How to Animate an Explosion

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

A fantastic thing to practice animating are explosions. Explosions are, of course, can be very serious things, but in the case of animating, we can enjoy them, have a little fun. This is going to be a very, very lighthearted explosion. It will be a candy explosion. I have a piece of hard candy set up right here underneath our camera of course. We’re shooting down to make this candy explosion happen. I haven’t animated anything yet. I’m going to start by giving the candy a little bit of a shake before it explodes. So I’ll take my frame, and I’m going to move the candy just the tiniest amount. Remember, we’re shaking the candy back and forth, a little lead up to our explosion.

Tiny move one way, take your picture. Tiny move the other way, take your picture. There are no set rules, of course, to how you make an explosion happen in stop motion animation. One good thing to keep in mind, however, is that an explosion happens like this. Out. So you want to animate your elements to come out. As many or as few as you want burst from the candy and disappear from the screen. We’re going to make our explosion happen with some of this funfetti, because yes, it is a candy explosion. We’ll also employ some of this cotton. Cotton is wonderful in animation for clouds and of course smoke. In this case, we’ll be using it for smoke. And we’ll see how it goes.

We’ll start by adding some of the funfetti. And I’m also going to mask the candy if I can. A little extra funfetti for that first moment. Take our picture. Boom. I’m now going to employ just a little bit of our cotton. It gives a nice smoky look in particular if you pull it out a bit. We don’t want to pull it out too much yet, because our explosion has just begun. We’re going to put our cotton here. At this point, we will remove our piece of candy. It’s no longer necessary. It has at this point just begun to explode. Let those pieces fly out now. And remember an explosion is going to happen with some speed, so it doesn’t have to be the tiny moves we were using when we were making the candy tremble.

This can be a faster move, which means you’re making larger movements with your pieces. We’ll take some more of this funfetti. It’s always good to make sure that every element of the explosion is moving out that way and that nothing is staying still. Your viewer could see that thing that’s still, and it kind of kills the explosion. I think that will work. We’re emanating out. We’re going to take our piece of cotton, our smoke. We’re going to make it a bit wispier and larger. We’re also going to push our elements out. And now things are really flying away. We’ll let our cotton go into pieces. The smoke is blowing in all directions. And I’m at the point where I’m basically going to clear the frame now.

Cap the explosion with an empty frame. Everything has blown away. Very sad. One last sweep, and I’ll just kind of clear off the station. And I’ll take a last few frames here. And we’ll watch our explosion. Candy trembles and boom. So try an explosion at home. Be careful, of course. And take what I’ve done, modify it, do it differently. Do it bigger. Do it better. Enjoy yourself.