Materials of a stop-motion animation workshop.
Materials used in a stop-motion animation workshop. All images ©

Hands on Media Education

Understanding the power of digital media and how it can be manipulated is a crucial skill. Hands on Media Education is a Canadian organisation using stop-motion animation to introduce these concepts. Here, Director Jessie Curell reflects on a typical workshop. 

Teaching citizens of all ages how to engage with digital tools by becoming active creators of media, rather than passive consumers, is what I do. 

iPad Stop Motion Animation is a powerful workshop to encourage these important and empowering skills with youth, adults and seniors alike, and it is one of the most engaging workshops I have ever designed. 

The tactile and digital nature of the project, in combination with the workshop’s versatile and accessible nature ensures a captivating experience for all. Animation is about creating magic after all, and folks of all ages thoroughly enjoy the world of imagination and make-believe.

'Media literacy' is the ability to use, understand, analyse and produce media. Through the creation of an iPad Animation, the creator is also learning important digital literacy skills, such as touch screen navigation, photography, video production, video editing, voice recording, music and sound effect addition.

Each workshop begins with a short introduction to animation; what is animation, and how are different materials used to create the illusion of movement? If we consider how many drawings we need for a flipbook, for example, we can begin to apply this new knowledge to each animation or cartoon we have seen. Did you know that, traditionally, animators needed 24 images for just one second of animation? Now if we multiply 24 by the number of seconds in one minute, we already have 1,440 images! Let us now consider how many images were required to create the 88-minute animated film The Lion King!

A teacher in a classroom.
The scope of work and time required to complete an animation is shared with the students. Media literacy skills are being learned.
An example storyboard.
Now let’s make our own, but first, we need to divide into groups for the “Pre-Production” phase of our video project. Storyboarding our idea is a crucial step in laying out the foundation of our animation, and one that can be tricky for everyone to agree upon. Sketches are drawn out and descriptions outlined for the beginning, middle and end of the story arc. Traditional literacy skills are employed at this stage of the project.
A stop-motion animation scene being filmed on an iPad.
Once the storyboard is approved by the workshop facilitator, we give out various colours of modeling clay to the team to begin building their story characters. The characters will need to be sturdy and solid so as not to fall over during the animation process. Assemble the characters on the set or table, line-up the iPad to the angle you prefer, and away you go. I like to use the app “Stop Motion Studio Pro”.
A child moves characters in a stop-motion animation scene.
The second phase of video production is now about to begin: Production. One student acts as “Photographer/Cinematographer” who will be behind the iPad to capture each image. One or two “Animators” will be in charge of moving each character a very small amount for each photograph - only about the size of an ant for each move! The “Director” holds the completed storyboard and ensures the team is following the story they all agreed on.
A teacher in a classroom.
Viewing the final product.

There are three types of sound in most movies; dialogue, sound effects and music. As our clay characters sadly don’t make any sound themselves, we will need to add these sounds in the third and final phase of video production, Post-Production. The animation app uses the internal microphone to record voice, and much fun takes place when we see our characters start to resemble living and breathing beings at this stage!

Sounds effects such as footsteps, sirens, dogs barking and water running can easily be added using the sound effect library, with the final music track added to set the mood or feeling to our project.

A title is added to the beginning of the video, along with credits to the new filmmakers and any other information you wish to add including programme logos, dates or music credits if found elsewhere.

To end the workshop on an empowering and celebratory note, we wrap-up the day’s activities with a mini film festival where each project is screened to the group. Each team has the opportunity to reflect on the experience, describing what they liked most (or least) about the project. We applaud everyone’s efforts and take the time to describe the elements we particularly enjoyed about each other’s work. 

We also discuss what our next animation could be about. Each student is, after all, a brand new filmmaker with new media and digital skills to encourage more active creation than passive consumption for years and years to come.

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