How to Create a Stop-Motion Animation Movie on Your Mac Using Your Digital Camera and iLife

How to Create a Stop-Motion Animation Short Movie on Your Mac Using Your Digital Camera and iLife

A stop-motion animation movie is made up of individually taken photos. Between one photo and the next, the characters, objects and/or camera are moved slightly. When the photos are shown in rapid succession, this creates the illusion that the characters and objects are actually moving in real time. This tutorial is to show you how to create your own amateur stop-motion animation short movie using a digital camera and a Mac running the iLife software suite (iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie, iDVD).

Example Movie: "Hungry Wags!!!"

Step 1: Write Your Story

Of course, it’s hard to have a good movie without a good story. Time needs to be spent coming up with a set of characters, a plot, and a script/dialogue if needed. When doing your first stop-motion animation, you might want to start out small. This will allow you to learn as you go without spending too much time on any given step.


In our example story, “Hungry Wags,” our main character, Wags, goes to eat his dog food and then jumps up on the sofa to rest. He then walks up the stairs and into a bedroom. He jumps up on a bed and sniffs a bone, but he is not very interested in it. He goes back into the hallway and finds another dog with a bag of food. Wags asks, “Can I have some?” The other dog says, “Sure.” So Wags eats an ice cream cone and then goes to his dog bed to watch some TV. He falls asleep watching his favorite dog show. The End.

Step 2: Take Pictures

Once you have your story, characters and props, you can start with the first frame. Suppose you have a stuffed animal as your character. Here is the process for taking the pictures that will make up your movie:

  1. Put the stuffed animal where you want it to be for the first frame.
  2. Set up the camera for the first frame — preferably on a tripod.
  3. Take the picture for this frame.
  4. Go back to step three for the second frame, moving the character(s) and/or camera slightly, and repeat until you finish taking all of the photos for that scene or for the entire movie.

Taking First Picture Taking Second Picture

Step 3: Import Pictures into iPhoto

Once you have all of the pictures taken, plug your camera into your Mac and import the photos into iPhoto. You might want to create a new photo album with a specific scene/movie name and drag the pictures into it.

Pictures Imported into iPhoto

Step 4: Start iMovie and Insert Your Pictures

Start up iMovie and make sure you’re in timeline view (click on the clock at the lower-left). Click on the Photos button at the lower right to show the Photo Library. Choose the photo album you created from the drop-down menu. At the top part of the photo selection window, in the field next to the rabbit and turtle, type in a small time value, like 0:03. This means 3/30ths of a second. Select all of the photos you want to add to your movie by clicking the first one, then scrolling down to the last one, and shift-clicking on the last one. Then drag all of the selected photos down into the timeline. This inserts all of the photos with a length of 3/30ths of a second each. You can play back the resulting animation by clicking on the large triangular play button under the video window.

Pictures Available in iMovie

Step 5: Add Dialogue

To add voices to your movie, position the playhead (the small down-pointing triangle with the vertical line below it) at the position where you want add dialogue. Click on the Audio button on the lower right to show the microphone levels. If your Mac doesn’t have a built-in microphone, you’ll need to plug in your own external microphone, like the Griffin iMic USB External Sound Card and an inexpensive microphone. Assuming you have a microphone plugged in, you can proceed. You can monitor the levels by watching the left-to-right volume bars next to the red dot Record button. Click on the Record button to begin recording your voice. When you are finished speaking, click the Record button again to stop. You can repeat this step as many times as you want until you are happy with the resulting playback.

Adding Music in iMovie

Step 6: Add Music and Sound Effects

If you want to add music and sound effects to your movie, you can do so by adding them to the second audio track (below the first audio track in the timeline). Click on the Audio button in iMovie. To add music that you have in your iTunes Library, simply drag the specific song down into the second audio track of the timeline at the location you want. To add a sound effect, click on the drop-down menu at the top of the iTunes Library inset window, and then click on iMovie Sound Effects. Choose the specific sound effect you want, and drag it into the second audio track at the location you want to add it (over the top of the music). You can drag it left or right to adjust when the sound effect will be played.

Step 7: Add Titles, Transitions, and Effects to the Video

Depending on how creative you want to be, you can also add custom titles & credits to the beginning and end of your movie, transitions between scenes, and special video effects. The best way to become familiar with how to do these steps is just to play around with dragging different types of titles, transitions, and effects into your timeline. Keep in mind that you don’t want to overdo it to the point that your effects become distracting from the plot of the movie.

Step 8: Export to iDVD and/or Share Your Movie

Once you are happy with your movie in iMovie, make sure you save it. If you want to share it with others over the internet, you can click on File->Share… and choose the format you’d like to share it in. Then you can email it to your friends or add it to your webpage. If you want to create a DVD, then click on the iDVD button to export the movie to iDVD. You can add chapter markers at points in your movie that will automatically become scene selection choices in your DVD menu. Once you have added any appropriate chapter markers, click on Create iDVD Project. This will start up iDVD with the default theme.

Movie Exported to iDVD

Step 9: Burn Your DVD

In iDVD, you can choose a specific theme for your DVD menu. You can try out the DVD menu by clicking on the Preview button. Finally, click on the Burn button and insert a blank DVD in the drive. Once the DVD has been finished burning, take it to your favorite DVD player and enjoy!

4 thoughts on “How to Create a Stop-Motion Animation Movie on Your Mac Using Your Digital Camera and iLife

  1. Pingback: iHerr » Blog Archive » How to Create a Stop-Motion Animation Short Movie on Your Mac Using Your Digital Camera and iLife

  2. Jason Sheroan

    Thanks for this write up. My kids love watching Halo videos that are made by fans, and keep asking if I could help them do one of their own. But some of those videos are downright complex! I can’t imagine the amount of time spent if you wanted to do one that was really cool.

    I don’t think that the type of camera you have, etc makes a big difference. But lighting and attention to detail is really the key to the whole thing. That and getting the right frame rate, etc.

    I use a Mac and have iLife as well. I also have an iPad 3 with iPhoto and iMovie. But I’m not sure if you can do such a thing on an iPad or not. I don’t see why not. The difference would be that you wouldn’t use iDVD. Instead you’d just have the video file. You would also need some sort of tripod or mount for the iPad to make sure it stays very steady.

    If you would like to check out some of these fantastic videos (whether you’re a Halo fan or not), go to the the Halo Mega Bloks Site and click on Toymations. Here is a link if you would rather click on it: I have a user name and pwd, but I don’t think it’s needed to view the web content.



  3. Nobody In Particular

    It didn’t work on mine! Where is the rabbit/turtle thing! Do you mean imovieHD?!

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