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Stop motion animation is a technique used in film production to create a moving picture from a series of still photographs or images. The process involves using fixed objects that are secured in one position, then photographed with a camera. The objects are then moved slightly, and another photograph is taken. When all the photographs are strung together, they create the illusion that the fixed objects are mobile. Stop motion animation can be created with any variety of objects, even human beings, though clay puppets are very commonly used because clay is easy to manipulate during the filming process.
The process of making a stop motion animation film can be very tedious and time-consuming, since the objects must be manipulated by hand between each photograph. Many photographs will be taken, and each photo may change only slightly. As more photos are taken with slight movements,the finished movements will look smoother when they are strung together. Stop motion animation often requires a significant amount of patience and a keen eye for detail, as the objects may need to be manipulated in more than one way between each frame that is shot.
The original intent of the stop motion animation process was to make objects seem as though they were moving on their own; the process dates back to the late 19th century, and it became an increasingly popular animation technique over the course of the next century. Toward the end of the 20th century, however, other animation techniques became more widely used because they were quicker, easier, and aesthetically pleasing, and stop motion animation fell out of favor. It is still a relatively popular animation technique that has seen something of a resurgence in the early 21st century, though it is still considered a tedious and difficult process that is often avoided by larger studios looking to save time and money.
A more popular alternative to stop motion animation is computer generated imaging (CGI). Objects are essentially created and manipulated in a computer program, creating smooth movement not attainable by stop motion. The majority of modern animation is done using CGI, though purists contend that CGI cannot create the same natural look or nuanced textures that stop motion can achieve. The process of animating with stop motion has also become more streamlined, with more advanced puppets being used and digital cameras reducing the amount of time necessary to complete a film.