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.