5 Ways to Tell Stories with Stop Motion

Most of the animated clips you see on social media don't last more than 10 seconds. So how can you tell a story in such a short time? We'll share a few tips that will help you do just that with your stop motion creations!



1. Plan your story around the best feature of the brand


Knowing how a product works is the easiest way to figure out how to animate it.


For instance, if you have a can opener, you can show it opening a can. If you're shooting a lamp, perhaps you can adjust its neck and make it move like a giraffe. Or you could turn the light on and off!

In one of our projects, we had to produce a stop motion animation for a knife. Showing it slicing food the traditional way seemed too simple. So instead, we made an orange tumble down and get cut in half by a knife on a cutting board.


The concept may be a bit non-traditional, but it shows how the knife works, and more importantly, it demonstrates how sharp it is!


2. Write down your silly ideas


Many creative people filter their thoughts and drop concepts they may find silly. But the truth is that sometimes you can find gems even in the craziest ideas.

When you take on a project, write down many ideas on paper without any filter, even if they sound silly. Why? The simple reason is that they may be better than the more conventional ideas.


Even if you don't end up using a single silly idea, you can still combine them with other concepts. That way, there's more likely that you'll end up with a final product that's original and easy for the audience to understand.


For the animation you see above, we didn't want to use an oven to signify that the pie was cooked. One of our silly ideas was to just let it spin in the air and land back down on the table already baked. We didn't know if it was going to work. But when we executed the idea, we were surprised that it was quite effective in conveying our concept.


3. Keep it simple


Remember that you only have a few seconds to show your product through stop motion. So when possible, consider approaching your shoot from a minimalistic lens.

When it comes to stop motion, minimalism often means using simple movements to convey a message. It could be anything from rolling a bottle back and forth to a compact mirror opening and closing.


When doing minimalistic animation, it's crucial that you still focus on the product's features. That way, people will still understand your purpose despite using subtle movements in your animation.


In the sample GIF you see above, we showed cream flowing out of a moisturizing bottle. It may be simple, but it's effective because it shows the texture of the cream. Apart from that, the swirls infinitely oozing out of the nozzle look absolutely hypnotic.


4. Loop it


One way to make an animated clip appear longer is to loop it. Looping is a technique that involves creating an animation that seems to repeat infinitely.

In theory, you can loop just about any video by simply repeating it. But a great loop doesn't abruptly stop and start. It needs to flow seamlessly to create the illusion that it doesn't end like the video you see above.


In most cases, the secret to an effective loop is to ensure the beginning frame and the ending of your animation matches precisely. That way, people wouldn't know when your stop motion starts or ends.


For the sample video above, we ensured that the hamburger's "mouth" was closed at the beginning and end. Once we played it back, it appeared to keep eating the lettuce we fed it.


[Looping is a great technique to learn, and we will teach you the many ways to do it in the following article!]


5. Make it fun


Our last tip may seem too obvious, but you must make every second count by injecting creativity into your animation.

When animating short product clips for social media, you don't need to write a 5-page script. A simple idea you can execute in a matter of seconds will suffice.


Going back to our first tip, you must think about what the product stands for and craft a story that elevates its features. The next part is to add entertaining/artsy/funny elements to grab people's attention.


For Drinking Buddies (a brand that sells drink markers), we constructed a story about the "Drinking Buddies" having a party on a cocktail bar (literally!). One of the Buddies then dives off a cocktail shaker and into a drink.


The short clip isn't only funny, but it also depicts the product in use. Typically, you place a "buddy" at the rim of the glass to mark your drink. And that's precisely what happened when one of the Drinking Buddies dove into the cocktail.

 

No matter what type of story you decide to tell with your stop motion animation, it's crucial that you still show how a product works--directly or indirectly. It's one thing to entertain people with a short GIF, but it's another way to convince them to buy the product featured in that clip.


Remember that at the end of the day, your goal as a product animator is to sell a brand. So keep that in mind as you start conceptualizing for your next project!