How To Make A Stop Motion Animation Using iMovie

3 minute read

The other day I decided that it would be a fun project to make a stop motion animation. To quote Wikipedia, stop motion is “an animation technique to make a physically manipulated object appear to move on its own. The object is moved in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a continuous sequence.” That is, you take a picture, move the object a little bit, take another picture, move the object a little, et cetera, until you think that the sequence of frames would make an interesting animation.

You don’t need to figure out much to do just the filming for a stop motion animation, but putting these frames together can pose as a tricky problem. Knowing iMovie probably wouldn’t work that well because it is designed to neatly combine average length video clips into one professional looking video, I did a little bit of research regarding consumer-grade software used to make stop motion animation. It became obvious that the best specialized piece of software for making stop motion animations was iStopMotion. This piece of software costs anywhere from $49.99 to $499.99 (depending on which version of the software you want to buy) and I simply didn’t want to shell out the cash for it. The second piece of software I bumped into was FrameByFrame. FrameByFrame is freeware, so I gave it a try. It’s a little buggy, but it works very well if your animation is very short. My animation was fairly long (738 still frames to be exact). So I decided to just make do with iMovie (I didn’t need to pay extra for it because I already had it).

Let me first say that I make this tutorial assuming you are using iMovie ’08, ’09, or ’11. If you don’t already own a copy of iMovie, you can find it in the Mac App store or in the iLife CD that can be purchased at your local Apple store. Anyways, on with the tutorial:

  1. If you haven’t done so already, transfer your photos to a  folder on your computer
  2. Open iMovie
  3. Make a new project by going to File -> New Project
  4. In the window that slides down: give it a name, choose the “None” theme, and make sure that the transitions checkbox is unchecked
  5. click the “Create” button
  6. Go to File -> Project Properties
  7. Click the “Timing” tab (the one with a picture of a stopwatch)
  8. Near the bottom, there is a drop down list labeled “Initial Photo Placement”. Set this to “Fit In Frame”.
  9. Click the “Okay” button
  10. Open the folder that contains all of your pictures and drag them into the project editing area (by default, this area is in the top left and it says “Drag media here to create a new project”
  11. After iMovie is done importing all of your images, hover your mouse over the first image in the project
  12. You should see a blue icon with a little gear on it. Click on it.
  13. In the small menu that pops up, select “Clip Adjustments”
  14. You may want to fiddle with this later on, but, for now, set this to 0.1s
  15. Make sure that the checkbox for “Apply to all stills” is checked
  16. Click the “Done” button
  17. Get a nice preview of your video by hovering your mouse over the first image and hitting the space bar. If you would like to change anything, this is the time to do it.
  18. That’s it. We’re ready to export. There are many options of exporting, and you can see all of them by going to the Share menu. If you don’t want to share to a specific application (you just want the video file), then just choose Share -> Export Movie and choose your desired save location.

If you run into any problems, please leave a comment and I, or another reader, will try to help you!

I’m sure some of you want to see the stop motion animation I made using iMovie, so here it is:

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