Moving pictures

10th September 2004 at 01:00

Easy-to-use animation package

Price: pound;29 for a single user licence to pound;199 for a site licence.

2Simple Software

Tel: 020 8203 1781


Fitness for purpose *****

Ease of use *****

Features *****

Quality *****

Value for money *****

As a quick and easy introduction to animation you will find 2animate hard to beat. Alongside easy-to-use tools on uncluttered, customisable toolbars there are built-in videos to explain how it all works and to get you started - although you probably won't need them as it really is very simple.

When you choose to start a new animation you get a clean white pad, a strip of four frames across the top of the screen and some felt-tip pens down the side. Make your drawing and it appears in the first frame. Drag it into the second to replicate and alter it. Repeat until satisfied and the job is done. The teacher options let you limit the number of frames in the movie, or allow the children to add them as they go along.

It can be more complicated if you like as there are three built-in levels of sophistication. Level one is just four frames and a set of felt tips.

Advanced level brings in drawing tools, stamps, special effects and, with an added webcam, the possibilities of stop-frame animation. You can even make your own stamps for objects you will use repeatedly.

Adding a webcam means animation with real images becomes simple - each image pastes straight into the next empty frame. So, make a model, position it and click. Move it, click again and away you go. You can even use the graphic tools in this same animation to draw directly on to your web cam photo or add a special effect - smudge perhaps.

Along with the tools to create there is also a frame extractor to deconstruct existing animations. This immediately demonstrates how the animation was created, stripping it down to individual frames.

Understanding will come quickly and it is a very short step from there to making your own.

When complete, the animations can be saved in GIF format, ready for use on the internet or in a presentation program such as PowerPoint. You can even print them out as flick-books, which were, until this came along, the very simplest form of animation.

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