Parents' Choice Gold Award Winner 2016
Fall 2016 Online Software 3D Character Animation 1
Youth Digital provides a wide range of computer programming and skills courses intended for kids ages 8 to 14. This review is for the 3D Character Animation 1 course - an excellent beginners' course for children who are interested in Minecraft-style animations. Using the Blender animation program, an open-source software package used by professionals to create many types of animation, students learn to manipulate Minecraft characters in a 3D world. Through a series of videos hosted by Sean, a Youth Digital instructor, students learn step-by-step how to use the animation rigs, how to create multiple characters, how to describe and interact with the scene, how to modify character expressions and perspectives, and more. The resulting animation includes sound and motion and a splash of humor.
Sean's videos are designed not just to educate, but to entertain. Kids watching Youth Digital videos will find constant sources of laughter, from the self-deprecating asides to the you-must-be-thinking-this voice modulations. This ensures that even when the going gets tough, students will be listening closely.
The Youth Digital team is highly responsive to its students. Children who hit a trouble spot can send a message to the help line and expect a prompt answer, sometimes even within minutes ("Except very late in the evening," my daughter says). We have been astonished by Youth Digital's level of commitment to its students; this, above even the brilliantly-written course material, is the company's greatest asset.
Students have up to a year to complete the course, though it is unlikely to require a full year. The total instruction time is approximately 30 hours in twelve modules; design time will vary widely, depending on the student. (Although the site does not currently have a free trial, all courses come with a risk free, 30-day money back guarantee.) The depth of the course content and the quality and enthusiasm of the Youth Digital support team more than justifies the $250 price tag (and discounts are available if you watch for their emails or join group purchases). When the course is complete, students' final projects are evaluated in detail by team members, with thoughtful and encouraging feedback for the students. Students can share their animations with friends and can continue to use the Blender software indefinitely; the Youth Digital team is even willing to look at additional projects as time allows, and encourages students to continue working after the course is complete.
Youth Digital's 3D Character Animation 1 course represents the very best of what the web and online learning have to offer, and we give it our highest recommendation.
Emily Crawford ©2016 Parents' Choice
Emily holds a BSE in electrical engineering and computer science from Duke University and a Master's in computer engineering from Georgia Tech. She is a homeschooling parent and lives with her husband, three children, five cats, and thousands of LEGOs in Blacksburg, Virginia.