Create Stop-Motion Animation With Fun-to-Use Animation-ish
By Clare Brandt
At a Glance
Tutorials geared to kids
Resources for parents and educators
So simple, if you can hold a pen you can animate
Drawing area is very small; about 4″ by 3″
Very basic drawing tools; no text tool
Doesn’t take advantage of vector engine
Learn the basics of stop-motion animation through Animation-ish’s clever three-level process.
Animation-ish ($60, free demo) is a very simple, intuitive, sensibly progressive tool to learn stop-frame animation based on author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds’s children’s books. Although it’s targeted to kids (suggested age range is four through early teens) and marketed to educators, there really are no age boundaries to this well-designed program.
There are three skills levels in Animation-ish: Wiggledoodle-ish, FlipBook-ish, and Advanced-ish. Wiggledoodle-ish prompts you to trace your drawing and uses three frames of tracings to make the artwork wiggle. FlipBook-ish allows you to add multiple frames and either play or loop your animation. Advanced-ish is considerablly more advanced than Flip Boom Cartoon ($40), a basic stop-motion animation program. This level allows you to set keyframes (the beginning and end point of a scene), set independent frames and timing for foreground and background, and much more.
There are no magic tricks to Animation-ish—if you don’t understand the basics of stop-frame animation, you’re going to end up with a wiggledoodle however many frames you add into your animation. But the three-step progression from three frames to full stop-motion frame animation processes is a nice learning tool.
Animation-ish’s drawing tools you use are basic: Brush, Eraser, Paint Bucket, and Selector to reposition pieces of your drawing; plus Grabber and Transform tools in the advanced level. You can choose from eight colors (16 in the advanced level), and change the size of your round brush. There are no layers, but you can draw behind a previously drawn object. You can import most common image files to trace, and export your artwork as Flash, Quicktime, AVI, DV Stream, or Image Sequence.
I found it hard to keep track of the paint brush size using just a slider, and I wish there were numbers attributed to the size, just for consistency in my tracings. Since it’s vector-based, I wish there were a magnifying glass for the small detail: There’s a zoom function in Advanced-ish, but you don’t have much control. There are also no pre-set shapes, or text tool.
Do you need those features to use Animation-ish? Not really. The tools are meant to be basic, intuitive, and not overwhelming. And at that they get an A grade. But if you want a program that nurtures your own artistic style, like realistic painting program ArtRage ($80) does, you may be disappointed with Animation-ish since everything comes out looking like a Peter H. Reynolds/Quentin Blake drawing.
Animation-ish is easy to use, and the tutorials are as much about learning to use Animation-ish tools as much as they are lessons in stop-motion animation and frame editing. The Animation-ish Classroom Activity Guide includes lesson ideas for educators, but are also great jumping off places if you’re short of inspiration, as are the little video short ideas presented by Peter H. Reynolds.
I can see a child of any age, including over-18s, mastering the advanced level of Animation-ish and progressing directly to MAGIX Movie Edit Pro MX Plus ($100, a pro-level video editing suite), Blender (free, 3D modeling and animation software), or if they love stop-motion, Pencil (free, advanced 2D stop motion animation program). If you want to learn the basics of animation, or have a child who does, try Animation-ish. It’s fun, easy, and relatively inexpensive.
Note: This link takes you to the vendor’s store, where you can download a 30-day demo for Windows or Mac.