Wednesday, April 6, 2016

{Review} Stopmotion Explosion Animation Kit

Over the years, even before homeschooling, we've tried to support and provide Amber opportunities to explore her interests. Although I did notice a tendency in myself to assume she would enjoy most of my hobbies, I often marveled at her wide range of pursuits. Recently, though, she surprised me with a distinct interest to review the Stopmotion Explosion Animation Kit from Stopmotion Explosion. I honestly had no idea she was even remotely interested in stopmotion video. However, all it took was a hesitant mention on my part before she was off and running with her concept ideas.

Surprisingly we were chosen for the review, and after a short period of time the kit arrived at our door to the glee of my teenager. To Amber's distress, I made her wait for me to open the box so I could check it out to ensure everything had arrived in proper working order.

The kit includes:
  • A 720p HD video camera with internal microphone, manual focus, and clip
  • A quick start guide
  • The nearly 300 page Stopmotion Explosion book
  • Animation software
None of us had any real knowledge of how one creates stopmotion videos other than the general idea of using many pictures in sequence. We immediately decided my patience level was not sufficient for this type of project, so Amber asked her dad to be the project assistant this time around. He took the Stopmotion Explosion book and first read it completely through to get a good idea of how making a stopmotion movie would work.

First attempts at placements and keeping hands out of the frames. Amber is actually doubled over laughing (and her dad is smirking) at the communication issues which resulted in several hands in the pictures.
Amber selected one of her numerous story ideas to use as the initial script, then set to writing the specifics of her movie. Eventually it became clear she would need to read through several sections of the Stopmotion Explosion book as well, since her script was far too detailed for the type of movie her dad felt comfortable attempting.

I did play my part in the project though by installing the provided animation software on Amber's laptop. The kit came with an installation CD for the animation software, which is Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10 & OS X 5.1+ compatible.  Since Amber's laptop is a four-month old Windows 10 computer, we can only attest to how it works in that environment. I did have a moment of panic when realizing the software came on a CD, while her laptop does not have an optical drive of any kind. Thankfully, the lovely people at Stopmotion Explosion had me covered.

The quick start guide provides an alternative website for downloading the needed animation software directly to your computer. The software installed smoothly and without any hiccups. We were even able to switch between the provided HD video camera and the computer's built in webcam using the software. Ultimately, Amber chose to use the HD video camera provided in the kit because it was easier to stabilize than the webcam on the ever moving laptop.

Another day of filming, with fewer mishaps (except the rogue snack napkin happened this day).
The software is easy enough for Amber, at 14 years old, to use on her own, while the instructions in the Stopmotion Explosion book are clear and simple to follow. In no time at all, Amber and her dad were creating a movie from the script she had modified. Amber had decided to use LEGO Star Wars Rebels, LEGO Friends, and LEGO Elves minifigures along with larger builds from LEGO Star Wars Rebels, LEGO Lord of the Rings, and LEGO Elves sets. However she was too excited to get started with the process to setup a formal backdrop for her movie. 

Apparently it takes something like 15 frames to make one second of video; this is utterly mind boggling to me. After a few seconds of video, the two decided to finalize the video in order to determine how that portion of the software worked. However, there didn't need to be any concerns since it functioned exactly as expected. They did make a few test videos to ensure they liked the way the LEGO figures were moving and flying.

In the end, after much hilarity over pictures taken too soon with hands in the frame, and snack napkins accidentally left in view, Amber and her dad created 5 total videos to tell the story Amber envisioned. While they did edit the videos to reorder and remove some of the mistakenly photographed frames, they opted to forego additional special effects since neither of them have experience with the photo editing needed to include Amber's desired effects.

The Stopmotion Explosion Animation Kit was possibly the easiest introduction to stopmotion video creation that I could have imagined. Our family was such novices prior to attempting Amber's first movie. Although I'm still a bit foggy on the finer details, Amber and her dad have it down to an art now.

If you enjoy stopmotion videos or have a child interested in this fun creative outlet, the Stopmotion Explosion Animation Kit is a perfect place to begin your fun.

Now, take a peek at Amber's stopmotion videos:

The first three are her test clips, but they are pretty funny.

The remainder are her story - view in sequence.

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Visit other members of the Review Crew to see the fun they had with Stopmotion Explosion!

Stopmotion Explosion Review

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  1. Fun videos! I can tell they put a lot of time into them!!

  2. We enjoyed watching Amber's films - thanks for sharing, and hope she continues creating!