Claymation Studio is a $40 program that lets you link shots taken with any digital camera into an animated video. The results are surprising.

Claymation has become kind of a catchword for stop-motion photography, but initially referred to using just figures made from clay. The characters and scenery are modeled from colored clay, and each movement requires either Wallace and Gromit repositioning the figures or changing their expression. Do enough of these and you can put together a short movie, frame by frame. The process is incredibly time-consuming, but the final effects are unlimited. Outstanding examples are the movies “Chicken Run” and “Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

You don’t have to use clay figures. Claymation Studio lets you easily connect still pictures of just about anything into a continuous animation. We used a tripod-mounted camera taking single shots of a plastic duck and a banana, for example, and had the little critter appear to race toward the fruit and then jump up and dance on it.

This is pretty stupid-sounding stuff, but it echoes what the teenage Ray Harryhausen did many years ago in stringing together single shots to make scenes that ultimately became major motion pictures. He used two toy plastic dinosaurs and by moving them slightly for each shot, made them appear to be fighting. He later was instrumental in creating the full-length movies “Mighty Joe Young,” “The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad” and “Jason and the Argonauts.” A single scene of five actors fighting a group of skeleton warriors in “Jason” took four months to complete. Actor Tom Hanks told Harryhausen he thought it was the greatest movie ever made.

You can do a movie this way, and if you have the patience, it’s fun. Claymation Studio is a good starting program and can take the ambitious producer a long way. Tech support is free, which is a good thing because the instructions are almost nonexistent. A more complete program is the more expensive StopMotionPro, which sells in versions from $70 to $595 at Claymation is from .



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