Your choice of camera will depend on how much you can afford, and what kind of movies you want to make. For most people, a mirrorless camera or DSLR, where you can change lenses, is the best choice. The Panasonic G85/G80 is a good camera to start with. But if you’re shooting events, news or documentaries, camcorders are more convenient.
The stabilised Osmo Pocket is an affordable, very compact alternative to basic camcorders and phones.
For really high-quality images, cinema cameras combine the best features of camcorders and DSLRs, though they’re expensive.
More about choosing a camera
If you’re buying a interchangeable lens camera, you can buy it with a kit zoom lens, or buy the body alone and choose lenses separately. For an APS-C camera with kit lens, I recommend adding an affordable 50mm lens for low light shots and creative shallow focus.
Choosing lenses for filmmaking
Sound is as important as pictures, and you won’t get great audio with the microphone in your camera. Using a separate microphone will make a big difference. Lavalier (‘lav’) microphones, which clip onto clothes, are the most affordable way to get good sound. Wireless lavs are great if you can afford them. You can also use a directional microphone on a boom pole.
You really need to be listening to the sound on headphones as you shoot. But some cameras have limited audio recording options – and no headphone sockets – so you may need a separate audio recorder.
More about choosing sound equipment
Tripods and camera support
It’s important to keep your camera steady. Some cameras have very effective built-in stabilisation, but most filmmakers use a tripod or monopod at least some of the time. If you want to be able to pan and tilt your camera smoothly, you’ll need a fluid head tripod. You can also get sliders (for smooth tracking shots), electronic gimbal stabilisers (for continuous flowing shots), and jibs (for vertical camera movements).
More about choosing tripods and camera supports
Lights and reflectors
Once you start to get serious about filmmaking, you’ll want to control the lighting. You can use inexpensive five in one reflectors to enhance natural light. Basic work lamps are a good starting point for learning about creative lighting. For filming on the go, LED panels are the most convenient option, though good ones are expensive. For a budget studio setup, CFL soft box lights could be a good choice.
More about choosing lights and reflectors
You can edit on Macs, PCs, phones or tablets.
I use Macs. They’re designed for video editing and widely used in the film and media industry.
You’ll get more for your money with a PC, but they aren’t as user-friendly and you’ll need to check that the spec is good enough to run your editing software. Video editing – especially 4K – takes up a lot of space and needs a powerful computer.
If you don’t need to be portable, a desktop computer will be better value for money than a laptop.
If you’re just doing small projects, you can keep all your video on your main system drive, but for large and more ambitious projects you’ll probably need external drives. Solid state drives (SSDs) are faster but more expensive than hard drives.
You’ll also need external drives for backing up and archiving projects.
There are a range of free, paid and professional editing programs for Mac, Windows, iOS and Android. You can get free trials of most pro editing programs.
Hire if you can
You don’t need to buy everything. Hiring is a good choice for equipment you won’t use regularly, and it’s also a way to try out equipment before you buy.
Get occasional news and updates from Learnaboutfilm.
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Start Making Movies is an easy to understand, 163-page PDF guide that shows you how to start making short films and videos. It uses clear explanations and hundreds of illustrations to introduce equipment, the filmmaking process, film language and film storytelling.
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StudioBinder is the leading film production software in the industry, and a powerful Movie Magic Scheduling alternative. If you want to buy MMS, just read our review first.
Movie Magic Scheduling is isolated data entry. StudioBinder is mission control.
Movie Magic is a desktop scheduling and breakdown software that provides filmmakers with tools to generate production documents.
Every line of data, no matter how redundant, must be manually entered into breakdown sheets and stored offline — there is no cloud access. This means versioned PDFs are generated and manually distributed.
StudioBinder offers comparable features to MovieMagic Scheduling but since it is a modern, cloud-based solution, it’s possible to share and collaborate on stripboards, breakdowns and reports, anytime, anywhere.
