How to Animate Fish Swimming

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

So it’s fun to pick living creatures and animate those, and we’re going to try out a little animating of some swimming fish. There are, as with so many elements of stop motion animation, there are many ways to approach and attack animating swimming fish. We are going to use actual fish pictures in some cases and fish illustrations that have been printed and laminated. Great way to make an animatable puppet. And you can animate these with a camera that shoots down and a multi-plane. So we could have two layers of our fish. And I have four fish all set up ready to be animated. And maybe we’ll keep our fish just kind of swimming in place for a moment. We’ll just move them ever so slightly before starting, and there we go. We’re going to get a little move on the fish.

Take a picture. And then just the slightest move. You don’t want them to be jittering up and down too much, just moving slightly. It’s really nice to kind of have one fish in front of the other. With the multi-plane you get a sense of depth or a school happening. And perhaps now we’ll begin to swim them out ever so slowly. They’ve made a decision, and they’re going to swim out. It’s interesting to consider when you’re animating that you are creating a picture, and that have picture should have composition.

Think about where the fish are in your frame. Think about what that balance is, and as they move, let them all move sort of gracefully together. And perhaps they’ll get a little bit faster as they exit. And of course, to make your fish move faster in the film, you want to animate them with slightly larger moves. And they’re going to go pretty fast now, because there’s another fish coming. That’s what the viewer doesn’t know just yet. Out go these fish. We’ll have a moment before that next fish approaches, and this fish is going to be a little bit different. We’re having fun with these photo cutouts. So here comes the dogfish. Basically, all I’ve done here is print and cutout my fish, but I’ve also printed and cutout a dog head and just put him over the fish face like that. Feature our dogfish for a moment before he makes his exit. And there you have it. Swimming fish, and a dog fish. Now in this case, I printed these fish. They were already made, and I animated them. I encourage you to try something like this and then make your own fish. You can draw them, cut them out, and animate them.