Top 10 animation software packages for the younger child

High-quality, standalone, and kid-friendly for the under-11s…

1. Spore Creature Creator. Free trial. The best fun introduction to 3D modelling software controls such as expanding and rotating in 3D, making bones, texturing — and then your creatures are auto-animated. It should suit any child from age four upwards — just ignore the bizarre “12+” age-rating the full game had in the UK. The full $25 game also includes additional Creator modules for vehicles and buildings, and many more creature parts. Older Spore fans, those who are moving more toward game design rather than creature-building, may be more interested in Spore‘s Galactic Adventures construction kit.

2. Muvizu. Free. Some initial supervision needed, but an intelligent child over the age of eight should be able to get the hang of it fairly easily. Capable of some very professional-looking 3D output, because it’s a very simple front-end into the Unreal game engine. Needs a strong modern gaming PC with a powerful graphics-card, and plenty of free space for the video files you’ll be making. Well supplied with excellent free video tutorials, and also comes with a shed-load of free content. Why is all this free? Because they make money by taking a cut if someone uses it for profit.

Oh, and because it runs on a videogame engine, your scenes run in real-time and so “what you see is what you get”. No waiting overnight for a scene to render, or finding after a six-hour render that the lighting is different than it was in the stage view.

3. Animation-ish. Polished $60 “starter” children’s 2D animation software, from the Toon Boom stable. Best used with a graphics tablet and pen, rather than a mouse.

4. Flip Boom Classic. Another children’s 2D animation software from the Toon Boom stable. It’s “the next step” after you’ve outgrown Animation-ish. Best used with a graphics tablet and pen, rather than a mouse.

5. Pencil. Free. One for the gifted kid who can’t be parted from her Wacom tablet and Miyazaki DVDs (hi, Giuseppa!), but who hasn’t yet persuaded Granny to drop $700 on Toon Boom Pro Animate.

6. CrazyTalk, from the makers of iClone. From $50. Easily animate any picture of any face, and make it talk.

See also their excellent new (Dec 2010) offering, CrazyTalk Animator…

7. MIT’s Scratch. Free. MIT’s acclaimed little graphical programming-language environment for kids. Teacher will love you for using it. The other kids will name you “Brain Box”.

8. LittleBigPlanet. I wasn’t sure about including this. A game that’s only for the expensive Playstation 3 console, although Amazon sells the game itself for about $25. A videogame, sure — but a creative one that lets kids get very creative with building new objects and levels. I guess the $15 game World of Goo or the older Crazy Machines would be the nearest alternatives for Playstation-free homes. More for the game-builders than the storytellers in your class or group.

9. Stickman 5.5. Basic $10 “stick-man” animation software.

10. Stykz. “Stick-man” animation software. Free.

Also worth a look:

Creatoon 3. Recently ceased development, and is now free.

There are also several website-based animation maker “kits”, the best known of which seem to be XtraNormal and Domo.

Some toy manufacturers occasionally have little “make your own animations” websites, and these seem likely to become more common as the Web moves toward using HTML5 for 3D in the browser.

If you’re a camera-head who wants to venture into Aardman-style stop-motion, using real-world cameras and plasticine or Lego models, then I Can Animate seems to be the most recommended software for children, although there’s also iKit Movie and SAM Animation.

Corel Asia-Pacific Digital Art Competition 2010

Corel Asia-Pacific Digital Art Competition is now open for 2010 entrants. iClone and CrazyTalk feature as part of the $10,000 first-prize, and are also part of the other prize bundles. Although, oddly, it’s only the old versions — iClone 3 and CrazyTalk 5.

Deadline: 31st August 2010. There are two categories (Open and Student) and entrants must be citizens of one of the following countries:

“Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Thailand and Vietnam.

Entry Format: Entries must be made using one of the following file formats…

For all entries, a 220 x 170 pixel JPG thumbnail image.
For all entries, the Corel software project file for your entry (.vsp, .cdr, .ufo, .pspimage, .rif, .riff, etc.). Maxiumum 6Mb file size.
For graphics, a 1024 x 768 pixel, 96 dpi, JPG Gallery image.
For videos, the YouTube or Vimeo embed code.”

“Seeing things” by Kaoru Hayashi of Japan, one of the 2009 winners.

End User Event 2010

This might interest those in the Netherlands, and those elsewhere in northern Europe and the UK who can hop on a budget flight… End User Event 2010. 3rd – 4th June 2010 in Utrecht, The Netherlands. It seems designed to get away from a trade-show atmosphere…

“It will once again be held in Utrecht, The Netherlands, at a pub called the Florin […] this location will host a no-nonsense get-together for professionals and alike in the field of 3D visualisation, games and animation. These two days will be packed with workshops and masterclasses with national and international expert speakers divided over five conference rooms. […] you can attend a networking dinner as well, and talk shop with speakers and fellow end-users. The venue is 25 minutes by direct train from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.”