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3dChor Kids

By John Drag Jr. - Posted Nov 1, 2004
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REPORT CARD
Overall Rating:5 Stars
Installation:A
Content/Features:A
Ease of Use:A
Product Support:A

Company: Animated Communications, P.O. Box 16907, Chapel Hill, NC 27516; Phone: 800/949-4559; Internet: http://www.3dchor.com/.

Price: $89—single copy price; $650—course pack, 10 copies. The course pack includes a teacher's manual, blackline masters, a PowerPoint CD, and Excel-based rubrics for assessment. Educational pricing and site licenses available.

Audience: Grade 2 and up.

Format: CD-ROM (Windows only).

Minimum System Requirements: IBM-compatible computer with Pentium II processor, 16 MB RAM, 100 MB hard disk space, mouse, and CD-ROM drive. For use with Windows 95 or higher (the product was tested on WIN 95, 98, 2000, NT, ME, and XP).

Description: 3dChor Kids provides young students with an introduction to basic animation. The software is based on an action-driven approach, where every character has an extensive library of predefined actions, including a wide range of emotional expressions. Text, backgrounds, and 2-D drawings can be added to complete animations. Final designs are rendered as AVI files that can be inserted in PowerPoint presentations, on Web pages, or in video format.

Reviewer Comments:

Installation: I reviewed 3dChor Kids on a Dell Latitude/D505 laptop computer with a Pentium M processor (1500 MHz) and WIN XP.

Installation is required. The auto-installer set everything up quickly and easily. A shortcut was placed on my desktop. The installation process was well done. Installation Rating: A

Content/Features: 3dChor Kids provides an animation design process, with icons for each design tool easily identified to their use.

The Cast button allows young animators to choose a 3-D actor. The program features more than 300 actors/characters to choose from in the following categories: transportation, toons, dinosaurs, objects, heads, fantasy, animals, space, occupations, and people. A separate button allows users to create their own 2-D actor.

The Background button enables the selection of a number of backgrounds for the animation. Available scenes include the desert, indoors, jungle, outdoors, a path, and towns.

The Command button controls the selection of all of the possible actions for the actor to perform. Start and stop times for each animation command can be set; the number of animation commands can be set as well. The Path button sets the actor's movement path from one area of the screen to another.

The Rehearse button allows you to test your animation. While using the Rehearse button, you may make changes until you are happy with your animation. To stop the rehearsal, use the ESC key on your keyboard at any time. When you're ready to see the finished product, click on the Animate button.

After the animation has been compiled, pressing the Play button will allow you to show your work.

The actual animation is saved as an .AVI file. Previously non-animated work is saved as a .3DC file.

Animation times are represented in seconds. Approximately 10 to 20 frames make up 1 second in animation. The default animation size is 640 x 480 pixels. Reducing the size (to 320 x 240) will allow you to view the animation in about one-fourth of the default time.

The User's Guide has a series of tutorials that make creating an animation very easy. Tutorials (1 through 5) start on page 9 and introduce users to all of the program's basic commands.

The 3dChor Kids version 2.9 CD contains 50 animation templates, included as .AVI files. The .3DC files that created them are also included and can be changed to meet your needs. The templates include everything from exploding bombs to a spinning dreidel.

The program also provides the ability to create new characters by attaching photos or drawings to the bodies of existing 3dChor Kids animated "actors." Use any paint or photo program to crop a picture to save the head/face of someone you know. The User's Guide (p. 27) details the properties the final picture must have to be used in the 3dChor Kids program. You can save your work on your desktop for import into the program. Attach someone's head to your animation and watch the fun begin. Your students will definitely love this feature.

3dChor Kids is animation at its best—easy to create, with a completed project that looks like someone took hours or days to create it! It took me about 10 minutes to create a Tyrannosaurus rex animation that thrilled my young learners.

The optional Teacher's Guide, PowerPoint presentation, blackline masters, and assessment rubrics are add-ons that definitely should be included in your purchase. I reviewed each and concluded that the materials are essential in assisting educators in teaching the basics of animation and how to use 3dChor Kids. The lessons are well-written and very comprehensive. Even teachers with little to no experience in animation will find the guide and support material extremely useful. Content Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: 3dChor Kids is extremely easy to use. I jumped right in and had absolutely no problem figuring out the commands.

The 42-page User's Guide contains a wealth of information and step-by-step lessons for users of any experience level. The final designs are saved as .AVI files and easily can be imported into PowerPoint, to Web pages, or into video.

The basic design process involves only four steps: Select an Actor (out of 300 characters), click on a Command (e.g., take a bow), click on Path (a direction for the actor to follow), and select Animate to create the final movie. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: The program is very user-friendly and includes a help menu. A Quick Help feature is found at the bottom of the 3dChor Kids screen (a description of all commands).

All registered users have free technical support. Support is available by phone at 919/967-2890. The company guarantees a return call in 24 hours, if messages are left on the Support Service voice mail.

Technical Support is also available on the Internet. The Web site (www.3
dchor.com) provides a column of tips and tricks, as well as an online step-by-step tutorial. E-mail support is available through info@3dchor.com. An active listserv exists for the posting of questions and animation templates. With a password, users can access any program changes via the home page. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: 3dChor Kids is a "must" for any school! I was amazed at the level of complexity with which the program allowed a user to animate objects. Equally amazing was how simple it was to accomplish this! Students and teachers alike will thoroughly enjoy using this program.

Our school centers around the visual arts, and 3dChor Kids will be a welcome addition to our curriculum. Highly Recommended!


 
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