Topic outline

  • Introduction

    Animated films are very popular with children. They tell exciting and funny stories that offer a lot of entertainment and fun. But how can you produce your own animated film (stop motion film) or video? This is not clear to many children and adults. They are not aware of how much work is involved in producing a (stop motion) film, since it is not just shots one after the other.

    Explain to the children that it will not be possible to produce a stop motion film in Disney film length. Let them discover how much work is needed and what restrictions may occur in an ECEC production. Also, the film quality cannot be the same. It's more about finding out together how a film or cartoon is made and using available resources creatively and sensibly.

    Stop motion and video work with children should make use of simple possibilities, which are nevertheless exciting in content, but not too elaborate.

    This module is therefore not about producing elaborate (stop motion) films with children, but about teaching children practical and creative video work.

  • About this Module

    When studying this course you will…

    • Gain knowledge about the importance of different perspectives and settings to make a film exciting and interesting for the target audience
    • Learn how to plan a (stop motion) film with preschool children
    • Gain knowledge about teaching children practical and creative video (work) lessons?
    • Get basic information about working creatively with Stop Motion Studio App and Windows Movie Maker 2012

    In this module…

    • Basics of stop motion techniques will be explained and visualised
    • Practical advice on creative work with children in ECEC is given
    • Activities will support you to better understand the content and to prepare (yourself) for the assessment
    • Further links will guide you to more information
  • What is a Stop Motion Video?

    Stop Motion Videos are films that are composed of single pictures/ photos - formerly known as classic flip-books. Movement is created by slightly changing the position of figures or objects in each picture. The pictures are put together in a faster way, e.g. with the Stop Motion Studio App, so that transitions are barely perceptible. The stop motion technique is a simple way to shoot movies with figures and objects without knowing anything about computer animation

    Almost anything can serve as an object or figure to create such a film. Not only dolls or dough figures, such as in the shows "Sandmännchen" or "Shaun  the sheep". There are almost no limits to imagination. 

    Stop Motion movies can be created with the simplest resources, which is why they can also be produced quite easily with young children. Digital technology and apps in particular make animated film production even simpler.


    A few suggestions how and with which tools you can create a stop motion movie are provided below:

    In animated painting films, the audience sees a picture or a text emerging line by line as if by magic. The effect is achieved by taking a photo after each small stroke until the whole picture is finished. 

    Video 1: Example of a simple stop motion video with painting:


    In animated layering film, figures or objects cut out of paper can apparently move on a background. Of course, children can move them between individual shots.

    Video 2: Example of an animated layering film:


    A material animation film is made with toys, building blocks or other three-dimensional objects used as actors. This also refers to well-known Stop Motion films with Lego figures as main actors or films with dough figures. Figures can move here in a scenery, which reminds a little of a doll's house.

    Video 3: Example of a material animation film by children in ECEC:


    Another type is the real animated film, where real people participate as actors. The trick is to let something move that normally cannot move by itself, e.g. a book or a plate. The possibility to ‘perform magic’ and trick someone or to bring dolls and stuffed animals to life is especially popular with children. For example, a child can make objects or people disappear. Or he/she sits particularly quietly on the floor and suddenly the doll sitting next to him/her begins to move. 

    Video 4: Example of a real animated film with stop motion tricks by children:


    In principle, the stop motion technique offers countless creative possibilities, which makes its use in ECEC particularly exciting and gives children and ECEC professionals the opportunity to have lots of fun.



    Comprehension Questions

    1. How many types of stop motion movies are presented in chapter 1?

    2. What material do you need to make an animated layering film?

    3. How can you achieve the effect of ‘magic’ in an animated painting film?

  • Video and Stop Motion Projects in ECEC

    If they are allowed to use a camera themselves, children learn

    • how to produce exciting stories about love and conflict, about big and small heroes,
    • or how to produce audio-visual information , for example about making a cake.
    • With the help of a camera (e.g. a tablet camera) they learn how film and television programmes are made.
    • They are given the opportunity to become creative and articulate themselves.

    They can get involved in all stages: developing a short story, designing a scene, editing and soundtrack

    Based on children's knowledge and experience with various film and television genres, TV-like video productions such as animated films, game shows, commercials  or television films can be made a theme in ECEC.

