Review: iStopMotion 2 Express

Animate your video and life easily. (February 11th, 2008)

MacNN Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: Boinx Software

Price: $99 US

The Good

  • Smooth, easy to use interface. Powerful high-definition capabilities, Many new features. Affordable.

The Bad

  • Not all cameras are compatible. Limited audio editing capabilities. Relies on iMovie or some other movie editing program for the final version of your video.

Boinx Software's iStopMotion 2, version 2.0.3, is a powerful application that both recreational moviemakers and serious Claymation artists can use to their advantage. When it comes to creating stop-motion videos on your Mac, there is simply no substitute for iStopMotion. Although shooting frame-by-frame animations is always a tedious procedure, iStopMotion streamlines the whole process from start to finish. iStopMotion is a Universal Application, which means it's optimized to run natively on both PowerPC and Intel based Macs.

There are three iStopMotion 2 versions: Home, Express, and Pro. iStopMotion Home is $49 and Pro is $499. I used Express for this review, which retails for $99.00. If you want to add lip-syncing, view your soundtrack, or record continuously, you should buy the Express version. If you need Final Cut Pro integration and want to use an HD camera, than the Pro version is the route to take.

Shooting and editing

The first thing you need to do is connect your digital camera to your Mac. iStopMotion essentially supports any camera that works with iMovie or Final Cut Pro. Most USB or FireWire web cams that support QuickTime, including the iSight, will work as well. However, not all still digital cameras work, so make sure to check the Boinx Software website Support Page before purchasing this piece of software.

Once your studio is set up, you can jump right in. iStopMotion is exceedingly easy to use, because to capture a frame you just click a large red button on the center of the screen. Using the program really doesn't get much more difficult than that. In fact, the hardest part of creating movies with iStopMotion is the inevitable task of moving your figure a fraction of an inch in between each frame. Every time you capture a frame, you record a high-resolution photo up to 1080p onto an iMovie-like storyboard along the bottom edge of the screen. When you're satisfied with the position of your frames, you export the series into an iMovie project for more advanced editing. The site seems to imply that the iLife 07 version of iMovie is the best one to use. If you own iLife 08, you can still download the previous version of iMovie from Apple's site.

iStopMotion also lets you perform many standard video-editing functions, such as limited control to add an audio track, change the aspect ratio, and adjust the video speed. You can import any kind of sound file to enhance your movie.

New features

Boinx Software made several important changes in iStopMotion 2. The biggest problem with its predecessor, iStopMotion 1, was that every frame was recorded to a temporary file that was erased if the program was accidentally shut down. In the newer version, the movie is saved at the beginning of the project, making the project file recoverable in most cases.

Boinx also added a feature called "Virtual Stage" which allows you to create a stop-motion animation in front of an existing movie. For example, if you have a movie of your living room, you can easily animate an action figure flying above your furniture. iStopMotion ships with several stock movies you can use as backgrounds in your projects.

 istopmotion2 screen


iStop Motion 2 in Action, Courtesy of Boinx


Sometimes, filming an object in real time is much easier than animating it in stop motion, such as a falling lamp, for example. Moving a camera angle or zooming in on objects is hard to animate also. iStopMotion now allows you to combine frame-by-frame motion with real-time video, and does a good job of making the transition seamless.

As noted in MacNN's review of iStopMotion 1, The Onion Skinning feature lets you follow the action of your animation. You view the last several frames to show you where the next sequence should start. This is very helpful in keeping your motion moving smoothly. Blinking lets you see your image in a rapid strobe light-like fashion in the preview window. As you flip through the images, you can see if your animation is smooth or jerky due to gaps in positioning.

Conclusion

iStopMotion 2 is now available in a 5-user family pack, so that your whole household can use the product at the same time. The Home or Express versions use this license. A number of useful tutorials for creating flipbooks, Lego animated movies, using iStopMotion in education, are also posted on the support site.

iStopMotion stands out from most video-editing programs by providing an intuitive interface and a powerful feature set. Anyone, ranging from children to professionals, can use iStopMotion to bring still objects to life, along with a little bit of imagination and a drop of creativity.

Related Product Reviews:

iStopMotion 1.9

FotoMagico 2

FotoMagico



Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by Cedric Bosch


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