Reallusion\'s iClone Studio 2

Do you want to be the next John Lasseter? Is Hayao Miyazaki your hero? iClone Studio Edition 2.0 updates the feature-heavy, template-based 3D animation studio aimed at the amateur animator. It's a must-see app if you're trying to break into the camera side of movies and animation, or if you just want to play around with 3D animation without having to draw everything from scratch.

The installation is a bit of a drag, with a mandatory registration that also scans your computer's hardware. If your machine is tall enough for the ride, you can get access to an extended trial version with a few more templates than the regular trial. Once you're in, though, iClone really gets down to business.

You can choose from a dozen character templates, including a Hessian sack, or start from scratch with a blank custom template. From there, you can make slider-based adjustments to alter nearly every feature of the template, from skin tone, eye shape, and camera angles all the way to motion templates, zoom depth, and lighting. It took almost no time to figure out the interface, a real testament to the app's design seeing how much has been put in control of the user. You can even sync a character's lips to an imported audio track and import textures that you've created elsewhere.

The trial slaps a watermark all over your final product, and most of the more interesting templates are available only in the paid edition. Even with these drawbacks, iClone can turn anybody with a story idea and $200 into a one-person animation studio. Below is a quick animation I made of a dancing woman with a sword and an Uzi. If you've used iClone, share your experiences in the comments.