    Children can replay their favourite show in a TV-studio-like environment and redesign it creatively. This allows them to adapt essential production forms of these film and television genres.

    Films are very fascinating for children, which is the reason why it is sometimes not easy for them to avoid media illusions. Film and television industry uses a few tricks to create films. Large cities are recreated as miniature forms and appear big due to camera settings, scenes are digitally reworked on computer and actors are replaced by stuntmen. Preschool children do not yet have sufficient knowledge to understand how these tricks are made.

    By trying out simple film tricks, children's media literacy can be promoted in a playful way.

    Children are not primarily guided by the order of the story shown when watching their favourite shows. They tend to focus on details that they can relate to their reality or elicit an emotional response from. Image perception by young children is random, little systematic and orientates itself towards the moment. The same applies to active use of a camera by children. Just like working with photos, it is possible to get an insight into the children's view of the world by letting them use the camera freely and intuitively.

    Give children opportunities to film instinctively and spontaneously with a camera, without a script or a ready-made plan. Let children go off without an adult and capture "their moment". Children can then depict what they perceive with their eyes and make their "inner" eye on the world visible to you.

    The more design forms, montage principles and tricks children get to know, the sooner they will be able to classify and understand even more complicated strands of action, with flashbacks, parallel actions and leaps in space and time. This form of video work with children is about applying and learning essential film dramaturgy tools that are important in film and television. By testing film-specific means of design in a playful way and thus gaining a better understanding of the plot, children do not lose their fascination for prepared stories. Despite the acquired knowledge, they still want to be entertained by film and television.

    A few guidelines can help ECEC professionals and children work with stop motion video in order to use this medium effectively in ECEC. Their teachers should not be too intrusive while children are working with a camera. This way they will not influence the intention of the filmmaker too much. However, it can be enriching in video work if, for example, help is given by exchanging some dialogues to get a message across. Here the ECEC teachers do not always have to be ahead of children's knowledge; instead they should be rather open-minded and open to common learning processes.

    Video & Stop Motion in Practice

    As with photos, children should be shown how to use video recording devices. Here the same rules apply as they were presented in module 6.

    Different settings and perspectives addressed in module 6 will of course also bring a (stop motion) video to life. They are particularly important in stop motion video so that the result is not boring for the viewers in the end.

    When working with children, however, it is particularly important that focus is not on perfection, but on experimenting with technology and promoting creativity.

    If you want to tell a story with a stop motion film or video, you should think about a short script and length of the film together with the children beforehand. This makes realistic planning easier and prevents you from doing too much.


    Comprehension Questions

    1. Why shouldn’t ECEC professionals get too much involved when children are working with a camera?

    2. Should the preschool children be involved in all stages of making a film? Why yes?/Why no? 

    3. What do young children focus on when watching a film? 


  • Possibilities to Integrate Video & Stop-Motion in ECEC

    Language development and articulation

    Producing one's own films based on short scripts can expand children's vocabulary. To develop a script, children have to find words for the dialogues they want to enact. This also helps them to learn how to articulate themselves in certain situations and develop their communication skills.

    Involve children in every step of a (stop motion) film production; otherwise they may end up acting exclusively as extras. Try to avoid this.

    Promoting emotional and social development

    Making a film is teamwork. Participating as an actor, behind the camera or editing, everyone helps and cooperates with each other. This is very important for the social development of children. Through video work, children learn a lot about different emotions and can try out different mimics. Thus, it becomes possible to talk with children about feelings related to their own experiences, e.g. what makes them happy or sad. 

    Promoting creativity and fantasy

    Developing a story and then playing in it or putting it into a stop motion film stimulates imagination. Children have to think about backdrops, costumes and materials to be used and then possibly create them themselves. That's creative and productive. Being able to see the actual results of their own work after a relatively short period of time makes them very proud. This way, children realise that they can create something and this is very positive for their personal growth.

    Creating special memories with video

    Videos made by children and ECEC professionals, e.g. at an ECEC centre party, can be a nice memory to send home to parents or to present at a parents' meeting. It is also possible to have children record the ECEC everyday life with a camera from their perspective. This gives parents a very special insight into the everyday life of the child, which normally remains hidden from them.

