I was messing around with claymation today on a laptop that we will be using for next week’s claymation camp (and have some glitches that have me stressed out) and I created this short little claymation movie, using clay and legos and other assorted toys.
But I was interested in using the new YouTube Annotation feature, which allows you to add to text to videos as overlays. It seems perfect for claymation movies where you don’t necessarily want to add an audio narration, and I didn’t. I created a quick soundtrack with my Super Dooper Music Looper software, uploaded and added the words right there in YouTube.
The whole process took me about an hour, but I have done enough stop-motion to get into the swing of things pretty quick. I like this little demented movie, though. The set looks cool, and the head — well, the head without a body is a horror story classic, don’t you think?
This is the last part of a series of posts I am doing around claymation animation in the classroom and I wanted to talk about what you can do once the movies are completed. Although students enjoy making movies just for the sake of making movies, I do try to instill the values of an authentic audience in their minds. This way, they understand that someone else will be watching their work. The idea of audience gives focus.
Once the movies are done, we showcase them in a variety of ways:
On our classroom weblog, all of the claymation movies get their own post, allowing the rest of our sixth graders to see what my homeroom students have done and also giving access to the movies to families and friends from any location in the world;
We burn the movies onto a DVD and every student received their own copy of the DVD in the final days before the end of the year. We spent an afternoon, watching the shows and laughing at the funny things you can do with clay;
We show the DVD over our school’s internal television network for all classrooms. This is done a few times during the day, so that teachers have different opportunities to show it to students. We also provide a DVD to any teacher who wants it;
We create a webpage with all of the movies on it, to show the work as one collective unit.
And just to end on a nice collective note, here is an Animoto movie of images from the claymation projects:
Today is the last day of the year for my sixth graders — which makes me both happy and sad (you teachers know what I am talking about). For the past three days, the kids have been working on the laptops for the last time, using Pivot Stickman Animation to create little animated movies.
I mostly let them have fun with it and showed them the basics of Pivot, and then some lessons on MovieMaker for those who were not part of my homeroom class (which worked on Claymation movies), and also Super Dooper Music Looper. They loved Pivot and they loved Music Looper, and some were able to do all three programs and created tiny movies.
I gathered the ones I could collect here for this little collection:
The best part for me? The credits one of the students put (on the last flick) that thanks me for helping her improve as a writer this year. Yeah.
This is the second in a series of posts about my claymation project this year. The first post was just a basic overview of the project. This post will deal a bit more with some of the resources that I used and how I went about launching claymation with my sixth graders.
First of all, this is the fourth year that I have been doing claymation. The first two years, I used simple digital still images and MovieMaker to add narration and titles. Last year, following the lead of my friend Tonya W., I shifted to using a freeware program called Stop-Motion Animator. This software uses a webcam to capture “frames” as an .AVI video file. This shift to Stop-Motion Animator allowed my students to create moving movies, and not just still images. This was a big leap forward for us, although now it required more patience from my students and increased video editing skills.
On the technical side, too, I found that I had to download a video Codec (called Xvid) in order for MovieMaker to recognize the AVI files created by the stop-motion software. Every move forward seems to require some kind of trouble-shooting, but that is the way of the world. In MovieMaker, students can add titles, transitions, audio narration, music and some features of movie production. The most valuable? The ability to slow down a video segment (through MM’s video effects) because all too often, students have not shot enough frames to match their narration. This gives them a little leeway.
For the writing element, we often focus on some aspect of writing. One year, it was how setting informs a story. Another year, it was integrating science by having students invent a new creature and how the habitat that it lives in affects its development. This year, I decided to focus on Climate Change.
First, we used a book called “The Down to Earth Guide to Global Warming” by Laurie David and Cambria Gordon. It’s a kid-friendly look at climate change. I used some of my collected points via Scholastic Books to purchase about seven of the books for the classroom. We also did some research around global warming, just to ground the students on the issue.
Next, students created clay figures and we use the cheap clay you can get at any department store. The clay is a bit messy but it is cheap and they can use as much as they need. I also provide a box of craft supplies, such as googlie eyes, sticks, etc. This creation of clay figures made the project character driven and I have often had the story done first before the characters but this year, I did the reverse. The result? I think it helped students when considering a story idea to have a character they could put into action. They could tangibly hold it in their hands as they were writing.
