Saturday, 19 June 2010

Product Reviews

Written for Imagine Magazine, Feb 2010.

Wacom Intuous4
Supports Windows XP (SP2), Microsoft Vista and Mac OS X 10.4.8 or higher.
RRP: £200 - £650

Available from A6 to A3, the Intuous4 redesigns the pen tablet. Customised shortcuts, modifiers and touch ring means that time becomes much more disposable for the animator. Some loose change might even be left to clatter in your pocket since it comes with its own mouse and a selection of downloadable software including Adobe, Corel and Autodesk. The au naturale digital pen is completed with Wacom’s second generation proprietary tip that provides 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, meaning accuracy and detail flourish on the screen. For some one starting out, the Bamboo MTE450KEN will be better suited and less overwhelming, not to mention easier on the wallet. For the professional, though, this is ideal.

RRP: £2.99 upwards

“It’s simply fun!” Stikfas claims and they’re not wrong. Albeit, you need to assemble the 3cm figures yourself, so watch out for sharp jabby nubs, but construction is simple enough to leave the instructions in the box. Depending on which kit you get, the opportunity for customisation is virtually endless. The Blisters packs - perfect for no-frills extras - are basic, yet still perfectly dexterous to position believably. The rest of the kits, though, come more than well-equipped for you to make your figures unique. Stikfas have expanded to endorse numerous themes: superheroes, warriors, spacemen, jungle explorers and fairies are common occurrences in the lands of Stikfas, leaving you little reason to go looking for stop motion fulfilment elsewhere.

Cracking Animation: The Aardman Book of 3-D Animation
RRP: £19.95

With six Oscar nominations and three Academy Awards under their belt, any book written by the masterminds of Aardman should be essential reading for budding animators across the globe. Slightly archaic in its approach, Cracking Animation omits any computer-based methods and focuses almost exclusively on more traditional techniques. Full of exercises designed to let the reader experiment and experience for themselves, this book offers reliable advice and guidance for the amateur. Ideal for enthusiasts just embarking on the path of animation, and of course for taking advantage of the dedicated Aardman fanbase, Cracking Animation is also best left on a student’s library card.

The Animator’s Survival Kit Animated
RRP: £745

Ten years ago, Richard Williams, who brought us Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and the animators behind Pixar, put his fifty years’ worth of experience into a book called The Animator’s Survival Kit. It was the bible that animation needed. Now it comes to us on DVD: sixteen of them. Taken from lectures at Blue Sky Studios, the discs cover anything from games animation to stop motion. You can be lectured by Williams and then go and put his advice into practise, rather than spending hours brooding over his sacred script. Over 400 animated examples can be slowed down to study frame by frame and any questions that come to mind are likely to be thrown at Williams by his audience. If £745 is a bit steep - and, let’s face it, animators aren’t the highest earners in the world - then you shouldn’t have any qualms about falling back on the book.

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