    Promoting children’s movement

    The big advantage of videos is that you can capture images with motion. Therefore, you can use this medium to create videos recording children with movement. Of course, children can decide what they want to use for scenery, costumes etc. and how they want to realise the video. Then you can watch these videos together with the children. For example, you could watch a music video. Then children talk together about what they saw and the video is replayed with their own means.

    Monitoring and reflection

    Using a video camera is a good means to observe children and then to reflect within the team or with parents. Children’s behaviour and skills can be recorded and assessed. The ECEC teacher can also let the camera run during a typical morning and later to observe how he/she behaves towards the children and how the children react to him or her. For such a project, it should be checked whether additional parental consent needs to be obtained.

    Make sure that you comply with the data protection guidelines and copyright in any media project.

    Integration of video-making in ECEC



    Comprehension Questions

    1. How can film-making contribute to the development of children’s language and articulation?

    2. In which way can film-making contribute to children’s emotional and social development?

    3. How can film-making promote children’s creativity and fantasy?

  • Basics of Stop Motion Studio App

    The Stop Motion Studio app makes it easy to create animated films. It is well suited for media pedagogical use and is also easy to use for younger children with supervision.

    You can take photos one after the other directly in the app and you can look at the results again and again. Time sequence of images can be set or erased. With the full version you can also add credits and audio recordings of any kind or effects. The basic version is sufficient for producing a simple stop motion movie. If you want to add music to the film later, you can do this in Movie Maker. The film can be exported at the end to the common film format MP4.

    The app can be used on the operating systems Android, iOS and Windows and can be installed on a tablet or smartphone.

    The website, where you can find Stop Motion Studio App is: https://www.cateater.com.

    Below, there is a brief introduction to Stop Motion Studio app, which is intended to convey basic information. The ? icon  in the menu bar at the bottom right of the app takes you to the help menu, which offers clear support.

    Developer: Cateater
    Systems: Android, iOS and Windows
    Costs: The basic app is free of charge. The full version can be purchased from 4.99€ to 5.99€
    Target Groups: Pedagogical specialists, preschool children from 4 years with supervision, primary school children, parents
    Topics: Creative design and painting, practical media work
    Advertising: Basic app contains in-app purchases. To be able to use all functions, full version is required.
    Usability: Fully functional offline.
    Navigation: Simple and clear.
    Design: Simple, understandable language; clear and high-contrast colours; reader-friendly; clearly laid out.


    How does the App Stop Motion Studio work?

    Look at this get started tutorial on You Tube to get an idea of how to create a Stop Motion video:

    or have a look at the creator’s manual for further tips.



    Comprehension Questions

    1. In what operating systems can Stop Motion Studio app be used? 

    2. What different features are available to add to your film? 

    3. How can you add voice recording to your film?

    4. What effects can you use?


    Interactive Content: 1
  • Basics of Windows Movie Maker 2012 Programme

    The programme Windows Movie Maker 2012 is a simple video editing programme for creating and editing movies under Windows 7 or Windows 10. Since this programme cannot be used by younger children themselves, it is used by ECEC teachers to edit (stop motion) videos so that the children's results can be presented in a more beautiful form to parents

    Important note:

    Window Movie Maker 2012 will not be further developed by Microsoft, which is why the programme can no longer be downloaded from the Microsoft Store.

    The programme must therefore be purchased from third providers. Search for "Windows Movie Maker Download" using a search engine, e.g. Google. Several results will be displayed that allow you to download the programme.


    Next, we present a brief introduction to work with Movie Maker to convey the basics. The key F1 on the PC keyboard or ? symbol in the menu bar in the upper right corner of Movie Maker takes you to the online help, which offers clear support.

    Developer: Microsoft
    Systems: Windows
    Costs: Programme is free of charge.
    Target Groups: Pedagogical specialists, primary school children from fourth grade, parents.
    Note: Younger children are not yet able to use this programme on their own because they usually cannot read yet and it is very complex for this age group.
    Topics: Video editing, practical media work
    Advertising: No advertising
    Usability: Fully functional offline.
    Navigation: Simple and clear for older children and adults, still very complex for younger children.
    Design: Simple, understandable language; clear and high-contrast colours; reader-friendly; clearly laid out.

