Stop Motion frames
Stop Motion frames

Stop-motion animation is one of the oldest film tricks in the book. Even before the twentieth century officially kicked in, early filmmakers were experimenting with bringing still photography to life. Then, moving pictures were the wave of the future, delighting and surprising audiences who’d never seen such magic. Today, movie magic is so over-the-top it’s difficult to surprise anyone. Fortunately, it’s still very possible to delight!

Small disruptions can make a big difference

You ever get on the freeway and miss an exit because autopilot kicked in and you just cruised by as though you were on your morning commute? Most of us go through much of the day like that, following in the worn tread marks that carry us from the first email of the day to the last yawn before bed. The latest automatic action is the quick swipe through social media in moments of quiet boredom. Waiting in line, waiting for a meeting to start, waiting for the coffee to cool, we’ll pick up a phone and do a quick swipe through the social channels to see if anyone has posted anything fun since the last time we checked. That moment is a marketer’s perfect opportunity to disrupt and connect. So, how do we stop the swipe?

Stop-Motion Stops the Swipe

The human eye can interpret something like 1000 frames per second. That’s just everyday life, looking around, watching the birds fly and the traffic crawl. Experiments have shown that, when it comes to spotting frame rate in media, we can perceive the differences in frame rates up to about 150 FPS. The lower the FPS, the more noticeable the difference. The keyword being noticeable. When a stop-motion video auto-plays in an Instagram feed, and it’s 12-24 FPS, it gets noticed. The broken flow of the video catches the eye simply because it’s different, and our minds are trained (through years of evolution) to spot those things that fall outside the usual.

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Simple and Effective

Stop-motion can be as simple as our satchel video or as complex as a Tim Burton flick. For marketing, where ROI matters, and for social media, where attention spans are short, it’s important to keep expectations realistic. Stop-motion is an ideal format for product-based businesses, where photo-shoots are the norm and likely already in the content calendar. It would be easy enough to turn a photo-shoot into a stop-motion video shoot with a few props and a little creativity. DIY types can download apps designed just for the purpose, while those seeking a more polished vibe can hire professionals who can ensure that the effect is fun, and not jarring. We can also add motion graphics, titles, etc to reinforce your brand while delighting your audience. Because there’s no need to hire actors or stress about voice over (85% of people don’t even listen to audio on social videos), stop-motion can be the perfect entry-level video option for small businesses trying to stand out without making a major investment.

Substance and Style

Stop-motion is a great film technique but, as with any technique, it’s only a starting point. To ensure your video is more than just a parlor trick, take some time to think about what your message is going to be. Think about your buying audience and your viewing/sharing audience, your color story and your content calendar. You can take advantage of upcoming holidays with on-theme props for some videos, while simultaneously creating more evergreen content to showcase your product’s chief selling points. This is a purely visual medium at this point, so it’s show don’t tell time. If this “sounds harder than it looks,” that’s the idea. These videos call for extreme attention to detail on the production side, but should still seem fun and effortless to the viewer. 

Tips and Tricks for Stop-Motion DIY

  • Start with a stable surface and a stable camera. Every movement in stop-motion should be planned and controlled. You don’t need a shaky table affecting your set-up, and you need your camera to maintain its position. If you have a remote trigger for your camera, that can make a huge difference, both by eliminating unwanted button-pressing-jiggle and by limiting how much jumping back and forth you have to do as you shift the scene. For a more in-depth how-to, you can check out this tutorial from Wistia.
  • Mind your light. Natural light naturally shifts position, and those shadows can really throw off your visual continuity. You want flat, even light without any hot-spots or weird reflections.
  • Frame rate is your friend. The smaller the movements you make, and the more pictures you take, the smoother your final animation will be. Also, more pictures mean more options in post. On that note, make sure to take a few clean shots of your background before you start any action. Blank frames can come in handy as pause points and to help with timing.
  • Take your time, work in sections, and be prepared for a few “do-overs” along the way. Like anything else, your first video will be a learning experience, and the next one should go smoother.
  • And last but not least, delegate! If you’re too busy running the show to spend time learning film technique (and investing in new equipment), you can always outsource the heavy lifting to those who are already qualified and equipped to deliver perfection. .