Furthermore, StudioBinder a Movie Magic Scheduling alternative with a more complete offering, extending to shot listing, storyboarding, call sheets, calendars, and more.
Movie Magic software is good for isolated data entry.
StudioBinder is a collaborative A-to-Z solution for production teams.
Feature by Feature
Movie Magic Scheduling
Import Scripts (FDX, PDFs, etc)
Reports (DOOD, etc)
Call Sheets (Create, Send & Track)
Secure File Sharing
StudioBinder is more robust & intuitive
StudioBinder is known for its modern, intuitive design. Everything is exactly where you’d expect it to be.
No special training is required to begin.
You get a lot of video production management features that Movie Magic Scheduling simply does not provide.
Fewer licenses. Quicker results.
Movie Magic Scheduling Vs StudioBinder
Film scheduling for teams
Movie Magic Scheduling and StudioBinder both offer a Stripboard shooting schedule builder. However, Movie Magic Scheduling is notoriously difficult to learn and navigate. Furthermore, Movie Magic is not based on collaboration, and requires costly desktop licenses for every user (nearly $400 per license). The software has not been updated in over a decade, and by modern standards is obsolete though it’s still widely used by studios.
StudioBinder’s film scheduling is simply easier and better for teams. It accepts Final Draft files, PDFs, Fountain formats and more. Each scene is auto-populated upon import and requires no redundant data entry.
Movie Magic Scheduling stripboards are offline and isolated whereas StudioBinder can be securely shared and accessed from anywhere online.
Share stripboards, get feedback and comments from your team, create tasks and mark them as completed. This alone is a major differentiator since it allows you to collaborate with a wider array of production staff to create more thorough schedules.
Design of new procedural and layered textures, for community feedback.
Overview of the upcoming improvements in the Sculpt/Paint module.
As part of the 2022 strategic targets, a workshop to help refine Overrides was held during January at the Blender HQ.
Blender will no longer stick to the VFX Reference Platform.
Free and Open Source
Blender is a public project hosted on blender.org, licensed as GNU GPL, owned by its contributors.
For that reason Blender is Free and Open Source software, forever. Learn more
Part of the industry
Blender is a member of ASWF, Khronos, Linux Foundation and OIN. It’s also well supported by major hardware vendors such as AMD, Apple, Intel, and NVIDIA.
It’s about people.
Designers, developers, engineers, artists. All driven by passion. All using Blender to make an impact.
Countless communities and thriving businesses are built around Blender.
Together, these tutorial makers and content creators, add-on developers and global marketplaces form an ever-expanding ecosystem.
Cycles is Blender’s built-in powerful unbiased path-tracer engine that offers stunning ultra-realistic rendering.
- · Real-time viewport preview
- · CPU & GPU rendering
- · PBR shaders & HDR lighting support
- · VR rendering support
Blender’s comprehensive array of modeling tools make creating, transforming and editing your models a breeze.
- · Full N-Gon support
- · Edge slide, inset, grid and bridge fill, and more
- · Advanced sculpting tools and brushes
- · Multi-resolution and Dynamic subdivision
- · 3D painting with textured brushes and masking
- · Python scripting for custom tools and add-ons
VFX professionals say: “Probably the best tracker in the market”. Blender includes production ready camera and object tracking. Allowing you to import raw footage, track the footage, mask areas and see the camera movements live in your 3D scene. Eliminating the need to switch between programs.
- · Auto and Manual tracking
- · Powerful camera reconstruction
- · Real-time preview of your tracked footage and 3D scene
- · Support for Planar tracking and Tripod solvers
Thanks to the high quality rigging and animation tools, Blender is being used for numerous short films, advertisements, TV series and feature films now.
- · Envelope, skeleton and automatic skinning
- · B-spline interpolated bones
- · Curve editor and dope sheets
- · Custom bone shapes for fast input
- · Sound synchronization
Really! Drawing directly in a 3D viewport makes a lot of sense. It opens unsurpassed workflow freedom for story-boarders and 2D artists.
