MonkeyJam: Animation Software Review

Software ID:

MonkeyJam screen shot

MonkeyJam

http://monkeyjam.org/

Free, for PC and Mac that runs Virtual PC
Penciltest and Stop motion software
Publisher: GiantScreamingRobotMonkeys, David Perry

Who is this software for:

Animators of all levels who need a quick and easy tool for pencil testing.
If you are familiar with professional animation terms such as Exposure Sheet - you will get the hang of this program in minutes.

What you can and cannot do with it:

  • Classic animation pencil tests, basic Stopmotion animation
  • Recognizes white as transparent
  • Import sound
  • Import image sequences
  • Export movie in several formats
  • No panning options (no "camera" for the layers.)
  • No real layer compositing abilities

To write this animation software review I downloaded MonkeyJam from its home download page and tried a quick stop motion test with a toy helicopter I had on my desk:

Download and Installation

A simple download page clear of commercials.
Entering your details is optional.
Software downloaded and installed cleanly and quickly on my Windows 7.

Capture image

The Stopmotion capture window is very intuitive and easy to use.
The software recognized my webcam and I could start animating the toys on my desk immediately.

exposure sheet and frame capture screens

Animating

I glued a toy helicopter to a plastic cup, and gave it some white background.
Following animation software conventions, MonkeyJam translates White to Transparent, so I figured I could animate the helicopter on White, and then use another picture as background.

I animated the helicopter with the help of some putty glue, to help hold the toy in place on a plastic cup, and the camera still (the wire kept pulling it away.)

Adding Layers

I then added another layer and took a picture of my desk to use as Background.
Adding another layer was simple enough, as was stretching the "hold" - just drag the frame down the exposure sheet.

Editing frames in MonkeyJam

Changing the stacking order of the layers proved impossible - but also unnecessary: 
The White parts of the helicopter layer disappeared and merged with the room picture.
The layers have three blending options: Darken, Blend and Multiply.
They work pretty much as these terms imply in other graphic softwares.

Animation Preview screen

Editing frames in an external software

Fluorescent is, of course, a terrible and unsteady lighting. 
I wanted to improve the images a bit, so it's over to Photoshop, to brighten them up.

MonekyJam stored my frames as PNG files in the folder I specified (You can save them as jpegs if you like, and the size of the image is limited by your camera's abilities.)
The frames were quite small in file size, only about 65kb per frame, and the default size turned out to be 320X240 pixels.

Frame sequence

To my delight, the moment I saved an image in Photoshop, it got updated in MonkeyJam.

Importing an image for the background

I didn't really like the way the room BG turned out, so I wanted to import another image to use instead. To import an image I had to copy it to the file in which the rest of the frames were kept. It was a large image, almost 1mb in size, and slowed the preview considerably.

The software's help does recommend exporting an AVI instead of using the preview if you use full size frames.
I toggled off the visibility of the background I didn't like. 
Toggled off layers don't show up in either the preview or the final exported movie - very nice when you want to test different options.

Now to the last part:

Exporting

The compressor listed everything installed on my machine, but that doesn't mean MonkeyJam supports all of them.
So after checking the compatibility list in the very friendly online help, this is the final result, all in all about an hour's work and tinkering.

To Sum Up

A sweet and simple animation software, very easy to use.
Wonderful for pencil tests and experimenting with Stop Motion animation - Go Monkey!!

Software homepage:
http://monkeyjam.org/

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