Stop Motion Cooking: How To Cut Anything (Even Batteries) | Tortor Smith | Skillshare

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Stop Motion Cooking: How To Cut Anything (Even Batteries)

teacher avatar Tortor Smith, Animator, Artist and Writer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

9 Lessons (28m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Tools & Objects

    • 3. What To Cut?

    • 4. Technique One

    • 5. Technique Two

    • 6. Technique Three

    • 7. Animating Motion Blur

    • 8. Sharing Your Video

    • 9. Final Thoughts

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About This Class

Stop motion cooking is an incredibly popular sub-genre of stop motion animation. One of the classic shots you see in these films are objects being cut to become ingredients.

There are many ways you can do this, and I believe there is a technique or method for every skill level - in this class I explore three of these. 

This class is great for beginners (with some knowledge), hobbyists or animators already working in stop motion. The class doesn't teach stop motion set-up, so whatever level you are at there is an expectation of knowing how to set up your camera, lights and other equipment before taking this class.

The main learning you will experience is in the methods of how to approach different cuts with stop motion animation. You can apply this learning to your own preferred method of creation. 

BONUS: I will also be teaching a really easy motion blur technique too.

In this course you will learn:

  • How to animate¬†a basic stop motion cut
  • How to animate¬†an intermediate stop motion cut
  • How to animate¬†an advanced¬†stop motion cut
  • How to use¬†Photoshop to composite (for the advanced cut)
  • Adding motion blur to a knife swish, with tin foil
  • Plus other¬†tips and¬†advice

You will be creating:

  • A stop motion cut of your own, it could be anything, the¬†only limits are your own imagination and the objects you can find.¬†

You will need:

  • A¬†DSLR (that is Dragonframe compatible) or a smartphone. A full list of Dragonframe compatible cameras can be found here:

  • A form of stop motion capture software. I will be using¬†Dragonframe 4 (30-day FREE trial is fine) or you can use the¬†Stop Motion Studio (a free app you can download on your smartphone)

  • Object(s) to animate. This can be anything you have lying around at home¬†
  • Some clay or plasticine
  • A pair of scissors
  • A knife or other cutting implement
  • Some sticky tack
  • Some tin foil
  • Video editing software like Premiere Pro¬†
  • Photo editing software like¬†Photoshop¬†


In case you haven't met me in a class yet: I'm Tortor, a stop motion animator with over 14-years experience. I began as a self taught hobbyist, went on to study at degree level, and have since worked on a feature film and in the television industry as well as setting up my own company. Stop motion is my passion, and well I guess teaching is too - I love to share what I know and help people like you develop your skills. 

Learn even more with my tutorials on YouTube and if you have any questions, about anything in this class, or anything else, please do direct them my way. You can find me @animatortor or @tortorsmith on pretty much any platform. 

Find other great Skillshare classes on animation.

