After watching a number of stop motion videos on You -tube, including some from dooyoo member Michelle's son, we decided to give stop motion a try ourselves. Michelle did mention we could do this only with windows movie maker - but I'm not sure if we even have that, or how to get it. We decided to go for a programme specifically made for young children in the hopes that if I could not figure it out - my 7 year old could. I am not very technical, and often struggle with computer programmes and such so we wanted something very simple. After a bit of research I determined that we needed a web cam, and a software programme. There are a few packages designed for this purposes. We chose this one because at £29.99 from Maplin it was one of the least expensive options, and the children liked the dog shaped camera.
WHAT'S IN THE BOX?
Dog shaped web cam
A very short usb cable
WHAT'S NOT IN THE BOX?
There is no microphone, and the webcam does not have sound capabilities. If you wish your movies to have sound, you will need a separate microphone. You will also need subjects, but this can be anything from children's toys to a piece of fruit with google eyes and a mouth drawn on, or a bit of plasticine shaped into anything you like. You may want to create background scenes or pictures as well. If I were buying this as a gift, I think I would consider a package of googly eyes, and a bit of plasticine as well. I would also note that there really isn't much in the way of instructions. I ended up buying The Klutz Book of Animation, which I feel would be the perfect addition to this set.
We wanted something simple, and thankfully that is just what we got with this set. The dog camera is plug and play, there was no set up required, the cd loaded easily and we were ready to shoot in no time. The programme is easy to use and we had no problems figuring out how to work the various functions. You can choose how many frames per second you wish from 1 fps to 70 fps. The higher the number, the smoother and more professional your movie will look, but the longer it will take. We chose 7 fps, which gave us a reasonably decent flow, and ended up taking us an hour to shoot 17 seconds worth of film.
I did have to dig out another usb cable to get started. I'm afraid I tossed the one that came in the box into my cable box, and I am now not sure which one it is, but it was far to short to film anything. It would not reach from the computer to the table, and I did not fancy having to crawl about on the floor to arrange the set a few inches from our pc. If you are buying this as a gift, to want to be sure it can be used right away, please take a look at the cable and see if you think you can make do with this. I would recommend just buying another cable at the same time unless you have spares at home.
We were not able to try sound as we don't have a microphone yet. This isn't a major issue as we haven't been able to record a long enough film to bother with sound yet. This is obviously going to take a lot of time and effort to produce anything long enough to really enjoy watching, but we are planning to keep at it. My son has a good idea for a film "Pants ( as in underpants) vs Zombies".
I was also disappointed that the software did not include any ready made back grounds. I really think this would have been easy enough for them to include and would have added a great deal to amateur productions.
We have a few minor issues with this, but overall this was just what we were looking for. A very simple, easy to use programme for beginners. My sons really did love this, and they do want to try more films. I was disappointed in how much time it took to create such a very short film, but that isn't the fault of the programme, it is just our own inexperience, and the fact that stop motion is a much more time consuming process than I first thought.
I do think this set is very educational. It teaches children the basics of how many of their favourite programmes have been made and it certainly encourages creativity. It is a wonderful way to spend a rainy day. It is a bit expensive in my opinion. Maplin's price on this is the lowest anywhere, and I spent hours searching. It is still £29.99 with them, but will cost more if you require delivery. Amazon is £39.99 including postage. That said a lot of toys are expensive now, and at least this is something that I feel will get years of use.
The small dog shaped camera is intended as a gimmick, but it is so popular in our house, I felt it deserves it's own section. It is of course, just a glorified web cam, and likely not the best one at that. I did read a professional review before buying this The reviewers felt the image quality was not up to scratch, at least not by their standards. They used their own cameras instead ( you can use any web cam with this product), but they felt the image quality would be fine for younger users.I don't think I qualify as younger anymore, but it suited me just fine. True we weren't trying anything advanced and we were not looking for studio quality images. While you really don't need the dog - it is quite adequate for children's films, and it does make everything more fun.
My youngest son immediately named the camera "Robodog" and you'd think the poor child never had a real pet the way he took to this. Robodog has been trailed all over the place, gone on holiday and once ended up under the covers kicked down tot he bottom of my bed. Robodog has poseable legs and neck, which is intended to allow you to position him just right for your shots. In our house, this feature is used more often to make him sit at the edge of the bed for story time, or run about with his new best friend Yoshi. I am quite certain the manufacturers did not anticipate this camera being used quite so extensively as a toy, but it has held up perfectly and still looks as good as new.
My sons both say this should get 5 stars. I did consider knocking it down one for the short usb cable, but this is a minor issue and easily corrected so I am going to go ahead and give this the full five stars. And if and when the children ever out grow this, Robodog will still have a place on my computer desk :) A robodog is for life after all.