CrazyTalk Animator 3 Pipeline review

Animation for anything from presentations to games and goofy Youtube movies is possible with CrazyTalk Animator 3. This, the developer says, is the world’s easiest 2D animation software that enables all levels of users to create professional animations with the least amount of effort, and I agree – up to a point.

With CrazyTalk Animator 3, you can bring an image or a piece of vector art into the application and create an animated figure by applying bouncy “Elastic Motion” effects, using “bones”. I tried this with a PNG image of a Paddington bear stuffed animal. The image originally had a white background, but by removing it and then importing it into CrazyTalk Animator 3, I could control its extremities and head. That is all good and well, but it doesn’t even scratch the surface of this 2D animation tool.

CrazyTalk Animator 3 comes with 2D character templates and character motion libraries – you may call them ready-made animation components – which you can combine with 2D bone rigs, facial puppets and – a feature that allows you to create tutorials as much as hilarious cartoons – audio lip-syncing tools. The result is that you can create almost any animation from static elements.

My review version – Pipeline – provided me with a fully functional PSD in-and-out solution that allows you to keep using your familiar design environment for character creation and animated content development. The round-trip PSD pipeline lets you create characters of which you put the moving parts on different layers. Then, by importing the layered result into CrazyTalk Animator 3, the artwork’s layers are translated into sprites and you can start animating. Sprites, by the way, is the second animation method within the app. The Paddington bear PNG relied on morphing.

Sprite-based animations look more cartoonish but allow for more “natural” expressions of motion. For example, a head that is composed of sprites of a face and different facial features lets you move all those features independently. A morph-based head uses a projection of a face image onto a surface with the dimensional and protruding shape of a face. This allows you to create motion from 2D photos, resulting in smooth facial animations and talking expressions by morphing the images, but there’s always a limit to the amount of elasticity before it starts looking unnatural.

Now, CrazyTalk Animator 3 may be called a 2D animation app, but the animations you create can be made to appear in a 3D environment. The way this is done is by applying a camera – with full control over zoom factor, etc – and by using Z-layers to place elements forward or backward in relation to others. With morphing, this will only work up to a degree, with sprites, however, there are endless ways to hide or show elements in a scene.

CrazyTalk Animator 3 doesn’t just import PSD files, it also exports them, allowing you to freely pose illustrated characters, quickly swap outfits and accessories, and create custom facial expressions. After combing all your custom creations, you can then export them in layers for re-editing and compositing. That, in turn, allows you to create sidekick designs, such as magazine covers, infographics, banner designs, etc.

In short, CrazyTalk Animator 3 Pipeline is a tool that gives you a lot of creative functionality in a world that increasingly relies on videos and games to do anything from teaching over presenting business topics to making people have fun. It’s incredibly powerful, but that power comes with a learning curve and it does take a thorough reading of the user guide and/or going through the course material before you are able to create even the most simple animation.

Luckily, CrazyTalk Animator comes with a huge online store where you can buy ready-made sprites in all sorts of categories for those of us who only want to create animations without first creating the props, characters and scenery as well.

The Pipeline version currently costs $199 (normally it costs $299). It ran just fine on my old iMac mid-2011 with 16GB of RAM (but only 1MB of VRAM…). Content costs anything from $10 to $70.