How Clay Animation Works

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Clay animation, also known as claymation, is a stop-motion animation technique that uses clay figures to create moving images. The process involves taking a series of photographs of the clay figures, moving them slightly between each shot. When the images are played back at a fast speed, it creates the illusion of movement. Clay animation requires a lot of patience and attention to detail, as each movement must be carefully planned and executed. The clay figures are typically sculpted and molded by hand, and various tools and props can be used to enhance the animation. Overall, clay animation is a unique and creative way to bring inanimate objects to life.


Are you a fan of animated movies? Who doesn’t love them? Your family members probably enjoy them just as much as you do! In animated movies, animals can talk and characters can fly. Audiences are transported to dream-like worlds!

Today’s Wonder of the Day is all about a type of animation that uses clay figures. This is why it’s called clay animation. Have you ever played with clay or playdough before? If you have, then you know how fun it can be to create figures out of clay. Just imagine being able to make a movie with your clay creations!

Clay animation first started in 1897 when modeling clay was invented. Artists would sculpt characters out of clay and then take multiple still pictures of the character. Between each picture, they would make small movements with the character.

These pictures were then shown quickly, one after the other, which created the illusion of movement. Artists discovered that they could make a figure walk, jump, talk, and more. It didn’t take long for people to start using this technique to make movies.

The first clay animation film was “The Sculptor’s Welsh Rarebit Dream.” It was made in 1908 by Edison Manufacturing. Many more films followed, and clay animation became a popular style of movie. Have you ever heard of Gumby and Pokey, Wallace and Gromit, or the California Raisins? These are some of the most famous clay animation characters.

Would you like to make your own clay animation movie one day? It’s a lot of work! Clay characters can only move slightly between each picture, otherwise, the film will look choppy. This means that making clay animation movies takes a lot of time. That’s why clay animation films are often shorter than other movies.

For example, a typical animated movie requires 24 frames, or stops, for one second of playback. This means that creators take 24 still pictures for every second of movie time. Because clay animation is so labor-intensive, clay animators often use double stops. This means they use the same picture twice in a row, which reduces the number of stops needed. Even with doubles, they still need 12 still pictures for every second of movie time.

So how much work would a simple 30-minute clay animation movie require? Let’s do the math. At a rate of 12 stops per second, a 30-minute clay animation movie would need 21,600 still pictures! A full-length (90-minute) clay animation movie would require 64,800 still pictures.

Can you imagine taking 21,600 still pictures, making tiny changes to clay characters between each picture? That’s how much work goes into clay animation!

Give It a Try

Are you excited to learn more about clay animation? Make sure to check out the following activities with a friend or family member:

Make Your Own Clay Animation Movie at Home

Do you want to create your own clay animation movie? It’s a fun project that you can do with the help of friends or family members. To get started, you’ll need some clay or Play-Doh®. If you don’t have these materials, you can easily make your own homemade play dough using simple ingredients from your kitchen.

Once you have your clay, Play-Doh®, or homemade play dough, think of a simple story that you want to tell through clay animation. Keep the story uncomplicated and focus on a few characters who engage in a small number of actions. For example, you could create a story about a little boy playing ball with his dog. Can you come up with any other simple storylines?

Once you have your materials and storyline ready, you’ll need a digital camera and basic movie editing software, which you may already have on your computer. Additionally, you’ll need a workspace like a kitchen table. If you need guidance, you can find instructions online to help you create your own homemade clay animation movie! When you finish your movie, share it with your friends and family by hosting a premiere party with popcorn and candy!

Useful Resources

  • http://scienceposse-hoffman.blogspot.com/2009/10/claymation.html (accessed 13 June 2019)
  • http://www-inst.eecs.berkeley.edu/~cs294-7/sp04/sp_04_presentations/Claymation_History.pdf (accessed 13 June 2019)

FAQ

1. What is clay animation?

Clay animation, also known as claymation, is a stop-motion animation technique where characters and objects are created using clay or other malleable materials. It involves moving and sculpting the clay figures in small increments and capturing each movement frame by frame to create the illusion of movement.

2. How is clay animation created?

Clay animation is created by first designing and sculpting the characters and objects out of clay. Once the clay models are ready, they are placed on a set and carefully manipulated to create different poses and movements. A frame is captured after each small change in position, and these frames are then played in sequence to give the illusion of movement.

3. What equipment is needed for clay animation?

To create clay animation, you will need a camera or a smartphone with a camera to capture the frames. You will also need a tripod or a stable surface to keep the camera steady. Additionally, you might need clay modeling tools, wire armatures for support, and a suitable workspace with proper lighting.

4. What are the challenges of clay animation?

Clay animation requires a lot of patience and attention to detail. One of the main challenges is ensuring the clay models remain in the desired shape and position throughout the animation process. It can also be time-consuming as each small movement requires capturing a frame. Lighting consistency and avoiding fingerprints on the clay are other challenges to consider.

5. What are some famous clay animation movies?

Some famous clay animation movies include “Wallace and Gromit” series by Nick Park, “Chicken Run” by Aardman Animations, and “Coraline” by Laika. These movies showcase the creativity and skill involved in clay animation and have become beloved classics in the animation industry.

6. Can clay animation be done by amateurs?

Absolutely! Clay animation can be a fun and accessible form of animation for amateurs. While it may require some practice and experimentation to get the desired results, anyone with a bit of creativity and patience can try their hand at clay animation. There are also various tutorials and online resources available to help beginners learn the basics of clay animation.

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