Tips for Creating Stop-Motion Slides

I’ve posted about #StopMotionSlides before and there are others out there (I think that Eric Curts’ and Matt Miller’s are both pretty definitive), but as usual – I like to encapsulate all good Googley stuff in GIF format. So here we go . . . some GIF-style tips for making really rad #StopMotionSlides projects.

1. USE IMAGES WITH TRANSPARENT BACKGROUNDS!

In order to make quality #StopMotionSlides, you’re going to need to have characters or objects with transparent backgrounds that you can move around the screen.  While there are a few tools to help you take the background out of existing images, the easiest step is to just start with an image with a transparent background.  You can do this pretty easily with Google Search.  Just click Images > Tools > Color > Transparent.  I should point out that, frustratingly, this does not yield a 100% perfect set of results.  However, it gets us pretty close!  (If you need to remove the background from an image, I’d recommend trying the site Remove.bg or online.photoscissors.com.)  Check out the #EduGIF below for a visual of how to do it.  Check out the Pausable #EduGIF here.

Google Transparent Image Search Animation

2. Duplicate slides

This is the most important part – make your edits to a slide, then duplicate it before making your next edit. You could do this by right-clicking on the slide (in the menu on the left) and selecting duplicate, but you’ll want to get used to using the ctrl+D or ⌘+D shortcut to do it quickly.

#StopMotionSlides Duplicate Slide Animation

3. Use Arrow Keys to Move

If you want objects in your animation to appear to be moving, you’ve got to make sure they’re moving in small, constant amounts between slides. The best way to do this is to use the arrow keys on your keyboard. I like to move things about 2-4 clicks per slide, depending on how fast I want them to be moving and how far they’ll be traveling. If things need to move diagonally, move a combination of the left/right and up/down arrow keys (i.e., 2 right, 3 down). One final tip – if you need really precise movements, using the shift key with the arrow key leads to even smaller movements – one pixel at a time.

#StopMotionSlides Use Arrow Keys Animation

4.Rotating Objects

Much like when moving objects, you want to make sure that you rotate objects in relatively small, constant amounts.

  • One option for doing this is to rotate the object manually and paying attention to the degrees you see when rotating – i.e., 5°, 10°, 15°, etc. It’s tricky to get this just right, but anything close to constant (i.e., 5.1°, 9.8°, 15.2°, etc.) should do just fine. 
  • A second option is using a keyboard shortcut that rotates the object 1° at a time. Use Alt (option on a Mac) + Shift + Left or Right arrow to do this. This is effective, but can be time intensive.  You can rotate the objects at least 5° per slide to get a quality rotation. That means clicking this shortcut at least 5 times on each slide!
  • The third option is my preferred choice. This is the Rotate 15° keyboard shortcut. Use Alt (option on a Mac) + Left or Right arrow to do this.
  • A fourth option is to hold down Shift while manually rotating with your mouse – this locks your rotation into increments of 15°.

#StopMotionSlides Rotate Animation

5. Use Keyboard Shortcuts to Resize

There’s a pattern here, friends. If you want this to look like a legit animation, you’ve gotta do everything incrementally and at a constant rate. Keyboard shortcuts always help with that. There are a few shortcuts for resizing – the most important are Ctrl + Alt + j (⌘ + Ctrl + j on Mac) for smaller and Ctrl + Alt + k (⌘ + Ctrl + k on Mac) for larger. Both of these resize proportionally (width & height) and from the center. They’re not shown in the GIF below, but you can also resize vertically (Ctrl + Alt/⌘ + i or q) or horizontally (Ctrl + Alt/⌘ + b or w). One final trick here – you may have noticed that if you just drag the “resize grabber” in the corner it resizes proportionally, but not from the center. If you hold down Control (Option on Mac), it’ll do it from the center.

