Learning about Stop-motion: The Camera

One of my most difficult decisions in setting up for stop-motion was choosing the camera.

Most articles on stop-motion for beginners recommend that you start with a simple web-cam. It’s cheap and effective.  But I already knew that I wanted to be able to be able to zoom into detail areas, so the images need to be fairly high res.   Web-cams produce low resolution images, and so do most other hand-held video cameras.  Also – a decent entry-level video camera is much more expensive than a good quality digital stills camera.

So I started looking for a digital still camera.  These are the things to look for when buying a digital still camera for stop-motion:

  • Must have manual focus.
  • Must have manual exposure.
  • Live feed – preferably via usb and not analog video cable.
  • The ability to over-ride auto power off.

The reason for manual focus and exposure, is that with stop-motion you want to have complete control over what your camera is doing.  An auto focus change, or a change to the exposure and can cause blurring or flickering in your final animation.

The live-feed is more tricky.  This is necessary if you want to use the camera with a frame-grabber. These days, it’s not so unusual for digital still cameras to have life feed, so most articles you find online are a bit out of date.  The camera I chose does provide live feed via usb, but many of the cheaper software frame-grabbers out there could not pick it up – I think its something to do with whether the camera uses directX as opposed to another driver.

If you cannot find a camera with live-feed, you can strap a web-cam next to it, and use that to provide your live-feed to the frame-grabber. The still camera takes the pictures, and the web-cam provides reference image to the frame-grabber.  The great advantage of this trick is that you can use any stills camera you like.  But it has some disadvantages:

You lose the ability to control the camera that actually takes the pictures with the frame grabber.  So you can’t adjust exposure etc, and you can’t trigger the camera from the software – a really convenient feature when you are immersed in the complexities of animating.

The pictures you take wont get automatically piped to your computer as you take them.  They get stored on your still camera.  You will have to deal with memory cards filling up and figure out a workflow of when and how to move those images onto your computer.

The image from the web-cam and the still camera will be slightly different, which can cause errors.

I wanted to avoid this setup, so I looked for a camera that would provide live-feed as well as all the other criteria listed above.

The camera that was affordable, available, and met all these criteria was the Canon  EOS 1000D. Apparently it’s called the Canon EOS Rebel XS in the USA. One problem was that this camera’s live-feed does not work with some of the cheaper frame-grabbers out there, as you can read in my post on “choosing the software“.

Image from http://www.eos1000d.org.uk/

I love this camera.  It’s solid, is easy to use, and so far, has worked wonderfully for stop-motion.

Lessons learnt:

Don’t waste money on buying a remote shutter trigger, as (of course) you can trigger the camera from the frame grabber.

Buy an extra battery.  The last thing you want is to have to interrupt an animation session because you run out of battery power.

I found information from the stopmotion handbook page on cameras , the stopmotion forum, as well as this page from stopmotionworks.

Now that I have a decent camera, I need to learn about photography basics such as ISO, shutter speed and so on.  I’ve been gathering some links although I’ve not had time to work through them, these articles looked like a good place to start:  Apertures, shutters and ISO’s Oh My and Photo basics.

Do you have any links to good “How To” site for beginner photographers?

Image below from http://www.eos1000d.org.uk/ – click to see full size.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Learning about Stop-Motion: The Software « Masha
  2. Trackback: Learning about Stop-motion: The Animation Stand « Masha
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