Something has been bugging me for a quite a long time, and I'm very interested to learn some other opinions and views on this. 

it has to do with the designation of the term Stop-Motion or Stop-Action (Is there a defined difference?) I remember reading that one of the earlier animators in the medium called it Trick Film. I actually think this term fits a little better as an umbrella term for the full gamut of processes and mediums one can use to make an animated film with reality as the canvas.

Let's add more confusion. There are even sub-mediums within this medium: clay characters, fabricated puppets, found objects, live actors, nature. There's also the occasional mixed media project, which nowadays has spawned the new standard of puppets + CGI, and now 3D printed CGI. Each of these require different skills, time-frames, production pipelines, crews, and materials. But we still call all of these very different types of animation "Stop-Motion" or "Stop-Action"

How many more things can we throw into the melting pot of "animated films we have no other category for"?

Thinking about how many combinations of skills and materials and tools and techniques can be used to make an animated "trick film" it's easy to see why there isn't much effort being made to define and categorize these films more accurately. But is "Stop-Motion" or "Stop-Action" good enough a term to define all these different things? I mean, the word "Stop" is already ludacris to associate with animation. Stop means to not move, and animation is the process of creating motion, so what the hell is "Stop-Motion Animation" supposed to mean?

The only style I feel the term "Stop Motion" or "Stop Action" applies best is with live footage that has been cut up into an animation. You see these on Vine all the time, revived from popularity back in the 80's/90's on many kids shows like Sesame Street. In this style, live action footage is cut down to fewer observable frames that are then played in sequence.

An offshoot of this (yet still very much it's own approach) would be where live actors are carefully posed frame by frame. The two methods are often used together though, and it's actually difficult to find a film with one method and not a trace of the other.

In general, characters are alive and fully capable of moving, but are deliberately stopped (on set or in post) to create the illusion of animation. There's a little irony in that, but more often than not the process facilitates creating an illusion of some kind. There are a lot of Stop-Motion/Stop-Action films like this. So many that it's hard to believe there hasn't been a unique term created for them. Personally, I would call these types of films "Stop-Action". It fits the process and end result better in my opinion.

Claymation is the one method that is actually given it's own clear and understandable designation. It even has the primary material in the name itself. No questions or confusion there. *Replacement Animation has it's own name, but there are extremely few films made entirely with replacement animation. It's more of a technique in the toolbox of any animator.

In conclusion... to boil this discussion down to it's bare essentials, how are the following two videos, extremely different from one another and requiring an almost completely different set of skills and processes, defined under the same term of Stop-Motion/Action?

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hmmm... Still a strange name for it though. Pixelation is already a word with a completely different definition. The guy credited for coining the term came up with it fairly recently. I wonder if many other people accept the term.

In my mind, it works... I view it all as the 'magic' happening between the frames while the motion or action is stopped. The two films are alike in that manner. So I guess I'm okay with the terms being umbrella-ish....

I always thought of it that way too actually. And under that criteria I think the term "stop motion" works. Every once in a while though I'll see a film or a video that makes me wonder if all of these things don't deserve their own category.

I just find it interesting, more or less. The fact that Stop-Motion is a collective term for so many different styles and means of animated filmmaking is sort of it's charm anyway. Saying you're going to be a stop-motion animator is like saying you're going to be an artist. Ok... what kind? What are you going to make? Do you sculpt or paint or draw? It's so vague.

I think that's the appeal for me at least. Because there's less definition, it's a more expressive medium in general. Deciding how to make a stop-motion is a little like browsing through an all-in-one hardware craft and toy store with a backroom full of chemicals and a camera kiosk near the checkout. So many possibilities!


I use the term Pixilation (not pixelation, nothing to do with pixels)  for animating live humans.  Partly because I don't like to see so many of the public now thinking that is primarily what stop-motion means.  That's what mainly comes up on Youtube, more than the painstaking craft of creating and animating characters and worlds.  Usually, animating live humans has the opposite aim to puppet animation, it wants the movement to look unreal, otherwise why bother when every phone has a video camera built in.  Whereas we work hard to get a sense of weight and momentum, as well as acting, into our puppets, even if it is stylised and cartoony.  (as always there are exceptions - like Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb, where the main reason for pixilation is to put the live actors and puppets in the scene together.  The movement is very odd and nothing like live video though, and that's part of it's charm.)

I accept that stopmotion covers a lot of things - any animation where actual objects are moved between frames, as opposed to one drawing replacing another, as in classic cel animation.  So that means 2d cut-out animation is a form of stopmotion, though it isn't really what I picture when I hear the word.  But I don't think drawing on a whiteboard or blackboard, shooting a frame, then re-drawing, is stop motion.  But of course there are hybrids of all sorts, like post-it notes with different drawings on them, which is classic 2d, except the bits of paper seem to move around in the frame.

Probably Puppet Animation or Model Animation are more precise terms for what I like to do.

I think 'Pixilation' is a fairly common term used for animating humans, though maybe only in animation circles. I doubt any of my non-animator friends (why are they even my friends?! ) know the term. Like Nick, I sometimes refer to it (stop-motion) as puppet-animation as it is self-explanatory - similarly lego-animation for brick-films.

When I was a kid I used to hear it (stop-motion) being called 'stop-frame' animation. Not so much now, though occasionally.

I think "3-D animation" best describes this diverse medium as a whole.  But I do like "trick film."  The term "stop-motion" is confusing to explain to people, as we aren't stopping film cameras anymore.  We are making film from stills. "Claymation" is the only term that people recognize, at least in my community.  When I tell people I'm making a stop-motion film or a puppet animation, it's deer in the headlights.

Not implying that the public should dictate how we label our art.  Just some thoughts....

In many countries, specially central, east Europe and Russia the term "Puppet Film" is very often used.

The pioneers called it stop motion. That's good enough for me.  As StopmoNick points out, there are hybrids or even mix-media. I often call what I do "TRUE 3-D" seeing I work in the physical world rather than the digital. Then again, due to space I incorporate CGI 3-D with my StopMo.   

Right. George Pal had his "puppetoons".

Wilker said:

In many countries, specially central, east Europe and Russia the term "Puppet Film" is very often used.

Good discussion. Shocked it's so old:-D

Ed Riccardi said:

The pioneers called it stop motion. That's good enough for me.  As StopmoNick points out, there are hybrids or even mix-media. I often call what I do "TRUE 3-D" seeing I work in the physical world rather than the digital. Then again, due to space I incorporate CGI 3-D with my StopMo.   

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