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Honestech Claymation Studio 3.0 Deluxe review

Ben Pitt
29 Jul 2011
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
39
inc VAT

It could be a lot more polished, but the sheer fun of stop-motion animation makes it a great way to while away the summer holidays

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If you fancy being the next Nick Park, Honestech's Claymation Studio 3.0 Deluxe stop-motion animation software could be for you. It takes courage for a small software publisher to tackle consumer video – an area even some big names struggle with. Our hopes weren't raised when the Claymation Studio installer asked us to disable anti-virus and spyware software, and then proceeded to install a mysterious Honestech Product Agent that ran in the background, even after we quit the main application. When we discovered that Honestech is short for Honest Technology – surely the perfect name for a global hacking militia – it all started to feel a bit surreal.

Claymation main

Claymation Studio will help parents sustain the myth that their kids' toys come alive at night

We decided that our privacy probably wasn't under attack, and had no problems installing the USB dog-cam on a netbook using Windows' own drivers. Quality was no better than most screen-mounted laptop webcams, but that shouldn't upset younger users too much.

Fortunately, the software works with any webcam, or any camera that's recognised as a live video feed by Windows, such as a FireWire MiniDV model, but these are now quite rare. Frame sizes up to 1920x1080 are supported, and while most compatible cameras' resolutions are lower, the software defaults to each camera's top resolution. The frame rate can be set from 1fps to 30fps, letting users choose between creating smooth motion and getting anything finished this side of Christmas.

Capture simply involves hitting the red button to record a frame, but the software includes various tools to make it easier to create convincing animations. The Onionskin slider fades between the live feed and the previous frame, making it easy to see how much has changed since the last frame as well as to rectify accidental shifts in the camera position. It would be even better if it showed multiple previous frames, as this would make it easier to animate characters at an even pace.

The Key Drawing tool lets the user draw reference lines across the preview image, which proved useful for defining a path to animate characters along. There's also an option to overlay a bitmap image for reference via the Rotoscope tab, but this proved less useful.

Claymation chroma

Chroma keying lets users drop photos into the background, but it felt like more trouble than it was worth

Another tab handles chroma keying – better known as the green screen effect – whereby a specified colour is made invisible to reveal a photographic background. This is a tricky technique to get right but Claymation Studio does a reasonable job of easing the process, with a colour picker to define the colour to remove plus controls to specify the ranges of hue and saturation that are picked up. It's a shame there's no control to restrict the range of brightness – off-white areas of the scene were made transparent when we just wanted to remove the green background.

We're impressed that areas can be masked manually for inclusion and exclusion, simply by drawing an area with the mouse. Feathering is also available to soften the edges of the mask, but the button must be clicked for each frame, which got pretty tedious. Still, the ability to apply chroma keying to the live video feed rather than after capture helps to make the layers gel together.

If you're going to make animations, you may as well use a DogCam to do it

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