Make a stop-motion movie, part 2

More tips on stop-motion animation

Peter Jackson's epic remake of King Kong was pretty good, as far as that sort of thing goes. The movie includes every conceivable special effect; it represents a sincere homage to the original source material; and it features surprisingly good acting from over-the-top Tenacious D rocker Jack Black. I render all these opinions with the caveat that I am just a tech journalist, and not an official movie reviewer, so my opinions should not be used to make actual film rental decisions.

So the new King Kong has it all, right? Not quite. It lacks the charm that only a movie made with stop-motion animation can claim. I love the jerky, other-worldly quality of movies made by shooting a frame at a time.

Last week we started working on our own stop-motion movie -- a quick and dirty film that takes 30 minutes to make, start to finish. This week, let's pick up where we left off.

Assemble the movie

Now that you've finished shooting your film, and your camera is filled with around 100 photos, it's time to take your the footage and assemble it into a short movie. There are a lot of programs you can use for this sort of thing. Any video editing program should work, for example. I've tried Adobe Premiere Elements, and it works great. But most folks wouldn't want to buy a video editor just for this purpose. Is there a free way to put your movie together?

You bet. I made my own film, Danny Dinosaur Versus Arnie the Astronaut, using Windows Movie Maker, Microsoft's free video program that comes with Windows XP and Windows Vista.

Open Movie Maker and start a new project by choosing File, New Project. Then import the photos by choosing File, Import Media Items (or File, Import into Collections in some versions of Movie Maker). Navigate to the folder that has your images, and select them.

Now you should see the hundred or so photos from your stop-motion project. Before you go any further, it's time to configure Movie Maker so each photo appears on screen for about an eighth of a second. Choose Tools, Options from the menu, and then click on the Advanced tab. You'll see that the Picture duration is currently set to a large number -- probably about 5 seconds. Throttle that down to 0.125 and then click OK.

Believe it or not, we're almost done. Select all of your photos. The easiest way to do that is to click on one of them, release, and then press Ctrl-A on your keyboard. Then just drag the whole slew of photos down to the storyboard at the bottom of the screen.

That's pretty much it. To view your movie, click the Play button and watch your creation unfold.

Save your movie

You can save your film and share it with friends. Choose File, Publish Movie, then choose E-mail (Save, Movie File in some versions of Movie Maker) You should end up with a pretty compact film (Danny Dinosaur Versus Arnie the Astronaut clocked in at just over 1MB). Want to see my creation? Download the zipped file and view it on your PC.

A couple of caveats, though: It's a large download (1.4MB); and I admit, the video is a little rough. You'll see my hand moving around on the table, which my daughter helpfully described as "distracting." But my goal was to make a short stop-motion film in 30 minutes, start to finish, and so I'm willing to accept a few warts.

Try this project yourself and then tell me about your experience .

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Dave Johnson

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