ComiPo! - Manga Comic Creation Made Easy

ComiPo is the Bitstrips of Manga Comic Creation. Whilst this software doesn't have a lot to do with video or animation it could be used as a storyboarding tool for your personal projects just because it's so easy to use and requires no drawing skills at all.

I've always liked Manga and Anime style animation but I have no desire to actually learn how to draw these styles myself (much like my love of Marvel and DC comic book art which I have no interest in learning to emulate). But I would like to make Manga comics, just for fun.

So when the opportunity to purchase ComiPo came about, at a seriously discounted price of US$29.95 instead of the already affordable $49.99, it only took one look at the software's demo video to convince me it was a great buy. Take a look yourself at the video below.



What's most impressive about ComiPo is not just how versatile it is but also how easy it is to learn. You can pretty much be up and creating in less than 15 minutes and be completely confident in finding your way around within a few hours.

The base product comes with plenty of content to get you started. Plus, once you've registered the software, you get access to nine additional bonus content packs that you can download for no extra cost. You could certainly get by for quite a while on just this content but if you want more character and outfit options then there are additional premium content packs available at very reasonable prices.

There's also the ability to import your own backgrounds and props if you don't want to buy extra content or need something specific that just isn't available.

All the characters in ComiPo are full 3D models that you can rotate and position almost anyway you want. This makes them excellent for experimenting with character placement to create dynamic compositions within each frame. Unfortunately whilst you can fully manipulate the head and hands into almost any position you can't do the same with the arms, legs, feet or torso. You're stuck with the predefined poses. That said, there are hundreds of poses to choose from.

I had no trouble finding just the right poses for my comic strip below, which I created in just a few hours (in between other distractions).

My only other major criticism is about many of the backgrounds in all the included content. It's clear many have been drawn with great care and thought for composition in how that might be used. However a vast number of them are obviously photographs with an illustration filter effect applied that not only looks awful but also isn't served by poor composition that leaves little space to place characters.

That aside it's a fun, stress free piece of software to use. The included content is clearly targeted at young teens as most of the characters and the higher quality backgrounds are school themed but anyone who loves creating Manga should enjoy ComiPo. Especially if you're more of a writer than an artist.

Comics can be output as jpg, png or pdf files for the web or can be printed at high quality if you really want to make a physical comic book.

Personally I enjoy using ComiPo. I could easily see creating short Manga strips as becoming my new hobby outside of animation.

ComiPo's Studio.


Froyd Still Wants Coffee - New Froyd the Cat


Cool Froyd, now simply known as Froyd because I think perhaps he hasn't quite earned his 'cool' yet, makes his second appearance in a brand new CrazyTalk Animator 2 cartoon. This time he's gone a little bit Roger Rabbit and crossed over into the world of live action footage.

Watch the video below then I'll tell you a bit more about the behind the scenes stuff. All you need to know is that Froyd is still interested in getting his daily dose of coffee.



Inspiration

It's no secret I've found it difficult to decide how to use Froyd in a regular series animation. He doesn't have a lot of movement range because the character is essentially an animated painting. Originally I wanted to have him talking to camera sitting in front of his blue background based upon his actual painting as per my first Froyd animation.

However that background felt very limiting and I began thinking about creating other backgrounds for Froyd. Quite by chance I was answering a question in the Reallusion CrazyTalk Animator forums about importing video into CrazyTalk Animator 2 and it struck me. I could combine Froyd with video footage, Roger Rabbit style.

Then I thought, if that worked well, I could literally make videos where Froyd appears as my pet cat talking to me in that weird way Garfield talks to Jon but not really.

The thing about Froyd is that, if I sit around waiting for inspiration to hit, it never does. I want him to be really witty and insightful but in order to test the idea out I decided to ad-lib something after I put everything together.

The first video was about coffee so I figured why not continue the theme. We have a fairly spacious and well lit kitchen so I thought, why not film myself making my morning cup of tea and have Froyd sitting on the bench next to me.

Creating the Video

In filming the video I made no effort to interact with Froyd other than making sure I never blocked out the area of the frame where Froyd would be sitting (and thus spoiling the illusion). I filmed the video using my little HD camera set up on a tripod - a MUST if you're going to overlay a character into a live action scene convincingly.

Once I had the video I had to edit it down to two minutes from about ten minutes that I filmed. Which is why you see sudden light changes in the final video. In hind sight I should have blended the light changes more so the cuts aren't so obvious but I felt it was okay for the test video.

I then imported the video directly into CrazyTalk Animator 2.

Adding Froyd

Putting Froyd into the scene is relatively simple. I have him set up as a character and I literally just drag'n'drop him into the scene and size him to fit. He also has an 'idle' animated action that cycles to look like he's breathing and moving his tail mindlessly.

I then recorded my voice track using Voice Changer teamed with Audacity. To do this I watched the video footage and ad-libbed the lines based on what was happening. It's not genius comedy but it serves the purpose of giving Froyd something a little interesting to say.

CTA2 auto lip syncs the voice file but I did make a few changes to the mouth shapes to try and get more natural looking movement compared to the first episode.

Next I used CTA2's puppeteering functions to animate Froyd (just like controlling a real puppet) making several passes, blending each movement in real time to match the video as it played through. It does take a bit of skill but I think I did a much better job this time around of making Froyd move a little more naturally and in tune with the words he is speaking and his environment.

Does it Work?

Generally I'd say the video looks quite good. Froyd looks like he is in the scene. Sure he's clearly a cartoon character but it works well enough thanks to the way I painted him, with reflected light in his shadows - just as light reflects into the shadow areas of real world objects.

Although the concept is a little similar to Garfield I think it's worth pursuing. It's not exactly the same and I'm sure my own sense of humor will eventually help me differentiate the character into his own thing. I think the real world locations will help too.

The live action is easy to create, as is animating Froyd. It could well be a character I visit every time I need a break from other more difficult or tedious animation projects (like Skate Monkeys).

Plastic Animation Paper (PAP) is coming back!

Animation Paper - WIP user interface.
I've written about the free Plastic Animation Paper Software designed for creators of digital hand drawn animation before. Whilst the software technically never went away its creators did stop developing the software and eventually decided to give it away for free with no technical support.

Now, almost two decades after they first developed PAP, the developers have decided to give the software an overhaul with a new name, user interface, and first up - a native Mac version (to be followed by Windows and iOS versions later). The new software will be called 'Animation Paper' and will retain most of the features that made old-PAP so good but with a much better, redesigned UI. No doubt it'll get some new features too but the goal is to retain the simplicity of the software that made it easy and fun to use.

You can read more about the new look Animation Paper currently in development and the all new website - as well as discover some of the history of the software and its creators too.

For now you can support the software's development simply by signing up to the new website to receive updates on the software's progress. The more people who sign up, the more likely it is that the developers will be able to convince investors that there is a market for a brand new version of one of the finest hand drawn animation tools out there.

Also if you sign up before the end of March 2014 you'll be eligible to receive an early bird discount when the new version is released for sale.

If you've never tried PAP then the original is still available for download from the Animation Paper site. I highly recommend it. There's a bit of a learning curve because of the outdated user interface but once you learn where everything is you'll want to use it just because it's fun.

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