Stop Motion, Live-Action, Claymation, Oh MY!

Looking for a fun way to educate the young people in your life about the fun of artistic expression through animation? Well, look no further than the Children’s Museum of the Arts! The CMA is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing hands-on art programming to children throughout New York City. The staff of practicing artists is there to help mentor and guide young artists from ages 10 months to 15 years through many different types of projects and mediums.

One of the many highlights of the Children’s Museum is the Media Lab, which is open and in use throughout most of the museum’s regular hours. The lab is equipped with several Macs, laptops and even iPads with iStopMotion software! Children ages 5+ are invited to come try animation workshops using cut-out shapes, magazine scraps, scrabble letters and paper puppets that include prompts such as “Underwater Stories” or “Collage Letters.”

Currently in the midst of the summer session of their popular Art Colony Camp, held every spring, summer, fall and winter, the Media Lab is getting quite the workout. As part of the weekly camps the lab is used for a variety of activities such as stop motion animation, collage animation, claymation and live-action shooting and editing. (For those unfamiliar with collage animation or claymation, check out this CMA student-made example here.)

“Art Colony is a more dedicated form of studio commitment that allows for more time-intensive projects to happen in the class,” says Lynn Kim, manager of the Media Lab department at CMA. With more time available, the students are able to explore many different techniques and complete the necessary steps to give them the finished projects that they have envisioned for themselves. With all the new techniques students are learning, their days become quite busy! A typical day for students in the program will likely include brainstorming ideas (thumbnails, scriptwriting or making sketches), prop making and design, rehearsing (or practice animating), animating/shooting or even postproduction and editing.

Although it may be tempting for students to jump right into animating, Lynn says that all students are encouraged to plan their actions.

“We predict that they will animate the movements too quickly, so often we set time aside for redo's or second attempts at a scene before they are happy with the way it looks,” she says.

However, most students will begin animating once they decide on key scenes that they want to create. After exporting, Lynn says that they then bring in Final Cut Pro for editing and the addition of sound and credits.

One thing that becomes important for children (or anyone really!) when navigating unfamiliar software is simplicity. That’s where Lynn says Boinx saves the day, crediting the onion skinning tool (while animating, you can actually see what changes you make to the scene by seeing both the last picture you've taken and the current view from the camera overlayed) as a must-have for anyone in the Media Lab using iStopMotion.

“We are so lucky to be living in a time where almost anyone with an interest in animation can take steps to learn it,” Lynn says. “iStopMotion has been a huge help in teaching learners of all ages, as the program is very intuitive and straight forward and does not require a manual or heavy instruction to use.”

We couldn’t agree more! Not that we needed proof of The Media Lab’s exemplary programming, but check out some of their projects here and above.

As they say, the proof is in the pudding.

Shake It ‘Til You Make It!

At Digital Harbor Foundation in Baltimore, Maryland, you’re encouraged to shake it up during Maker Camp, especially when it’s about making films! DHF was formed in 2012 to take over a Rec Center that the city could no longer keep open and transform it into a youth maker space after school and during the summer. Maker Camp is DHF’s summer program, and it encourages youths from the 1st to the 12th grade to join different themed camps during school vacation and learn new skills such as 3D printing, electronics and film and movie making, which includes a session on iStopMotion that introduces the benefits of stop motion animation.

The film making Maker Camp session is a crowd favorite. Over the course of the two-week session, students create movie trailers in groups and finish off with iStopMotion films of their own creation. They start out by making a short storyboard with a beginning, middle and end to the story. After, they create puppets from a bunch of different materials, some of which include clay, wire, foil, felt and pipe cleaners. Some students partner up for the task, but it isn’t required until the actual filming portion. Once the story is in their head and the characters are created, the students (or MiniMakers!) have one week to shoot their movie trailers in front of a greenscreen. They use iMovie to add in their chosen backgrounds, transitions between scenes, titles and audio.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

During the second week of the camp session, the MiniMakers make flip books to understand more about how stop motion animation works. That way, when it’s time for filming, it is almost as if they’ve been directing for years. For filming, DHF provides collapsible iStopMotion stations that hold an iPad, making it easy to keep the iPad stable for the most effective teamwork. It’s a go from there.

