Puzzle Stop Motion
Students will work in pairs to animate a jigsaw puzzle putting itself together and taking itself apart. One student will put a puzzle piece in place then their partner will take a picture of the puzzle. They will continue this until the puzzle is completed. Then students will reverse roles and take the puzzle apart piece by piece. To generate the animation students will use a video editor like We Video or Premiere Elements. The activity takes about 90 minutes and students should be able to operate a camera and tripod.
Creating stop-motion animation is simple. To animate an object, take a photo of it, reposition it slightly, and then take another photo. Repeat this process many, many times. If you show the sequential images rapidly, the object will appear to move on its own. The ease of creating stop-motion animations is why they were among the earliest film projects.
Creating good stop-motion animation, though, is arduous. To make a stop-motion film such as the Missing Link, a team of designers built puppets, props, and sets and then a team of animators worked together to reposition each puppet thousands of times to film the movie. Stop-motion studios only produce 5-10 seconds of animation a day.
You can see why it’s important for kids to start with easy stop-motion projects. Usually children expect to create whole animated stories but are disappointed with the results. This may discourage future stop-motion projects.
100 piece puzzles - Larger puzzles take too much time to assemble. Look for quality puzzles at yard sales and thrift stores.
Cameras - Any type of still camera will work
Tripods - Students can hand hold the camera to take pictures but the animation will be a little shaky.
Boards - Any type of flat board such as cardboard will work. Students can use these as a background for the animation and to store puzzles between classes.
Video editing software - You can also use Google Slides (see tutorial below)
Have students put the puzzle together first. This makes it much easier to animate as students simply move the completed puzzle to the side and transfer the pieces one by one to film the stop motion puzzle. It often takes students a surprisingly long time to put together the puzzles and this gives you time to train students on the video equipment. If a pair finishes early, have them help another group until all the puzzles are complete.
Students should work in pairs, with one kid taking pictures while the other one moves puzzle pieces in place. If you have an odd number of kids, having a kid work alone is preferable to a group of 3.
Too often students will take too few pictures for their stop-motion animations. That’s why I like to start stop-motion animation with this project. To animate a 100 piece puzzle requires at least 200 shots, one shot for each puzzle piece put in and taken out. This is about 20 seconds of animation at a frame rate of 10 frames per second.
Students should set up their tripod and camera first. The more stable the camera, the better. I like to have the legs of the tripod flush against the table so it’s less likely the camera will move if the tripod is bumped. The camera should point straight down as much as possible to create an overhead shot.
Before students start taking pictures, they should explain how they are going to animate their puzzle. To give them some ideas, show students examples of completed puzzle animations. Some variations include turning pieces as they are put in the puzzle, putting more than one piece in place at a time, or placing the puzzle pieces as a pattern. For example, starting with the outside pieces and moving to the center.
Communication is key in creating stop-motion animation. The kid taking pictures needs to talk with the one placing pieces to avoid getting hands in a shot or taking pictures too soon. If students do take a bad shot, discourage them from deleting the picture on the camera. It is much easier to delete pictures during editing.
Once the pictures are taken and downloaded from the camera, students can begin editing their puzzle animation. I have the students work together to edit the puzzle animation. One student edits the puzzle pictures while the other one creates a title and credit slide in Google Slides. Students will create a video file from the editing program they can share with you.
An easy way to share the videos is by publishing them on YouTube Studio and posting the links on a webpage or Google Doc. Students can then watch each other's videos or you can play all of the animations in front of the class.
The following resources can be shown directly to students or used as a guide for the teacher.