are done, the app creates the final animation video.

For younger students, although it does not have the remote camera option, I like the myCreate app ($4.99). With this app, students get to see the previous shot and the onion-skin on the shot they are about to take at the same time.
Screenshot from myCreate app
For Android devices, both the Motion or Stop Motion Studio app get good reviews. I could not locate an Android app that included a remote shutter trigger companion app, though.

Students can create a cell animation project with Microsoft’s Powerpoint, Apple’s Keynote, or Google Slides software. Using the shapes in the software, they can create one slide, duplicate the slide, move an object on the new slide, duplicate the slide, etc. and even add in other objects as they go along. When it is time to play the project, students just set the transition between slides to be automatic and 0 seconds (or the least amount of time possible) for the transition. Here is a sample of an animated digital story from a ninth grade student in Australia. It was created with 260 slides.
Video Player

The Common Craft “In Plain English” series has created a new form of animation in the classroom.  The cut-out animation process is created by using paper cut-outs that move on and off of the stage. These assets are easy for students to create and and they are made using the same animation process as the stop-motion animation videos– a photograph of each movement brought into a movie-making tool. 

Below is a sample of a student project using cut-out animation.

Do you have students creating stop-motion animations in your classroom? Do you have great resources or student samples? Share on Twitter! #kathyschrock