How To Build a Highly Professional Panning Device for Stop Frame Animation

Film still from panning test shot.

Film still from the Underworld.

Often I have a certain idea for an animation, but I don’t think too much how it could be done at first. It was the same with some of the scenes for my Orpheus film project: I want to do some fancy camera movements for my oncoming animated short, but I don’t own a professional equipment to create those movements easily.

So I just built an animation panning device from my old-school animation stand, a miter-box, a lot of gaffer tape and also a lot of cable straps today. (Everything is held in place by loads of gaffer tape and cable straps.)

It looks crappy, but it works:

The “back-bone” of the animation stand serves as a guide for the cameras. It has scales printed on its surface which make it easy to animate fluidly. Both cameras are taped to a miter-box that is used as a slide. Altogether it’s a bit shaky, but I can control the animation through the life feed within the software.

Panning Setup.

My highly professional panning in animation setup. There’s a larger version of this image on my flickr photostream.

– Highly professional, as I said!

I use two cameras here: I take the high res pictures with my digital DSLR, a Pentax ist DL2 which (sadly) hasn’t a video life feed. To control the movements and to rearrange things (if necessary), I use my Panasonic NV GS-90, a simply digital camcorder that is connected to the computer.

Okay, I admit: It’s not a bit professional. It’s all pretty semi-professional, probably.

Whatever professional means…

I think, it is okay so far because it’s working, but perhaps you have another low-budget idea?

Thanks for sharing!

– Jessica

11. July 2011 by Jessica
Categories: Stuff | Tags: , | 7 comments

Comments (7)

  1. A long time ago I used my Lego train set for this issue. On the positive side you can use bends etc. but I think it’s even more shaky than your solution. The test film is very good!

  2. Brilliant! It’s working well. I love the depth of your scene!

    Pro schmoe as long as it works you are making art!

  3. Great idea, looks like it will work well.

  4. Hi Nils! I first thought about any kind of toy train as well, but as you said: it has some advantages but remains shaky. Did you see the lens flares? They’re accidential, but only for you! ;)

    Shelley, what would I do without you cheerleading me? ;)
    I love the depth, too! I don’t know, I somehow find it more interesting or more intense, if the puppets are moving upright through their world. With flat cut-out animation you’ll achieve a different kind of depth… 

    Jeff, thank you!

    All of you, it’s great to have you here!

  5. A helpful suggestion from [Robert Lyons]( on [my vimeo page](

    *”Try getting some drawer slide at a hardware store, sandwich them between two pieces of wood and mount the camera to the upper board. Ive used this method as a cheap but smooth and incrementable camera mover for stop motion.”*

    Sounds great to me!

  6. Use a slide rule instead of a drawer slide if you need that extra bit of precision! :)

    No, really, it already looks quite perfect to me. Lighting already looks quite nice to me here– just because the lens flares are especially for Nils doesn’t say I may not find some joy in them. But of course different scenes are in need of different lighting models.

  7. > Did you see the lens flares?
    > They’re accidential, but only for you! ;)

    I gave you a star on Twitter. ;)