Thursday, 13 October 2016

Make Animations with StikBot Zanimation Studio - Review


StikBot, an internet sensation, is an articulated plastic bot, which you can use to make stop-motion animations. This year, StikBot launched the #StikBot Zanimation Studio, which includes a green screen studio and the free Zing Animation App.

Disclaimer: Brainstorm Ltd kindly sent us StikBot Zanimation Studio to try at home. Our views are our own.


My kids love making stop-motion animation. Back in the day, my eldest made his first animations using LEGO city and putting together elaborate police chase scenes. These days technology has made it much easier for kids to explore animation. In fact there are quite a few different animation kits available on the market to inspire a future film maker.

This week we played with the #StikBot Zanimation Studio Kit and report on our experience below.

What's in the box?

The kit comes in a box, which includes the green screen studio box, with green screen backdrop and 2 prop boxes.

The studio can be positioned either as a "green" / "blue" studio.

You also get 2 StikBots (we got a red and yellow one) and a tripod to hold a smartphone.

After taking everything out of the packing, all the parts of the studio can fit inside the studio box for safe keeping.

There's a cardboard support inside the studio box, probably part of the packaging, but we recommend you keep it, for extra stability when using the studio.



The App

The free "Zing Animation App" is available on Andriod and iOS. You don't need to sign up for an account to use it. Once downloaded, it is ready to use to make your first stop-motion animation.

There are some tricks to finding your way around the app. Once you're on the main screen click "Stop Motion Video to record your animation. Then click on the "green square" icon to add an image as a backdrop.

In this setting you should select if you're using the "green" / "blue" studio, select a camera backdrop and play around with the sensitivity to get your picture just right.


When you start recording, it's very useful to show the previous frame when you are moving your StikBot. Note when you click the red record "head" button, the head will turn blue. Only move your StikBot when the head has turned back to red. When you're ready, click the red button again. It's normal to only take one frame per movement, but you could experiment with taking 2 frames. Continue this until your animation is complete.

After you completed the filming you can add audio to your movie. There is a rich library of sounds (of course, my boys favourites were the rude farting sounds!) You can select which frame you want to add a sound to. You can also record your own voice.


The app allows you to set the frames per second timing to either speed up or slow your animation down. About 15 fps is standard, but a higher number may give you a smoother movement. Again something to explore and see what you like best.

  • TOP TIP: Remember to take 3 - 5 frames (without moving your characters) for the start and end of your video.

We tested the app on my Sony Xperia, and I gave the kids an old Samsung smartphone to use - both Android devices. The app worked perfectly well on the older device too.

Chroma Key


The fun part of the StikBot Zanimation Studio is the ability to add a different background to your animation, at the time of filming. This is known as Chroma Keying. Chroma keying is the process of "keying out" a certain colour in your video or photo. For example, if you use the green screen, everything that is green will be replaced with a different background. In the late 1800s they used black draping to create this effect, and in 1920 Disney used a white sheet to add human character to their animation movies.

The Chroma Keying on the Zing app, isn't perfect, but it really gives you a great understanding of how it works. You need to play around a bit with the sensitivity. This is also why the kit comes with blue and green. If you used a green StikBot, for example, with your green screen, you will not see it when you chroma key the background.

The app comes with a library of backgrounds, but it is really easy to select your own image from your device or take a new picture in the app.

Our Animation


My kids wanted to get started right away to make an animation. The suckers on the arms and legs of the StikBot, makes is easier to keep your character in position.

The trick is to keep things as still as possible, as you move from one position to the next. Sometimes, we found "unsucking" a foot, wobbled the studio and made things move. Just something to watch out for when you make your own animation.

It lends itself really well to adding other toys and construction materials, like LEGO or Play Mobil to build out a story.

We made a short animation of StikBots with their Retro Robot friend going to an event in Bournemouth. We took the picture of the background ourselves, and added the text and icons in the app for our movie title.



Verdict


The StikBot Zanimation Studio is a great little kit to get kids started on making their first animation. We like the fact that you have everything to start straight away, including an easy to use app. Note the app is not very feature rich so you'll not be able to do fancy editing in it.

As the studio is made out of cardboard, it probably will not last forever. However it is not difficult to make your own studio by painting a shoe box green. Alternatively you have also make animations without the studio just using your StikBot, tripod and app.

I found the tripod a little frustrating at times, as the frame pushed down on the volume button on my smartphone. This will vary from device to device, but I just adjusted my phone a little off center to stop the frame "clicking" the buttons.

Another tip is to use stick tack to stop the tripod from moving or accidentally being knocked over during filming.

Don't forget to get creative and add other props, such as LEGO or other toys to make your animation stories. StikBot characters are also sold separately, so you can grow your collection.







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