- · Combine 2D with 3D right in the viewport
- · Full Animation Support with Onion Skinning
- · Layers & Colors for Stroke and Fill
- · Sculpt brush strokes & Parent to 3D objects
Blender has a flexible Python controlled interface. Layout, colors, size and even fonts can be adjusted. Use hundreds of add-ons by the community or create your own using Blender’s accessible Python API.
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These days, kids have easy access to hundreds of TV stations and millions of Internet sites. And they can buy or download countless video games and apps. There’s a lot of media out there , and some of it might not be appropriate for your child, depending on his or her age and maturity level.
The best way to monitor media that kids use is to experience the media yourself. Test apps and play games before your kids use them. View and play apps and games together with your children. And watch what they watch so you can talk about what they’re seeing on their screens. You know your kids best, so you’re the best judge of what they can handle.
When closer monitoring and more control are needed, parents have a number of ways to keep track of the media their kids watch, play, and use. These tools may not shield kids from all inappropriate material, but they can help.
To help filter your kids’ Internet use, start by setting up iOS and Android profiles for your kids on all the online devices they will use (smartphones, tablets, and computers). This will let you restrict all the apps and games they can download and play, and all the websites they can visit. You also can set time limits on their Internet use.
Also, most of the big email providers, such as Google and Yahoo, allow parents to create child email accounts for younger kids. These accounts can forward all their emails to you and let you monitor their contacts and communications. Kids must be at least 13 before they can have Google or Yahoo accounts of their own.
Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram also require kids to be at least 13 before they can have their own accounts. To keep an eye on your child’s social media activity, set up accounts of your own and check your child’s pages and activity for yourself. Many parents also insist on knowing the passwords to their kids’ accounts, although some parents may consider this an invasion of privacy.
A number of programs and apps can monitor teens’ social media accounts and alert parents to any inappropriate language or photos. Many software programs and apps are available — from free to expensive — that can give you detailed reports of your child’s browsing history and tell you how much time your child spent online and on each site.
But no amount of monitoring can protect kids from everything. So encourage your child to be a responsible Internet user by being a good role model and talking to your child about online safety.
If any problems — such as cyberbullying or sexting — come up, use them as teaching moments to help kids understand the importance of protecting themselves and their reputation online.
TV Ratings and the V-Chip
Two ways you can help monitor what your kids watch are TV Parental Guidelines and V-chip.
TV Parental Guidelines. Modeled after the movie rating system, this is an age-group rating system developed for TV programs. These ratings are listed in television guides, TV listings in your local newspaper, and on the screen in your cable program guide. They also appear in the upper left corner of the screen during the first 15 seconds of TV programs.
But not all channels offer the rating system. For those that do, the ratings are:
- TV-Y: suitable for all children
- TV-Y7: directed toward kids 7 years and older (kids who are able to distinguish between make-believe and reality); may contain “mild fantasy violence or comedic violence” that may scare younger kids
- TV-Y7-FV: fantasy violence may be more intense in these programs than others in the TV-Y7 rating
- TV-G: suitable for a general audience; not directed specifically toward kids, but contains little to no violence, sexual dialogue or content, or strong language
- TV-PG: parental guidance suggested; may contain an inappropriate theme for younger kids and contains one or more of the following: moderate violence (V), some sexual situations (S), occasional strong language (L), and some suggestive dialogue (D)
- TV-14: parents strongly cautioned — not recommended for kids younger than 14; contains one or more of the following: intense violence (V), intense sexual situations (S), strong language (L), and intensely suggestive dialogue
- TV-MA: designed for adults and may be unsuitable for kids under 17; contains one or more of the following: graphic violence (V), strong sexual activity (S), and/or crude language (L)
V-chip (V is for “violence”). This technology lets you block TV programs and movies you don’t want your kids to see. All new TV sets that have screens of 13″ or more now have internal V-chips, and set-top boxes are available for TVs made before 2000. The V-chip allows you to program your TV to display only appropriately rated shows — blocking out other, more mature shows.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires that V-chips in new TVs recognize the TV Parental Guidelines and the age-group rating system and block those programs that don’t adhere to these standards.
