Cut-out Animation Awesomeness

I’m preparing to do some animation for my film project, and am determined to improve my DIY animation skills. I’ve made a few animations in my life, using objects, my own face, and an overhead projector. All have worked, but have required MANY hours of correcting images frame-by-frame because of my unsteady set-up and mediocre lighting skills. Don’t get me wrong- I’m a big fan of the homemade aesthetic. But, I’m not a big fan of sitting in front of the computer hours on end correcting mistakes that I could have avoided with a little more research.

That said, I’ve been plowing through the internet world of DIY animation tutorials, and have found some useful tips!!

1) The animation stand. I need to construct a set-up that is easy to maneuver and STAYS PUT. For cut-out animation, which I’m planning on doing for my current project, I need something that holds a camera to face straight down. A tripod isn’t gonna do that. Believe me, I’ve tried. Also, I need something that’s CHEAP and SIMPLE. Here are two of the best options I found:

Wood Clamp C-Stand:

This one’s super simple, but I question its ability to hold a heavier camera (I have a Canon 60D). I decided on the stand below, but you can find the instructions for the Wood Clamp C-Stand here:

The DIY Downshoot Stand:

This one, according to the person who designed it, is under $20 and a sturdy little set-up. The downside of this one is that you can’t move the camera up and down, however, for me and as the designer suggests, the zoom on the camera will work fine. I’ll probably opt for somewhat different lights, which I’ll discuss in a moment. For the full instructions for this design, go here:

These and other options can be found on the SMFA Animation blog att:

2) The lighting. I’m tired of having bad lighting for my animations. I’ve used clamp lights, but not had the best of luck. One problem I’ve had with them is that they move, and every time that happens the lighting in the animation changes.

Here’s a handy video tutorial on studio lighting that I found helpful:


Ikea has a desk work lamp, the Tertial Lamp for $8.99 which I’ll probably get two of:

Apparently this same lamp has been recommended to turn into a DIY webcam mount, a mic stand AND a speaker mounts as well. Pretty handy!

3) The cut-out animation technique. There’s plenty of tutorials out there, but I found Terry Gilliam’s Do It Yourself Animation Show to be the most helpful so far. His explanations are simple, funny, and acknowledge the desire to make things as easy as possible. Plus, the animations are awesome.

Here it is:


4) The inspiration.

Brian Islam and Brucie, by Terry Gilliam:


Tyranozilla, with music by John Powell:


The Fish and the Doll, by Orla Wren:


Other things that I haven’t discussed here but are also important:

Storyboard (I was lazy to do this at first for my film pro0ject, but I’m SO GLAD I did. It’s an incredibly useful structure or jumping off point from which you can explore and elaborate on in the moment of making).

Storyboard example 1 from my film project, "Red Blob Massacre"

Storyboard example 2 from "Red Blob Massacre"

A stop-motion editing program (‘frame catcher’). I was lucky to get Dragon Stop Motion for a student price through my university, and am glad I did. It’s very helpful. Before, I was attempting to edit one photo at a time into Final Cut Pro, which is the editing software I work with. Not a good idea. I know there are free versions out there as well- definitely helpful.

Video editing software. As I mentioned above, I use Final Cut Pro. Would like to give After Effects a shot someday, but for now I’ll work with what I’m used to. One new program at a time… Plus, I like the homemade look a bit better. After Effects already starts to get fancy. I’m sure I might change my mind once I figured the thing out, though.

Sound. Any animation is good with good sound. If it doesn’t look good, add some sound to it and it just might. Sound brings things to life. It accentuates the important moments. It adds the mood. For me, editing the sound in is just as fun as editing the animation. But, editing sound is a whole other topic, and one that I will not go further into at this time.

Suggestions? Comments? Please share!

And thanks for reading :).


3 thoughts on “Cut-out Animation Awesomeness

  1. Orion

    it’s nice to find another self taught cut-out animator trying to figure out things that I’m trying to figure out as well. here’s a video I made using basically the same set up you are talking about.


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