I have always loved stop-motion and experimented with it as a kid and then again in art school, but until recently I hadn’t come across any tools designed specifically for the job. In college, they had these Lunchbox systems which were great for pencil tests and could be used for stop-motion, but at that point they were not hi-res enough to use for a final film. They have higher quality Lunchboxs now, but they are a pricey investment since they are a piece of hardware.
Last month I was looking through the blog Angry Puppet Films, where the animator Ethan Marak wrote about the Frame Thief stop-motion software that he uses for personal projects in his home studio. I followed his recommendation to to the software page, but found that it looked like a stalled project that hadn’t been updated since 2002 (based on what I read in the forums). Curious about the subject I did some further research into Mac software designed for stop-motion animation and came upon Boinx Software’s iStopMotion.
iStopMotion is a project that is current and will continue to be developed so it seemed like the best product to try out. Boinx provides a free demo period and I downloaded the trial of their professional HR version and loved it immediately. The interface is clean and straightforward, and will be understood quickly by amateurs and pros alike. I hooked up my DV camera via firewire and the software flawlessly had the video feed ready to be shot. I shot this MOVE IT test animation below (previously posted here).
For the MOVE IT test, I dedicated a good part of a day shooting those set-ups of various things I found to animate. I recognized the ease of use and set-up that the iStopMotion software provided and so when I travelled home for the holidays I packed my DV camera, tripod and laptop — all I needed to shoot stop-motion or time-lapse on the go.
I shot funny little pixillation videos with the kids from the family and with friends. Just as Boinx advertises on their product page, this software is a great solution for animating projects with kids because of its direct simplicity and instant gratification: the kids always want to see their animation immediately, and iStopMotion exports quickly to a variety of video formats for viewing or further editing.
The professional user also will love the high-end features available in the pro HR version which include importing an audio track for synching lips and movement and HD resolution export. There is an optional plugin for hooking up your digital still-camera to function as the image capture device for high quality images (your camera needs to be able to remotely triggered, not all cameras have this function). There are plenty more features detailed here. There is no reason why you couldn’t use iStopMotion as a pencil test or shooting setup for traditional drawn animation as well.
The standard definition edition license only costs $39.99 with free upgrades, and this is the perfect choice for most users. I highly recommend this software and will be posting more animated experiments and projects utilizing iStopMotion in the near future.