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The Cider Press: iStopMotion 3 Review - Inexpensive Program Can Create Surprisingly Professional Results

by Colin Baumgartner

See the films made for this review with iStopMotion

Creating a stop motion animation can be a tedious task. To achieve a smooth movement, objects must be moved ever so slightly. I can remember an art class where I worked for quite some time on a stop motion animation––though at this point in time I had to work with only a point-and-shoot camera on a tripod and my objects. Needless to say the results were somewhat choppy.

Boinx software’s iStopMotion 3 attempts to take the drudgery out of creating stop motion video. The application includes a quantity of thoughtful features intended to make the process of capturing animation easier. I tested the software using my built-in FaceTime camera. The software shows you the feed from the camera and gives you the option of pressing the “capture frame button to capture the first image. The most immediately helpful feature is an overlay, which shows a translucent image of the last picture taken over the current image that the camera will take. This feature more than anything makes it quite easy to see how much the object has shifted since the last frame.

I managed to locate some old lego in the recesses of my basement and decided I would attempt to make a short animation. I quickly realized that the small lego men are quite hard to work with. The software made it very clear to me now jerky the animation would turn out. Using the play movie option, I previewed my movie and decided to quit while I was ahead. I instead animated an apple moving across the table. The software made the process quite easy. The animation features work just the way they should: they are intuitive and they make the process flow. For those who are very exacting in their animation, the software includes a very convenient grid option so that the amount of movement between each frame is completely constant.

 

The overlay feature simplifies the animation process and allows you to check your movements - See the films made for this review with iStopMotion

Working with the software was fun, though at the same time, somewhat challenging. Using the built-in camera made capturing things somewhat tricky. The angle was hard to control, and pressing the capture button meant coming in to press the space bar from a twisted angle (to ensure my arm wasn’t in the frame). Boinx clearly recognizes the necessity of having an external camera for use in filming, and had made it quite easy to us an external camera with the software. The top right of the screen allows you to select a camera source. The latest edition of iStopMotion now supports the use of the iPhone and iPad cameras; you simply select focus and exposure points and are able to shoot HD video using the iPhone (click here for the free remote camera app for iPhone)

Another feature of the program that immediately caught my eye was the time-lapse feature. The time-lapse option allows you to select how often you want the camera to capture video––say a frame every 2 seconds, or every 2 minutes, or every 2 days. Boinx software includes a convenient formula for planning a time-lapse capture:

Total number = length of the movie (in seconds) × frame rate of the movie
  Interval (in seconds) = event duration (in seconds) ÷ total amount of frames
This for example means:
  Total number = 120 seconds × 12 frames per second = 1140 frames
  Interval = 28,800 s (8 hours) ÷ 1440 frames = 20 seconds per frame

I decided to try this out this feature in a public place. I set up at a table in the local grocery store and started my movie at a rate of a frame every 2 seconds. The resulting movie was very neat. This is definitely a feature that makes the software worth checking out. I tried the time-lapse on traffic as well––at a rate of a frame every second as well as a frame every half second. My final test was to capture a beautiful Sunday sunrise, but the video turned very washed-out on the built-in camera.

The time-lapse feature makes capturing time-lapse movies a breeze - See the films made for this review with iStopMotion

Other features that are highlighted in iStopMotion are the onion skinning option––which shows multiple fames in one overlay–– as well as lip-sync, color-correction, and tilt shift options. The quantity and variety of features included in iStopMotion mean that it has widespread appeal––there is something here for more advanced stop motion enthusiasts, but there is definitely something here to attract kids or amateurs. The program is extremely accessible for beginners, but doesn’t compromise on features that might be used to make very effective professional stop motion films.

The software also includes backdrops and effects (think iChat effects) - See the films made for this review with iStopMotion

Overall, I was very impressed with the intuitive features that really lent themselves to ease of use. The software includes high-quality tools, but without any confusing setup––which keeps the software kid-friendly. I did run into some minor bugs the first few times I used iStopMotion, but aside from this, the software ran extremely well. I would certainly recommend this software to anyone who is enthusiastic about creating short animations. My only bit of advice would be to make sure you have an external camera to use––it will certainly make the animation process easier for you.

The first few times the software became buggy, but things smoothed out afterword


Product
iStopMotion
Company
Boinx Software
MSRP
$49.99
Hits

User-friendly interface and intuitive features that make animation precise and easy. Great time lapse feature.

Misses

Tricky to use built-in camera--so make sure you have access to an iPhone or other external camera.

Rating
(5 possible)
Requirements
Mac OS X Lion v10.7.4 and camera

Colin is a student at Pennsylvania State University and has worked for MacReviewZone since the iMac G5 came out

 

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