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Introduction to Animation Projects

Introduction to Animation Projects

Posted by: San Francisco Film Society

As an alternative to a live-action project, students may collaborate to produce an animated short film, using either stop-motion techniques or computer animation software. As animation of any kind is a notoriously time-consuming process, teachers that choose to go this route should plan meticulously and set achievable goals relative to their circumstances and schedule. That said, animation is an excellent tool for young learners. 

Learning Goals 

Animation projects are well suited to help students think creatively and replicate circumstances that they might not have the opportunity to document or shoot in a real-life setting. 

Final Product

Animation projects can take a variety of forms: 

2D Animation Techniques 

• Classic animation (e.g., Disney’s The Lion King, most television cartoons) 

• Rotoscope (e.g., Star Wars light sabers, Waking Life

• Flip books 

3D Animation Techniques 

• Cut-out / Silhouette animation (e.g. South Park) 

Stop-Motion Techniques 

• Claymation (e.g., Aardman Animation’s Wallace & Gromit

• Puppet animation (e.g., Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline

Many of the 2D and 3D animation processes are time-consuming and intensive (and often require specialized software and equipment), so we generally suggest that filmmakers steer students towards stop-motion-based projects. 

What Is Stop Motion? 

Essentially all films are stop motion in that they are comprised of a bunch of still frames, but in film the sequencing, the rate at which the frames are moving (24 frames per second for film), and the way our eye interprets it gives it the feeling of fluid motion. 

Stop motion itself typically consists of fewer frames per second (the average is around 10), and instead of what we would call “live action,” which is people/objects moving in real time, we are manipulating time and animating objects that might not necessarily move on their own. 

By making subtle movements one step at a time, we can create the illusion that the object itself is moving without seeing a hand holding the object or using fishing line to support it. 

Time Lapse 

This is a technique in which each frame is shot over a longer period of time, so when you play them in order, it appears that time is moving really fast (e.g., sun moving across the sky to night, a building being constructed in two minutes, etc.) For the opposite of that, when you see an object moving in really slow motion, like rain drops, that means that many frames are being captured per second, up to thousands. The real work with stop motion comes between the frames, not in them. The more subtle your movements and the more shots (frames) you take, the more convincing your animations can be. 

Adapted from KQED Animation Workshop Curriculum


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