1. Technology
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Animation Software Review: Pivot Stickfigure Animator

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

By

Animation Software Review: Pivot Stickfigure Animator
A few years ago if you'd told me stick figure animations had any value, I'd probably have laughed - but the popular Animator vs. Animation stick figure animation proved that wrong, showing that you can tell a great story in any medium or any style, including using stick figures. Maybe that's why stick figure animation programs have become more popular, with software such as Pivot Stickfigure Animator showing up to fill that highly specialized niche.

Overview

Pivot Stickfigure Animator is exactly what it sounds like: a program that lets you animate stick figures to tell any story you want. It's freeware, available from places like CNet's Download.com, and while it doesn't offer anything particularly unique, it does offer a simplicity that requires zero animation knowledge to get started. It's prepackaged, ready-made Animation Lite, and takes away a lot of the hassle of creating and joining objects to do it all for you.

Pros

This program has zero learning curve. None. Maybe a learning speedbump, but not much more than that. You install, you open, you use, and it doesn't take long to figure out where to grab pivot points to rotate or completely move the parts of your stick character. For that reason, Pivot Stickfigure Animator is great for novices and hobbyists who just want to fool around and aren't looking to do anything serious.

Pivot is timeline-based, so on each new frame in your timeline you can move and rotate your stick figures at the various axis points to create movement. It'll leave a nifty outline of the previous position for comparison, which helps with in-betweening and smoothing out your motion. Hit "Play" and it'll loop your animation to let you see how it looks.

It's not hard to add new figures to your scene; you can populate it with as many stick figures as you want from the preset figure type (rather like Flash instances), or use the editor to create new figure types and litter your scene with them. The editor is very basic, but considering we're working with stick figures here, the ability to change the color of the stick figures alone is practically an upgrade.

You can also change scene size, and add a background image as long as it's a bitmap. The scene size will conveniently resize to the size of the bitmap image you've imported for your background.

Export options allow you to save as an animated GIF.

Cons

First and foremost, as with most supposed freeware, on installation not only will it try to hijack your browser to set Bing.com to your default search engine and home page, but it'll install something called the "Somoto Toolbar" to Internet Explorer with or without your permission. On install, make sure to select Custom Installation and uncheck pretty much everything. If it still manages to install the Somoto Toolbar, disable it in IE and uninstall it.

The interface is clunky and basic - pretty much your standard ugly "the buttons are there, what more do you need?" layout with no thought put into GUI design or user-friendliness. While in some ways that simplicity works in its favor, it's possible to do simplicity with elegance. Then again - freeware. There's always that to keep in mind.

You can't import sound, so if you do want to add sound effects, vocals, or a music track, you'll have to take it into another program - which may make you wonder what the point is, when you could have done all this in the other program in the first place.

You also can't export to Flash, which is a real handicap. Most people use Flash SWF or FLV format for videos they intend to share to the web, and the limitations with a GIF - both in color and the exorbitant size of the files - makes output almost pointless. The workaround is to export as a series of bitmaps and then import into Flash, which is just a pain.

The biggest peeve, I'd say, is the annoyance involved in creating and editing new frames. There's a Next Frame button that lets you add a new frame, and you'd think the simple way to edit that frame would be to click on it in the timeline, make whatever changes you want, then move on to another frame or go back to edit a previous frame. The thing is, it doesn't always work that way. Edit the frame, click elsewhere...and the edits haven't saved at all. It only seems to save if you click Next Frame in a particular set of circumstances, and sometimes this causes duplicate frames. It's not very intuitive or user-friendly.

Overview

There's not much more to say. It's not an entirely useful program, but for hobbyists or anyone just looking to play around and have fun, it's cute, free, and fairly easy to use. 3.5 out of 5 stars sounds about right for something that falls into the "useless but fun" category.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.