“The kids have really enjoyed using iStopMotion,” says Melissa Huch, community manager at DHF. “We barely have to tell them anything about the app before they figure it all out on their own!”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

From set up to editing, the MiniMakers have no problem sparking their creativity. Like many other students, they love iStopMotion’s onion skinning feature, which makes it easy to create a smooth transition and helps them to know just how far they should move their characters. Melissa loves that it compiles all of the photos taken so it’s easy to play back quickly. Students come up with an incredible range of stories, from making a goal in soccer to a surfer girl falling in the water and becoming a mermaid.

“iStopMotion has really assisted the kids in learning about stop motion animation because it’s so easy to use,” Melissa says. “It’s very user friendly. We’ve tried other apps, but iStopMotion really makes the whole process run smoothly for both the students and teachers.”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The film making Maker Camp session ends with a showcase of the students’ iStopMotion films for all to see. In the future, Melissa and the rest of the DHF team hope to incorporate iStopMotion into the regular school year programs when MiniMakers learn about animation, film, photography and more. In the meantime, DHF and the MiniMakers will continue to shake things up during camp – who knows what types of iStopMotion films we’ll see next!

Now that Maker Camps are wrapping up for the season, Digital Harbor Foundation is excited to start Youth Recruitment for its after school program. To learn more about Digital Harbor Foundation and to sign up for sessions, please visit

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

When Adults are the Students

Libraries aren’t just for reading books anymore. Today, they offer almost everything a person could need, be it resources for job hunting, fun events for the family or group classes to pick up new skills. The NHC Public Library, located in Wilmington, North Carolina, shows off its appreciation for technology in a number of workshops, one being an iStopMotion animation class for adults.

The NHC Library first introduced iStopMotion as a children’s workshop two years ago, where it was an instant hit. Since then, the workshops usually fill up a month in advance, and library director Harry Tuchmeyer has purchased equipment for each one of the library’s branches. Library staff works with one or two children between the ages of eight and eighteen at a time for a one-hour session to teach them the basics using iStopMotion, iMovie and YouTube. Once the basic one-on-one session is completed, students are invited to come to the library’s Stop Animation Lab, offered twice a month on Fridays. There, they have two hours to complete their work and have a chance to work with up to five other students to compare techniques.

Last summer, the NHC Library did six separate weeks of Stop Animation Camp, meeting for an hour a day for four days a week with the same group of students to make a longer stop motion animation. Day one was for set design, day two was for shooting and editing, day three was for finishing up editing and day four was for uploading. A member of the children’s staff, Jamie Schrum, noticed how interested parents were in the students’ work, and the Stop Animation Course for adults was born.

Three adults attended the first course. Jamie demonstrated how to use iStopMotion by making a quick film, and then the participants went to work, creating their own backgrounds and taking pictures. Jamie assisted with the technology, answered questions and offered limited creative suggestions, but the adults took to it well.

“It was a smooth process,” Jamie says. “One of the participants came up with an idea of what she wanted to create, and as we brainstormed, the other two got ideas for their films. Even though three separate films were made, it was a collaborative effort.”

Because iStopMotion was so easy to learn and the layout so intuitive, the adults loved using it. The onion skinning feature was a big plus, and the ability to duplicate frames, focus shift and add grid lines made the education part quick and the creative part fun.

"In the age we live in, computer literacy is very important for almost anyone searching for work," says Max Nunez, library associate at NHC. "A very high percentage of jobs require applicants to apply for the job online, even if the person will never work with a computer on the job itself. Learning other technology applications and skills helps to make patrons more marketable in their job hunt as well."

Currently, the NHC Library has over 290 videos on its YouTube channel, most of them iStopMotion animations. The staff plans on continuing to offer workshops for both children and adults among other activities, such as their annual film club where they screen their best iStopMotion movies at a local film house. They even have trophies for the best actor, actress and animator. It just goes to show that anyone can be an animator with a little bit of practice!

Visit the NHC Public Library online here to learn about workshops, books and more!

How to Get Eager, Animated Students with Assigned Reading

Amy Cobb teaches sixth grade English at Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg, Florida, where she and her colleagues have discovered the secrets of making assigned reading a project that students will look forward to while developing practical collaborative skills along the way.

Having just hosted Shorecrest Preparatory’s third annual Technology Summit with the help of her peers Anna and Chris, Amy believes in the power of stop motion animation as an entertaining way of storytelling while enhancing learning in any classroom. Attendees at the summit learned the ins and outs of iPads during the first day while the second day was devoted entirely to stop motion animation, and they used iStopMotion for iPad to show how it can be applied to different subjects.

