Wanted: Software for chaining digital photos into a stop-motion AVI or MPEG

Per sandratayler‘s most recent post, I’ve just learned that my 8-year-old wants to make a movie. The easiest way I can think of for him to make something that doesn’t look like a corny home video is for him to stop-motion-animate some of our very, very many toys.

(I did this when I was a kid. My movies all sucked. Stupid 8mm camera…)

We have a digital camera capable of taking video, but not single frames of video. It can, however, take single pictures, and can hold lots and lots at a low resolution (640×480 — twice what we’d be getting in video mode). So… what I need is a way to drop pictures into a video editor one at a time, and have it output an AVI or an MPEG.

I’m also on a budget. I need to be able to do this without spending money.

I’ve Googled this little project, and determined that I don’t know enough terminology to ask the right questions. There seems to be no shortage of software out there, but I’d rather not have to install a dozen different packages in order to find one that actually does what I need.

So… do any of you have recommendations?

40 thoughts on “Wanted: Software for chaining digital photos into a stop-motion AVI or MPEG”

  1. It sounds like the _easiest_ way would be to build animated gifs.

    That would require two steps.

    1) convert all the.jpg files to .gif.
    2) merge the .gif files into one.

    I’m not saying it’ll be hugely pretty or small, but it should do the job.

  2. I’d suggest getting your kid one of the Lego Creator products. It’s video software for your PC that lets the kid create/edit/record animation/movies using Legos on the PC. I’ve seen what they can do with it and it’s not bad. Amazon.com has used versions that are cheap too.


      1. Yes, I can see where that would definitely be a factor. I stopped in ’92 because the film accidentally got lost by Kodak after processing.
        And you can’t rerun weddings.
        So! Something like Paint Shop Pro or a free *.gif animator then.

          1. Nah they replaced the film stock under the “responsibility is limited…”clause. I think I still have a couple somewhere…. The joke is that it got lost AFTER being processed….so SOMEONE got those eleven (yes eleven) 50′ reels and presumably binned ’em.
            Doesn’t it make you wild that folks will do that rather than send it back with a “hey, Kodak!” letter? I always take unwanted prints back to the processors….

      1. Well, first you have to download the update which upgrades it to Windows Movie Maker 2. Then when you first start the program, there’ll be an option “Import pictures”.

  3. Hmm. No software recommendations, but I wanted to note that THE CORPSE BRIDE used digital still cameras instead of movie or video cameras. So it’s not merely possible, you can actually get much cleaner results than with ordinary video.

  4. i think iMovie can do all that, if not than i’m sure iLife can. it ought to have come preloaded on most newish macs. The 12″ powerbook I bought back in ’03 has it.

    1. If you have a Mac, there are several nice programs (and very inexpensive – I’d happily pay for one for you) specifically for taking still pix and turning them into movies that have live onionskinning features (Y’know, where you save a frame and it ghosts the image of it over what you’re posing so you can move your subject *just enough*?).

      So if you have a Mac, please let me know.

  5. iMovie definately can (having done so myself) but most moviemaking programs should be able to, as they can treat any image as a single frame of film in the editing process. That said, if your 8 year old has the patience to put even a tiny short together, it would be stunning. I made one for a film class a few years ago, and it nearly drove me mad, as well as taking up the better part of a semester, for only 60 seconds of footage. (And that was at 15 frames per second, which usually looks better for hand done work, as it hides some of the jerkyness.) On the other hand, if you need something to keep him occupied, and he can do all the computer work himself, I can think of few better time sinks. But it does take a near Aspergers attention span, not ADD flightyness to make something out of it.

  6. Depends on your OS, but the MPLAYER/MENCODER family can do that. I also suspect that the Transcode family can as well.

    You need to decide what your end result is going to be. Windows mwv, Quicktime, or AVI are your basic container choices, then what format your video is going to be in. MJPEG is going to be the most direct, MPEG2 is DVD standard, MPEG4 is standardish on the web. Then if you are adding audio, that is in yet another format, AC2 is DVD type (and is basically a raw audio file) MP3 is much more compressed if you are only going to view the result from a computer.

    Video is difficult and complex (probably more so than it needs to be, but it is an evolving area). I am trying to learn the intricacies as I get Flying Car Television ready for launch.