Meet Your Teacher

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Tortor Smith

Animator, Artist and Writer


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1. Introduction: I'm Tortor and I'm a stop motion animator from London with over 14 years experience. I've worked on a feature film. I've worked in the television industry and now I mainly do my own stuff here on Skillshare teaching you and also over on my channel where I put out other content that's educational and also some short films of my own. In this class, you're going to learn how to cut absolutely anything you want in stop motion animation. You could come across many stop motion cooking videos on YouTube, and other social platforms. There are incredibly popular, but some people just don't know how to approach the cut. There are lots of different methods to doing this. I'm going to be going through three different methods for achieving great cutting results. We're going to start right at the beginning on a beginner method, which anybody can do without any experience, all the way through to those of you that are slightly more ambitious and wanting something more advanced. The only limit is the objects you can find on your own imagination. The main softwares I'll be using are Dragonframe, Premiere Pro, and Photoshop. But if you don't have those specific softwares, try not to get caught up in the technicalities. They'll still be plenty of learning and value in the methods that I outline and hopefully you can apply what I'm saying to the software that you prefer or feel more comfortable in. 2. Tools & Objects: So just to make sure that you're all prepared and ready to go, let's do a quick rundown of what you need for this class. Obviously, like I said before, I'm presuming you already have your stop-motion setup ready to go, so you've got your phone or your camera, your lights, somewhere to animate. But the other things you're going to need for doing some stop-motion cutting, are your objects, some sticky tack, a pair of scissors, some kitchen tin foil, some clay or plasticine. This will be used in technique number three. You will also need a remote way of taking pictures. So whether you're using Dragonframe, you'll need your keypad ready. It can be the Bluetooth version or the wired version. Or if you are using a stop motion studio on your phone, you'll need to pair it to another device or have your headphones plugged in so that you can take your pictures without touching your phone. Don't forget your knife too. 3. What To Cut?: What do you want to chop up today? You can literally choose anything, a toilet roll tube, a camera lens, or even a battery. There is a method for everything. Don't ever feel limited to something that you are willing to destroy. Choose your iPhone, your shoe, your favorite pen. You also might want to think about what your object is going to be cut into. Are you actually just cutting in a literal sense? Or do you want there to be a transformation on the cut? Often in stop motion cooking videos, when an object is cut, it changes into something else. Having an unexpected transformation makes your animation more intriguing. The project for this class is to simply cut anything. Choose your object, get it at the ready, and let's get started. 4. Technique One: Technique 1. I'm going to call this the chop and slide. This is a popular technique in many stop-motion cooking videos. It's great if you don't actually want to damage the object that you are cutting because, well, you don't actually kind to into it at all. Animations often use this technique as a transformation tool. In my example here, I'm going to be cutting a camera lens into many notebooks. But you can literally choose anything that you want, and there are loads of examples on the Internet to give you ideas. Now I'm in dragon frame and to begin, I want to hold on the first frame for a moment before my hands come in, because this helps the viewer register what is in the scene before the action starts. To do this, you could take several pictures or you can right-click on the picture and select hold. Then you can type in the number of frames that you want that picture to be held for as many as you want. I've chosen five. After this, you want to bring your hands and the knife in ready to cut. As you can see, both my hands are in short hair. I am using my dragon frame keypad on the floor and taking the pictures by tapping the Enter button with my big toe. I've found this to be the best method for capturing pictures when both your hands are in short. I highly encourage you to puppy pad on the floor. If you got a hard floor, you can use a little bit of sticky tack to keep it in place, and just make sure that you've got your toe lined up with the right button. It's pretty easy to animate in this way. To start the cuts, you want to bring your knife down a little, and then as it moves down from the top add in the object that you want it to be cut into. In my case a notebook. This is where sticky tack may come in handy too, to hold your object up. You may even want to put it underneath your first object, like my camera lens to keep that in place as well. The main thing with stop-motion animation is you don't want things to move unless they are meant to be moving. Also you'll notice that in order to change the position of the notepad each frame, my hands are having to leave the scene and come back. I have also toggled on the onion skinning feature, also known as a ghost layer. To talk alone onion skinning, you want to go to the bottom of the dragon frame interface and you'll see this red dot, if you slide that towards the right, that is going to give you dropped opacity on the previous frames and you'll see that the same time I show the light the frame. This helps a lot when you're trying to line things up more easily after taking your hands out and putting them back in. When you animating, things often look most natural when there's an arc to the movement. I find a rolling motion with the cut works well. If you tip the point downwards, as you're cutting, and then rock back to the part where the blade meets the handle, you get a natural arc to a motion rather than a straight down cut, which can look a little bland. Tilt the tip of the blade down first before moving the knife down to cut from the handle end. As the knife comes down, you want to make your object fall away like a slice has been cut. Gently, lower it frame by frame until it has completely hit the desk or surface that you animating on. Again, sticky tack