Crazy Talk Animator 2 and iClone 5.51

3D motion for 2D characters in
Crazy Talk Animator 2.

Crazy Talk Animator 2

I'm very excited at the release of Crazy Talk Animator 2 from Realusion. So excited that I bought my copy on pre-order as part of a pre-visualization bundle with iClone 5.51. I bought over $1000 worth of software for 70% off and got Crazy Talk Animator 2 for free, thrown in.

The down side is I won't get Crazy Talk Animator 2 until it's released some time in December 2013. The upside is I'm now the proud owner of so much 3D animation software I could just about make my own Toy Story movie (or maybe a sequel to The Invincibles since Pixar won't get their act together).

Regular readers of this blog will know I have the original Crazy Talk Animator. You can see pretty much the sum total of my efforts with it in this blog post on animating Cool Cat, Froyd. I just haven't had the time to really dive into it.

However, aside from all the new 3D features for 2D characters in version 2, what's really got me excited is the new feature of being able to draw your own characters to a specific template that you can then import and have your character take advantage of all the new 3D features. That's hugely exciting to me. Previously characters were much harder to animate in three dimensions, involving a lot of swapping of different views of body parts to achieve the desired effect.

Character Templates.

There's also a new, built in, character creation system that looks like it could be a great addition to my animation business. I'm hoping it'll allow me to create custom characters quickly so that maybe I can finally offer Crazy Talk Animator videos as part of my explainer video business.

Rather than me run through every feature, take a moment to watch the demo, sneak peek video below. If it doesn't get you excited then you must be a hand drawn animation purist or something.



iClone 5.51

3D digital actors in iClone.
At this point I feel like I've bought the entire iClone catalogue of tools. Just yesterday I bought extra plug-ins for it despite not yet having even used the program since installing it a week ago. 

I've got the main program along with the Avatar Toolkit, the Monster Avatar Toolkit, the MoCap Device Plug-in, the pop video converter plug-in, 3DXchange (for converting models made with other 3D software), the Toon Maker Plug-in and a whole bunch of other content and training materials. All up I spent about $425.00 because all of it was bought on special (this software isn't usually this cheap!)

When I started out in computer animation, 3D animation is what I wanted to do, after being inspired by the cut scenes created for the very first Tomb Raider computer game. However I never had a computer powerful enough. I still don't really, but my humble Toshiba laptop can just about manage, especially after I bought an extra 4GB of RAM.

With everything I bought for iClone I can now realize that dream but my main focus is more 2D animation these days - hence my excitement for CTA2.

I can't tell you much about iClone, having not really used it yet. However I do know the interface between CTA2 and iClone follows the same basic layout, making it very easy to switch between the two. If you want to get into 3D animation with a tool that makes it relatively easy then see if iClone is for you by watching the video below. 

I'm sure at some point in the future I'll be posting about my efforts with both CTA2 and iClone so be sure to keep coming back.



Featured GoAnimator: TheseStars - Hoot and the Yellow Canary

TheseStars
GoAnimator TheseStars is the November winner of my GoAnimate, Get Featured in TET's Blog contest. TheseStars has had her account with GoAnimate since April of 2010 and in that time has amassed 965 followers and published 21 animations.

TheseStars chose to feature her animation Hoot and The Yellow Canary, saying...

I choose this video to be featured in this article for several reasons. The first being that I strongly feel it is my best production thus far as an armature animator working within the GoAnimate Studio. The second reason for my choice is that I would like to share this particular spotlight with the other people who contributed to the success of the production. And lastly, I choose this video because I strongly believe in the message the story line serves to tell others. That they too can create a little magic in their own life.
This video production tells the story of how I literally found a yellow canary on the same day that I told a canary breeder in a pet store that I would, "one day have a Yellow Canary when the time was right".
To this day, it blows my mind how the events of that day unfolded. You see, the timing was perfect. I had an extra bird cage since I was travelin' with Ginger my pet cockatiel and kept an extra larger cage at my other home in New Jersey. 
Anyway, I figured since the story was going to be about birds, I would use my HOOT, the owl character and his side kick Stick figure to advance the story. But I was strugglin' for a storyline to introduce the canary. Which I feel silly about now because the best stories are the true stories. 

Watch TheseStars' animation below and then read about her inspiration and challenges in creating the video.

