This is one of the clay animation projects I made a few years ago. It was a lot of tedious and time-consuming, yet a lot of fun. It just goes to show what you can accomplish with extra earthquake putty and some boredom to manage. I had a super old, low resolution, webcam I was using to make it. It was a Logitech webcam that actually had some software bundled with it to make it easier to do stop motion. It was very basic, but it got the job done. I’ve had a few other stop motion clips in the works, but never got around to finishing them.

Get the Tools

If you’re looking jump into this project, you’ll need some basics. You’ll need a camera or webcam (depending on software you use), some clay or figures, and stop motion software. I would recommend some modeling clay, and not any type of Play-Doh since that can get very messy. You could tyr Play-Doh if you want, maybe the changed their formula a bit, but the ones I used were a bit difficult to work with.

The software I used back then is out dated and came with the camera, not sure if they still bundle these days. You’ll want something easy to use, and full of features. Most of all, you’ll want something on the cheap. If you’re like me, I don’t like to invest too much money into projects and hobbies that I may quit a few days to weeks later. So here are a few free stop motion programs I’ve found:

  • AnimatorDV – This is an older program. The new version is AnimatorHD and only has their Demo version for free. Yet this old version has Onion Skinning, which to me is the most useful tool while creating stop-motion.
  • MonkeyJam – Does not have onion skinning, but is 100% FREE and should still be able to get you started if you just want to see some quick results.

It seems to get more and more difficult to find some legitimately free software out there. Yet luckily still a few open-source fanatics developing software for us all. Feel free to donate to some of these people if you like their product, or buy the “Pro” versions that they offer. Otherwise, just enjoy the ad-full or ad-free software as the developers have intended. Yet if this is something you can find yourself getting into, I still would strongly recommend trying out the demos before you put up the cash. If you’re going to invest any money, you’ll want to make sure it has the features you want for the price.

Make your figures

This is where you’ll either start roughly sketching out what you want your stop-motion stars to look like, or just jump right into molding the clay to see what you can make. You could use figures like Legos, but handmade characters still add a personal touch. For my video, I just used earthquake putty and started molding it into a little character. I also used a toothpick with one clipped side to add little details. In some of my other video’s I used modeling clay for the characters and then used Q-tips, paperclips, foil, and other miscellaneous scraps for weapons. Modeling clay worked for me, but you can experiment and look around to find something with a good balance of firm (so it holds its position) and pliable (so you can manipulate it into many shapes). If your looking to make bigger figures, then you may want to consider reinforcing the centers with some sort of wire like pipe cleaners or a good sized wire.

Action!

I didn’t make a storyboard, because I was just making it on the fly, yet you could if you want. I just started “filming” piece by pieces and the story developed itself for me. You’ll also want to be sure to keep an eye on the frame rate. I’d say you’ll want to start out somewhere around 15 FPS (Frames Per Second) and see how you like that. That way you don’t spend an hour making a 3 second clip. Experiment with the 15 FPS setting and make a short clip to see if that works for you. If you lose your place in the shot, or accidentally bump your character to much, just refer back to the previous shot. With the onion skinning feature I mentioned earlier, it makes remedying mistakes much easier. On your first video though, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Just make sure you’re having fun.