PC Utilities Magazine

Make your own animated Movies

Traditionally creating animated movies has been a time consuming process and one requiring a fair degree of artistic skill. Stop frame techniques involving moving models or overlaying transparencies on a background meant many hours of painstaking work were needed in order to create just a few seconds of footage. But thanks to the processing power of modern PCs and the increasing availability of user-friendly software it’s now possible for almost anyone to make impressive animated footage at home. Rather than animate frame-by-frame in the old way, computers allow you to define carious points at which you want the character to appear and the software will fill in the movement between them.

Commercial packages like Reallusion’s CrazyTalk and CrazyTalk animator make it possible to take existing still images such as photographs or drawings and turn them into moving, talking characters. Other programs such as Muvizu – in issues featured section – and Reallusion iClone allow you to build and customise characters and scenes from a set of standard components. The increased processing power in modern machines means it’s now possible to produce your own 3D footage too.

Even if you don’t want to make full-blown animated movies you can use the techniques to enhance other videos or website projects. There are tools to morph images together, add movement to photographs, make GIF banners for the New or create simple moving figures. Over the next few pages we’ll take a look at a range of software and techniques including some things you can do without any special software. You should find something useful here whether you’re an experienced movie maker or are venturing into this world for the first time. There’s a collection of tools on the coverdisc too so that you can try your hand at animation and see how easy and rewarding it can be.

Direct your own animated movies using this clever 3D studio tool

It used to be the case that animation was a really complex art form that took ages to produce results. But as you’ll have seen in our animation feature, the introduction of computers has done much to simplify the process. Muvizu is a clever package which makes animation so easy that pretty much anyone can do it. You can create a basic short video from scratch in around ten minutes. As soon as you begin a new project there’s a character on screen ready to animate. You can choose how it’s dressed, place it in a choice of sets and add a soundtrack that’s automatically lip-synced to the picture. You want the character to move? No problem, just click where you’d like it to go and change the speed and gait to suit. In walk mode you’ll see a trail of dots on the screen showing the exact path. Lighting and camera positions can be adjusted to get the effect you want – though you’re restricted to four cameras. Muvizu is geared towards a community approach allowing several people to collaborate on a project, each one working on a different element. You can download additional objects from the program’s website to incorporate into your project. It’s important to note that Muvizu is a big program and needs a pretty powerful PC to work well, so don’t expect it to run on older systems or low-spec laptops. If your PC is up to the task, however, not only is Muvizu an innovative tool it’s great fun to use too.

Ian Barker