From there, they used both a storyboard and a concept mapping sheet to plan out their stories. The storyboard allows them to think about the “scenes” in the movie and the concept map provides a structure for a framework of story sequencing — from start to middle to end.
Normally, we then move into writing the script, but this year (as I mentioned in my last post), I decided to see how things would fare if we shifted into filming and letting them use the storyboard and concept map to create dialogue and narration (a mixed bag, I must say).
The filming takes time — I would guess this part of the project took some groups three 45-minute sessions to seven 45-minute sessions. My job is to encourage and push them along, otherwise, some groups would never get the filming completed. Once they have the raw footage, we move the video into MovieMaker, edit out fingers and hands that crop into the footage and begin to piece things together with narration. Getting good audio levels from a group of students is difficult, as microphone placement is crucial. But some kids like to pull the microphone almost into their mouth and others try to keep as far . As they are adding titles and credits, I remind them that credits should probably not be longer than the movies (which run anywhere from one minute to three minutes long, total).
This is a key point for me: I show the students how to edit, but I don’t edit for them (unless there is some emergency). I have to resist the urge to take over their project. I really want the movies to be theirs and theirs alone, and sometimes that means I wince a bit (to be honest) at the final product, and think about how I could swooped in and done something differently. But, that moment passes, and I realize that they have complete ownership over their movies.
Finally, we “create” the movies as video files and share them out. I’ll write more about publishing the movies in my next segment.
I am curious if I can upload and embed an animated GIF file that I created this morning with the Pivot Stickman Animation program from my Flickr Account. (I’ve been reading aloud the latest in the Lightning Thief series with my kids, so Icarus came to mind for a title of this character making its way up into the sky)
I guess it does work, although you have to be sure to grab the “original image” code from Flickr, otherwise it is just a flat picture with no animation. I also needed to change the size within the post. Interesting — I am going to have my students work with Pivot today and tomorrow and sometimes we try MovieMaker, but it does not like Pivot Gif files and can crash.
I made the background in Paint and then brought it in, as I want my students to do.
So, Flickr may be an alternative to sharing the movies out at our classroom blog site.
As I did with my Digital Math Book reflections, I am going to break my reflection about our recent claymation projects down over a few days.
With the school year ending in just a few days, my students were rushing to finish up their Claymation Movies this past week. More time would have been helpful and I was frantically carving out small blocks of time here and there just to get them some space for editing and adding audio. It didn’t help that we had a few kids absent on a few days.
But eight small movies are now done, with mixed results, I think. On one hand, my sixth graders loved working with the clay and with the stop-motion animation software. They “got” it pretty quickly, although my constant preaching for patience doesn’t always resonate with all students. Patience is key to claymation and the more raw video they can gather, the more flexibility they will have later.
The theme this year was Climate Change and I will detail a bit further how we went about things in another post. Essentially, they had to work in some aspect of the environment into their stories. In the past, I have had groups of students work collaboratively with second graders, but that didn’t work out this year due to scheduling difficulties. So we were on our own.
I also experimented with a different approach: I let the students create characters out of clay first and then they developed the story second, via storyboarding and concept mapping. I had hoped that the characters might infuse the stories and I do believe that happened, for the most part. I wish I had forced more time on them to develop scripts, but I wanted to see how it would turn out if I was not quite as vigilant. That didn’t work out so well, I think, as the stories in the movies seem weaker than usual this year. The script-writing process gives them focus.
I will detail the unit planning and the resources, and how we publish the movies, a bit further later this week. Plus, I will give a lowdown on a summer camp for kids that I am helping to run again this year that focuses on stop-motion movie making.
We spent a lot of time working on Claymation Movies yesterday and, with a couple of exceptions, the students were really focused. Much of the work was just capturing the raw video, which requires patience and teamwork and a vision of how the stories might unfold. The theme this year is Climate Change, and I am going about the movie making process a little different than in years past (I will reflect later).
But as I was helping the groups, I took a couple of pictures of them at work, and made this collage.
Bryan and I have been in somewhat sporadic contact since the fall when I received an email out of the blue, asking me if I would consider being his “virtual mentor.” Bryan is a senior in Kansas and his senior project was around claymation. I guess I never asked where he got my name. I just assumed it was from some folks in the National Writing Project or maybe it was through some various online activities around stop-motion animation that I have done.
