How to Make an Animation

How to Make Animation

How to Make Animation

An animation is a series of frames which, when played together, give the appearance that the objects or people contained within the frames is moving. These frames can be made of paper, such as with a flip book, but frames also can be made of film, or frames may consist of a series of digital images. The purpose of this tutorial is to explain the process of how to make an animation using a video camera.

Equipment

The first thing you need to do is choose what “characters” you will use to create motion in your animation. This can be a series of drawings, small clay figures, a piece of paper, which can be folded and unfolded during filming, or even something as simple as just a ball that rolls about. In addition to what you plan to animate, you will need a video camera, a tripod for the camera, 2 rulers, an 8×10 or larger background image, and some sort of “script” (so that you have a clear idea of what actions you need to make the object perform and in what order).

Preparation

Precision is very important to good animation. Whether you are using drawings, clay figures or anything else for your characters, your frames need to match. When you are using drawings, you should utilize tracing paper or transparency to help line up your images to make sure they are the same height and width. The rulers will be a crucial part of this when you are using 3 dimensional objects. This will make the frames more fluid, rather than choppy.

Frame timing is also important. Most video cameras are not equipped with a stop motion settings, so before you begin, you need to do some tests with your camera. Every video camera is different. Recording for 6 seconds on your camera may only leave you with 2 seconds of actual recorded material. You need to find out how long you need to record in order to end up with 1 second of recorded material. Start by recording for 10 seconds and work your way down from there. This will tell you exactly how long you need to record each frame of animation so that each frame will be 1 second long.

Stop Action Animation

How to Make an Animation

How to Make an Animation

To simplify these instructions, let’s assume that you will be using a ball for your main character. If you are using another media, adjust your actions accordingly. Where it says “record for 1 second”, this refers to actual recorded material.

On your work surface, set up the background at the back of the surface. Tape one ruler down at the front of your work area and tape the other ruler perpendicular to the first, on the left or right side of your surface. Set up the video camera on the tripod and adjust the height and focus so that only the background is visible in the viewfinder. Write the title of your animation on a piece of paper or transparency and affix it to the background. Record at least 10 seconds of the title page, so that it can be read during playback.

Remove the title page and place your ball at the starting position. Record for 1 second. Move the ball ¼ of an inch, in the direction you want it to appear to roll, and record 1 second. To make the ball appear to roll faster, move it ½ inch and record 1 second. To slow down its movement, record 2 seconds of each position. Continue moving and recording in this way until you have reached the end of your script. For best results, try to make an animation that is at least 30 seconds long.

Summary

Animations can be created from a wide variety of media. The primary steps in the animation process are to make tiny adjustments to the character(s) and record a frame each time you do so. Multiple characters can be made to move at different speeds by varying the amount of movement per frame for each one. The more precisely aligned your characters are from frame to frame, and the more consistent your timing, the smoother your animation will be.

Tips

Make notations on your script of each step that you take (ie “Rolled ball ½ inch, recorded 2 seconds”) so that you will know what actions need adjustment if you don’t like your first attempt and want to try again.

If you want your ball to appear to bounce into the air, use transparent string or set it on a series of transparent objects.

When animating clay figures, you may wish to add a third, vertical ruler.

These same steps can be used with a still camera and computer software that makes “gif” files.

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