How to Animate Fire

Learn how to animate fire from Joe Vena of the Children's Museum of the Arts in this stop motion tutorial from Howcast.

When you’re creating a stop-motion animation, it’s fund to give yourself challenges. One particular challenge I really enjoy is the animation of fire. This is something you can do in many, many different ways.

We’re going to find one fire trick right now. I am going to share it with you. We have our camera pointed down. We’re going to be working flat against this table here that’s covered with black paper.

What we have are paper cut-outs of flames. We have three different colors of paper. In the back we have cut-out of gel, orange lighting gel, or acetate, which gives you a nice little shine to it.

Sometimes you can use only paper or only gel. You can do it 3-dimensional. Some people use wax and light it from within. But this fire trick is very, very simple. It is something you can try at home, and we’ll show you how it works right now.

We have our fire positioned just under the camera right in the center there. We’re going to feature the fire in this animation. We have our fire positioned just so, and I will take a picture. We’re going to take another set.

We’re going to move our first fire out and match up our second fire. It does not have to be perfectly matched up and because it’s a different cut-out, it won’t perfectly match up. You want that slightly-off look in your overlay. Then you take your next picture.

We’ll move that fire set-up out of the way, and we’ll go into our third fire set-up. Again, place it without necessarily matching it completely up because they’re different. Take that picture, and we’ll go back to our first fire.

We’ll match it in there, and take our picture. Move that one out — picture of our third fire.

Now, I could do this all day. I love it, but we’re going to cheat a little bit in this case. We’re going to cut-and-paste our frames to repeat the six pictures that we’ve just shot.

We’re going to stop motion, click here, get all of those frames together, copy them, and paste them. Repeat it a couple of times there. When we play it through, we’ll see our fire’s a-burning.

That is the basics of animating fire, a very simple approach to it. I encourage you to try this, and then try some of your own methods for fire animation. Heat it up.