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4 Simple Steps for Professional Stop Motion Light Painting

How to create stop motion animation, using stills with light painting. Learn the step by step process to mastering this special effect.

Video Transcript

As you may know video is comprised of 30 frames per second and when you break down those frames you can get some really cool special effects using stop motion animation. So let’s take a look at light paint animation.

Now this effect can be achieved in four simple steps and the first step we’re gonna take a look at is how to set up our actual scene. Next we’re gonna want to take a look at our camera settings, then we’re gonna show you how to actually shoot the scene, and lastly, we’re gonna drop it into our non-linear editor.

I’m Dan Bruns and this is Light Paint Animation.

The type of set-up you’re gonna need to pull off this effect is (a) to shoot in a very dark room or (b) to shoot at nighttime outdoors. Now the reason you want to do this is because you’re gonna have your shutter open on your camera for a long period of time and you don’t want to over-expose your image or see the people that are gonna be doing the light effect.

Just remember, for this effect, you’re gonna want to use a still camera that can open its shutter for long periods of time, for like two to three seconds so that you can capture that light streak effect. Now you don’t necessarily need to use an SLR camera where you detach the lens. You can use your camera from home.

The next thing you’re going to want to do is to grab a tripod and lock your camera down. Now this is helpful because you don’t want your scene to have any motion blur in it. At this point you’re gonna want to take a look at getting some light into your scene.

Now for us we took a ruler and taped an LED light and a battery to it with electrical tape then, through the center, we drilled a hole that we could put a handle in so we could get accurate circles when we spun our ruler. Now, for you, you could use a flashlight or an LED panel.

Okay, now take a look at this piece of footage and tell me what’s wrong this this scene. Now although the effect looked good the problem with our effect is we had too small of a room and too much shiny objects in our scene that light could bounce off of and kind of break our illusion.

After taking a look at this you could probably tell that it’s best not to be in a small room and have shiny surfaces like we had, otherwise light bounces off of it and doesn’t look nearly as good.

Now the next step is to take a look at our camera settings and, first thing you’re gonna want to take a look at is your shutter. You’re gonna want to make sure your shutter is open for the longest period of time that you possibly can; anywhere from one to 15 seconds. Now two seconds was kind of the magic number for us but you can use anything you want.

Lastly, you’re also gonna want to take a look at opening your camera iris all the way up so that it can let in as much light as possible. Now the big reason that we want to open up our shutter for so long and then also keep our iris so wide is because we want to see that light streaking when we moved from point A to point B.

Next up on our list is how to shoot the actual scene. Now one very important thing to remember is that it actually takes six to 10 still frames to make up just one second of video with this effect. Now the reason you want to do from six to 10 is because anything less than that will make your video look very strobey and kinda stuttery, and anything more than that would probably take a long time, although you’re free to do so.

When it comes to your subject if you’re gonna want a good 10 seconds of video that’s gonna require that you pay attention to where your subject starts and then when your subject gets to his ending point that he’s taken at least 60 to 100 frames to get there. Now during this time he wants to move very evenly from each frame, otherwise you’re gonna break the illusion.

Now our last step in pulling off this effect is to bring our sequence of images into our non-linear editor and, at this point, you’re gonna want to take a look at actually stretching out that footage so your six to 10 still frames turn into one second of video.

Now the cool part is how this effect works. Now this effect works because your brain actually has something which is called persistence of vision so when you see one image and then you see another image that’s very close to one another your brain will fill in that gap and create that motion.

Now using this principal you can see that our video actually worked out pretty well. Special effects can be very labor-intensive, hardware-intensive, and software-intensive, but when you combine all three like we do in this effect you can be as creative as you want to be.

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