I have long harboured secret desires to make my own animated movies – I think several visits to the Disney parks in Florida, where you can see behind the scenes helped. And of course I grew up in a world before CGI, where stop-motion animation was the big thing (I’m a big fan of Bagpuss and its ilk). So when I got the chance to try out Honestech’s own Claymation Studio 3.0 software, I was very excited. I also hoped that it might be something I could interest my young son in (although at five he may be a little young), as I’m not a huge fan of kids just playing games on computers.
If you’re hoping to produce the next Wallace and Gromit, you might find you’re in for a lot of work – and will need a lot of patience (so maybe that’s my five-year-old out of the picture then!). However, you can be up and running very quickly and the software is very reasonably priced at a smidge under 40 quid, and comes with a cute webcam in the shape of a dog. The camera quality is no better or worse than the average webcam and for younger players will probably not cause too many issues. However, the software should be compatible with any webcam you have.
You are able to choose your frame rate – from 1 fps up to 30fps, so if you are prepared to put in the time and effort you’ll get a smooth result, but again for younger viewers you can adjust the frame rate so that they can finish a film before they head off to Uni!
So, getting started is pretty simple really, set up your scene and hit the red button to start capturing your images. The delay function can be set to 5-, 10-, or 60-second intervals, which really speeds up the process. For kids of a certain age, they can use Plasticine, Lego, Star Wars figures, Bakugans – all kinds of toys – for their mini movies.
There are plenty of settings and options to fiddle with, such as the green screen (or chroma effect). This means everything of a certain colour can be replaced with a photographic or video image (it’s how they move characters to appear as if they are flying, on a beach or whatever without leaving the studio). It could be more accurate, but when you think how much this software costs I feel you can’t be too picky.
Once you’ve made your film you can add narration, although be aware that there is no option for multiple tracks, which can make voicing different characters a bit tricky. In fact a lot of the editing facilities are a bit clunky and you may decide to use some video editing software at this stage if you can.
I had hoped that this software would make the process really easy, and to an extent it does – you can be producing your own short clips in very little time. Younger children will be able to get it out of the box and create a film (maybe with some help from Mum or Dad) – which is great – but if you’re looking for a lot of control and editing ability this won’t be for you.
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