  7. Sounds like you’ve got a lot of options, but here’s another: Virtual Edit Lite should do what you want pretty easily. It’ll take still frames, string ’em together with (or without) a soundtrack, and output .avi. The free version is slightly limited, but the limitations shouldn’t matter at all for what you’re doing. ‘Course, it’s basically the same as Windows Movie Maker, but I like it.

  8. I have no advice, but I’m amused that people in the same house sometimes communicate via LiveJournal. It makes me feel better that LJ is my primary means of communication with many of my friends!

    Also, can I just mention again how much I adore your family?

    1. That’s okay. Kreely and I used to talk back and forth – and we’d be on two different desks in the same room. It’s just that IM is easier than talking when you have music running.

      1. It’s just that IM is easier than talking when you have music running.

        Totally agree. Especially when one of you has on headphones so you can hear something different.

        I tend to communicate via LiveJournal with when it is something I want a record of that I said when I said it.

        1. Hee, hee: “See, right here, it’s logged that I asked you to take out the garbage at 7:32 pm, EST, on Friday, February 10th…”
          “Yes, dear…”

          1. Sort of. More along the lines of “Dammit! I don’t hate your cats! I told you that your cat sleeping on my pillow makes my throat sore.” and “Let’s move to <fitb> because <fitb> has X which I think is neat/good/something I want to experience/live with/expose my children to which is NOT the same as saying I want to move to <fitb> because <fitb> is just not here.

            It’s a bit of a sore spot. He keeps defaulting back to “You hate my cats” and “You just want to move to <fitb> because it isn’t here” and I’m undecided about whether I should continue to pull my hair out, shout/scream or just walk away from him.

  9. Windows Movie Maker. Just import you JPGs. Change the options so that the default picture duration is 1 frame (instead of the 5 sec default) and then drag your pics to the story board.

  10. resolution

    I strongly encourage you to have him use highest possible resolution on your camera rather than low rez. That way, he can make changes and crop without having to worry too much about pixelization. The final out put is when you go to a lower rez….but then, I suspect I’m teaching my grandmother to suck eggs here. Schlock is always of highest quality, I’m sure you are more aware than I of the “shoot high, output low” school of graphic manipulation.

    1. Re: resolution

      Oh, and I assume we get to see the results, if any? 🙂 Just read Sandra’s journal and it sounds like the short person is choking on a mouthfull of inspiration! Quick! Get it out and onto film!

      1. Re: resolution

        Ummm… he’s 8 years old. I’m not going to devote 100mb of disk space per 5 seconds of footage to an 8-year-old’s project. 640×480 is fine for now.

        And yeah, we’ll probably post the results somewhere. But not until we’ve got something to show. We screen-tested duplos today, and demonstrated that the process will work, but that’s not worth hosting.

        1. Re: resolution

          Aww? Why not? CDs or DVDs are cheap for offloading when you’re done…and it’s not like the space can’t be recovered at need. You never know, you could be sitting on an 8 year old Spielberg…imagine how much a movie by an 8 year old Spielberg would be worth to film historians 100 years from now.

          Bryan “ok, so this has captured my imagination” Paschke

  11. As always the solution (IMO) is mplayer.

    Put them all in a folder, named sequentially, and then:
    mencoder “mf://*.jpg” -mf fps=25 -o output.avi -ovc lavc -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4
    (lifted directly out of the mplayer man page)

    Presto, avi of it. (mencoder can do a number of other formats (input or output) if desired.)

    Hope this helps.

  12. I second the recommendation for Windows Movie Maker. Even though it’s lame of me to suggest such a thing to a person I met a Linucon, of all places. 🙂

    But if you have a Windows XP machine, there’s a good chance that Windows Movie Maker is already installed on it. I know I did not have to install it on my XP machine, it was already there. And it is very easy to do that kind of thing in it. You just drag and drop each image into the “storyboard” or whatever they call it.

    1. movie maker

      Other advantage to movie maker: almost everybody has it. When you run into trouble, the rest of us can help…either by already knowing what’s wrong or by duplicating your error and saying “hmm…I’ll be darned, I can’t get it to work either!”

      Oh, and it’s FREE…not even a download required…come, succumb to the Gates Collective. Resistance is futile.

      Bryan “posted with firefox” Paschke

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