I first saw a Digital Blue Movie Creator at my old primary school where the pupils were making stop motion animations as part of computer club. I liked the idea of it so I bought one off eBay about 2 years ago for around £60, which is about average for a kids camera. Pros: The camera is easy to use and it is easy to install the software onto the computer. The camera is compact and can be taken out wirelessly to record video, which can later be downloaded onto your computer. Lots of fun special effects including explosions and lasers as well as some good sound effects. User friendly, with big buttons and not alot of them. Cons: The quality of the camera isnt great. There is quite limited memory space. It has quite short battery life if unconnected from computer. Overall it's a nice piece of software, and it is a lot of fun too, but could be touched up on the quality of the camera, the battery life and the memory space. 3/5 stars.
Many of the Digital Blue © products are aimed at youngsters although I have purchased it for use at work with adults. Digital Blue products are educational and inspire learning opportunities without as they say 'being tethered to a PC or games console'. I have seen the software in use before with children but decided to give it ago as a trial with adults. I am hoping to start a Masters programme in January and will be learning abouit computer software in education. I started teaching the ITQ in September as was surprised at how limited the assessment route can be so I decided to trial this with a few learners to see what they thought. In the Digital Blue © Movie Creator 2.0 package you get everything you need to create your own movie. Digital Movie camera This is a camera which is shaped a little like a banana and is blue. At the top is a small viewing lens. The shape of the camera makes it easy tp hold and use. If you are buying this as a gift for a child then the camera is suited to be held by a small child. The camera is able to take low resolution photos and low quality videos. It has a built in microphone. Some of my students have used the vide, microphone and camera to take shots/audio to use with a PowerPoint presentation so it is very versatile. The videos can be easily uploaded to the computer and converted to many different formats such as MPEG, JPEG, GIF and BITMAP. The camera has a strap and is connected to a stand so that the camera can be positioned for creating an animation. The next most important part and probably the most exceting part is the actual software Whilst the Digital Blue © camera is normally used for taking photos and recording short videos it is also designed to create animated movies. The CD Rom is geared towards youngsters and is very easy to install and use. In the centre of the screen you can see the current picture (what the camera is pointing to at that moment). At the bottom you can see the last picture taken as well as the total amounts of pictures in that scene. On the right hand side there are 3 buttons which enable you to take a photo, film and delete the last picture. Once you have taken 20 or more pictures you can press the record button and these will go towards the final animation. For those of you who have seen Wallace and Gromit and thought you could do better, think again. Animation is not an easy task and does involve a rather stressful process. Three of the adults I work with nearly had a temper tantrum because the picture was 'shaky'. One of the first forms of animation was created by a Zoetrope (a bowl with slits). Inside the Zoetrope was a series of pictures positioned next to each other but slightly altered each time. The slits would give the viewer the illusion that the pictures were moving. So for example several slightly altered pictures of cars would give the impression that the car is moving. Flip books are another form of animation. Animation can basically be described as 'giving an inhuman object e.g. a chair a personality and life similar to a living object' it could also be described as 'the process of making an object move by using a huge selection of altered pictures'. Digital Blue © animation is similar to this notion in the fact that it used many pictures which have been changed slightly each time. Wallace and Gromit was filmed using a similar approach that I use within my sessions The film was shot one frame at a time. The plasticine models were built and moved a very small amount after each snap, this helped give the impression of movement. Nick Park creator of Wallace and Gromit worked with a huge team of animators to create the film/cartoons. Each frame (about 30 shots) took a day to record. In the Curse of the Were-Rabbit one second of film took a day to make. Each student UI teach gets about 1 hour to make a full movie. This is possible and in 1 hour a 10 minute show can be presented. We use PowerPoint to imbed the movie as part of a presentation at work. It could be interview techniques, a fire safety talk or a training film the possibilities are endless. The quality is basic but when you consider it took Nick Park's team 5 years to create Wallace and Gromit. It is possible to put a soundtrack, sound effects, text and special effects into the final piece before the end of a session. This is not only a personal achievement for them but it proves that it is not 'impossible'. It also teaches them something other than the 'norm' of Windows office Suite. System requirements You will need to have: * Windows ME, 2000 or XP I think it also works on the new Vista system too * Intel Pentium or Celeron 300MHz or faster * 64MB of RAM * 300MB free disk space (hard disk) * Video support resolution 800 x 600 * USB port (it maybe useful to buy a hub) If you do intend to buy the package I have listed a few tips below to help you get the most out of your camera and software. Tips for animation ----------------------- 1. You will need a few blocks of plasticine for your characters. These can be as simple as a blob made with one colour or a very complex character with many colours. 2. Ensure that the camera is situated in a position where it will not a) be knocked over or b) will provide the best shot. 3. You could try positioning the camera near an interesting backdrop such as a tropical island, sky or woodland. 4. You will need to produce some good characters based on a clear story idea/plan. It's no good taking several hundred snaps if the story will not make sense. 5. It's probably best to work with a friend. One person could move the character and another to press the 'take photo' button. 6. Once your scene has been recorded store it in the library and continue with the next scene. 7. You could make a repeat action as long as you start and finish on the same spot e.g. turning around, taking a bow or kicking a ball from one person to another. This can be repeated 10-20 times in your film and will add an extra 5-10 seconds. 8. Overall it is fairly easy to do, as long as the movements you make are very gradual and slight the film will run smoothly and look highly professional. 9. You can add sound effects, soundtracks, special effects and text to your final masterpiece. It can be saved in many formats including a condensed version in which you can publish to the internet or place on a DVD and share with your mates. If you want to be really simple you can save it as a normal file and watch it on most computers. A package like this could set you back about £65 - £90. I would say however that this is a great price. I have made my own animated films and have loved it. I have spent hours at a time fiddling around and playing with the many features. If you have children they are also sure to love it. It can be a great family activity some of my students have purchased it for their opwn use at home to play with their kids. This is a great piece of software and whilst primarily designed and marketed to teach children and youngsters about such things as animation, story-telling and computer skills it also makes a great entertainment piece for adults. It is highly motivating to make a movie and to add title and credits. You can record the movie to a DVD and watch it on any DVD player. If you are really ambitious you could end up with a great film. Obviously I can't see the likes of Nick Park using this software to create the sequel to 'The Curse of the Were-Rabbit' but I can imagine almost any member of the public using it confidently. It is easy to use and very simple to understand and would make a great addition to any computer.