For the last 15 years I have the opportunity to work with kids at Polk State College‘s Kids at College on the Lakeland and Winter Haven campuses. This year created a Stop Motion Animation class that enabled students to explore what can be created through this medium and like with just about every class I guide I wanted to create a learning experience where kids could create using different cameras and software. One item I added to my tech tool box is the HUE Animation Studio which is a very powerful tool for the price ($59 through Amazon) once we got it working.
One of the first issues we had was dealing with a locked down network at the college which required their tech support to unlock the computer and install the software. This was not a HUE issue, but it is one that you may encounter if you are using this device on a school computer. The college was running Windows 7 and once everything was installed it worked well.
Installing on my 2016 MacBook Pro running High Sierra was an interesting feat. The Animation Studio comes with software, but it is on a CD, and MacNook Pro does not have a CD reading device so the software had to be downloaded from the HUE website, which was not to difficult once I logged into the account that was created for me by the college. This is where I ran into a slight snag. The animation studio is proprietary software, which means the license is one per camera … ugh … the licenses for the two cameras now sit on computers that I am no longer using. At least the Demo version allows me to use the camera in the Animation Studio and I am not sure how to release the license back to me so I can use it on another computer. The single license makes the software rather restrictive, but as always there is always another way.
The HUE camera stores the images in the project folder, which makes the pictures available to use in other video editing software. During the Kids at College camp we use WeVideo as our primary video editor and it worked fine. We used the subscription version of WeVideo, but the free version works well too. The images from the HUE project folder will also import into Final Cut Pro X. The ability to import images from the HUE camera to other software titles adds a flexibility bonus to this device. A downside is the image size. The image size is between 55 – 60 kb each, which makes these really small images when we are talking high definition.
A cool factor is the camera can be selected using QuickTime which means this camera can be used as document camera. This can be accomplished by opening QuickTime, starting a New Movie Recording and when it opens clic on the down arrow beside the Record button and select the HUE Camera option. My QuickTime defaults to my built in webcam which requires me to select the HUE Camera option manually. The flexible stand and lightweight base makes moving and adjusting the camera position easy. Focusing the image is accomplished by manually adjusting the focus ring on the outside of the camera lens.
Ease of Use
This is an important part to me as I do not want to spend a lot of time having to explain to kids how a piece of technology works in order for them to use it. I love products that I can show kids which button does what and then let them run wild. The HUE Animation set-up did exactly that. I had a nine-year old girl who had zero experience using cameras and minimal experience using computers who was shown how to use the system one time and she was off and running. She asked for more assistance with making clay figures than requiring help with the technology, which is what good products do. They work. They don’t create more work … they help unlock creativity, which the HUE Animation Studio does.
We had connectivity issues when using the camera with the base. The base is like a weighted mount that serves as a USB passthrough device with a cool light. The camera plugs into the top and a standard USB cable (comes with the device) plugs into the back. When we used it in this fashion the camera could not be seen by the computer. However, when we plugged the camera directly into the USB port on the monitor it worked fine. We contacted HUE concerning the issue and they were very quick to respond and send replacement cameras, which solved our issues.
This situation does make me wonder about the durability of the base and whether or not it needs to also be a USB connection. In this case the based served as another point that could cause a problem. I simple USB extension cable could serve the same purpose. Maybe creating a base that does not use the USB connection point as a mounting point would make the it more durable and cause less problems would be better. It is a product designed for kids to use with a flexible neck … my logic says this could be a problem.
I like this camera. Anytime you can purchase a camera that comes with a microphone for $60 and have it work well in a young kid environment you have a winning device. This is a multipurpose device that can be used for animation or as a flexible webcam with built-in microphone. Yes, there are features I would like to see … a focus slide lever instead of a focus ring as this would eliminate kids having fingers around the lens because they’re kids working with clay and that means they leave fingerprints. The base is an issue for me … in the future I may design a base in the lab that does not use it as USB connection point because in my eyes this is just a problem waiting to happen.
This is a nice device that packs some cool features for the price and I would recommend it to anyone in the market for this type of technology.
Full Disclosure – I am NOT an “Ambassador” for HUE nor a teacher “partner” and I am NOT being compensated in anyway for this tech review. The Kids at College program purchased these cameras for use in the program at my recommendation and they do not endorse products. This review is based on my personal experience with the product and your experience may be different than mine. This post was written to give you insight into this product and not as a sales pitch.