    How does Movie Maker 2012 programme work?

    When the programme is started, a new project with the name "My Movie" opens automatically.

    First familiarise yourself with the programme. If you move the mouse over the function fields, explanatory windows will open to help you explore the programme functions.

    It is recommended to save the project first under a new name in a selected folder. This will make it easier to find your way around and edit the movie later. It is also helpful to collect "raw data" in a separate folder.


    Interface

    1. Import files

    A click on the Add Videos and Photos icon opens the library from which photos or videos can be added.

    A preview of the movie shows whether photos or videos correspond to the preset image ratio. In the "Project" menu it is possible to adjust the aspect ratio and audio settings.

    Add photos or videos

    Save your project progress regularly by clicking on the diskette symbol in the upper left corner of the programme line or by pressing the key combination [Ctrl][S].

    You can undo or repeat actions using the arrows next to the diskette symbol.

    2. Arranging and cutting

    The order of photos and film sequences can be changed by pointing the cursor/mouse at an icon in the workspace and clicking on the left mouse button. A blue frame indicates that the element is active. Now the element can be moved to the desired position by holding down the mouse button.

    Arranging and cutting

    If an element is activated by clicking on it, the "Edit" menu shows tools available for this element. Highlighted colour indicates which editing tool you are currently using. Video track is highlighted in yellow.

    Add photos or videos

    The "Cutting tool" option is used to cut the film. You can use tabs on the left and right of the timeline below the playback window to set the area you want to keep. Times can also be set manually via the start and end points. By clicking on the diskette symbol, the selected film element is now cut and saved to the area within crop marks.

    Cutting tool

    To split a movie into two, select the corresponding movie element. It gets a blue frame. Now the playback slider (black line) is moved to the position where the film is to be split. With a click on the field "Split" this processing step is finished.

    Splitting a movie

    If you want to remove only the beginning or end of a clip from a movie element, you can use the "Set Start Point" or "Set End Point" fields. With the "Set Start Point" everything BEFORE the position at the playback slider is removed from this one movie-clip element. All other film elements before it remain. At the "Set Endpoint" everything that is AFTER the position of the playback slider is removed from this one film element. All other film elements after that remain.

    3. Image and film transitions

    Transitions between images and film sequences create a visual link and thus facilitate perception. Transitions are easy to use. The menu tab "Animations" contains a variety of transition effects. If the cursor/mouse points to one of the corresponding transitions, its effect is immediately visible in preview.

    Image transition

    If the desired transition is clicked, it is transferred to the active graphic in the selection window (recognisable by blue frame). A gray triangle at the beginning of the film sequence indicates that it has been assigned a transition.

    Transition symbol

    If several photos and movies are to be shown with the same transition, several sequences can be selected by holding down the Ctrl key while clicking the desired sequences with the mouse. If you want all sequences to have the same transition, select the menu item "Apply to all".

    The duration of the transition can be varied. Normally it is preset to 1 or 1.5 seconds. A click on the selection arrow next to the menu field "Duration" opens a selection window. However, it is also possible to enter a (not preset) time directly into the window.

    Sometimes a multitude of effects can overload the viewer with too many different transitions and distract him or her from the actual content. It can help here to fall back on the basic rules of screen design: On the one hand, "less is more", i.e. number of effects should be limited and, on the other hand, "unity", i.e. effects should be applied one after the other. It is better to select a transition type per topic or chapter. If you want to draw special attention to something special in your movie, this can also be indicated by a transition effect.

    4. Visual effects

    Individual images or entire film sequences can be provided with "visual effects". Under the menu item "Visual Effects" you can choose from a variety of options. If the cursor/mouse points to one of the corresponding effects, its effect is immediately visible in preview.

    Visual effects

    With a click on the lower arrow in the scroll bar next to the selection area, an entire range of possible effects is opened, divided into different categories.

    A mouse click on an effect assigns it to active sequence in the selection window (recognisable by blue frame).