“Seniors are required to research a topic and complete a 2500 word essay. Also, we must have a demonstration of knowledge. This project will be time consuming and will take most of the school year to complete. I have decided to study claymation and filming a claymation movie. I was informed that you may be familiar with this topic and wanted to know if you would be my outside mentor. This may sound like a big responsibility, but it really is very simple. I would email you about twice a semester with any questions I may have on this topic and it would be fine if you didn’t know all the answers. I just need an outside source who knows something about my topic.”
I was flattered and I loved the idea of trying to help someone get deep into claymation movie making, even if it was from afar. Bryan is a thoughtful student, it seems to me, and quite interested in exploration. I like that Bryan and his class have to find a virtual mentor to help them delve deeper into a topic of interest. This seems to me to be yet another way to tap into the strength of connections through the Web World.
Every few weeks, I would get an email from Bryan, asking questions and advice on:
the type of webcam to get;
the editing program I use;
how important the lighting is to the final movie;
what kind of clay to use;
the process of creating a movie;
where to share it.
I did my best to guide him , although it is clear now that he had plenty of ideas of his own and that his investigation into claymation was really a love of his this year. I tried to share with him some different stop-motion animation sites and movies that I found that seemed to be good examples of how clay can be used for creative expression.
A few weeks ago, Bryan informed me that he had finished his final project — a collection of short movies that he had made throughout the year. Now, we struggled with how to get the movie to me. My online storage site did not allow movies that big to be uploaded by a guest. I suggested a few video sharing sites, but I urged him to get permission from his parents first (and to check in with his teachers).
Finally, the email arrived, and he gave me the link to his claymation collection on YouTube. Oh. I love it. I think it is fantastic and since this is the first time I have seen Bryan’s work – after all those emails — I feel proud to have been able to give him some tidbits here and there, if it helped him. Maybe he just needed a sounding board from time to time. Whatever.
Here is Bryan’s Claymation Movie Collection: I have now turned the tables on Bryan, asking him to become a mentor to my sixth graders as they begin filming their claymation movies around climate change. I have asked Bryan to write up some advice for my students, using his experience for reflection. Will he do it? I hope so, but I know that graduation and other things are now consuming his time.Good luck, Bryan. It was great to be your mentor this year!Peace (in movies),
This afternoon, as my three year old watched and tried to stick his fingers in the mix, I created a build-it-from-a-blob claymation figure. This is the assignment I had given my students yesterday and I should have tried it myself first (one of my mantras).
I could have used some more patience, too, but my excited audience of one made that a bit difficult. You can see it in the change of lighting, as he leans over to get a closer look at my little man. The NWP reference at the end is the National Writing Project, of which I am a technology liaison and an avid supporter.
Here is my strange little man coming to life: The music is my own, created using the JamStudio music site.Peace (in stopmotion),
Yesterday, my sixth graders began making clay characters for an upcoming claymation animation project. I had a brainstorm in the morning that it would be very cool to have them use the software and webcams to capture the creation of their characters — from blob of clay to full characters. This would give them more practice with the software program (which is pretty easy to use but I want to expose them to it as many times as possible).
This collection of their videos is the result of that work: They worked in small groups and some listened to directions more closely than others (the Friday afternoon syndrome). I had visions of these cool videos that begin with a hunk of clay and then slowly, something is formed in front of our eyes. If I had time, I would have done an example myself to show them. I still might.
There is an interesting mix of strange creatures, that’s for sure. A few of my students clearly have an artistic gift.
One lesson that I continue to learn is that I need to push the concept of patience, patience, patience, and more patience. The slower they can move their character and capture those movements as frames, the more lifelike it looks on the video. Some of them still want to leap ahead with movement and the video then looks all jerky. For 11 and 12 year olds, that concept of patience is a hard lesson to learn, but I am hoping that they will see the results of that patience in the quality of their movies.
Another variation in this project is that this year, I am allowing the students to build a character first, and then work on the story (around climate change) second. Usually, it is the other way around — the story informs the characters. This year, the characters may inspire the story. I am not sure if this approach is better or not, so I will have to see how it goes. I do know they were incredibly engaged in what they were doing for the entire 40 minutes of stop-motion and clay creation yesterday. So many came up and told me how much they love doing the stop-motion and they wanted to know when we can do it again.