I am not sure why so many parents are concerned about our kids learning superfluous skills like reading and math. Nice skills to have, but really how will those skills help our kids get jobs in the future? Everyone knows that within 10 years everything we see will be some form of computer animation, so what our kids need is to learn how to animate!
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) we learned about Toon Boom and their collection of animation software for kids. We have now had a chance to use and test and the Flip Boom All-Star Animation package for kids from Toon Boom and we are impressed.
Kids Animation Software Should Be Tested By Kids!
We had so much fun playing with Flip Boom All Star animation software that we were about to do some fancy animation using the Dad Does logo, but then we remembered, Flip Boom All Star is supposed to be for kids. So, I reluctantly stopped playing with the software and called in my son John, age 9 to help out. Flip Boom All Star is suggested for kids 13 and up, but since my son happens to be a genius, I asked him to play around with the software and let us know what he thought. In less than an hour, here is what he had -
Not yet at Pixar level, but what was very impressive was that he figured out about 99% of the software on his own. I explained the basic concepts of cells and how you could make a background and foreground cell and showed him how to copy one cell to the next, then he took off and did the rest.
This is really what is impressive about Flip Boom All Star – the ability for kids to create with it. It clearly is not the most feature rich animation package, but it does an excellent job of introducing the concepts of animation to kids without causing frustration.
The Interface That Doesn’t Intimidate
Let me put this bluntly – I don’t care how great the features are of your kids software, if you have an interface that kids can’t figure out, they are never going to play with it. Animation can be complicated, so kids animation software needs to have a clean and simple interface so as not to intimidate the kids. Flip Boom All Star has created a well designed and minimalist interface that kids (and their parents) will enjoy. Here is the main screen -
You can see the interface is uncluttered and the couple of kids who I showed it to had no problem understanding it. To give you a better feel for the controls, here is close up of the top of the screen -
As you can see, there are not 50 different buttons – just the basics. Here is the left menu -
The menu on the left hand side of the screen is perfect in its minimalist design. You basically have the tools to draw, erase, paint, enter text and move any object. These are the tools you use most of the time in Flip Boom All-Star and they are very easily accessible by the left toolbar menu.
One of the other great features for kids is that when you mouse over one of the objects on the toolbar, the program provides a very clear explanation of what the tool does. For example, if you mouse over the eraser you get “Erase part of the drawing with this tool. You can select various widths to erase smaller or larger areas of your drawing. This tool is not pressure sensitive.”
Finally, here is a close-up of the bottom of the screen -
The bottom of the screen is where you control the cells of the animation. When doing an animation there is a great deal of copying one cell to the next cell and then moving an object just a slight amount. Again, the interface to do this tedious work is straight forward and does not get in your way. John (age 9) had no problem copying, adding and moving cells without any help from an adult.
Animation Is Not Just For Drawing Cartoons
One of the neat teaching aspects of Flip Boom All Star is that kids learn that animation can be used for a lot more that drawing cartoons. John learned he could import an image of a map and then animate the route he wanted to take on top of the map. Want to point out a highlight in a photo? Bring it into Flip Boom and have an arrow move in and appear over the image. Once kids learn what is possible by moving objects, they come up with some very clever and fun ideas.
Kids May Not Always Want to Share Toys, But They Love To Share Their Animations
Once your child is done with his/her masterpiece, they will no doubt want to share it with the world. Flip Boom All-Star makes this a very simple process. You can save the animation as a Flash file, Quicktime video, Apple iPod compatible video, or upload directly to You Tube or FaceBook.
Templates and Object Libraries To Get The Kids Started
John choose to draw everything on his own – but some kids may appreciate the Library of objects that comes with Flip Boom All Star. If your child tends to get stuck when looking at a blank page, making use of the library of objects will get them started.
There are also some animation templates that come with the software – for example, you could go with one of the holiday templates and create an animation using the objects and backgrounds that they supply.
Looking for Key Frames and Advanced Features – Look Elsewhere
Flip Boom All-Star is very much like drawing animation by hand. If you want something to move, you move it from frame to frame. There are no key frame functions where you set a start and end point and the software does the rest. In Flip Boom All Star, you manually do all the moving. Some will see this as a limitation, but I see it as a positive. The idea here is to teach our kids about animation, the whole process of moving things very slightly from frame to frame. At this stage of the game, I think it is important that kids learn how this process is done. As they get more advanced, they can move up to sofware that has key frame animation features. I should add that Toon Boom makes professional animation software, so if you are looking for advanced animation software, you will find it at Toon Boom.
A Few Issues With Flip Boom All Star
Overall, we were very pleased with the Flip Boom All Star software, but there were some minor issues. While you can add music to your animation, this feature is pretty limited. You can only add one sound file to your animation, so if you wanted to add a crash at one point and then 50 frames later have some birds chirping , you could not do that.
The workspace shows a border which you create your animation within. When you save your animation to Quicktime, everything comes out correctly. However, when you save to Flash, you see parts of the animation that happen outside the boarder. Toon Boom support explained this was an issue having to do with aspect ratio and different formats, but we would like to see this corrected in a future update. I should point out that the software we tested was All Star Version 1.0, so I am sure improvements will be made in future releases.
The final issue is simply the cost. Flip Boom All Star retails for $70 and is available as a direct download. It can be hard to justify spending $70 on 2D animation software that is not packed with features when you can get Blender, a professional 3D animation software package for free. However, not even my genius son would ever figure out Blender or any of the free “feature rich” 2D animation packages on the market.
Toon Boom does make a number of less expensive animation packages for kids including Flip Boom Classic ($40). Flip Boom Classic is geared toward younger kids and we plan on providing a full review of this software in the coming weeks.
Conclusions of Flip Boom All-Star:
Flip Boom All Star is one of those programs that works much better than it sounds on paper. On paper, paying $70 for 2D animation software with a limited feature set seems like a losing proposition. In the real world, when you see your kids creating 2D animations and loving it, mainly because the Flip Boom All Star interface gets out of the way and just let’s the kids create, you feel that $70 is money well spent! This is one of those cases where less features equals a better product for kids.
If you have younger kids (under 9 years old), you may want to look at the Flip Boom Classic, but for kids 9 and up, with any interest in animation, Flip Boom All Star is a winner.
More Information: Flip Boom All Star Sells for about $70.
Read More At the Toon Boom Site
Flip Boom All Star Gets 4 D’s (scale of 1 to 5) -
Any Product That Receives 4 or 5 D’s is Dad Does Approved!
FULL DISCLOSURE: We were sent a copy of Flip Boom All Start to use and review. We were paid absolutely nothing for doing this review. We do not make any money if you decide to buy Flip Boom All Star. If your kids becomes an incredible animator and makes movies, please ask him/her to throw the big Orange D from Dad Does in a movie. This is a real review, by a real Dad!
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