Stopmotion Animator is a freeware download that allows users of PC computers to use a webcam to easily and quickly create stop-motion movies. The software is set up to “grab” frames off the webcam, then gather them together into a single .AVI video file. Stopmotion Animator allows you to tweak some settings as well. For example, you can set the number of frames you want shot with each mouse click (a single frame per shot will make the video more fluid in motion but will take a lot longer to make, so I suggest that the setting be placed at three to five frames per shot).
Where to find it
You can download Stopmotion Animator at http://www.clayanimator.com/english/stop_motion_animator.html. The site also has very useful tutorials and hints for making movies on any software platform. The site includes an online drawing pad where students can sketch out characters if they are considering a claymation project, and a lot of different hints about making a quality movie. There is also a stop-motion newsletter that you can sign up for to get regular updates about stop-motion movie creation.
How might it be used in the classroom?
Stop-motion movie making is an incredibly engaging idea that has students doing hands-on creative work, although from the teaching perspective, the planning (storyboarding, script writing, character development, etc.) is where much of the learning will take place. While making stop-motion movies requires great patience and is best done as a collaborative project with two to three students (I have found that four members in a movie group is one too many), the end result is almost always interesting. Students love the idea of creating a Wallace and Gromit-style video that they can then share with others, either on DVD or on the Internet.
Some additional resources:
Making Stopmotion Movies The Longfellow Ten: student movie site Tolerance: a sixth-grade movie project, made with Stopmotion Animator and Moviemaker as a literature project after students read The Watsons Go to Birmingham- 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis.