The long and illustrious history of moving pictures all started with the zoetrope. Then there was the thaumatrope, the flip book, and my personal favorite, the phenakistoscope. And now we have (drumroll please): The Internet.
People have been excited about moving pictures for ages. But achieving a passable animation has never been as easy or required as little talent as it does today.
Previously, we made some suggestions for sites where you can get your webcomic on. This week, we’re bringing you five excellent ways to tackle animation, the next step in your pseudo-artistic journey.
For animators who would rather put in a little time rather than settle for a mediocre movie, GoAnimate is the way to go. The site offers enough customization to fully express creative genius, but it’s easy enough to master without any actual animation or technical skills.
For almost every component, the website offers a choice between complete customization and a library of already configured objects. Users can either choose a character or make a completely customized one; they can choose a soundtrack or upload one; they can have the computer speak the dialogue or record it themselves. All of these components are laid out visually on an easy-to-navigate timeline.
There’s also an interesting community feature similar to many social media sites. Users can collect followers, earn badges and send messages to one another. Personal dashboards track how many people view your animation, which is way more fun than feeling like you’re sending your brilliant clip into cyber thin air.
Devolver streamlines the animation process into a quick, six-step multiple choice project. Choose your background, characters and one of four plots; type in some dialog; choose some music; and — voila! — you have an animated movie. Despite the extremely limited customization options, it’s actually not a bad looking cartoon.
It’s quick to e-mail your animation to a friend, but they will need to visit the Devolver site in order to watch the movie and there’s no option to download. This aspect, paired with the fact that the dialog is really the only thing you can customize, makes this site more like a more exciting way to send an e-mail message than an actual animation; much like a customized e-card. Still, there are a bunch of situations that could warrant this of animation — an inside joke, a prom date request… a marriage proposal.
Instead of assigning actions to characters via a drop-down menu, Animasher users just hit a record button. Any movement that they create by dragging and dropping the images will be played back. Animators can compile multiple scenes of these moving images to complete a story.
It’s a pretty painless way to make a movie, but there are some drawbacks. The images move but aren’t actually animated, so it’s difficult to accomplish changing expressions. As a result, the animation comes out looking more like a puppet show than a movie.
Some tools that make the site more interesting are the ability to add your own images, record dialog with a microphone and add video clips. If you like the scrapbook-like look and process, there aren’t any better, free options out there without downloading or having actual software knowledge.
As far as visual quality goes, this site is impressive (which is probably the cause of the slow preview load times). The workspace is a little different than the other animation sites mentioned in this article. All character movement, sound bytes, expressions and gestures are added directly into the script where you type the dialog.
Unfortunately, the site’s options for free use are limited. Sarah Palin is one of two default characters in the “Starz” theme, for instance, but any other choices require cash commitment before you’re able to publish your animation. The same is true for “premium objects,” like different backgrounds that you’re able to preview but not publish, unless you pay. As evidenced by the site’s YouTube channel, there are definitely opportunities to makes some pretty cool movies, but the free version seems limited.
You can’t create much of a story with Voki, but you can create an animated speaking avatar. The site is extremely easy to use. Just choose a character base (choices range from Uncle Sam to classic normal-looking people), adjust the background and colors, and add a voice. To put words in your avatar’s mouth, you can either call a number and leave a message, type out a greeting and let the computer generate a voice with the accent of your choice, or record a message with your computer’s microphone. When you’re finished, you can embed the code in your website or e-mail your message to a friend.
6. Zimmer Twins
Remember those choose your-own-adventure novels? This animation site applies the same concept to short cartoons. The site partners with Teletoon, a Canadian animation channel, to give children a starter in animation.
The site challenges you to use its animation tool to finish the stories, which chronicle the adventures of siblings Eva and Edgar. The best finished stories are then recorded by voice actors and turned into TV spots.
Which site was your favorite? What animation sites do you use? What features would you love to see in sites like these? Let us know in the comments!
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