How to Create a Claymation Movie

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Do you remember watching Davey and Goliath, or Gumby and Pokey? Maybe you are more familiar with more recent movies, such as Chicken Run, and Wallace and Gromit. All of these used a fun technique called claymation. Here's how you can make your own claymation movie.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Pipe cleaner
  • Foam balls
  • Aluminum foil
  • Crayons or markers
  • Construction paper
  • Oil-based modeling clay
  • Plastic ware
  • Wax paper
  • Rolling pin
  • Baby wipes
  • Masking tape
  • Fake eyes
  • Digital camera
  • Tripod
  • Microphone
  • Windows Movie Maker

Create a Storyboard

  • Fold a piece of paper three times.

  • Unfold the paper. You will have eight sections. On each section, write the title for a scene. You may need more than one sheet of paper.

  • Write a brief description of what will be happening in your story underneath the title.

  • Draw a picture that represents what you will see in the movie. Stick figures will be fine.

  • Write out exactly what you will say in your narration.

Armature and Background

  • Take a piece of pipe cleaner and bend it into the shape of the figure you want to make. If it a person, then it needs to have two legs, two arms, a torso and a neck. Use more than one pipe cleaner if necessary.

  • Stick the neck end of the pipe cleaner through a foam ball. You now have the head. Make sure the ball is not too big for the body. If your person or animal is top heavy it will topple over.

  • Wrap aluminum foil around the arms, legs and torso. Don't forget to wrap the exposed part of the neck as well. This will be the armature, or skeleton, of your figure.

  • Continue adding foil until your figure starts to develop some thickness. It has to be strong enough to withstand the weight of the clay. Before finishing, make sure that the arms and legs are still flexible enough to bend.

  • Make a background out of construction paper. Decorate it with markers, crayons, or whatever else your creative mind can come up with. Make sure that it is a large background. You don't want the wall, floor or table showing up in your movie.

Adding the Clay

  • Cover the table with wax paper. Use masking tape to tape it down so it won't move.

  • Cover a rolling pin with wax paper. Use tape to secure it so it won't move.

  • Using an oil-based modeling clay, roll the clay into thin strips. It is best to push gently with the rolling pin so the clay won't stick to the paper.

  • Gently wrap the strips of clay around the figure you are creating.

  • Use the plastic fork, spoon and knife to add detail to your figure. You can use a knife or fork to make a clay person's hair look more realistic, or use the curved part of a spoon to smooth out the clay.

  • Use plastic eyes or make some out of clay if needed. You can make a mouth out of clay or pipe cleaner.

Taking the Pictures

  • Place your figures and props on the background. Practice moving them before you begin taking pictures.

  • Place the camera on a tripod. It is essential to use one, or the picture will jump from frame to frame.

  • Adjust the camera so that only the backdrop is showing in the picture. There will be too many pictures to go back and crop the wall or countertop out of each one.

  • Practice reading the narration to get a general estimate of how long each section will be. You want to have four pictures per second, so take the number of seconds and multiply by four. It is a good idea to take a few extra pictures to allow yourself a little wriggle room.

  • Take a picture. Move the figure or figures that you want to animate a quarter of an inch. Take another picture. Repeat this process until all of your pictures have been taken.

Making the Movie

  • Transfer the pictures to your computer.

  • Open Windows Movie Maker. Is comes free with Windows XP. To find Movie Maker, select "All Programs" on the Start Menu and then select "Movie Maker."

  • Set the amount of time each clip will last. In the toolbar, click on "Tools" and then select "Options..." Click the "Advanced" tab. Set the clip duration and the transition duration to 0.25 seconds.

  • From the menu on the left, choose "Import Pictures." Choose the pictures you want to import to Move Maker and click "OK."

  • Select all of the pictures and drag them down to the timeline. If the timeline is not showing then click "Show Timeline" on the bottom of the page.

  • Click on the microphone to narrate the timeline. You can narrate it all at once or one section at a time. Click "Start Narration" to begin and click "Stop Narration" to end. You may need to use an external microphone if your computer does not have one built in.

  • Adjust the length of the pictures and the narration in the timeline by dragging the edges in our out. You can check your work by clicking the "Play" button on the viewing screen.

  • When you are finished, click on "File" and choose "Save Movie File." Follow the steps. You will then have a movie that will play in Windows Media Player.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use baby wipes to clean your hands and any instruments off. This will help you avoid smudging the clay when you switch colors.
  • The wax paper on the rolling pin and table keep the clay from sticking. Change it as needed.
  • You can use a cheese slicing tool to cut modeling clay. This makes it much easier to roll it out.
  • Make sure the flash on the camera is either on all the time or not at all. Having it set on automatic flash will result in some pictures being darker than others.
  • Work with a friend. One person can move the figures and the other person can take the pictures.
  • Be patient! It will take several hours to finish this process. Allow plenty of time.
  • If this is your first claymation project, it would be a good idea to limit your movie to one minute or less.
  • Be careful when smoothing out the clay. If you push too hard you will expose the foil underneath.
  • Take all of your pictures at once. It will not be possible to exactly duplicate the position of your figures and of the camera.
  • Take all the pictures you need. It is better to take too many than too few. It will not be possible to go back and take more later, since they will look out of place in the movie.
  • Save often. Movie Maker tends to freeze up often.

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