    Visual effect is activated

    A pictogram in the upper left corner of a frame indicates that a visual effect is assigned to it.

    If you want to have the same effect in several film sequences or apply it to all sequences, proceed as described under point 3 "Image and film transitions". Here, too, the viewer should not be overloaded with too many effects. It is better to use them specifically to make certain parts of the film more interesting.

    5. Title, text and credits

    The tool for inserting text is located on Start Page register.

    Title, text and credits

    Here you have the possibility to add a title, an image title and credits.

    Add title: Under the menu item "Title", an element with text is inserted before the actual image and film sequences. If this is clicked, the "Text tool" opens. The tab and text track are kept in pink for better differentiation from the video and audio track. This allows you to see better which tool you are currently working with.

    The title display is meant to fade in the title of the movie and to prepare the viewer for what comes next. The title can be faded in with different effects, which can be found in the "Text Tool". The procedure is again similar to applying transitions and effects to video sequences. Fade-in duration can also be edited here.

    Add a title

    Add image title: A "picture title" appears in selected frame or movie clip. It can be used as a title of a chapter or as a description text. Texts can be edited using the same methods as title texts. Fade-in effects and functions for setting fade-in start and duration are also available for image titles.

    Add an image title

    Add credit: A film is incomplete without credits. In this text, additional information, participants or supporters and their tasks are mentioned. If you click on "credits", the cursor jumps to the end of the film and opens a text element similar to the title. Editing corresponds to design of a title.

    Add a credit

    Remember to save your project every now and then so that you don't lose your work in parts or even completely.

    6. Music and sound

    Music and sound complement the visual impression of a film. It is possible to add music to the entire film or only to some parts.

    Hint: When inserting music (as well as when inserting photos, films and graphics from third parties), license terms and copyright should always be taken into account!

    If you open the context menu using the small arrow at the bottom right of note symbol, you can search for suitable music online or add music or sound directly from a data medium. Please note that the linked providers do not only offer free and unlicensed sound files.

    Add music and sounds

    This is now located as a green music track below the video clips. The "Music Tools" tab for editing the track is also shown in green. This makes it easy to see whether you are currently editing video material or sound.

    Music tools

    Double-click the music clip to open the “Music Tools” toolbar. Here it is possible to change the music volume, show or hide sound and select a start time if the music should not start at the beginning of the movie.

    For a simple video in ECEC, it's usually enough to add just one music clip to the film. If this is too short, you can simply copy it again. To prevent music from beginning and ending too abruptly, it is also a good idea to slowly fade music in and out. You can find this function in the music tools under "Fade in" or "Fade out".

    Most of the times you don't necessarily need sound for the video sequences or you only need it for single sequences. The volume of sound of the video can be turned down under menu item "Videotools" (yellow). So you can also turn up language sound for single sequences and still let music play as background music.

    Change video volume

    7. Export movie

    The tool for creating or saving a finished film (in technical language "render") is located in the "Start Page" tab.

    Export movie

    With the help of the context arrow next to the menu item "Save movie" a selection opens. Different saving options are displayed in different categories. When you move the mouse over the options, a small window appears showing display resolution and approximate file size of the finished film. A good option is to select "For Computer".

    During the saving process, single files that were put together in the project are now merged to a movie. This may take a while.

    Progress bar of the storage process

    After that a selection dialogue appears, where either the directory with the finished file can be opened or the finished movie can be viewed immediately.

    Selection between “Play”, “Open folder”, or “Close”


    When working with Movie Maker, be sure to follow the sequence described here, that is first edit your film sequences, then add titles, texts and credits and, finally, add music. If at the end you think that you still want to cut out a part of video, text and music will not move with it because they are now in a completely wrong place and you will have to edit everything. It is also important that raw files and your project are not moved to another location during editing. If this happens, the programme will not be able to find the material again.

    Start right now and try out your knowledge in practice. Our practical examples may give you some initial ideas.


    Comprehension Questions

    1. When working on the Movie Maker programme how do you know that an element is active?

    2. How can you change the duration of the transitions between images and film sequences?

    3. What different tools are available in the Movie Maker?

    4. Why should music be added only after you have finished the movie?