A myriad of software packages exist for creating animation on a computer. The focus here is on inexpensive software that allows an individual to capture individual frames with a computer and combine them to create a digital video file An optional way of working, using a still digital camera, requires software that can ingest frames and then convert them into a movie.
[singlepic id=21 w=320 h=240 float=]A core feature in stop motion software is the ability to see an opaque view of the previously captured frames with the current live image overlaid on top. This is call “onion skinning”, and has been a common aspect of animating since the very beginning of hand-drawn animation.
Two software demos are below. Animator DV Plus is a freeware version of a commercial stopmotion animation program for the Windows operating system. iStopmotion is a commercial stop motion application for the Mac platform.
iStopMotion can also combine frames from a digital still camera into an animation by dragging the images into a open timeline. A free alternative for combining still frames for the Mac is Time Lapse Assembler, which is very easy to use, but has limited controls for output.
The last step is saving a movie in a format that can be played back by others. All software mentioned here can generate that type of file. No further conversion is necessary if the goal is to upload the movie to YouTube. If the intent is to bring the finished movie into a video editing package (Premiere Express, iMovie, Final Cut) it is preferable to use a format that won’t compress the movie (make it more compact and use less storage) in a way that negatively impacts the image quality.
In the case of iStopMotion, there are a lot of choices. Nominally, the MPEG-4 preset is good enough if there is no more work to be done on the animation. If the goal is to do further editing and post-production on the animation (such as adding audio), and if there is plenty of drive space, ProRes 422 is a compression option that will not impact image quality in any appreciable way. This will generate a large file, so it’s not suitable for delivery over the internet.
If this is all confusing, start by going with the software’s default settings.