Shorecrest’s Technology Summits came to be as a result of Amy and Chris giving an iPad classroom integration presentation at the Association for Middle Level Education National Conference a few years back. Although Shorecrest Preparatory provides each of its faculty members with an iPad and a MacBook Pro laptop, Amy and Chris soon realized that the majority of the schools in their area were not as fortunate. Without readily available iPads, many teachers from surrounding schools were not aware of the system’s capabilities to enhance learning in the classroom, leading Amy and her colleagues to develop iPad workshops.

Since the first Technology Summit (which boasted a first-time turnout of sixty people!) other schools have taken a nod from Shorecrest with Amy and Chris’s help, where they teach other education professionals how to get the most from their iPads. Amy emphasizes the power of technology as a learning tool.

“Technology allows for the tailoring of content on an individual basis, especially when using an iPad,” she says. “Features accessible on the iPad help with learning challenges, and the variety of apps makes it easy for the student to take control of his or her own learning.”

Amy’s expertise on the subject comes from a huge iStopMotion project that she and Anna work on together with their sixth grade students each fall. Called “The LEGO Hobbit Project,” the fun begins after students complete reading The Hobbit. Then, groups of students are each assigned different chapters of the book to create their own interpretations with LEGOs using iStopMotion. However, before students can jump right into the animation process they must first brainstorm, storyboard, design sets, film and edit for a polished project. Check out a sample here!

“What we like about the iStopMotion process is that it gets kids thinking, writing and fostering collaboration and cooperation among peers and allows for creativity across multiple mediums,” says Amy.

Once the student groups finish their iStopMotion retelling of each chapter, Amy and Anna merge all the videos together to create one epic reimagination of the story!

Though the project fosters many practical skills in her students, Amy and Anna’s iStopMotion project is mostly just plain fun! It’s seriously impressive to look at how much hard work goes into a creative retelling of a literary classic. But don’t just take our word for it. Check out Amy’s student’s retelling of The Hobbit above!

Bonus: Next year she plans to work Harry Potter into the curriculum, and we can’t wait to see what her kids come up with!

Small Movements Make Big Changes

Have you ever wanted to be on TV? At Norfolk Community Television in Massachusetts, adults and children can enroll in workshops to teach them how to be the face of their own public access show. One of the most popular student workshops is the Stop Motion Animation class, a program for children between the ages of 9 and 12 who want their final projects to be featured on NCTV’s channels. And guess what program they’re using!

“Our iStopMotion classes encompass a wide range of interests and our students’ projects reflect that as well,” says Katy Woodhams, executive director at Norfolk Community Television. “They usually come up with something so fun and creative, and I’m constantly impressed with how their brains work.”

So far, Katy and the rest of the team has allowed the students to create whatever iStopMotion project comes to mind. Eventually, they might throw in an extra curveball and give students certain parameters to work with, such as one line of dialogue or an object that they have to incorporate into the story to help them think through tougher assignments. Students used rolling tape to run over characters, to discover who the “real” Samuel Adams is and to have epic pie fights.

“Our students are always giddy to start filming their project after putting in the time to storyboard and build their sets,” Katy says. “iStopMotion has a short learning curve and I encourage them to take advantage of using keyboard shortcuts to speed up the process – 2 is my favorite key when it comes to iStopMotion!”

The staff and the students both have the same favorite iStopMotion feature – onion skinning! Katy says that onion skinning is vital to how they teach and how the students learn. Because most of the students are beginners, it is important that they start to learn how small movements make big changes. They also love being able to watch the video progress as it goes so students can take out unwanted frames or plan how they want to proceed. And when they use Final Cut Pro X to add homemade or pre-recorded sound effects once the filming is done, the students can’t get enough!

“Technology is advancing and changing at lightning speed these days, and being able to harness its power to aid in the creation of video, media, music, art or whatever your form of expression may be is truly inspiring,” Katy says. “Having worked in community TV for almost four years now, I’ve seen how the change in affordability of many professional software companies has affected budding professionals, hobbyists and community members alike. They now have access to powerful tools and can learn the tricks of the trade by actually having their hands in a project instead of learning theory in a classroom. Affordable technology benefits the learning process by providing real hands-on experience to a wider population, and iStopMotion assists by being an affordable alternative to expensive professional stop motion software.”

Norfolk Community Television offers programs with three sessions per year, and they plan to continue that trend. Their August session has been full for months! The doors are always open at NCT to help the community learn new skills and express themselves along the way, and if you’re interested in signing up for an iStopMotion workshop, please visit them online here!