HOOT! and The Yellow Canary by TheseStars on GoAnimate


Inspiration

The overall inspiration for this video production had some very magical and extraordinary events surrounding it right from the start. So, I'll tell you about them and start from the start.

 The original inspiration came when GoAnimator EnjoyingLifeinSeoul (otherwise referred to here as ELIS) noticed that I was sharing pictures and news updates with friends and family on Facebook about the Yellow Canary that I found on my front lawn in New Jersey. It just so happened that ELIS was in the process of teaching himself how to animate props and characters using the software program, KoolMoves. ELIS asked me if l would like to have a yellow canary animated to join my other original GoAnimate character, HOOT! the owlet that likes to play around with anagrams. Of course, I was thrilled, and said, "absolutely".

Main Challenges

It was on March 2nd 2013 that I first saw the yellow canary come alive for the first time. So now I had this wonderful little moving canary who could dance, talk, close his eyes, fall over in his food dish, and of course, just stand still. The problem was, as I mentioned earlier in this writing, was that I was strugglin' for a storyline to use him. You have to understand that in my head I knew the video would have to be a great production because someone put all this effort into making this character for me. I knew I had to honor that time with something special. I had nothing.

So now time is still passing and it's now June, and I still have no idea how to introduce the Yellow Canary. No idea how I was going to make ELIS proud of his work. Then enters Gypsy Grass, the music. Written and performed by Shawn Gonzales.

Blues Musician Shaw Gonzales is an acquaintance who I had met in November 2012 through New Jersey Hall of Fame Blues Guitarist, Dean Shot while doing some promotional work for a night club.  The quick back ground story on Shawn is that he played slide guitar on one of Johnny Lee Hooker's last recordings before he died. It's now July.

Shawn sends me a link to hear some of his new original music that he just upload online. In just a few short notes, BAM! I knew instantly what I was going to do with the Yellow Canary. I was going to tell the amazing story on how I found him. And I was going to use Shawns' Gypsy Grass to do it. It was the music that sparked the initial inspiration to sit down and start the process in the studio. And it was the music that revealed to me how the story line would flow. Now I had two people to make proud. ELIS and Shawn. The pressure was mounting.

Since I wanted to use all of the music, which was 5 Minutes and 32 seconds in length, I now had time to play around with another story line, besides the true story of finding the canary, to make the work more fun. And who better than to give a story line too, but too my other alter ego personality, Stick Figure. I love setting him up for trouble, and I needed the time filler.

I didn't ask Shawn Gonzales' permission to use the music until after the video was complete. I figured if he heard my amazing true story being told alongside his own original music, that it would be easy to get his permission. So that's what I did. On May 18th, I presented the work to Shawn Gonzales asking his permission.

Yes, I did all that video production work, prop making, and story writing to his music knowing the whole time that there was a good chance he would say, "sorry, I would prefer that you didn't use my music". But thankfully, that's not what happened. This was his response, 'You have no idea how special that was for me. Thank you for such a wonderful experience Renee. I lost my bird "Brutis", of 12 years only 9 months ago. He looked very similar. It was so well done. I would be proud for you to show this to anyone. Thx again for even considering using my music in that way.'

 So besides the amazing story of finding the canary on the same day that I told someone I always wanted a Yellow Canary, is the finding of the music that immediately sent the story rolling through my head was written by someone who had his own personal and touching truth about a bird. Does life get any more uncanny than that? I don't think so.

 I believe the content of the production and the story behind it, could help others learn two things, 1. That they too could drum up some of their own magic in life if they just believe in the power of their own thoughts and words. And, 2. Allow a piece of work to have its own place in time for when it's ready to be, ---don't rush anything that doesn't come easily. I'm not saying you shouldn't try over and over to get a prop right, or a scene right---your should work hard on it, you should probably make several and choose the one that fits best, what I'm saying about story line is don't rush the telling of a story ---especially if its not flowin out on its own.

In the end of it all, I think I made a production that all three of us could be proud.

Here are two more funny things about this production. There is more truth hiding inside the scenes that no one yet has ever noticed. The first is with Stick Figure when asked by HOOT!if he, 'read the script'. Stick figure replies, "don't tell anyone Hoot, but I usually wait till the last minute". It's true--- very rarely do I stick with a script. I rough one out to give me a start, but than the story itself takes over and well I let it go its own course. 