going to be really useful here to hold things up. Try and place this sticky tack in a position where you can't see it through the camera. Otherwise, you're going to have to edit this out in post-production as well. If you're not able to hide it completely, then it's essentially like rig removal and you just will need to paint that out afterwards in something like Photoshop. A really nice touch here is to keep that movement flowing for a couple of frames. When it is flat on the desk, keep it moving so that you are easing out of the fall. To do this, you want do make some really smooth movements until it eases to a complete stop. Slide that objects across the desk just a little bit and you'll find that you're full looks more natural. The hardest part of this method, especially if you are working alone like me, is to coordinate the picture taking with what you are doing. Make sure to take your time and to check each frame before moving forwards in your sequence. With stop-motion it's really hard to go backwards and change things once they've been done. If you've moved forward three pictures and then decide one of them is incorrect, then you're likely going to have to start again, which can be really frustrating. There's no hurry. Take your time and make sure everything's perfect before you move forwards. You'll see that the method for technique number one is pretty simple, but there is still a big skill involved to get things looking slick. Once you've mastered technique number one, you might want to take things up a level, which I'm going to show you in technique number two. 5. Technique Two: Now let's take things up to an intermediate level. I'm going to call this method "For Reals" because you do actually cut and end up destroying the object of your desire. For this example, I'm going to use something that I don't mind being ruined. A toilet roll tube. Now this method is slightly more advanced because you need to take everything out of the frame to cut it and then put it all back in and line it up again pretty accurately to get this looking neat. It takes a bit of practice to do that well. I'll be giving you some top tips though, so don't worry. Grab yourself, a pair of scissors and your chosen objects and we're ready to get started. This method begins in the same way as method 1. Hold on the object for the first few frames and then bring your hands and knife into shot. I've enabled onion skinning again on this one to help me see where things were in the previous frame. That will really help get things lined backup more accurately. Now you want to be a bit of force behind the chop. Animate the knife rising up above your object before you bring it down. When the knife makes contact with the top of the toilet roll, you can actually push down a little bit deforming the shape because toilet roll tubes are flexible. After this squashed frame. We actually want to cut our tube. At this point, you'll want to remove it from the frame. We're going to cut a section off. This is where your scissors come in. But first of all its really important to pick up your object in a way that the front face for the camera is very obvious when you go and put it back in. With the toilet roll tube we can turn on its edge. If the line that goes around the toilet roll tube doesn't line up with the previous picture, then it's going to be obvious that we've taken the out and it will ruin the illusion. Be careful to pick up your object in a way that when you put it back in, it's easy to line it back up again and get the correct side of the object facing forwards. Now in the case of a toilet roll, when we're cutting a part away, we wanted to cut a clean disc of complete full disk of the tube. We don't want to cut inwards from the end of the tube because that would create an incomplete ring. We want to cut away a clean ring. Instead, I'm going to use the pointed end of a scissor blade to pierce a small hole through the cardboard. Then this will allow us to get the scissors in, to cut around and cut that ring off. Now to do this, I suggest putting some sticky tag in the middle of the tube behind the way you're going to pierce a hole. This will protect your fingers from getting cut by the blade when it comes through. Then use this whole tube, like I say, cut around the whole tube and create that ring section that will come away from the main tube. Next you want to place everything back in the scene. This is where the onion skinning or the ghost layer is going to be super useful. Get everything lined backup to the best that you can. You'll probably need your sticky tag here to hold things in place, especially the thin piece that you've just cut off to keep that in the right position. When you are happy with the placement of everything, you want to animate the knife coming down all the way to the table. Just like with the notebooks in the example before, you want to lean that ring piece of the tube outwards each frame, animate that falling away from the main object and onto the desk and continue that movement a little bit to ease out of the fall. Now, it's just a case of repeating that whole process for as many pieces that you want to cut off from your main object. If that wasn't complicated enough, let's move on to technique number 3, which is the most advanced way of cutting something in still motion. 6. Technique Three: For all more ambitious animators watching this, let's take a look at an even more advanced technique. The Cut and Composite. Now this method is especially useful again, when perhaps you want to cut something that you don't actually want to hurt in real life, like your finger or in my case, a battery, which is just plain dangerous. Don't do that. For this method, you're going to need some photo editing software like Photoshop, your object and some plasticine. There will be a lot of editing involved and to do this well, you will probably spent most of your time in post-production. Again, this method begins in the same way. A frame hold, and then your hands and noise enter the scene to cut your object. But when you are at the point of cutting down in this one, you want to switch your object out for a plasticine substitute. In my example, I am using a battery, and therefore, I have made a plasticine lump with similar proportions. Make sure yours is close in size or a little smaller than your original object. This will make more sense later on. So at the point where your knife is going to start cutting through your object, you'll want to swap the object out with your plasticine