If you’re promoting your business or brand on Instagram–which you should be–then you need to be using videos.
Video content on Instagram receives twice as much engagement as non-video posts, and the level of engagement has been increasing every year. From live streaming events to short looping video ads, there are so many ways to make an impact with Instagram videos.
A great way to grab and keep viewers’ attention is with stop motion video.
- What is stop motion?
- Why are stop motion videos great for Instagram?
- Pre-production guidelines for your stop motion video
- Making and sharing your stop motion video
- Getting inspired
1. What is stop motion?
Stop motion video is a series of still images presented so quickly that our brains perceive them as continuous movement.
A famous example is Wallace & Gromit, which features clay characters moving in a smooth, life-like way.
Achieving this requires huge amounts of work. Animator Merlin Crossingham said it could take several days to film a four-second shot because “if Grommit is wagging his tail for 30 seconds, that’s 360 movements.”
Thoughts and prayers for whoever had to animate this scene:
Luckily, you don’t need to achieve that level of quality for stop motion to be effective. Part of the charm of this medium is seeing the illusion in a way you can’t with film or 3D animation.
2. Why are stop motion videos great for Instagram?
One of the big challenges for online videos is catching and maintaining a viewer’s attention.
According to AdAge, 33% of viewers stop watching a video within 30 seconds, and 45% within a minute. You need to hook people in the first 10 seconds and keep them watching if you want to get engagement, and stop motion gives you an edge here.
There is something instantly intriguing about seeing inanimate objects brought to life.
When children play, they transform everyday objects and lifeless toys into dynamic characters and exciting settings. Stop motion awakens that sense of play in people, whether it’s using clay figurines, complex models, or just houseplants:
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3. Pre-production guidelines for your stop motion video
Awakening that sense of play requires a good measure of preparation. Here’s a checklist of what to do and what to assemble before shooting:
Getting set up
To get started, you’ll need a few pieces of equipment:
- A decent camera – a good smartphone camera might be enough or you may need to invest in something more advanced, depending on the level of quality you need
- A stable surface that won’t shift between shots
- A stable lighting source – don’t use natural light as it will change between shots
- A tripod for your camera or phone – it’s important that you can maintain the exact same framing for your shots, so hand-held won’t cut it
- A remote shutter to take photos without bumping the camera or phone – oftentimes the volume button on headphones can be used in this way
Creating a storyboard
For most projects, you’ll need a storyboard, especially if your idea is complicated.
Storyboarding will help you keep things organised. Even for short stop motion projects, you need to know the beginning, middle, and end, and map out how to tell your story with movement. To create your storyboard, follow these steps:
- Identify your ‘keyframes’ – the most important moments in the story – and sketch what they should look like
- Next, use boxes to sketch out the individual frames you’ll need to tell the story, including those keyframes – each box should correspond to a click of the camera when you come to produce your video
- If your video will have on-screen text or a voice-over, you should write this out below or beside the corresponding frames
Not every project needs a storyboard. For example, this video is effective but probably didn’t need a storyboard:
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Whereas this definitely did:
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4. Making and sharing your stop motion video
Once you have you set-up, it’s time to actually shoot the frames needed for your stop motion! Exactly how you do that will depend on your project – whether it’s claymation, moving figures around, hand-drawn frames, or something else.
Here are two of the easiest tools around to help you make your own stop motion masterpieces:
Use Clipchamp to create stop motion videos on your desktop
Clipchamp is a powerful online video editor you can use to create all kinds of content, including stop motion videos. It’s very useful if you’ve already got your frames shot and ready to go. Here’s how it works:
1. Once you have all your images ready, go to the Clipchamp Create and sign in. Creating an account is free, and you can sign in with your existing Google or Facebook account:
2. Click ‘Create a video’:
3. Choose the right dimensions for your video – for Instagram feed, square is best, whereas most stories are in portrait:
You can change your selection later by clicking the aspect ratio to the right of your video preview:
4. Import all the images that will make up your stop motion video using the ‘Add Media’ button:
You can drag and drop files straight into Clipchamp or browse files on your computer:
5. Once all your files are uploaded, you’ll need to drag them down to the timeline at the bottom of the screen:
6. As you add each video, adjust the length to make them as short as possible. To do this, click the file on the timeline to highlight it, then toggle the edge of the frame toward the left of the screen until it stops:
Zoom in on the timeline to shorten every frame down to 0.5 seconds, or 2 frames per second. (We’ll tell you how to increase the frame rate later on.)
