Using Cheese / Cinecutie / Audacity to Create a Stop Motion Video

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A popular trend with youth today is to create lego stop-motion videos and post up to YouTube...

.. You can use the Cheese / Audacity and Cinecutie (Cinelerra) open source applications to do this for free...

In this tutorial, I will discuss how I created the stop motion Lego video called "How to Define Lego Pain" using these applications.
Here is a link to my YouTube Video: [ ]

Capture Web Cam Pictures via Cheese Application

There are various ways to capture pictures for your Stop-Motion video: You can take pictures from your Digital Camera, and then upload the pictures to your computer, or you can use your Webcam to record your pictures (no uploading required).

There are advantages and limitations of each method. Digital cameras may provide a macro lens to allow close-up of figures, and have connectors to various supporting platforms like tripods or booms. On the other hand, many digital cameras do not number there pictures in a convenient format for loading into a Non-Linear Video editor. For example, cameras may not add "leading zeros" before picture numbers, and sometimes the number can be loaded into a non-linear editor out of sequence...

For this tutorial, I will be using the Cheese application to record pictures. This application correctly numbers each picture for loading all pictures in correct sequence into a non-linear video editor, and no uploading is required. Unfortunately, there is no macro capability with this webcam, so you will notice a blurred vision in some of the frames... Recent versions of Ubuntu are better at detected various manufacturers of webcams.


Make certain your webcam is connected to your Ubuntu system, and make certain that you have the cheese application installed on your system (is does NOT install by default). To learn how to use the Synaptic Package manager to install applications, click on the following link:
[ Install Applications in Ubuntu ]

To launch the Cheese application: Click APPLICATIONS -> SOUND & VIDEO -> Cheese

The Cheese application is designed to capture pictures, video and audio. There are buttons on the application to allow you to select the type of capture you would like to do. The default setting is to capture pictures from the webcam. It is recommended to Remove the count-down for each picture taken before proceeding with your session (can be annoying if you are capturing a long series of photos for stop-motion photography) by selecting the Cheese menu, and de-select the countdown checkbox option...

To create a stop-motion picture capture session, move the Lego piece by very small amounts for each sequence, then click on the "Take a Photo" button. You should see the picture appear in the viewing area below. If you are not happy with the picture you can remove it by right-clicking on the picture and selecting Move to Trash...

All pictures taken in the current Cheese session are stored in the Pictures/Webcam subdirectory of your home directory.

It is recommended to move those pictures to another storage directory from your Video Editing project. For example, create a folder by project name, and then create a subdirectory called pics, and move those pictures to that location. Note that when you move those pictures, then the Cheese application no longer stores those pictures, and will be ready for the next picture capture session...

Loading and Editing Pictures in Cinecutie (Cinelerra)


The next step would be to launch a video editor to produce a video file to be uploaded to your YouTube account.

There are many types of video editors that you can use... I prefer to use a non-linear video editor like Cinecutie or Cinelerra. I am using the experimental version of Cinelerra (called Cinecutie) since it has better fonts for titles. For all intents and purposes, there are no major difference between Cinecutie and Cinelerra - they work the same way... A non-linear editor is better suited to cutting, copying and pasting frames or a range of frames (cut points). All material is saved and can be recalled or re-used as needed. This non-linear method is superior to linear video editors which can be more "destructive" when you cut and paste frames.

Here is a link to a more comprehensive definition of a non-linear video editor: [ ]

Here is a link to the community version of Cinelerra: [ ]

Installing Cinecutie (Cinelerra)

To this day, I do NOT understand why a powerful application like Cinelerra (or Cinecutie) is not bundled by the default Ubuntu Studio install...

The best way to obtain the Cinelerra is to go to the following link, and follow instructions how to make Cinelerra available in the repositories for the Synaptic Package Manager. Link to Instructions:

[ ]

Follow the instructions, then run the Synaptic Package Manager and search for Cinelerra. You should see several versions of Cinelerra. For this tutorial, I installed the Cinecutie paackage.

Using Cinecutie (Cinelerra)

Launching / Setting up Cinecutie

To launch the Cinecutie application, click APPLICATIONS -> SOUND & VIDEO -> Cinecutie In addition to several windows, a "tip of the day" dialog box will appear. Click on the red close button to exit that dialog box...

You should notice that by default, Cinecutie will display four application windows. Each of these windows is for a specific purpose:

  • Program Window (bottom left-hand side) - Displays the timeline of the project and allows user to move to entry points. This window also allows for all menu driven operations.
  • Viewer Window (Top left-hand side) - Allows user to load and preview source media and clips
  • Compositor Window (Top right-hand side) - Allows user to effect video in terms of the timeline, but does NOT affect the clips or media.
  • Resources Window (Bottom right-hand side) - Contains speciaL effects, transitions, and various media clips. These resources are usually dragged to the areas (i.e. "marked frames" or "cut points") in order to be inserted into the video production.

