3D Animation Software for Kids
By Brian Jung
3D animation software is complex process, involving aspects of 3D modeling and computer programming along with artistic concerns. Still, with so many animated films aimed directly at children, kids are bound to become interested in learning 3D animation. 3D animation software for kids, then, should give them an opportunity to explore their animation ideas without overwhelming them with technical concerns. A few software products attempt to do just that.
Alice is a 3D modeling and animation application that allows the creation of animations by dragging objects onto the screen along with programming tiles to create story-oriented movies and games. While Alice tremendously reduces much of the complexity involved in creating 3D animations, its real purpose is to introduce its users to the concepts of object-oriented programming and its audience is primarily high school and college kids, though it has been used by younger children with some success.
Storytelling Alice is an adaptation of Alice that emphasizes characters and character interaction in the creation of 3D animations. Storytelling Alice further simplifies the animation process, and its unique focus has been shown to increase students'--and especially girls'--interest in programming concepts.
Xtranormal provides an online tool that allows kids to animate preselected scenarios. The animator simply has to select a scene and a number of actors, and then supply a script. The script will be read by 3D animated actors through a surprisingly good speech synthesizer. The animator can drag in action icons, allowing him to change camera angles, give characters gestures and motions, change expressions, look in different directions, or pause. Rather than focusing on creating and manipulating objects, as most 3D tools do, Xtranormal gives kids the opportunity to build scenes and create characters, getting them well on the way to making animated stories. In addition to the online tool, Xtranormal offers a downloadable version called State that you can run locally on your PC.
Introduce kids to old school animation. Stop-motion programs allow the user to create old-fashioned, frame-by-frame animated films on their computers and web cams. Using stop motion, kids can animate individual frames drawn on pieces of paper, bring their toys to life, create claymation movies, or achieve weird effects in live-action films. Four Chambers Studio produces a free, easy-to-use, stop-motion program, but many other options are available.
Free Advanced Tools
For the select kid who has the patience and technical aptitude to dive into a complete animation package, downloading free software and turning her loose might be the best answer. Blender is a free professional-level 3D animation tool that has an extensive user community and thus a lot of tutorials and forums where users can go to get questions answered. Other free programs include Anim8or and 3D Canvas.
Brian Jung has been writing professionally since 1991. Currently he works as a software developer for University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio, where he also contributes reviews and commentary on children's and young adult literature to his own blog, Critique de Mr Chompchomp, and to Guys Lit Wire. Brian holds a Doctor of Philosophy in English from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.