If you have any questions, don't be stranger! Email me at: chefelepsy@gmail.com

Q. What is stop motion?

A. Stop motion photography takes advantage of the fact that movies are actually a succession of still images that, when projected quickly enough, allow us to perceive the images as one continuous motion. In stop motion, objects, usually miniatures or puppets, are photographed one frame at a time.  In between frames, the objects are manipulated through portions of an overall movement, such as walking, running, or flying. Although a painstaking and time-consuming process, the end result produces an effect that, when projected, the sum of the changes in position between frames is seen as continuous movement of the objects filmed. Ultimately, if done well, the production gives the illusion of life to inanimate objects, which is a truly magical result.

A typical ball-and-socket-joint armature, which is made to go inside of a stop motion puppet

Q. What equipment do I need to get started making my own stop motion films?

A. You can began to create your own stop motion films with almost any camera that captures single   pictures. The same stop motion effect can be produced with cameras ranging from smartphone cameras to cameras available to higher-budget produces made by companies such as Nikon and Canon.
The second essential piece of equipment you'll need is something that is dubbed in the stop motion community a "frame-grabber." This is a term for the software, whether real or digital, that combines several individual pictures into a video - if digital, or into a film reel - if a tangible machine. There are several frame-grabbers out there to choose from, many of which are free to download on the Android and App stores such as Stop Motion Studio Lego Movie Maker. However, at the higher end, professional studios such as Laika and Aardman use programs such as Dragon Frame (the choice of Laika Studios, known for their technically groundbreaking films, among which are: ParaNorman, Coraline, and Kubo and the Two Strings) and Stop-motion pro (preferred by the British studio Aardman, known for their claymation productions: Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, and The Pirates! Band of Misfits). One thing to keep in mind when shopping around for a frame grabber is what platform you will be using to make your films (Mac, Windows, iOS, etc.), as some software may not be compatible and others may include or exclude certain features for one processing platform over another.
Once you have these two pieces of equipment, all you need now is a subject to film and you can begin making your own stop motion movies!

The stop motion animation process for "A Town Called Panic"
Animators working on the set of the 2009 stop motion film, A Town Called Panic

a computer, or if you don't have this equipment a smartphone will work too.  That's it, (to start filming) normal every day items.

Q. What camera should I buy?
A. Before you buy anything ask your self, how much am I willing to spend?  For most professional cameras (which are mostly over $1,000) Canon or Nikon camera body's are best for still imaging.  If you choose a Canon the best body's (currently available) are the Canon 5D mk II, Canon 60D, and Canon REBEL T4i.  The Canon 5D mk II shoots 22. MP (million pixels), so it is a very good camera for feature films that will be shown in the cinema (ParaNorman, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, and Frankenweenie were all shot using this camera.)  The Canon 60D and the Canon REBEL T4i are best used for TV shows and/or short film that will be shown on the web.  If you choose to buy a Nikon camera body the best body for feature films is the Nikon D3X, (it is a fairly old model, 2009 so it doesn't shoot video.)  The best Nikon camera body for TV shows is the Nikon D600 which will shoot 24. MP.

Q. What can I use to make fire, smoke, and water without using CGI?
A. I'll start with fire, to make fire buy like 25 bars of orange soap then carve each soap-bar with modeling tools (filming fire then go through each frame individually to get an idea of how fire makes this process easier) then pull out your green-screen and take a picture of each individual sculpt, and you have your fire.

Smoke is a little easier to handle, just use steel wool with a mix of cotton in it, suspend it on thin wire (paint it green so that it will be easier to key-out in post-production) and film it changing it little by little every frame.

Last but not least is water, just buy like a few rolls on plastic-wrap then cut it into pieces, (make about 25 different 'waves' so your animation will look good) roll it into a string like way if you want your water to be coming out of a hose or something similar.  Pile it up piece by piece into a waterfall of sorts if you want it to be a water-fall.

Q. What is Claymation?
A. The term "Claymation"became a very popular term for (what else, animating clay,) in 1987 after "A Claymation Christmas" was released. The animation technique Claymation was first used by Will Vinton Studios, (now LAIKA) the Will Vinton Studio's most famous projects were: "Heard it through the Grapevine," 'Noid intro," "Michael Jackson Raison," "California Raisins: Claymation Christmas,"  Just to name a few.  So, even if you knew it or not, throughout your childhood you've seen Claymation, and it seems one of the best animation techniques.

Q. My puppets are made out of clay, so, do I need an armature?
A. It depend's on what you plan to have the puppet do.  If you want to have him do any stunts (jumping, flying etc.) and most likely you will need an armature.  Your puppet shape matters too.  If he has a Gumby-like shape, then no, you don't need an armature.  So, hopefully I've answered your question, if not send me a photo of your puppet and I'll tell you for sure or not.

Gumby-like shape -

Q. What is the best video-sharing site for Stop Motion videos?
A. I use Vimeo to upload Stop Motion.   The main reason for using Vimeo, is because in quality, Vimeo beats YouTube, hands down.  The downside of uploading to Vimeo is that not as many people visit Vimeo compared to those people who visit YouTube.