In this tutorial, we will make use of the Program Window, the Viewer Window, and the Resources Window...

Before using Cinecutie, we should "think ahead" how we are going to use this application. For example, how many frames (pictures) will be used to represent 1 second of time. Remember, the process of stop motion photography is to take many pictures of a moving object to simulate action. Normal motion picture cameras capture 30 pictures or "frames" per second (fps). For stop motion photography, we can go with a lower number (depending on preference). For this video, I reduced the frames per second (fps) from 30 to 15. Some stop motion applications can have settings as low as 4 fps. I really depends on what the user wants to accomplish...

In the Cinecutie Program Window, click the FILE menu, and then select New.

In the New Project dialog box, change the Framerate text box to read 15.0000 (refer to diagram on right). Click on the green check mark to accept.

Loading Files


After setting the default frames per second, within the Program Window, click the FILE menu, then select Load Files.

In order to allow adding other pictures into an existing session, it is recommended to set Insertion Strategy to Concatenate to Existing Tracks.

Then move to folder that contains the pictures. Click on the first picture, then scroll down to the bottom and SHIFT-CLICK the last picture. You should notice all files are now selected.

Click on the green check mark to load the selected files.

You should now notice the loaded pictures in the Program Window. You can select the the length of time intervals by clicking and selecting a value at the bottom left-hand side of the program window. This will allow you to stretch the time line, so you can view each picture as a visual element. This can make it easier to mark frames for editing.

Navigating Among Frames / Marking Frames

Although there are many methods to navigate around your video project, we will just be mentioning the basic methods.

Near the top of the Program Window are transport controls for navigation:

  • Green arrow (pointing right)- Play video
  • Green arrow (pointing left)- Play video backwards
  • Red Square - Stop playing video (remain at stopped location)
  • White arrow (right of stop button)- advance one frame (picture) forward
  • White arrow (left of stop button) - advance one frame (picture) backward

The additional transport control buttons are useful for moving to the beginning or end of video:

  • White arrow pointing left to a line - Move to beginning of video
  • White arrow pointing right to a line - Move to end of video

In order to perform any special effect, or cut, copy or paste frames, you are first required to mark your frames. In order mark your frames, you need to define the beginning and the end of the range. The beginning of the range is referred to as an "In Point", and the end of the range is referred to as an "End Point".

Here are the buttons on the transport control that relate to marking your frames:

  • White open square bracket - Mark "In Point"
  • White closed square bracket - Mark "Out Point"

Adding Effects within Marked Frames


The general procedure for adding effects is simple:

  1. Mark the frame range (i.e. "In Point" and "Out Point")
  2. Click and drag a video effect from the resources window into the frame range
  3. Click on the effect to setup that particular special effect

For an example, we will now create a title labelled "How to Define Lego Pain". Perform the following steps in order to make a title:



  1. Using the navigation button discussed above, move to the In-Point.
  2. Mark the In-Point. You should notice that the In-Point appears green.
  3. Move to the Out-Point, and mark the Out-Point. You should now see a frame range between the marked In-Point and Out-Point.
  4. Switch to the Resources window, and click Video Effect on the left-hand column window.
  5. Move to the right column window, and scroll to the right, until you see the icon displaying the title effect.
  6. Click on the title icon, and drag from the Resources window and drop between the In-Point and Out-Point in your Program Window. You should now see a area highlighted that represents the title.

  7. Now that you created the effect, you need to setup how the effect will run. Click on the icon in the special effect area that looks like a Magnifying Glass.

  8. Cinecutie9d.png
    A title dialog box will appear. Here are some suggestions to setup your title effect:

    • Enter appropriate title text in the text area.

    • Select the Color for the title.

    • Select the appropriate font for the title.

    • Select the appropriate font size.

    • Select the appropriate font style (eg. bold, italic) for the title.

    • Select the alignment (horizontal/vertical) for the title.

    • Select the fade-in and fade-out time to make a smoother transition of your title.

  9. <li>Rewind to the beginning of your video and play it to view your title effect. If you want to make changes, just click on the magnifying glass icon on the title effect area.

  10. You should save your work. Click the file menu, then save. Needless to say, you should save your work frequently...

I repeated the above process in order to add the ending title effect, and I also added the fire effect later in the video...

Finishing Touches

A Note About Copyright Infringements

If you are interested in posting your own YouTube videos, be careful about using a piece of music that has been recorded by another artist. If you do not have that artist's permission (or company's permission that represents that artist), then theoretically, you have "infringed" upon their copyright, and that may result in your YouTube video being removed with a disclaimer that this video has been removed due to "Copyright Infringement" (which could be embarrassing!).