Stop Motion Slides Resizing Objects Tip

6. Move Objects Forward or Backwards

A little known feature of Google Slides (and most presentation or graphic design tools, for that matter) is that each object on the slide is on its own “layer.”  Imagine it like taking individual sheets of transparency paper, putting a picture or text on each and then stacking them on top of each other. Each object (or group of objects) has its own layer.

If you’re creating a good animation, you’re going to need to consider which objects should be on the top “layer.” Sometimes you even need it to look like something is going inside something else. You can use bring forward (⌘/Ctrl + up ), send backward (⌘/Ctrl + down), send to the back (⌘/Ctrl + Shift + down) and bring to the front (⌘/Ctrl + Shift + up) to do this. The difference between forward and to the front and backward and to the back is whether you want it to go up/down one layer or all the way to the “back” or “front.” You can either use the right-click menu or the keyboard shortcuts.

Stop Motion Slides Move Forward or Backward Animation

7. Use Image Transparency

Need something to appear or disappear in your animation? Image Transparency is the trick for that.  First, right-click on your object. Next, select Format Options. In the menu that opens up on the right is transparency. You can drag the button left or right to make it more or less transparent.  My favorite trick here is clicking along the scale, which makes it change in 10% increments. 10% per slide is an ideal increment for making things appear or disappear!

Stop Motion Slides Use Image Transparency Animation

8. Use The Slide Edges Strategically

Sometimes your characters or objects need to enter or exit the “screen” from one of the sides – not just appear or disappear. In that case, you should use the screen edges strategically. Anything that is off the edge of the slide won’t be visible when you’re in present mode – and this is great news, because you can use it to good effect. Check it out in the GIF below:

Stop Motion Slides Use Slide Edges Animation

9. Use Keyboard Shortcuts to select items to move/modify

This may seem like an unnecessary tip, but if you’re doing an animation where you have multiple objects moving in different directions or at different rates, or an even wider array of things happening, it may save you some seconds to use keyboard shortcuts to select objects. This is also helpful if you have some objects that are behind others.  The tab key toggles which object in the slide is selected. It goes in the order that they were originally added there. Using shift+tab will go through the objects in reverse order.

Stop Motion Slides Tab and Shift Tab Animation

10. Make Text Appear from One Letter at a time

Listen, I know the old transition in PowerPoint and other programs with the typewriter text (where it appeared one letter at a time) was torture to watch, but in a Stop-Motion Animation, having a word fade in from left to right can be useful. This one is super self-explanatory – start with one letter on the first slide in the series and add the letters one at a time until the entire word (or phrase) is showing. That’s it! As if you needed it, here’s a GIF to make it crystal clear. 🙂

Stop Motion Left to Right Appearing Text Animation

11. CHange text color from side to side

Got a key word or phrase that you want to really draw attention to? Try giving it the neon sign treatment – change the color of the text one letter at a time from one side to the other!  This is as simple as the previous tip – just highlight one letter, change its color and then, in the next slide, do the same with the next letter!

Stop Motion Slides - Change Text Color Animation

12. Move Objects together

If you’ve got multiple objects that you are moving the same distance on each slide, save yourself some seconds and move them together!  There are a few ways to do it, but if you’re moving them on multiple slides, I recommend that you Group (⌘/Ctrl + Option/Alt +G) them – they’ll stay grouped on each slide when you duplicate, making it super easy to move them each time.  An additional tip – if you have 1 object that you’re moving, say, five arrow clicks and another that you’re moving, say, three arrow clicks – use your mouse to select them both to move 3 spaces, and then move the one its additional 2 spaces.

Stop Motion Slides - Move Objects Together
Because Eleven and Mike belong together…
13. Cut the background out of images

You’ve likely noticed that all of the images above (Mike, Eleven, the taco, etc.) have a transparent background.  This is really helpful in #StopMotionSlides, so that it looks good when images go in front of or behind other images.  If you have an image that has a background and need to get the background out of there, you can use Lunapic!