replacement. You're actually going to cut through this. Now, this method works particularly well when you're adding in something pulling out from the cut. In my case, I thought it would be fun to animate some battery acid leaking out. To make this process as streamlined as possible, I made some replacements. Little pools of green that incrementally get bigger, and also some bubbles of varying sizes to try and make it look like the liquid was bubbling. Once my battery was cleanly cut through, this battery acid would start oozing out and bubbling. You could do this with anything, be imaginative. As you can see, everything we're doing here is now clay. We have our clay battery substitute and our animating our clay battery acid. When you are happy with the sequence and all the liquid that has settled, it's time to bring all of these images into an imaging editing software like Photoshop to truly bring this stop-motion cut to life and composite everything together. The first thing that you're going to want to do is bring in the first picture that you took of your object before your hands and the knife came in and bring this into Photoshop. We're going to then erase around the object. We're going to cut the object out. I just use the eraser tool. It's really simple. It's not necessarily the best method for doing this but this is the way that I like to do things. I used a soft edge brush and you want to keep the shadow there as well, because we're going to be using this battery in every single frame, putting into the scene and overlaying it on the clay to make it look like the battery was always there. You want to keep the shadow so that we can make this look as realistic as possible every frame, and I've just used a really soft edge eraser to go around the area. I've increased the size to really get a nice soft edge. This is going to blend in better when we overlay it in to our next image. The next step is to bring in you other images in the sequence. I've chosen two different ones here to show you how to do this. This is an image early on in the sequence so we've just cut the battery. What you want to do is you want to just drag and drop your master battery across the battery that we just cut around, removed the background from. You want to pull that across into the image and overlay that on the clay. Now, don't change the scale of this at all. You want to keep the dimension the same, but you can play with the rotation if it's not quite right. I've put this on a 50% opacity so you can see the clay through. I'm just using the eraser tool here to chop off one end, to overlay on the cut off part of the battery. [MUSIC] I'm duplicating that layer and I'm going to make the other end of the battery fit the other piece by the knife. Now, we're going to erase what we don't want on this side as well. I put it on 50% opacity again, it's really clear to see the image through and we can see where we want to erase some of the image. I'm just using a really soft eraser to get rid of all that stuff that is overlaying my hand and the knife. I made it nice and clean and then I'm going to bump the opacity back up to 100%. Now you see this is looking quite good, but it's not perfect because we need some extra shadow. There are a few extra alterations we need to make. The end of the battery obviously it wasn't cutting real life so we need to draw that on. I've just created a new layer, put that above the battery. I've selected the color from the end of the battery with the eye dropper tool, and then we are just painting an oval-shaped to [inaudible] the cross section of the battery as it had been cut through. You may want to add a bit of extra shadow. To do that, I'm just creating a new layer again and I've darkened my color slightly. I'm just going to paint that at the bottom. This is on a 30% opacity. This is just going to overlay slightly and give a little bit more depth to that shadow on the end of the battery. You'll see that this makes things look a little bit more real. But there are still some things we need to do. At the end of the battery that's been cut off, the shadow just stops abruptly. It would be good for that shadow to come underneath a bit more. I've put a new layer underneath. I'm using a soft paintbrush tool to paint in a bit of shadow. I've just slightly reduce the opacity to make that blend in as nicely as possible with the original shadow that was there. Now, I'm going to show you a second example. Because we're happy with that end of the battery that we did, we can pull that across straight away. We don't need to create that again. To do that, select all of those end of battery layers. We want the shadow and the piece of battery that we've cut. If we select those, click down and hold shift, we can drag across to our new photograph and they will end in exactly the same place. There's nothing more that we'll need to do with that bit of the battery. However, the other part of the battery, we can't use that because we've cut it too small, so we need to go back to our master battery, the first one that we cut out and we're going to pull that across to overlay on this image. As you can see, we've got the head of the battery is still attached again, we're going to want to erase that out using a soft erase brush tool again and just carefully go around the battery acid or whatever is leaking out if you've done that in your own animation. Now, you'll see we've also got the problem of the cross section of the battery not being there. What we're going to do is we're going to try and use the one we created in the other scene. If you're actually editing your images in sequence, this will work a lot better. But because there's quite a difference in the sequence from the two images that I'm showing you, this doesn't line up quite correctly. To make this line up better, I'm just going to adjust the rotation slightly and then I'm going to neaten up some of the base of this cross section. You can see overlays the acid a bit, I'm just using a soft eraser tool to get rid of that. Also at the bottom here, there's a bit of yellow where it shouldn't be. I'm going to use the clone stamp tool too, duplicate some of the shadow area just to cover that over. Where that now over hangs on the acid, I'm just going to use the soft eraser tool to get rid of that, and then things look a lot more neat. Now, we've still got the problem that some of the battery is over hanging on my thumb there. I'm dropping the opacity of that layer down to 50% so we can clearly see where overlays. I'm just