The rating system and V-chip can be valuable tools, but they can also cause problems. Research shows that preteen and teen boys are more likely to want to see a program if it’s rated MA (mature audience) than if it’s PG (parental guidance suggested).
Also, broadcast news, sports, and commercials aren’t rated, although they often include depictions of violence and sexuality. So even with the V-chip and ratings, it’s still important to preview shows to see whether they’re OK for your kids — and to turn off the TV if they’re not.
Video Game and App Ratings
Some apps and almost all video games available for purchase (through retail channels or by downloading) are rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). The ESRB has six rating categories:
- C (for Early Childhood): content is intended for young children
- E (for Everyone): content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy, or mild violence; and/or infrequent use of mild language.
- E-10+ (for Everyone 10+): content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy, or mild violence; mild language; and/or minimal suggestive themes.
- T (for Teen): content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.
- M (for Mature): content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content, and/or strong language.
- A (for Adult Only): content suitable only for adults ages 18 and up. May include prolonged scenes of intense violence, graphic sexual content, and/or gambling with real currency.
The ESRB also has a long list of content descriptors to help explain why a game or app got the rating it did. Examples include things like nudity, blood, strong language, use of alcohol, and use of drugs.
The iTunes Store has its own rating system for apps that is based on age. The categories are:
Internet monitoring, V-chips, and ratings can help shield kids from inappropriate material, but they can’t block everything. As a parent, even if you program the V-chip and only buy or download age-appropriate games and apps, it’s still important for you to pay attention to what your kids are watching or playing. Parents should think of themselves as their child’s media coach, someone who can talk about and help them understand what they’re seeing.
Memories stay with you for life. But old tapes and film reels aren’t designed to hold them for nearly as long.
It’s true that film, VHS tapes and DVDs can preserve your home movies for years (or decades) in the right environment. But even if they’re stored in a cool, dry place, the materials can deteriorate – leaving your memories irretrievable.
Thanks to modern technology, that dusty box in the basement can be digitized and kept for future generations to enjoy. You don’t have to be a computer whiz to do it, and your family will thank you for keeping those memories alive and well for years to come.
Check out these methods for preserving your old home movies:
- Use a DVD recorder. One of the easiest ways to preserve old tapes is by transferring them to DVD. All you need to do is purchase a DVD recorder and connect it to a tape player. As video cameras evolved over the years, many tape formats emerged: Betacam, VHS, Hi8, VHS-C and Mini-DV, to name a few. So make sure you have the right player(s) for your tape collection. As you play back your old tapes, you can record them onto a blank DVD disc. And if you’d like to digitize your video, you can import the DVD to your computer using a video ripper . Another note: DVD recorders are getting harder to find new. But you can probably find a used piece of equipment on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or eBay at a much lower cost.
- Directly convert from film to video. If you’re looking at stacks of 8mm film, a film-to-video converter might be the tool for you. Just load your reels into the machine and let the footage copy directly to a digital memory card. The right equipment can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,000. But it’s worth the investment to preserve those priceless memories if you have a large collection of reels.
- Connect to a computer. Buy an analog video-capture device to load home movies directly into your computer. These devices allow you to connect a tape player to one side, and plug into your computer’s USB port with the other. Once you’ve downloaded the right software (which should come with your adapter), you can convert your tapes into digital files to store or burn onto DVDs. A video-capture device could cost as little as $20. But be prepared to navigate the software, which can sometimes get complicated.
- Record it again. What better place to preserve your memories than in a home theater? Project your movie onto a projection screen or clean sheet, bring the image in full view of another video camera and hit record. Then, upload your recording to a computer and save a new digital copy. If you have a projector for those old film reels, this process requires no investment. Just keep in mind that it’s more fun than effective, as it won’t result in a high-quality image.
