iStopMotion Pro 2.7 Review: Improving Single Keystroke Capture

An award-winning animator test drives the latest version of Boinx's signature stop-motion software.

The most important feature of iStopMotion is the immediate feedback from the instant playback. Courtesy of Boinx Software.

Animators are gods. Foremost among them are stop-motion animators, because with their bare hands they bring dead things to life.Henry Selick

With a Mac and Boinx iStopMotion Pro 2.7, you have access to stop-motion capture tools of the gods. Dr. Frankenstein never had it as easy to "bring dead things to life."

The DV Lunchbox from Animation Tools works was the unique groundbreaking standard for intuitive and easy frame capture. Meet the new kid on the block. The current iteration of iStopMotion Pro 2.7 brings powerful easy to use single keystroke capture software to your fingertips.

Boinx offers iStopMotion in three animated flavors:iStopMotion Home ($49) CasualiStopMotion Express ($99) EducationaliStopMotion Pro ($499) Professional

iStopMotion Pro's new capabilities include greatly increased resolution of 10,000 x 10,000 lossless compression to a QuickTime movie file, integration with Final Cut Pro and support of high-def (HD) capture.

There's increased resolution to a QuickTime movie file and integration with Final Cut Pro.

One current major caveat is a lack of support for most Canon DSLR cameras working on MAC OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.5 and 10.6.6. Boinx, however, is working on an "elegant" solution to that problem.

Canon cameras do work with older operating systems. My review is based on working with digital video cameras (I only had access to Canon DSLRs).

The first, best and most important feature of iStopMotion is the immediate feedback from the instant playback. Combined with the onion skinning automatic default (or blinking), production flow is fast, intuitive and accurate, allowing me to focus on being creative, a joy to work with.

Layout of the screen workspace is divided on the right hand side with three functions: Recording, View & Compositing. The Recording function begins with your choice of many Digital Video & DSLR camera sources. The application defaults to the built-in iSight camera. 

The tilt shift function encompasses an ability to manually manipulate focus selectively in each frame. It makes a full size landscape appear to be a miniature and a miniature set appear to be a much larger space. Tabletop animators will appreciate this capability.

Rotoscope was originally invented and patented by Max Fleisher in the 1920s to create a hand-drawn frame-by-frame live-action reference of his brother Dave dressed in a clown costume. The live-action frames were traced onto animation paper to create the movements for Koko the Clown. The Rotoscope/Lip-Sync function continues to come in handy as a very useful tool to work with previously captured files as a reference.

You can overlay any customizable combination of evenly spaced horizontal & vertical reference lines.

A special feature of this program is the Overlay & Grid capability. You can overlay any customizable combination of evenly spaced horizontal & vertical reference lines. This is critical in creating a smooth and controllable animated sequence. No need for the "old school" grease pencil on the monitor technique of "Sledgehammer". Soundtrack was easy to grab a sound file and place it on the time line at the bottom of the screen with a visual graph of the track. I animated intuitively on the fly to a visual and aural reference of the soundtrack.

Compositing covers foreground and background capabilities, and includes a truncated stock library of thematic frames and backgrounds.

One of the tools in the Boinx box is a voice-activated remote control. If you do not want to have to walk back and forth to the computer between frames, this can be of great help. When Ray Harryhausen animated a scene, he respectfully asked everyone to leave the set. Ray's process required total uninterrupted focus when performing his fourth dimensional magic. This feature works in a similar way. When you say "capture," the program will fire off a frame. If there are uncontrolled noises (like other people), frames could be inadvertently captured. Not perfect but a useful convenience.

Overall, Boinx's efforts to offer a powerful easy-to-use stop-motion capture application will be appreciated by MAC users. It's about time stop-motion animators were supported with a world class program like iStopMotion Pro.

Gary Schwartz is an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, award-winning animator, director and artist & educator. Schwartz conducts intensive hands-on animation workshops in elementary, middle, high school, under-graduate, graduate, post graduate, professional training, film festivals, museums, summer art camps, community centers, prisons and psychiatric hospitals nationally and internationally. Through his company, Single Frame Films (www.singleframefilms.com), Schwartz has produced, designed and directed animation for Disney, Sesame Street, MTV, Fox Television, the Corp. for Public Broadcasting and others. He is currently a lecturer at the University of Michigan School of Art & Design. His work has been exhibited in major museums and galleries internationally.

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