So, you wish to become an animator, but Poser is too expensive for you? Alternatives on the open source front like Blender are too complex to use? All you want to do is something simple, effective, and easy to learn?
Until recently, this was basically impossible. Either you had a top-of-the-line piece of software, and were able to use it effectively, as well as understand how to tweak it for working with Linden Lab’s “accepted BVH”, well, your best choice was getting Poser… which at US$250 is still the “cheapest” alternative!
Enter Avimator. This is a fantastic, miniscule program developed by Vince Plunkett, someone who joined Second Life in early 2006, and after looking for alternatives for doing simple animations, developed this nifty piece of software “over a long weekend”, programming it in OpenGL, which allowed for quick results, and both Windows and Mac OS X versions.
Avimator (the name has changed a bit during its short time) has the simplest interface you can imagine: point, click, drag. That way you move the camera and select body parts. Using the modifier keys Shift, Alt, Ctrl you select the axis you wish to move. That’s practically the only things you need to know!
Also, compared to “monsters” like Poser, this application is ultra-lightweight, stupefyingly fast, and, well, it does its job well enough. Of course, it doesn’t have Poser’s 250 functions, or Blender’s 250,000 🙂 But what it does, it does well, with a very simple and intuitive interface. You won’t be making the ultimate dance animation with it, but simple things should be possible in a question of minutes and not hours, after installing it 🙂
If you have access to the Second Life forums, you can look at this thread for more information. You’ll see dozens of very eager users of this tool!
There are so many “feature requests” on this thread that poor Vince will have his hands full for ages 🙂 Still, it’s good news, of course. Avimator, however, might not be free — right now, it is, although Vince will happily take Linden dollars as “donations”. If you’re looking for an open source animation creator, you could take a look at SLAT by rod Martin. It’s a good alternative, although it only has a Windows version.
[UPDATE, 20090111] A recently-compiled version of QAvimator for the Mac is available here.