- Hire a service. Like many projects, sometimes it’s best to trust a professional. Large retailers, local photo or video shops and even online services such as iMemories and Legacybox offer these services. Expect to pay based on the type and amount of tape or film you need converted. These services can be expensive, but the convenience can’t be beat. And you’ll avoid investing money in expensive equipment you may not use often.
Protect your memories
Preserving your home videos is just part of protecting what you value most. After all, home is where your memories are made – and we understand the work that goes into caring for it.
At Erie Insurance, our pledge is to protect your house and the work you’ve done to make it a home with homeowners insurance you can trust. That way, you and your family can continue to make memories on- and off-camera.
Talk to your local ERIE agent to see how we can help cover what matters to you.
Lesson 8: Understanding Operating Systems
What is an operating system?
An operating system is the most important software that runs on a computer. It manages the computer's memory and processes, as well as all of its software and hardware. It also allows you to communicate with the computer without knowing how to speak the computer's language. Without an operating system, a computer is useless.
Watch the video below to learn more about operating systems.
Looking for the old version of this video? You can still view it here.
The operating system's job
Your computer's operating system (OS) manages all of the software and hardware on the computer. Most of the time, there are several different computer programs running at the same time, and they all need to access your computer's central processing unit (CPU), memory, and storage. The operating system coordinates all of this to make sure each program gets what it needs.
Types of operating systems
Operating systems usually come pre-loaded on any computer you buy. Most people use the operating system that comes with their computer, but it's possible to upgrade or even change operating systems. The three most common operating systems for personal computers are Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux.
Modern operating systems use a graphical user interface, or GUI (pronounced gooey). A GUI lets you use your mouse to click icons, buttons, and menus, and everything is clearly displayed on the screen using a combination of graphics and text.
Each operating system's GUI has a different look and feel, so if you switch to a different operating system it may seem unfamiliar at first. However, modern operating systems are designed to be easy to use, and most of the basic principles are the same.
Microsoft created the Windows operating system in the mid-1980s. There have been many different versions of Windows, but the most recent ones are Windows 10 (released in 2015), Windows 8 (2012), Windows 7 (2009), and Windows Vista (2007). Windows comes pre-loaded on most new PCs, which helps to make it the most popular operating system in the world.
Check out our tutorials on Windows Basics and specific Windows versions for more information.
macOS (previously called OS X) is a line of operating systems created by Apple. It comes preloaded on all Macintosh computers, or Macs. Some of the specific versions include Mojave (released in 2018), High Sierra (2017), and Sierra (2016).
According to StatCounter Global Stats, macOS users account for less than 10% of global operating systems—much lower than the percentage of Windows users (more than 80%). One reason for this is that Apple computers tend to be more expensive. However, many people do prefer the look and feel of macOS over Windows.
Check out our macOS Basics tutorial for more information.
Linux (pronounced LINN-ux) is a family of open-source operating systems, which means they can be modified and distributed by anyone around the world. This is different from proprietary software like Windows, which can only be modified by the company that owns it. The advantages of Linux are that it is free, and there are many different distributions—or versions—you can choose from.
According to StatCounter Global Stats, Linux users account for less than 2% of global operating systems. However, most servers run Linux because it's relatively easy to customize.
To learn more about different distributions of Linux, visit the Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and Fedora websites, or refer to our Linux Resources. For a more comprehensive list, you can visit MakeUseOf's list of The Best Linux Distributions.
Operating systems for mobile devices
The operating systems we've been talking about so far were designed to run on desktop and laptop computers. Mobile devices such as phones, tablet computers, and MP3 players are different from desktop and laptop computers, so they run operating systems that are designed specifically for mobile devices. Examples of mobile operating systems include Apple iOS and Google Android . In the screenshot below, you can see iOS running on an iPad.