(Note: at the original time of this post, Lunapic was the best option for this.  While it still works, there are other tools available now that are easier to use.  They include remove.bg and online.photoscissors.com)

Lunapic Transparent Background Animation

14. Increase text size

Want your text to get bigger or smaller?  You could manually change the font size on each slide, or you could use this handy-dandy keyboard shortcut to do it a little more quickly: with a text box selected or set of text highlighted click control(⌘)+shift+> to make it bigger or control(⌘)+shift+< to make it smaller.

Increase Font Size Animation

15. Publish Your #StopMotionSlides

So, now you know how to make some awesome #StopMotionSlides, but how do you publish them for people to see?  The easiest and quickest way is to use the built-in Publish to the Web option in Google Slides. Click File, then Publish to the Web.  I recommend setting it to Start slideshow as soon as the player loads and Restart the slideshow after the last slide. Unfortunately the available auto-advance slide options are not fast enough for making a fluid animation.  So, select every second, then copy the provided URL and change the delayms= at the end of the URL to 100 (rather than 1000).  This means it’ll show 1 slide every 0.1 seconds (or 10 every second). If you try to go any lower than 100, your computer/browser will probably not process it fast enough and it’ll make it look glitchy.  You can use a similar process to embed your animation in a site – just look for the delayms= in the embed code and set it to 100. Now you can share this link with others so that they can see your animation!  And if you make changes to slides, it’ll automatically show up when people use this link.

Publishing Stop Motion Slides Animation

16. REcord a Screencast of #StopMotionSlides

If publishing your slides as an animation is great, then adding audio to them must be awesome! Think about it: what would make a student creating an animation about the water cycle better?  Them adding narration to explain what is happening in the animation! To do this: 

  1. Load up your published slides and pause it on slide 1.
  2. Start recording with your screencasting tool of choice (Camtasia, Screencastify, Loom, Screencast-o-matic, Nimbus, etc.).
  3. Start the slides and, while it records, add your narration!
  4. At the end of the slideshow, stop the recording

Using Screencastify to Record your Stop Motion Slides Animation

17. turn your #stopMotionSlides into a GIF!

You can’t deny it: GIFs are fun! You and your students can turn your #StopMotionSlides into GIFs using talltweets.com!  While the available “Creator Studio” is awesome, you and your students will be just fine with the free “Tall Tweets Classic.”  Click on Select Presentation and find the Google Slides project for your #StopMotionSlides.  You’ll have 3 selections to make:

  • GIF Image Width (in pixels) – A bigger number will create a better file, but it will also be a larger file size.  The ideal selection is 960, which is the default width of a Google Slides slide, but you may need to select a smaller number to get the right file size.  (A tip: Twitter caps GIF sizes to 15 MB)
  • Slide Duration (in seconds) – This is the number of seconds that each slide will remain on the screen.  Smaller numbers create faster moving animations, which are, therefore, shorter.  I tend to select 0.1 here.
  • Sequence of Slides (comma separated) – You can use this if you want your slides to appear in an order other than the order that they are in your slideshow (i.e. 3, 2, 1 rather than 1, 2, 3).  If you leave it blank, it’ll just go in normal order.

Select Create GIF and then, when it’s all ready, click save!

Published by

Jake Miller

Jake is a Google for Education Certified Trainer and is the Lead Technology Integration Specialist for Brady Middle School in Ohio's Orange City Schools. In the past he taught STEM, Science & Math in Stow-Munroe Falls, Ohio, where he was also a leader in the district's Technology Leadership Team and a co-advisor for the middle school's STEM Club. He has been an educator since 2003. His Bachelor's Degree is in middle-level education (math/science) from the University of Akron and his Master's Degree is in Instructional Technology from Kent State University. He has enjoyed providing more than 100 professional development opportunities at conferences and school districts across the state of Ohio. He is very involved in Twitter (@JakeMillerTech) and provides regular pointers for educators with his #GAFETip tweets.