TL;DR version: Stop motion video production is a fun way to play with, make, and share online content. After some initial experience in video construction...and with the proper scaffolds (using storyboards), I would recommend adding this to your classroom.
I’m continuing on with my work during my #makesummer. First I wrapped up a great experience in the Mozilla #teachtheweb MOOC…and now were right in the middle of the Making Learning Connected MOOC. As part of Make Cycle 2 for the Connected Learning MOOC, we were tasked with digging into our toy chest and putting together a make with an old favorite from a bygone era. Sadly, since all of my Star Wars toys were thrown out years ago…I decided to put something together with my son. We (I) decided on putting together a stop motion movie on monster trucks.
I’ve put together a couple of other movies with Jax, so video editing and production is nothing new to him. One of the first real “movies” we put together…and a personal favorite of his is Action Jackson.
Jax just celebrated his 3rd birthday party last weekend, so this make was delayed a bit. As soon as the weekend was over we pulled out all of his monster trucks, and the iPad…and got to work. The materials we used for our movie included about 8 monster trucks and about six Hot Wheels cars. We used the bigger Monster Jam trucks because they would be easier to manipulate on his play table. We also had a folded up scrap of paper from a straw to help “pin” the wheels back and stop them from rolling in some of the action shots. We used the 3rd generation iPad and the iStopMotion and iMovie apps. iStopMotion worked very well for our purposes…and was relatively inexpensive ($9.99…it was on sale for $.99 last week). We also used the OtterBox Reflex Series Case. on the iPad. I cannot recommend this enough as the easel setup for the iPad allowed y little camera operator to focus only on pushing the snapshot button.
In terms of work process we initially played with the iPad and apps to figure out how exactly to operate the iStopMotion program. The interface for the program is very easy to follow. In fact, as soon as you start up the app it will bring you through a tutorial on the program using a claymation stop motion movie. This was entertaining and informative for the two of us. After testing the app a bit, we cleared off the play table and set up our photoshoot. We set up the easel to allow the iPad to frame the action of the shot that we wanted. After this was arranged, I set up the cars and traced out the route I wanted to take in the movie. Finally, we started filming. Jax acted as the camera operator and was tasked with pushing the camera button after I moved the car up a bit. A couple of times he accidentally hit the button while my hand was in the frame, but these shots were easily edited out.
After the first stop motion clip was filmed, we exported the clip to the Photo Gallery and then imported it to iMovie. In iMovie we selected the film trailer thinking that it would be the easiest to use. The challenge was that the trailer we chose included a bunch of short (1 to 2 second) clips. The clip that we had just finished took us about 20 minutes to film…and it was only two seconds long. We immediately went back to work filming a series of seven clips of different trucks and different action sequences. These were all added into the iMovie trailer as well.
At this point, the majority of the video clips in the movie were created and added in. We edited the text for the movie, and the credits at the end. We still had a couple of spots in the video trailer that needed clips added. Initially we thought about using photos. We downloaded several CC-licensed, HD wallpapers of monster trucks. For the most part these images looked okay in the initial renders of the movie, but they looked grainy…and slowed down the action. I went back online in search of some video that I could add in as a filler instead of continuing to use photos. I ultimately used a Vimeo movie downloader in Chrome to download the “Metal Heart” movie from Keith Loutit and moved this over to the iPad using Dropbox.
Once this new movie was added into our movie, I quickly scrubbed to sections that we could use as “cut scenes.” Basically we wanted to include elements of people cheering, or fireworks, etc. The addition of these cut scenes allowed us to keep the action rolling and blur the lines of believability in our movie.
I made a couple edits and revisions to the movie after Jax went to bed for the night. Rendering the movie in iMovie didn’t take that long. Finally, we moved the movie back over to my MacBook Pro, and uploaded it to YouTube. Jax has already watched the movie this morning about five times. He can’t wait until Mommy gets home from work so he can show her what we did.
Overall, stop motion animation was a blast with my son. If I were to do this with a class of students I would originally start them off with other video editing and production projects. I’ve already completed a couple video projects with Jax already…so he (for the most part) understands the process. I also have put together a ton of video work before…and written about using video & YouTube in the classroom plenty of times.
I would start students off with basic video recordings, edits, and production to get their feet wet. There are numerous, somewhat-simple ways to make this happen. The trailer function on iMovie while using the iPad is nice because it’s point, shoot, edit, and share your content. The challenge is that not everyone has an iPad, or can afford some of the apps. In these situations I recommend WeVideo in Chrome for video editing. This allows you to collaboratively edit video in the Chrome browser. Additionally, there are WeVideo apps for iOs and Android. So, students can capture video on their Android or iOs devices…save it to Google Drive, and then collaboratively edit their work. I have also had students edit video and create mashups or remixes of video they download from the Internet Archive. This can be a fun, challenging exercise for students.
Animoto is another way to have students get involved in some quick & dirty video productions without getting bogged down in some of the challenging aspects of video production. Finally, Mozilla Popcorn is a fun, easy way to have students edit and play with video already hosted online.
In summation, creating a stop motion movie was a fun exercise, but I was glad that I had a lot of experience putting movies together…and iMovie on the iPad makes it really easy. I would start students off with some basic movie edits and projects. Scaffold this work by having them create paper storyboards of all of their shots, edits, transitions, and dialogue. After this works well…go ahead and add in some stop motion video production.
Image CC by Andrew Davidhazy