Operating systems for mobile devices generally aren't as fully featured as those made for desktop and laptop computers, and they aren't able to run all of the same software. However, you can still do a lot of things with them, like watch movies, browse the Web, manage your calendar, and play games.
To learn more about mobile operating systems, check out our Mobile Devices tutorials.
Learn how to curb your child’s viewing habits with these tips.
Kourtnee covers TV streaming and home entertainment news at CNET. She previously worked as an entertainment reporter at Showbiz Cheat Sheet where she wrote about film, television, music, and celebrities, and streaming platforms such as Netflix, Disney Plus, and HBO Max.
Tighten up your Netflix parental controls.
The best streaming services for kids offer plenty of great videos, TV shows and movies, but a lot of it is also targeted toward older viewers. Disney Plus is veering into mature content territory and beefing up parental controls, YouTube has new ways for parents to restrict what teens and tweens can watch, and most streaming services have profiles made for specifically for kids. Setting up a profile for your child on Netflix is a great place to start, but the platform has plenty of other settings parents might not know about .
Under the Netflix Kids Experience, your child’s profile is tagged with a special logo that ensures only age-appropriate shows and movies are displayed. But what if your family knows how to outsmart the kiddie system to watch whatever they want? While you can enable the parental controls on your devices when it comes to streaming, Netflix has several tools available to help you manage what they see and do.
Assign maturity levels
While activating the Netflix Kids experience is the most obvious choice to ensure your child is watching age-appropriate content, that profile comes with curated titles selected for the 12-and-under crowd. Everything in the kids’ profile automatically has a rating no higher than PG. But you can manually adjust those maturity ratings for each individual profile.
On your web browser, open your Netflix account page and head to the Profile & Parental Controls section. Select your child’s profile and click change under Viewing Restrictions. You’ll be prompted to enter your Netflix account password before being taken to a screen where you can edit the maturity ratings.
Choose a ratings level up to NC-17. Click Save. Note that if you want to include content that’s rated above PG (including PG-13 and TV-14), the kids’ profile badge will be removed for that user. On the flip side, here is where you can check the box to designate it as a kids profile. The maturity rating will be lowered. A bonus? These settings also apply to Netflix’s games.
If you run into an issue with trying to convert a kids profile into one with a higher maturity rating, you may need to delete it and create a new profile.
Block specific TV shows and movies
Did you know you can block certain titles on individual profiles? Whether your child has a kids’ profile or a regular one, parents are able to suppress specific titles. You’ll follow the same steps above and navigate to your account page, choose your kiddo’s profile and launch the Viewing Restrictions section.
Scroll down to where you see Title Restrictions for… and fill in the box with the TV show or film you want to block. Would you rather your 13-year-old not watch Bridgerton , Project X or Big Mouth? Add it to the list and the title will appear in red. Click “Save.” The blocked content will not appear in your child’s profile.
Should you change your mind when they get older, you can go back in and hit “X” to remove the blocked title from the list.
Lock down your profiles with a PIN
With multiple family members sharing one Netflix account, some crafty kids know how to buck your censorship system. Rather than stick to the rules, they’ll skate on over to someone else’s profile to watch what they want. By locking all the profiles with a PIN, you can prevent that and stay a step ahead.
Head to your account page from a web browser and scroll to the Profile & Parental Controls settings. Click change on Profile Lock, where you’ll be asked to enter your account password. Check the box where it says, “Require a PIN to access XYZ’s profile.” Enter a four-digit PIN.
If you’re the chief Netflix accountholder, you also have the option to check the box indicating that a PIN is required to add new profiles. Click “Save.”
Once you set up a profile PIN, you’ll have to enter it each time you open your profile on Netflix. But this feature can be used for all the profiles on the account regardless of age. In some cases, certain unsupported devices will not ask for the PIN to unlock a profile; however, it’s required to watch content within the profile.