7. Once all your frames are added, export the video:
Once you choose a resolution, your video will be processed so it’s ready to download. You can export in 420 or 720 resolution for free:
8. Once your video is ready, download it to your computer, then open a new project in Clipchamp:
9. In your new project, upload the video you just created so you can adjust the speed. Two frames-per-second isn’t fast enough to create the illusion of movement, so we need to speed up the clip. Once you’ve added the video to your timeline, click it to open up editing options:
10. Under the ‘Transform’ tab, you’ll see an option for adjusting clip speed, which gives you the options slow, normal, and fast:
Select fast, and you’ll get another drop-down menu that lets you choose how much faster to make the video:
If you set it to ‘8x’ that will take the frame rate from 2-per-second up to 16-per-second, which will render your stop motion project with smooth transitions.
11. Lastly, share your stop motion to Instagram – download your sped-up video to your computer, then transfer it to your phone. From there you can share it to your Instagram feed or stories!
You can also use Clipchamp to add your stop motion as a scene in a longer video, like an unboxing segment in a video promoting a sale.
Use Life Lapse to create stop motion videos on your smartphone
You can download Life Lapse on your iPhone or Android phone for free. You’ll need to pay to unlock all its features but the free version offers quite a lot. Here’s how it works:
1. Open the app on your phone and create a new project:
2. Tap the camera icon at the bottom left of the screen to start adding images:
3. Make sure the camera is set to ‘Stop Motion Photos’:
4. Start taking your photos! Remember to make sure that lighting is even and that your camera is held steady, ideally in a tripod.
If you have a remote shutter, life will be much easier – even small bumps to the phone when taking photos will give the final video a jerky appearance.
You can use a grid to help centre your shots by tapping the grid icon in the bottom right corner:
The app will overlay a ‘ghost’ image of your last shot to help you make the movements between frames more easily.
You can also use the timer icon so the app will take photos automatically at regular intervals – just make sure your shots are ready before the shutter clicks!
Once you’ve taken all your shots, tap the play icon in the top right to preview and edit your stop motion:
5. Add music and filters – Life Lapse provides five musical tracks you can add to your stop motion for free by clicking the music icon:
To unlock the rest of the library or add your own music, you’ll need to upgrade.
You can also add filters:
6. Adjust the size of your stop motion video with Life Lapse’s in-built cropping tool:
7. Boomerang your video if you want it to loop like a gif:
8. Choose a frame-rate for your stop motion – you can go all the way up to 24 frames per second:
9. Export your video by clicking the ‘Export button in the bottom right of the screen. Be aware that the app will prompt you to upgrade, but you can export without paying. Just close the window if you’re happy with the free version:
10. Share your new stop motion creation to your Instagram feed or stories directly:
Or, if you want to add your stop motion to a larger project, combine it with other videos on Clipchamp. Try using a template to make things simpler:
5. Getting inspired
It’s one thing to know how to put together a stop motion video, but it’s another to have ideas for your content. So, let’s finish up with some tips on getting inspired about the possibilities of stop motion!
Certain types of content lend themselves to stop motion really well, such as:
- Unboxing and/or demonstrating products
- How-to videos and tutorials
- Unconventional advertisements
- Simple story-telling – remember that great content can be more important than direct promotional material, in terms of getting engagement and visibility online
Have a think about the content you create or could create that would lend itself to this medium.
To see how inanimate and human subjects can be brought together in stop motion, watch this film clip from Oren Lavie (which has more than 34 million views on YouTube):
And don’t forget, stop motion is often at its best when transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary – so stay alert for inspiration in everyday life. Once you start looking for them, you’ll find stop motion ideas all over the place!