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Archived Issues > Spring 2017

 A Review of CrazyTalk Animator 3        

CrazyTalk Animator by Reallusion is a long established software product that makes it easy for anyone to produce first rate 2D animations. 

The latest offering Animator 3 builds seamlessly onto the previous versions so those familiar with the older editions will recognise the screen layout and find the familiar G1 and G2 characters. The initial startup screen gives the options of a product demonstration or leads to training resources which include videos, an online manual and a pdf manual which runs to over 700 pages.  As usual the product comes in three versions, Standard, Pro and Pipeline. I started with the Standard version but later upgraded to the Pipeline edition in order to assess additional features.

The working environment
The working environment is largely unchanged with a stage area where one assembles and creates the animation, with the toolbars above and on the left. On the right hand side sits the Content Manager and Stage Manager windows from which backgrounds, characters and props can be dragged onto the stage. The timeline sits below the stage area and can be toggled on and off as required. The stage area can be switched to a 3D view which helps when adjusting the relative depth of individual objects. The G1 characters, as well as the G2 characters which can be viewed in 10 different orientations are still available to use.

New features in v.3
So what is new in v.3, well we see the introduction of G3 character templates which link to motion libraries, along with a bone rig editor to allow you to animate any image. We also see an elastic motion system which can be applied to any images or props which really brings them to life as they enter and leave the stage. These and the numerous other additions make it even easier to produce stunning animations.

G3 Characters
The G3 characters are classified as Human, Animals, Spine, Wings and Free Bone.

The G3 human characters come in two orientations described as, front facing and side facing which is actually a 45 degree view. 

In addition to having a bone structure which allows the pose to be modified, G3 characters also have a wire grid structure the size of which can be modified to control the smoothness of curves as the image deforms.

Each of the characters has a specific set of motions and sounds tailored to their needs. Thus the dog can sit and scratch, walk and bark etc. while the cat might stretch, lick and meow. All these effects are applied by a simple click and drag. 

There are also sequences that can be linked together with a start, a middle section that can be looped as many times as required followed by the end sequence.

Human showing the wire                                   Animal                                       Spine
            Grid and bones

Blank characters are also provided which allows for the creation of your own character by substituting the sprites present with a set that have been created in Photoshop from an image.
A Face Key Editor and Face Puppet are also provided which allow any feature of a sprite based head to be modified or just to add a particular expression.
Bone Rig Editor

For an object that does not fit a conventional bone structure the option exists to add bones and joints to create your own unique structure. 

The programme first divides the image into small triangles to create a mesh that it utilises to determine the extent to which each part of the image should distort as the bones are moved. 

To prevent parts of the image that are required to remain stationary from moving, pins can be added from the Bone Editor.

Layer Manager

A layer manager allows the various sprite layers making up the character to be correctly positioned so that for instance an arm moves in front or behind the body as appropriate. Although the sprites are positioned correctly on the bones excessive movement can cause the joints to come apart.  Included in the layer manager is an option to bind the joints to prevent this occurring.
Elastic Motion
Elastic motion allows your props, Logos and characters to create a real impact as they enter and leave the animation.

Using the Elastic Motion tab in the Content manager presents a wide range of options from fades, jumping, bouncing, rolling etc. with different options for entrances and exits. 

The Pipeline edition includes options to create additional elastic motions or to modify existing ones.

Timeline Editor
The timeline allows one to edit animation keys and clips for actors, props, cameras, sound and music. While many users will find the basic timeline supplied in the Standard edition adequate for their needs, advanced animator will undoubtedly need the full timeline features which come with the Pro and Pipeline editions. 

The completed animation can be exported into a range of multimedia formats including AVI, WMV, MP4, popVideo, Flash Video and WAV. Alternatively it can be converted to sequenced image files.
There is also the option of a quick capture to the clipboard to produce a transparent PNG or animated Gif.
With CrazyTalk Animator 3, Reallusion continue to produce sophisticated animation software to satisfy the needs of the advanced animator, while maintaining the simplicity of use to allow a non-specialist to easily produce stunning animations. The Standard edition has sufficient capability to meet the need of many users but the lack of a full timeline and a bone rig editor will prove an obstacle to those moving on to more challenging projects. An edition comparison can be found on the Reallusion website should you wish to ascertain the most suitable product for your needs.
This review gives a brief indication of some of the capabilities of this software and with the assistance of the many help videos provided I certainly found the product straightforward to use. It retains many excellent features from the previous edition while adding new ones which add greatly to the animation experience. I enjoyed exploring the capabilities of this software and would have no hesitation in recommending this product. 

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