Stop-motion animation is a great way to bring toys and other objects to life — and learn the basics of filmmaking.
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Stop-motion animation has been around since the 1800s and still flourishes in the works of studios like Aardman Animations, the force behind “Wallace & Gromit” and other creations. With stop motion, you make an inanimate object “move” by snapping a photo and then stopping to subtly adjust the object’s position before taking the next shot. When enough photos of these gradual movements are captured, you run them together as a video that shows the object seeming to propel itself.
Creating a stop-motion clip can be a great way to jazz up a presentation, dabble in moviemaking basics or keep the children busy with a time-consuming project. All you need is something to animate — paper cutouts, Lego figures or other toys, for example — along with a camera, the right app and patience. Here’s how to get rolling.
Step 1: Get With the Program
To get started, decide on which app you’d like to use. If you plan on using your smartphone camera, there are many options. Stop Motion Studio Pro for Android, iOS, Mac and Windows ($2 to $10 depending on the system) is a popular option. It has a huge collection of editing features, including a tool to add facial expressions to Lego people. A free version, Stop Motion Studio, is available for Android and iOS, but it does not offer as many audio and visual effects, or the ability to record higher-resolution video, unless you pay through in-app purchases.
Alternative apps include PicPac for Android and iMotion for iOS (both free, with in-app purchases) and the child-friendly I Can Animate for Android, iOS, Mac and Windows (a free “lite” edition and pay versions starting around $3). But again, some features cost extra, like the ability to drop in a new background if you record in front of a blue or green screen.
For those who prefer working on a computer, other programs, like Dragonframe for Windows, Mac and Linux (around $300 for the full version) and iKITMovie for Windows (prices start at $69), are available, each with free trial versions. Just keep in mind that with those programs, you will need to move your photos from a camera to the computer, instead of doing it all on your smartphone or tablet.
Step 2: Plot Your Shots
Stop-motion animation takes time and effort, so you unless you’re just messing around, you might want to sketch out your scenes before you begin. If a cheap notebook and pencil seem too rustic, plenty of digital tools can help you visualize your future film, including storyboard and drawing apps, or even a stylus-friendly free notes app.
Movie night is a big event in our house, and one of the few activities our schedule allows us to enjoy together almost every week. Besides dedicated family time, what makes it special is the setup. The first task is finding a flick we can all agree on, although we usually take turns picking one to watch on the big screen. After that is the next most important step: snacks, usually some combo of popcorn, candy, and cookies. Then, settle in, park it a comfortable chair, wrap up in cozy blanket, and watch the show.
If you’re looking to make your family movie night into a running tradition, it’s important to settle on a few essentials that will make it easy, except for maybe deciding what to watch. Below are some suggestions we’ve collected to help you enjoy a trip to the theater without leaving the comfort of home.
Here are 13 things to make a great family movie night at home:
The popcorn, of course
Popcorn is the best part about a trip to the theater, besides the movie itself. The Lukue Microwave Popcorn Popper makes it easy to recreate that experience — just add kernels and set the cook timer for two to three minutes. Unlike the bagged stuff, you won’t be stuck with a bowl full of unpopped kernels either. It’s also easy to clean and small enough to stow away in the cabinet. If you want something a little bigger, there are plenty of options available.
You can leave your popcorn in the bowl, or you can dish it out into one of these novelty popcorn containers that look just like the tubs you’d get at the theater. This way everyone can have the flavor they want too.
*currently unavailable at Target
Delicious low-sugar candy you and your kids will love
Finding the right candy to go with salty popcorn is the holy grail of movie snacking, but if you overdo it with too much sugar, it throws the whole thing out of balance. Besides, giving the kids anything too sweet before bedtime is never a good idea. Perfect Snacks Peanut Butter Cups have a lower glycemic index than most candy bars to keep everyone focused on the show and not bouncing off the walls. If you’d rather have a chocolate bar or sour candies, there are plenty of other tasty, low-sugar treats out there.
