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Stop-motion animation software, which is the best?

Started by Potato king, January 09, 2008, 09:48:17 AM

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Potato king

I have an outrageously silly idea for a movie, which contains post-apocalyptic scenery with giant mushrooms (that shoot laser out of their eyes and are incredibly stupid) ruling the earth, a bit like the Terminator but robots are softer and more mushroomy.   ( If this has been already been done, please inform me before I make an idiot out of myself :smile: )
I decided to use stop-motion animation to animate the mushrooms, but I simply can't find an animation software that is even remotely usable AND cheap/free. OK, I admit, I haven't even tried to search for one yet  :teddyr:
So, oh lords of ludicrous cinema, what software would you recommend?  :smile:


f you want to do things "right," you probably will want to have several tools and not rely on just one.  Here are a couple that I've played around with (both are F/OSS):


Ayam (that's Maya backwards) is a modeling tool and does not specifically do full blown computer generated animation.  If you want to do true stop motion (ie, you manually generate new models for the animation), it would work for that.  It uses Renderman compliant interface for shaders and will produce POV renderings of your models.  You have a LOT of control with lighting and how shadows are created.  IIRC, K-3D wil import ayam models.  The 'commercial' program Maya on which this is based was used to create the Veggie Tales, for example.

K-3D does modeling and rendering, but has a basic animation engine.  So, it can handle some of the animation.

Both of these are worth checking out, imo.  They are considered "industry standard" in the F/OSS 3D modeling/animation world as far as I could tell, but I admit it has been several years since I researched this.

Professor Hathaway:  I noticed you stopped stuttering.
Bodie:      I've been giving myself shock treatments.
Professor Hathaway: Up the voltage.

--Real Genius

Potato king

Thanks for these great links, but I was more looking for some software that would enable me to do true, old fashioned stop-motion animation, like good old Haryhausen and O'Brien did, only more easily with computer software and digital photos. But thank you, these will come handy in the future  :smile:


Quote from: Potato king on January 09, 2008, 12:45:30 PM
Thanks for these great links, but I was more looking for some software that would enable me to do true, old fashioned stop-motion animation, like good old Haryhausen and O'Brien did, only more easily with computer software and digital photos. But thank you, these will come handy in the future  :smile:

Ah.  In that case, there is a BUNCH of F/OSS software out there that can push a set of digital images into an mpeg.  I have used some, but cannot recall the name.  Go to sourceforge and do a software search, and of course, Google is your friend.

But, I think the EASIEST way to do what you want (stop motion with real world models) is to invest in a digital video camera that has single frame capability.  Shoot your frames with this directly, and download from the camera to the computer the animated sequence.  Someone with a digital video camera can provide more specifics.

My video cam (a VHS, so not digital) does this, and my daughter and I have had quite a bit of fun animating her toys and stuffed animals.  One of the best sequences we got was of a toy alligator chumping a toy elephant.  Great stuff.

Professor Hathaway:  I noticed you stopped stuttering.
Bodie:      I've been giving myself shock treatments.
Professor Hathaway: Up the voltage.

--Real Genius

Potato king

Thanks for the tips, ulthar, I'll include your (and everybody else's who gives me some useful hints and tips  :wink: ) name in the credits when I finally finish my film  :smile:


For rendering, I prefer the old Dazzle MovieStar5, despite it being a royal memory hog & they don't make it anymore.

Windows Movie Maker can be used to drag & drop single images into a storyboard, although it won't allow cropping below 13 frames.

If you have any CD/DVD burning software, it probably came with some sort of crude video editing program.

You typical video is usually between 25 & 30fps, but I've seen some animes that are adequate at only 8fps.

I've had some success with Rad Video Tools by Bink & Smacker although it doesn't include a storyboard GUI, so you can't preview your work, which could cause some problems if the images aren't named in sequence properly.
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I made the above clip a while ago using Adobe Premiere, but the advice the others have given are pretty good.

Technically I suppose you could say I took photos using my digital camera.  I pressed the photo button and it recorded about 4 or so seconds of a still frame.  Then I imported to Premiere and sped the footage up to match the right frame rate [which required maths which is not my friend]. 

I spliced out the bits that didn't work/needed to be done again and away you go.  I operated on a basic 14 fps rate or thereabouts which seemed to work fine. 

That worked to a fashion, but then I figured out easier ways later on to do it.  If you have a editing program that allows you to import frames/photos, there should be a setting to make it import at a particular length, and if you do that, you can just put in the order you want, and hopefully it should all be at the right frame size/length to suit and away you go.

But yeah, if you have a video camera, especially one with a still shot function, you could pretty much just do what I did above and just speed up the footage to suit the time frame you needed.  It's a pain and a memory hog, but it works.

