Video Art: Experimental Animation and Video Techniques in Linux



The famous GNU Image Manipulation Program can create animations as well as still images. Because it is a full-featured image editing program, you can use it to create an animation entirely from scratch.

In order to import a prepared image sequence into GIMP, click File→Open as Layers... or press Ctrl-Alt-o. The Open Image dialog allows you to select multiple files, which then will appear as layers.

Figure 3. An animation in progress that I made by tracing reference photos of faces from the Psychological Image Collection at Stirling (PICS).

In the example shown in Figure 3, I imported a series of reference photos into GIMP and traced over them in cyan and then in black. I eventually deleted the reference photos and blue layers, leaving only the black-lined drawings that I planned to use for my final animation.

To finish my animation, I exported the layers as a GIF and specified animation parameters in the export dialog. Because I wanted to use the animation in a video, I had to turn the animated GIF into a video file. I ultimately chose to do this by way of screen recording, but that is not the only option.

From Stills to Movies

Let's say you have a sequence of images, or perhaps an animated GIF, that you want to make into a video file. There are several ways to go about this.


Stopmotion started as a student project under the Skolelinux/Debian-edu organization in 2005. Although it hasn't been updated since 2008, I find it to be a handy tool for anyone working with frame-by-frame animation. You might have trouble finding Stopmotion in your distribution's repositories if you aren't using a DEB- or RPM-based package manager, but you can, of course, compile it from source on any distribution; that's how I set it up in Sabayon Linux.

Stopmotion is simple and to the point, with a nice drag-and-drop interface. It's not designed for heavy post-production or for drawing and adding effects to frames. Rather, the point is to give users an easy way to arrange images sequentially and export them into a video file.

The video import and export options are limited only by your imagination (and your knowledge of the command line). If you know how to use FFmpeg and/or MEncoder to convert image sequences to video, you can pass your desired command-line arguments to Stopmotion, which is essentially a GUI for those programs. Stopmotion also gives you several choices of video capture commands for grabbing video from your Webcam or another attached device.

One cool feature I didn't know about until I read the user's handbook was the option to add sound. You can set a sound clip to start at any given frame by double-clicking on it. The audio I added to my sequence didn't play in the exported AVI, but maybe you'll have better luck.

If you want to perform more-advanced editing on your individual frames, Stopmotion has a button to open a selected frame in GIMP. You also can export your data into Cinelerra for video editing.

Figure 4. Animating a Sequence of Faces in Stopmotion


Rebecca "Ruji" Chapnik is a freelance creator of miscellanea, including but not limited to text and images. You can find her experiments at


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That was the excelent and the

Pooja's picture

That was the excelent and the best article ever.Your ideas are so clear.
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apo's picture

nice article. Just for the info Puredyne is now a dead distribution. you should probably update your article.
there is other ones still updating their distro such as
check out.

This site is very nice to

anr's picture

This site is very nice to commenting here. Thanks a lot.


blackbelt_jones's picture

I'd always had problems with stopmotion, but about a year ago, I started using videoporama to render animations, with help from KDE live. Videoporama is a program for creating slide shows. I changed the setting to create a slideshow with one image per second, with no transitions (i.e., no fades, no wipes, etc.) More recently, Videoporama has been superseded by ffDiaporama.

So I load all my frames into ffdiaporama, and I get a video of all my frames playing at one frame per second. I can sync that up using the "speed" effect in kdenlive

Two examples

In the second video, the animated part of the video is at the beginning and the end. I'd take a 30 second clip, and use mplayer to generate about 900 frames:

mplayer -vo jpeg video.mpg

I use gimp to alter the individual frames, and put them together with ffdiaporama, then I used kdenlive's speed effect to sync up the the output to the the original clip, which I use as the source of the audio for the final version.

with my old pentium 4, it takes more than one rendering session. The first time I speed it up 1000 percent, the second time roughly 300 per cent. It syncs up very nicely.

It works just fine, but it's pretty time consuming. I'm looking forward to trying some of the tools I discovered here.

Awesome tutorial brilliant

Facebook Application Development's picture

Awesome tutorial brilliant explanation indeed (Y)

Indeed, those were pretty

Markymark's picture

Indeed, those were pretty nice examples...

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Stopmotion is not dead

Velmont / Odin H. O.'s picture

The last year, raffa of Cinelerra community fame, has started up Stopmotion again with the new name linuxstopmotion. She has two developers and they have fixed irritating bugs and are looking to make the software really nice and fast to use with dslr cameras.

Also, everyone and their dog starts making video editors... Its a very very hard problem. If anyone wants to make one they should join PiTiVi or Lumiera IMHO. :)

Where is Blender?

Mfoxdogg's picture

Where is blender ( in this list? Blender can do all those (except drawing) and is in one package, that's twice today i have seen articles like this but omit Blender

What are you going to do with

NinaN's picture

What are you going to do with the blender?

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jedi junior's picture

All my school friends that come over use KDEnlive without any problems even though they use mac-win at home.
Have been using it for 3-4 years now and it is the best video editor I have used on Linux.
What Im looking for is for something in Linux to do After Effects stuff...

Im planning to get serious about Blender this year. Its a really powerful tool but the learning curve is as steep as the first time I used Adobe Premiere.

No mention of Kdenlive?

Anonymous's picture

I can't believe that you failed to mention Kdenlive. It is a powerful but easy to use non linear video editor. Openshot is a good choice too but I find Kdenlive as easy to use but much more powerful. Both are actively updated. Kdenlive reminds me of Sony Vegas in many ways.

openshot and pitivi are worth looking at

nick black's picture

two weeks ago, never having used NLE of any kind or done any production work, i made this in about 24 hours:

it's nothing awesome, but it was more than i thought i'd accomplish in that time. it was mostly openshot, which crashed when you looked at it hard, but given enough instances would produce real output.

Excellent article, good to

Anonymous's picture

Excellent article, good to see some Linux' oriented things you would normally do on Windows.

WHere's synfig?

Anonymous's picture

You forget SYNFIG (cartoon anomation)