Many commercial stop motion artists love to create loopable animation because they tend to do so well on social media. After all, seeing a looped animation repeat endlessly on your feed can be a pretty mesmerizing experience.
So how exactly do you create loopable animation? We'll show you three simple ways!
In and Out
Loopable animation is challenging because your starting frame somehow needs to match your ending frame. That way, you get to maintain the illusion that your stop motion clip is playing back infinitely.
The simplest way to make sure your first frame and last frame match is by using a technique we call "In and Out." It involves an animated object entering the first frame (Point A) and leaving the last frame (Point B).
As you can see in our sample GIF, the technique gives the illusion that the crab in our animation appears to be running across the frame infinitely. Also, if you notice, the first and last frame doesn't show the crab.
Repeat, Repeat, Repeat!
A more impressive technique to use when creating loopable animation is what we'd like to call the "Repeat."
Remember when we said that the first frame needs to match the last frame? Well, that's the underlying principle for this technique. We choreograph the movement of our animation so that the last frame appears to smoothly "flow" into the first frame once the animated sequence repeats.
Now let's take a look at our first and last frame below taken from our sample animation:
As you can see, the first and last frames are completely different. But we positioned the mini skateboard in the last frame in such a way that once we shift back to the first frame, it continues the movement depicted in the first frame.
Even though the last frame is different from the first frame, the last frame facilitates the smooth transition back to the first frame.
You can do this technique using any movement--whether it involves a bouncing ball or a running chicken. The trick is that the last frame should be your animation's penultimate (2nd to the last) action and what's usually the last action will be in the first frame.
For instance, if you're animating a bouncing ball, the last frame should be the moment before the ball hits the floor. And the first frame should be the moment when the ball hits the ground.
Round and Round
This technique is arguably the easiest and the most fun for us to do. As the name implies, it involves an animated element going in circles infinitely.
In the sample animation you see above, a mini skateboard goes around a shoe on a papercraft road. But you can use this technique using any closed shape, whether it's a triangle or square. The crucial point is that your animated object doesn't deviate from that loop.
You have the option to show your animated object unobstructed going in circles. But you can also put an object in the center (like the shoe in our sample video) to partially cover the loop where your animated thing goes around.
If you animate for social media, we recommend you try to master these three techniques because, as we mentioned, people respond well to looped animations.
These techniques are so versatile that you can practically use them in any situation. Once you become familiar with these methods, feel free to experiment with your own ways of repeating an animation.