using the soft eraser tool again to erase that section that's covering my thumb. We're just using really basic tools here in Photoshop. We're creating new layers. We are using the opacity feature to change the opacity on layers. We're using the eraser, the paintbrush, and occasionally the clone tool. This is really basic stuff. It does take a bit of time though. If you're doing this on every single image, but it is worth it. You can see in the finished result looks pretty cool. But my suggestion would be to go through your images in sequence. Don't do what I've just done here. I've used two completely different examples from the sequence just to show you how it's done. But when you do this, you want to go through picture one, two, three, four and do them in sequence like that to get best results. Because then you can drag and drop by holding down the Shift key and it will land in the same position on the next image and things will really start looking good. Again, don't scale your object. You want the proportions to remain the same. Otherwise, things are going to start to look really weird. Once you are set with where your object is placed in the scene, try and leave it there and do the whole holding down Shift and dropping it on your next picture and then just making subtle alterations where you need to. If you get stuck at any point or you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch. You can do that in the discussion window. You can message me on Skill Share, and I'll be happy to help as much as I can. 7. Animating Motion Blur: Sometimes you might want a really fast cut, a really quick flick of the knife, animate that motion just on its own and things will look a little bit flat, a little bit uninteresting and well, it doesn't really register well with the human eye. When things move fast in real life, there's motion blur when you watch anything moving at speed, it's never a clear frame-by-frame image. You're seeing a blurred, the movement is moving so fast that our eyes can't interprate the clarity of that object or thing. Seeing that blur is more of natural to our eyes and it helps us register that something's moving at speed. So when we add this into our animation, it makes things look more natural and feel right. It's really easy to do this with a fast cut and stop motion, and all you need is some basic kitchen 10 foils, so if you haven't got it already, go in your kitchen drawer or cupboard, grab yourself a role of foil and I'm going to show you just how you can create motion blur in a quick knife whip. When you create motion blur in this way, it's really important to keep the dimensions of the swish the same as the knife or object that you are blurring. You don't want to change the dimensions or proportions. It's not like a squash and stretch. You want a constant size, so from the tip of the blade to the base of the blade, that is the width you want in your tin foil. To get the best result. You will need to make one long trail, one solid piece of foil. You can type for this slightly at the end, but you don't need to do that a lot to make things look natural. Simply wrap one end of the foil around your knife a little bit to keep it in place. Adding this motion, blur into the sequence is super simple and will only actually need to use this foil for one frame of the animation. But which frame I hear you ask. Essentially we want to use this on the largest spaced frame. As you move your knife to cut, it accelerates so the movements are going to get bigger and bigger. At the midpoint of your swing, you'll have a really large movement. That will be the fastest part of the movement. So you'll want to use your foil on the biggest movement in your sequence. That foil will come behind the knife and trail across. It will reach the gap from one picture as position to the current picture, so that trail will become your motion blur to cover that distance. The motion drag appears behind the knife, is always going to come after, whatever the object is that you are moving, you will photograph it that for that one frame and then you'll take it away and you start easing into the slowdown of your movements. Your picture increments are going to start getting smaller again. You might want to switch your knife back the other way and the same process will apply. Your picture increments will gradually get bigger. Then on the biggest movement you'll put your foil back in for one frame and then you'll ease back out of your knife swing. It's as simple as that, and it makes such a difference if you compare before and after, which one looks more natural. It's just really easy and quick thing to add in to your animation and makes such a difference. 8. Sharing Your Video: Once you have created your stop-motion cutting video, please do share it with me. I'd love to see what you've created and if you need any help or tips along the way, don't hesitate to get in touch. I'm always available. You can create a discussion post here on Skillshare, or you can find me on YouTube and contact me through there. To share your video, simply upload it to somewhere like YouTube or Vimeo, and then drop your link in the project window. Also feel free to share progress shots any stills that you've taken along the way, of your process and what you're doing. I love seeing behind the scenes stuff. Share as much or as little as you want. I've made an example project myself, which will give you some ideas on how you can present your project to me. The most important thing with anything creative is to have fun. Choose an object, get cutting, and show me what you've come up with. 9. Final Thoughts: I do hope you enjoyed this class today and hopefully you learned something as well. If you like the way that I teach here on Skillshare, don't forget to follow me because that means you'll be notified of any future classes that I make. I also put out a lot of free content over on my YouTube channel. If you want to learn more, definitely make sure you check that out and subscribe to see all my new stuff. You can find me on pretty much any platform @tortorsmith or @animatortor. No matter how you found this class today, do consider leaving a review as well because it really helps future students understand whether there is value to be had in this class and whether it's worth their time in taking it. I try and make every single class better than the one before. Your feedback's incredibly valuable and it always helps me to get better and hopefully make stuff that you enjoy and that you can learn from as well.