MonkeyJam: A Freeware Boon for Animators

MonkeyJam is exactly that. Initially created for two-dimensional line drawings, this software program has evolved into something special for stop motion animators everywhere. Created by David Perry, MonkeyJam acts as a frame grabber and offers a spreadsheet-style format.

The program will capture images from a webcam, or an analog or digital camera. Should you feel adventurous, it will also retrieve pictures from certain types of scanners. You can also choose to import your work in color or black and white. MonkeyJam saves each frame as you record it, so that you can come back at a later time and continue any unfinished work. Projects can be saved in many different file formats, such as jpg and bmp. The software also allows you to go back and review previous frames one-by-one, in order to help you achieve continuity in your film.

Should you find that an error was made when filming a scene, the program allows you to go in and cut individual frames. You can then copy other frames, or shoot a new frame and replace the old one. This is an incredibly important feature because it is not included in all animation editing programs. Another useful tool is frame averaging, which will make your animation flow more smoothly and add to the clarity of your picture by decreasing the amount of noise or grain in your frames. Should you need to change the speed of your film, an adjustable fps rate gives you the option of doing so.

You can also import sound from either wav or mp3 formats and add them to your film. The program features sound synch to assist in matching voices to mouth movements. In addition, you can take advantage of a sound scrubbing feature, which enables you to locate specific sections of a sound or music track.

While the user interface may be a bit strange for beginners, it is relatively easy to figure out and does not take long to become accustomed to. It is currently being developed in multiple languages. This program is not accessible for Mac users, but is Windows compatible and works with Direct X from Microsoft. The file is less than two megabytes in size. It can be downloaded from www.giantscreamingrobotmonkeys.com.

It is surprising to find such a program that is so widely used and recommended by the stop motion community. The beauty of MonkeyJam is that it contains most of the features available in other animation editing software programs, but remains completely free. Although Perry has no immediate plans to charge users to use this software, he does accept donations through his website which enable him to continue to design better and more efficient versions of MonkeyJam. As he puts it, the money serves to “help my wife understand why I spend late nights at the computer”.

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