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The 10 Most Common Types of Stop Motion Animations

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Jul 17, 2024• Proven solutions

The first animated movie was created a little over a century ago, and since that time we’ve seen the emergence of so many different animation techniques. Each of them brought a unique visual style that enriched the world of cinema and inspired new generations.

Stop motion animation has been used since the early years of cinema, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that authors started using stop motion animation to create entire movies. In the age of digital cameras and powerful video editing software products making a stop motion animation isn’t as difficult as it was only a few decades ago. So in this article, we are going to take a closer look at different types of stop motion animations.

How is Stop Motion Animation Different from Other Types of Animation?

Traditional animation involves drawing or painting on transparent celluloid sheets that are later photographed or filmed and arranged in a sequence in order to simulate movement. In stop motion animation, the animator doesn’t draw but rather takes pictures of figures and objects and changes their position between the shots.

In this manner, the animator creates the illusion of movement, as each frame contains a slightly altered position of the objects in the shot. The exact amount of frames per second depends on the video and it can vary from just 12 to 60. Consequently, creating a stop motion animation is always a slow process that can take weeks and even months to complete, as even the slightest movement must be photographed before you can proceed to the next one.

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10 Types of Stop Motion Animation

The materials used to create the objects depicted in the stop motion animation are used to differentiate between different types of stop motion animation. However, the process of making a stop motion animation is always the same, regardless of the material used to create the objects or the characters in the movie. So, here are the ten most common types of stop motion animation.

1. Object Animation

Any object such as a pair of scissors or a toy can be used as the object that is being animated, as long as it fits the story you are trying to tell. Object animation is frequently used in tutorials, commercials or videos that are used for a broad range of purposes.

Moreover, this type of stop motion animation is often combined with other types of animation techniques. One of the greatest challenges of object animation is to simulate flying or bouncing off the objects in the shot since it is difficult to control their movement. Rigging is commonly used to solve this issue because it enables the animator to have complete control of the object’s movement, although removing the rig from the shot is going to require some additional work in the post-production.

2. Clay Animation

As its name indicates, this type of stop motion animation involves animating figurines and objects made out of clay. However, clay isn’t the only material that can be used to create these animations, as animators often make puppets out of plasticine and other similar materials.

Clay animation is regularly used to create cartoons, although it is relatively easy to find music videos and TV shows that are made using this technique. Creating the entire scenography and the characters for clay animation movies is incredibly difficult, which is the reason why novice animators must have an advanced set of clay modeling skills in order to be able to use this stop motion animation technique effectively.

3. Lego Animation

If you have seen the Lego Movie you already know the potential Lego bricks offer to animators. However, this movie was created using computer graphics, so don’t expect to achieve the same results on your first try. Basically, you need to build your entire scenography and the characters in your movie out of Lego bricks, and then change their on-screen positions from one frame to the other.

This is by no means an easy task, because it may take you a lot of time before you can start shooting your video. Even so, you will have a broad range of props at your disposal which can give you a lot of versatility during the production stage of your project.

4. Pixilation

This type of stop motion animation involves working with people, as you will be animating the movements of one or more actors one frame at the time. Pixilation works particularly well with other types of animation like object animation, but it can also be quite effective when combined with regular videos or time-lapses.

The examples of Pixilation can be traced back to the early 20th century, while today this animation technique is equally present in commercials, music videos, and full-feature movies. Famous movie directors like Jan Švankmajer or Shinya Tsukamoto have created some of their best work using the Pixilation technique.

5. Cutout

Cutting pieces of paper and animating them may not seem like a sure way to create an entertaining movie until you actually see the enormity of the possibilities this animation technique offers. Even so, professional animators aren’t as keen on using it as the newcomers to the world of stop motion animation.

All you need to start creating a Cutout animation is a flat surface and differently shaped pieces of paper. There are countless ways in which you can apply this technique, and the story you are trying to tell is the best way to determine the exact elements you are going to use in your stop motion animation.

6. Model Animation

In case you know how to create puppets out of different materials, then you can try making a model animation. Moreover, you need to find a way to change the facial expressions of the puppets you are using in your movie, which is why Model Animation shouldn’t be your first choice if you are just learning stop motion animation techniques. Model Animation can be seen in full feature films like The Isle of Dogs, Kubo and the Two Strings, Anomalisa or Shaun the Sheep. Large teams of animators worked on each of these movies, so you shouldn’t expect to achieve the same results if you decide to take on the task of creating a Model Animation movie on your own.

7. Silhouette Stop Motion Animation

Unlike Model Animation, creating silhouette animation doesn’t require you to have a huge production budget. In fact, you just need a white bedsheet, an artificial source of light and a few actors, to start creating this type of stop motion animation. Once again, the story you are trying to tell needs to be perfectly adjusted to the technique you are using since it can be difficult to tell a compelling story using only silhouettes. However, you won’t have to spend a fortune on this type of stop motion animation, since it can be easily created in less than perfect filming conditions.

8. Animation of Grains and Sand

Rice, flour or sugar are just a few among countless materials you can use in stop motion animations. Keep in mind that you are going to need a horizontal surface and lots of patience to create a sand animation, since designing a single shot can take hours of work. Moreover, sand animations tend to suffer from the lack of narrative, since in most cases they are purely visual experiments that don’t tell any particular story. There are so many different ways in which you can use sand or different types of grains to create stop motion animation, which enables you to let your creativity run free.

9. Paint Animation

Loving Vincent is probably one of the most popular examples of paint animation in recent film history. This huge production employed hundreds of painters to create an entire movie in the style of Van Gogh’s paintings. It took more than four years to complete each of the movie’s 65.000 frames, which only shows you the complexity of this project. Producing paint animations is by no means easy since you have to be a skilled painter and extremely patient in order to complete even a short movie that lasts just a few minutes if you decide to use this animation technique.

10.Light and Shadow

This type of stop motion animation is very similar to silhouette animation because you will be working with high contrast images. In most cases, you need paper cutouts to cast shadows by placing them between the source of light and the surface on which the shadows are cast. Developing the story that matches well with this animation technique well is vital for the success of your project since relying purely on the visual aspect of light and shadow animation doesn’t guarantee that you will end up with a presentable animated movie. Moreover, controlling the light may prove to be a challenging task for inexperienced filmmakers, as even the slightest change of the contrast or the brightness can create inconsistencies that can ruin an entire project.

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Stop motion animation offers so many different possibilities since it allows you to animate people, puppets, objects, and even light. Consequently, the story you want to tell is the best way to determine which type of stop motion animation is the right choice for your project. Are you using stop motion animation techniques to create your movies? If so, leave a comment and share your experiences with us.

author avatar
Liza Brown
Liza Brown is a writer and a lover of all things video.
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