Cookies that taste great and even have some nutritional value
Just because a cookie isn’t loaded with empty calories doesn’t mean it has to taste like cardboard. Each of these cookies from Lenny & Larry comes packed with 16 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber. There are other flavors available too, in case chocolate chip isn’t you’re favorite.
Refreshing beverages for everyone
You’ve got the popcorn and candy — now you need something to wash it down with. Whatever you’re drinking, a set of Tervis Tumblers will keep everything cold for the entire movie. They’re also durable to the point of being virtually indestructible, so there’s no worry about pausing the move to clean up broken glass. You can get them in a variety of colors or even with some of your favorite movie characters.
Matching family pajamas make movie night an event
It’s not unusual to see fans in costumes for the latest Star Wars or Marvel movie, so why not recreate that experience at home, too, but with matching pajamas. Even better, everyone’s ready for bed when the credits roll. Sleep sets featuring characters like Marvel Fairisle and “The Mandalorian” start at $42 for kids at Hanna Andersson, and you can find plenty of other options at Target and Walmart. PJ’s from Primary are another great option if you’re looking for something that’s not specific to a movie franchise.
The perfect seat for kids
Getting kids to sit still for the entire length of a film can be a challenge, unless you have one of these bean bag chairs. They melt right into its armchair shape, glued there for the next 120 minutes. It’s lightweight, so you can carry it anywhere in the house, and large enough for a teenager.
A TV that gives you the theater experience
These days it’s not hard to find fantastic values on large TVs with glossy high-definition picture quality, like this 65-inch model from TCL for less than $700. Besides the HD 4K resolution, what’s great about this one is that it puts Netflix , Hulu , Disney+, and other streaming services in one place with the built-in Roku software, and it’s easy enough to use that you might not have to ask the kids to set it up for you. There are other great options if you’re looking for something a little smaller or less expensive, like TCL’s 43-inch Class 4 Series 4K UHD Smart Roku TV for just $230.
A projector that can make any wall into a movie screen
The great thing about a projector is that you can turn any place in the house, or outside it, into a theater — all you need is a flat wall. This one connects to a DVD or Blu-Ray player, gaming consoles, or even smartphone or tablet. And there’s almost no limit to how big you can make projections. This one can go as large as 14 feet from corner to corner, as long as you have enough to space and a dark enough room.
Big sound in a small package
While TVs have evolved, their sound systems often aren’t all that great. One minute, you’ll be straining to hear a conversation; the next, a deafening action sequence starts. Soundbars are a great option for most home theaters because they don’t take up much space, they’re easy to set up, and they deliver an awesome audio experience. Vizio’s 36-inch SB362An-F6 is a 2.1 channel model that uses Dolby and DTS technologies along with a pair of built-in subwoofers for a deep stereo sound that will fill most living rooms. It’s also a great value. If you’re set on a more robust surround sound speaker system, there are plenty of options.
Lights that make your screen stand out and save your eyes
A simple adhesive strip of LED lights that attaches to the back of your television can really make your home theater pop. The light helps reduce eye strain, so your eyes don’t have to adjust between the dark room and the screen. This set from Power Practical comes with a wireless remote to adjust the colors to boost the picture contrast too.
A luxurious plush throw at a matinee price
One thing you can’t do at the theater is snuggle up under a warm throw blanket with someone you love. L.L.Bean’s Wicked Plush Throw is incredibly soft thanks to brushed fleece on both sides, and it’s made to the exacting standards you expect from one of our favorite heritage brands. It’s also machine washable, which comes in handy wherever kids and snacks intersect.
A small, powerful heater to warm up the screening room
If you’re struggling to get the temperature right in your home theater, a space heater can take the edge off the chill, whether you’re in the basement or just needing a break from winter. Despite a svelte 4-pound frame, this one cranks out plenty warmth on three different settings. It’s also got an automatic shutoff feature in case you forget about it when the show’s over.