Sorry but I don't know of anything cheap/basic but again, the others seem to have already given you great advice.
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I really wanna get into animation, but i have no idea where to start or what i need. The stuff that I HAVE done looks really slow and choppy.
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There are various dedicated stop motion animation programs.  I don't recall any names, but a VERY helpful feature to look for is onion skinning.  In general, the easiest way to do stop motion animation is to get a still image camera that can output directly to the PC (meaning you can see what the camera sees on the computer, and the PC does the actual capturing), or connect a video camera directly to your PC, and again have the PC do the capturing.  You can also use a webcam for this.  That way you don't have an intermediary format, you just capture on the PC and when you're done you are done. 

For a beginner, 8 or 12 frames per second should be fine.  I usually make a 24 FPS movie, but double up most frames.  Don't let me fool you though, I don't have a whole lot of experience.  Just a little bit of fun.  Probably the most difficult thing to get right is consistent lighting.  You need a controlled room with no outside light, and prefably lights shining onto whatever you're animating.

Oh yes, onion skinning overlays the previous two or three frames on top of the current image you're about to capture.  It makes them a varying degree of translucence, and usually you can also flip back and forth extra frames in this type of software.  It makes smooth animation easier to pull off. 


I want to start creating some of my own 2d animation @ home, off of my own still shots of animation drawings takin 1 by 1 with my cam. so all i really need now is the best and easy way to turn the frames into my stop motion animation short. I was checkin out some programs & i really liked how easy (FrameThief) looked, but i dont have a mac, only got my PC!!! ) : What would be the best program to get for what im tryin to do??? Please help!!! All i really wanna do is turn my 1 pic, 2 pic, 3 pic & so on into 1 short animation real easy & real fast!!! If u can help me thanx a lot. :smile:


I make animated stop-motion videos with LEGO. I use MonkeyJam. It's a free program and is working fine for me  :wink:


I had forgotten about this thread til digging through some old stuff a couple of weeks ago, and since the question was focused on software for stitching together stills, I wanted to bring this up.

Here's a sample stop motion animation we did back in January as part of a school lesson (the animators were children).  The stills were stitched with ffmpeg (free).  Technical comments below the embed.


(1) This is not the first animation we did (so I did not post in this thread, which has a pretty good Gamara effort by Saucerman), but it is admittedly rough around the edges.  This was an educational exercise done not for polish but to illustrate the technique of producing traditional stop motion.

(2) ffmpeg is a free command line program for Linux/Unix and is the video processing backend for a lot of video software.  It can even do live captures from a camera, transcoding, etc.

(3) One of the 'downsides' of ffmpeg is that to stitch together stills they HAVE to have sequential file names, such as file001, file002, file003, etc.  Got one bad shot and want to delete it?  Have to rename a bunch of files (not really TOO hard in Linux).

(4) This short 30 second or so sequence was comprised of 315 individual shots.

(5) None of the animation was done using key frames and software.  It's all traditional hand animation shot with a still camera.

(6) The basic technique of allowing little movements and inconsistencies I derived from watching videos of Ray Harryhausen work (on the DVD extras for IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA and other similar productions).  That is, these little "jiggles" in the movement lend some realism, especially to a creature (though think it produces an interesting effect on the space ships, too...if only to make them LOOK hand-animated).

That said, an early animation project we did (with VHS cam corder) had a lot of stuffed animal "action" in it and these jiggles do work better in that context.

(7) The computer was used to stitch the stills together and for inserting the background in the chromakey scene. (I had big plans of shooting a little 2 minute short around this chromakey sequence, but alas, time....)

(8) Stills were shot on a DSLR camera; given this was done with children (and a cat running around), there was no effort given to light control or getting too upset about arms or the cat in the scene.

(9) The little ones loved it, and have asked to do it again.  Hands-on animation like this can be exiting for them in a way that drawing an abstraction on a computer screen and animating it can NEVER be (not that CGI is not cool, I remain one of few CGI proponents here).

(10) Models were: simple Lego pieces (this was supposed to simulate buildings appearing to 'grow' in a landscape - more chromakey thoughts in play), a Lego rocket ship, Lego Space shuttle, a Matchbox car and a stuffed T-Rex (he's supposed to be talking).

(11) Though far from the best choice, we used a red blanket for the chromakey backdrop because it was handy.  This was more of an "impromptu project" than a "production."

(12) The chromakeying was more difficult than I thought it was going to be.   There was some vignetting from the camera lens that changed the shade of red just enough to throw off the process near the borders, so I had to paint those regions in "post."  Also, I did not get too particular about getting close to the shuttle itself (I was in a hurry on the post work) and the red halo is quite evident.

I think the educational value (for us) in leaving in these artifacts is to show that what many mistakenly (because they are common) take as "simple" techniques do in fact require work and attention to minute detail to do "right" and make look good.

(13) I STRONGLY encourage anyone with an interest in movies and visual effects to play around with stuff like this.  The behind-the-scenes effort is monumental sometimes, even for short sequences of film, and I love having that perspective.  And it's downright FUN!


Professor Hathaway:  I noticed you stopped stuttering.
Bodie:      I've been giving myself shock treatments.
Professor Hathaway: Up the voltage.

--Real Genius


Try a software called Poser. It's virtual 3d animation, not the Harryhausen kind, but it works basically the same way sort of.
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