Here is a link in YouTube that better explains what constitutes copyrighted material: [ ]

There are some interesting alternatives to using Copyrighted Materials for Music:

  • Create your own music. In this tutorial, I will provide a link how to use the Audacity application to produce your own music.
    Please refer to the next section labelled "Using Audacity to Record Music and Voices"

  • Use Public Domain music. "Public Domain Music" is licensed in a such a way that people can use the music without traditional copyright rules (although, they may some conditions imposed on how music can be used). This is an option for those that do not have a musical background...

    Here is a link to Public Domain Music WIKI: [ ]

    Public Domain Music Download (publicdomain4u): [ ]

Using Audacity to Record Music and Voices

There are a couple of methods of adding audio to Cinecutie: add an effect to record live, or use another application (like Audacity) to record audio, save as ogg file, then add that ogg file into the video)...

... I prefer the second method...

Instead of trying to "reinvent the wheel" on using the Audacity application, please view an study these following links:

NOTE #1: When recording my voice, I usually start a recording in Audacity, then later start the video playing on Cinecutie, then talk into the microphone while viewing the video. This may take a number of "takes" until you get it right. Don't worry about trying to start both audio and video playing at the same time - you can leave Audacity in record mode, and then later cut out the portions of the audio you do not need...

NOTE #2: Once you create and save audio files in the ogg file format. Then you can set the frame range (In-point and Out-Point), click the file menu, and select Load Files to add your ogg files in the media area of your Resources Window. Then you can repeat the same steps as adding a special effect (like a title), except you are adding audio instead...

Arming Tracks / Adjusting Volume Levels / Truncating Tracks

Before rendering the project down into a video file, you may need to perform finishing touches such as adjusting sound levels for various audio tracks, or removing various overlapping audio tracks so the audio will end with the end of the video...

Before you perform these finishing touches, you need to understand about "Arming Tracks".

The term "Arming Tracks" goes back to the age when recording studios recorded music Multi-Track (magnetic) tape machines. If you wanted to record on a particular track, you need to press a button to make that track available for recording. If you weren't careful, you may have more than one track, or the wrong track armed, which would damaged the correct track's recording (thus you would have to record that track over).

As it relates to Cinecutie, all tracks are armed by default, so if you are performing an operation for only one particular track (like adjusting audio levels, or truncation), you need to make certain that all the other tracks not to be affected are "unarmed".


If you look on the left-hand side a video or audio track, you will notice some buttons. One of the buttons looks like a lock. By default, the lock is active (highlighted). If you click on the lock, you will notice it is not highlighted - this means that the track is "unarmed" and will not be affected by any other track edits...

By arming a track, and unarming other tracks, then you can mark your frames in order to adjust volume audio levels, or truncate (cut) pieces off your video...

I would recommend to save your project...

Rendering Stop Motion Video to Ogg Theora Vorbis File


With your video completed and saved, the time has come to create a permanent video file to play or post up to YouTube... This process is referred to as "Rendering".

There are many versions you can save your completed video (MPEG, AVI, OGG, etc). There is no concern which format to use, since you can always convert (transcode) your video file into another format using the mencoder utiltiy: [ Internal Link not yet available ]

For this tutorial, we will create an Ogg Theora Vorbis video file. In the Program Window, click on the file menu, then select Render. You can make selections as shown on the diagram to the right-hand side...

When the process is completed, look into your home directory for a rendered version of your video.

It is recommended to test-out your video on another video player (eg. MoviePlayer, VLC, MediaPlayer, etc.) to make certain it works properly...

Backing Up / Removing Completed Projects

Media files can take up a lot of disk space.

It is recommended after completing a video project to save your work on another media storage system such as a CD or DVD....

You never know when you may want to add or re-master an existing project...

Posting Stop Motion Video on YouTube

Creating a YouTube Account / Upload Videos

In order to post up YouTube videos, you must have a YouTube account...

Here is a link to a YouTube video to create an account: [ ]

Here is a link to upload a video to your YouTube account: [ [1] ]

Here is a link to my completed YouTube video to show the final product: [ ] ]

View comments / statistics Regarding your YouTube Video

When you have posted your YouTube video, you would occasionally view the statics and find out more information regarding the frequency and comments that people are saying about your video...

Here is a link to a YouTube video to view your video statistics (using "YouTube Insight"): [ ]

Future Consideration: Adding Advanced Special Effects

Title Scrolls

To be completed at a later time...

Laser fire

To be completed at a later time...


To be completed at a later time...