The “World’s Smallest Movie”, Created in Stop-Motion Using Individual Atoms


Back in 2010, Nokia created “the world’s smallest stop-motion video” using its new N8 smartphone and a tiny 9mm-tall figure of a girl. If you think 9mm is tiny, try 1/25,000,000th of a inch!

Today, IBM scientists announced that they have created the world’s smallest movie. Unlike the previous record holder, this one will be extremely difficult to beat. The stop-motion movie was made using individual atoms.

The film is titled “A Boy and His Atom.” It runs about a minute, comprises 242 individual photographs, and “depicts a character named Atom who befriends a single atom and goes on a playful journey that includes dancing, playing catch and bouncing on a trampoline.”

Before we go more into the specific details of the creation process, give the movie a watch first:

To create the film, IBM researchers had to capture, position, and share atoms in order to create the things seen in the story. The atoms were handled with a scanning tunneling microscope, which IBM itself invented. It’s not something you’ll be able to borrow to create your own micro movie: the device weighs two tons and operates at a temperature of -268 degrees Celsius!

Atoms were moved to very precise locations by using a super-sharp needle along a copper surface to physically attract them. Still images were captured through this process in order to create the frames for the resulting film.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes documentary showing how the project was done:

“A Boy and His Atom” has since been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the smallest movie ever made.

Thanks for sending in the tip, Ofer!

  • Bryan Folstad

    9mm is pretty massive for the atomic world! I’m assuming you meant micrometers? The abbreviation for micrometers is µm

  • Michael Zhang

    Nope. 9mm is the size of the figure in the “smallest stop-motion” we shared in 2010:

  • Rob Elliott

    glad the atom pants fit.. I’d hate to have had them split… *rim shot*

  • Flea

    I see dust spots on the sensor.

  • Jake

    Weak story, no character development, bland cinematography, and pretentious use of cliché black & white…I’d rather just watch Clerks again.


  • Guest

    note: those were not single atoms but instead those were molecules. carbon monoxide (CO) to be exact, so two atoms bound together.

    (they say it in the 2nd video)

    this is definitely something very cool, even though it is only a side product of research for optimized data storage – which is even cooler (imagine having one single storage device the size of an SD card which will be able to store ALL your pictures you will ever take. and also those of your friends and family. and probably everyone else on earth. and you might even still have some space left – unless by then we all have gigapixel cameras ;))