And lastly, there is something in the video that no one ever noticed. It's the name on the directors' board prop I made. Kent Seehem. You can't see him. He is hiding behind my character Thesestars, who I also only give you a cutoff shot of, because I am trying to make it feel like a real studio production getting ready for the big introduction of the characters and the entrance of the Yellow Canary. Thought I'd give this a mention before signing off, and wishing everyone Happy Animating while following your own true stories.


If you've enjoyed TheseStars' work then why not check out more of TheseStars' animations on GoAnimate.

Runner up Featured GoAnimators for the month of November included:

Six D.I.Y. Video Animation Tools


Can't draw or animate to save your life but want to create cartoons or explainer videos? Here's a list of six do it yourself animation sites/tools that are worth a look and you can try for free - no drawing skills required.

Before we start I will admit I've barely used any of these sites except for GoAnimate, so don't expect in depth reviews. The best I can do is give you my initial impression, ask you to watch their video and then go and try them all for yourself. I may do proper reviews at a future date.

GoAnimate

I'm a big supporter of GoAnimate which has been around since 2008 and allows you t create short, 2D cartoon animations using their library of thousands of characters, props, backgrounds and more. It's the leading site in its field and is being continuously refined with improvements.

What makes GoAnimate stand out from the competition is that it can keep up with your growth as an animator and film maker. You can get some very professional looking results sticking with the content available but if you want to branch out and start animating your own characters and props using flash animation software you can. Import these back into GoAnimate and take advantage of how easy their studio is to use as well as still having access to their extensive library.

GoAnimate has evolved into a site promoted heavily for business explainer video creation but coming through it's initial hobby animator route it includes several character themes ideal for story telling including Anime, stick figures, Lil' Peepz, Politics and more.

For all round versatility and ease of use it can't be beaten.



Powtoon

Powtoon is best suited for explainer videos rather than story telling, unless you want to tell stories in a presentation style.

Their studio is kind of like Microsoft Power Point with a cooler library of clip art and more features geared towards animated presentations. If you just want to create videos with graphics that fly in and out of each scene Powtoon is a great option that's a little less complex than GoAnimate.



Wideo

Much like Powtoon, Wideo is best suited to explainer videos. Its studio takes a similar approach to Powtoon using the familiar Power Point slide approach. Its library of pre-made props, characters and backgrounds isn't quite as extensive as Powtoons given it's a newer player in the field but what's there is pretty unique so you might choose Wideo on that basis alone.



Moovly

Moovly is another recent entry to the animated video explainer market. Like the others it has a library of pre existing and animated content at your disposal. Creating animations using a more traditional approach of working around key frames on the studio's timeline.

Just like Wideo its content library isn't that extensive yet but it does have a few unique styles that no other site really has. For example Moovly has the most convincing animated, whiteboard marker, drawing arm I've seen yet.



Video Rascal

If you have a thing for animated text explainer videos then Video Rascal may be for you. Although it only seems to have two templates it looks like there are plans for more. Creating a video is a very easy step by step process where the most difficulty you'll have is planning exactly how to layout your text so it looks good with the template you've chosen.

You could probably do everything Video Rascal can do in GoAnimate, Powtoon, Wideo and Moovly but not anywhere near as quick. It's not that pretty just yet but with more templates and development it could be the go-to site for text based explainer animations.



Plotagon

Plotagon s a little different but familiar to those of you that may remember Xtranormal (which shut down earlier in 2013). In a nutshell it's 3D animation software that you can download and use to create animated short films just by typing in your script.

At the moment the quality of the finished animated movies make Xtranormal's platform look like it characters could act Shakespeare plays convincingly but I'm sure Plotagon will get better with further development.

Unfortunately Plotagon is a huge download (over 800MB) and I have to say I was pretty disappointed by its limitations. Again Xtranormal's desktop software, Slate, was a smaller download with greater abilities.

On the plus side the 3D is more realistic than Xtranormal and the interface is set out almost exactly like how you would format a screen play.

Currently it may be more useful as a pre-visualization tool, since the software chooses the optimum camera angles for you based on established film making principles. If you were making a live action film you could use the chosen camera angles as a guide for your live action camera placements.





I'm sure there are other sites out there - please let me know of any free sites within the comments and I may feature them in a future post.

Personally I would recommend GoAnimate to you every time but I would suggest you at least try the others, as I've become so accustomed to GoAnimate's studio that everything else tends to be quite limiting. If you're coming to these sites with no prior experience you may prefer some of the simpler studios in comparison to GoAnimate's highly evolved offering.

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