Apple Macs are the machine of choice of the media industries, so it's no surprise to hear stories of schools investing in them as an addition to PCs, for creative tasks. It's also not surprising to find companies bringing out products specifically for this platform to perform these tasks. One such is I Can Animate from Kudlian Soft.
This is an animation program where users create frames with up to three different layers of content: a background, an image captured from a camera and a drawing sitting on top of these.
When building the film you can work with individual tools or a combination of camera and frames tools. This latter option brings in the very useful "onion-skin" feature that lets you follow the build-up of the movements frame by frame, creating a slight shadow showing how things were positioned previously, making re-shooting easier.
While the drawing tools are there to create a graphical animation, they could be a little more intuitive. Currently all objects are drawn with a black outline, then individually edited. So you have to draw a shape, then choose it with the selection tool, then change its attributes - a cumbersome procedure for younger pupils who may also want a text tool and a rubber.
Objects can be copied and pasted, but younger users are probably more familiar with drawing tools, where these things are preset. However, the tools are useful for editing out extraneous items such as sticks or lengths of string that were used to support your props and characters.
Another useful feature is the ability to import and manipulate, background images through the use of Chroma Key, the method whereby a background of uniform colour is replaced with an imported image (the technique that made Superman fly.) See p18 for more details on Chroma Key.
To simplify the building up of projects, individual "frames" are built up into "clips", rather like chapters in a book. In this mode a background can be added to all the frames in a clip simultaneously. This is also helpful when exporting the film into iMovie to give it a final polish by adding titles, sound and transitions between frames, (as you do with similar software).
Overall, this is a solid piece of software for animation, with useful features, although some of the tools and procedures involved make it more suitable for pupils in upper primary and beyond.
I CAN ANIMATE Animation software for Apple computers, pound;35 ex VAT Kudlian Soft www.kudlian.net
Fitness for purpose **** Ease of use *** Features **** Quality *** Value for money ****
For more on using Chroma Key technology in the classroom turn to page 18.