How to make animated movies with the kids

Ever tried your hand at stop-motion animation? We’ve been trying out a stop motion animation kit, Hue Animation Studio, and it’s been a fun (but quite silly) ride! Here’s how we got on…

Stop Motion Animation using Modelling Clay

The kids are suddenly (distressingly?) into pop music, so we started out by choosing a music video we wanted to recreate: a fantastic acoustic version of Moves Like Jagger by Arlene Zelina. First up, the kids created a cardboard collage backdrop for our video, featuring what’s meant to be Venice Beach. You might need to use your imagination as it was ‘art directed’ by a six year old.

Next up, they made a colourful and malleable clay version of the singer Arlene Zelina and her guitar playing friend. His black swoosh of hair is awesome as is the guitar they’ve made for him. We invited some small LEGO friends to join the party, as you do.

While the kids were busy making their clay models, I plugged in the Hue HD video camera and installed the animation software (SAM).

Filming our animated movie was easy peasy. Besides being super cute, the Hue camera is perched atop a stable base on a bendy arm, so you can position it exactly as you want in seconds. On your laptop, you’ll see what the camera sees in real time, so you can adjust the camera angle without any guesswork.

To capture the first frame, you hit the space bar. Snap. That’s it. There is no fiddling around, you don’t need to worry at all about accidentally bumping the camera, or accidentally deleting an important file from your work-issued laptop, and the kids don’t need to have mastered controlling an adult-sized mouse.

First frame captured, you adjust the position of your characters or backdrop ever so slightly and hit the space bar again. And so forth, capturing each new position with a quick tap of the space bar.

We threw in a bit of real life for good measure. Sadly we sort of forgot to adjust the focus on the camera, but I’m thinking maybe it adds to the vibe!

What to do when one of the kids mutters “Oops”

I know what you’re thinking – when the 5 and 6 year old get involved in moving the characters, there is no such thing as tiny step-wise movements… the characters will be jostled about, knocked over, and repositioned about a mile away from where they’re supposed to be, resulting in a stop-motion animated movie that is bound to make you wonder if you’ve accidentally ingested some illicit substances.

That’s where the ‘onion skinning’ comes in. ‘Onion skinning’ is where you can see your current camera view layered on top of the previous frame, so you can reposition precisely. It means you can chase after your youngest child, retrieve your little clay character and reposition him in the video without anyone ever knowing. Or you can pick it up, adjust the character’s facial expression, and pop it back down in exactly the same spot. If (like me) you only ever have little bursts of 20 minutes after school for these types of activities, you can start an animation one day, clear everything away, and then set it all up again on the weekend without your animation feeling disjointed.

You can play back your animation any time, delete or duplicate frames, add captions, speech bubbles, drawings, a logo, special effects… you name it.

Our next step was to record some sound – you can record your voices (or in our case the song while it was playing on YouTube) and sound effects, or import an audio file.

Et voila. Our animation isn’t going to win any awards, but my two little rascals had a fab time and are really proud of themselves.

Stop Motion Animation using Paper Drawings

We also tried our hand at paper animation using a collage backdrop and stick figures. For our characters, I drew them on paper in pencil, and then used thick tracing paper to trace 5 or six identical bodies and heads. Next I gave each head its own facial expression. When we were animating the story, all we needed to do was move the little paper figures half a centimetre at a time around our backdrop, and swap the heads when we needed our main character to look surprised, happy or worried. If you’re a storytelling enthusiast I will apologise now for the complete lack of introduction and build up – I blame it on wanting to wrap up production before bath time. The background is that Poppa Ollie had a little monkey friend, Simaon, who always followed him around everywhere in his Goan fishing village. In this (abridged!) story, Baapamaa (Grandma) Amalia sends Ollie out to the market to fetch turmeric. He’s just little, so by the time he gets there can’t quite remember what he’s after, except that it starts with ‘T’.

About Simaon the Monkey

Simaon is real. When I was a little girl, we loved playing “Goa” and living without electricity, and at night Poppa Ollie would light candles and tell stories about his childhood in the small fishing village of Margaon on the Konkan coast. My favourite stories always featured Simaon, a naughty little monkey who followed Ollie around and stole mangoes from the rows and rows Ollie had laid out to ripen. Having thought my whole life that Simaon was a character created by my dad, at 25 years old on a backpacking trip around India I was shocked to hear that Simaon was actually real. If you want me to work a little harder to bring the Simaon stories to life and share them with the world, please give me a nudge – I work well under peer pressure J

Our thoughts about the Hue Animation Studio

The negatives:

The modelling clay that comes with the Hue Animation Studio is the same as used in the Wallace and Gromit movies… which sounds good in theory but is not so great in practice. It’s easy to shape the characters, and the bits stick to each other beautifully so your character’s head won’t suddenly pop off and roll away like it does with some brands of modelling clay.

BUT

The guys who make Wallace and Gromit are adults and are less likely to do mad stuff with the clay. The fact that it’s so sticky is great for creating characters, but not so great when your little one keeps peeling the eyes off and sticking them back on in different spots, because tiny smears of clay get left behind every time so your model starts looking a bit messy. The ultra stickiness also means that it’s a real pain to get the smears off the kitchen table unless you remembered to put a plastic sheet down first.

I also found it hard to work out how to copy frames and to edit our audio narration.

Saying that, I am completely biased – having worked in creative agencies I am used to using “pro” video production software which normally costs significantly more than Hue.

The positives:

The camera is superb and is genuinely plug-and-play, and installing the software is quick and easy. Aside from a few bits, the software is very intuitive, and I love the fact that you can capture images by pressing the space bar. A great way to get started in creating animated movies.

Where to buy Hue Animation Studio

At the time of writing, the kit is available on Amazon for £53.90, about £36 off the normal price. The kit comes with Hue HD camera, code to download and install the software, access to tutorials in case you want to do something fancy, and some modelling clay to get you started.

Hue Animation Studio on Amazon

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Janis

Founder & Director at ReallyKidFriendly
Janis is a cheery and versatile digital expert with a healthcare background, usually seen either geeking out or sprinting through North London trying to catch her kids, Mads and Danger Boy. Thanks to her two boisterous rascals, she has become an expert in soft play areas, parks, energetic music classes, and where to get a stiff drink once they’ve gone to bed.
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2 Comments

  1. colin December 14, 2014
    • Janis December 14, 2014

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