Get into a conversation about animation and you can bet all the plasticine in China that Wallace and Gromit get mentioned faster than Nick Park can lose an Oscar. The technique has come a long way since cave paintings, zoetropes and flip books – stop action is the cultural norm now, and a wealth of computer software is available to create frameby- frame movies.
Zu3D is a fabulous example. It enables children to create their own professional animations with some style using some superb features and a very user-friendly interface, and has a ‘wow’ factor that would make it an instant hit with any class.
So, what’s all the fuss about? Well, its simplicity for a start. Jump in, splash about, experiment and have fun. I used a Digiblue camera to get started and experimented moving a home-made clay figure to perform a dance. I really like the ‘onion skinning’ feature, which allows you to see a faint ghost image of the previous frame so you can see where you want to place your artwork for the next frame (perfect for me as I’m pretty clumsy and knocked over my figure a couple of times, and handy too for overoverexcited primary-aged fingers all wanting a piece of the action). I also like the ability to move from ‘frame view’ to ‘clip view’ and the ease of building up a longer animation.
Elsewhere, speeding up a film or slowing it down is a walk in the park using a simple slider, which is especially useful for experimenting with the real-time movements of characters and scenarios you are creating. Importing and recording music, sound effects and narration to personalise your animations is more demanding but great fun, especially if you create your own. A library of sounds is included and the range is impressive.
Another creative process you will lose yourself inside is creating titles, subtitles, text and credits. The options are amazing and a joy to experiment with. Once you’ve made a short film you can turn it into a Windows video file and proudly showcase it on an interactive whiteboard, burn it onto DVD or upload it onto your school website. The films can also be published on the Zu3D moderated website. Have a look there for some amusing examples.
Animations take time and that’s always something primary classrooms are short of, so be aware of how addictive using this software can be. If you think creatively, though, you’ll be surprised how much of the curriculum you’ll be able to play inside – for example, animating instructions, stories, interviews, times tables, scientific cycles, festivals, recreating past events and so on. It’s a cross-curricular hit.
It’s always tempting for primary teachers to hold onto something new before sharing it with colleagues, just so they can play with it a bit first. But do share it, and do it as an INSET one night instead of a policy meeting, because although it’s simple to use there are bits to learn that you’ll need to practise before being upstaged in class.
Zu3D offers a highly memorable learning experience that’s guaranteed to inspire creativity. It teaches children persistence and collaboration, and gives them a real insight into the time and effort that goes into making things. Use it and you’re certain to improve your IT skills and want to learn more.
For those reasons, I’m in. Take a peek at the Zu3D website and go to the excellent tutorial for more information and an insight into what you can achieve. Network licence prices offer something to suit the pockets of all schools and offer great value for money. If you’re the ICT coordinator then ‘add to basket’.