How often have you found yourself immersed in a film or computer game and had to remind yourself that none of it’s real? Computer animation has brought an astonishing level of realism to the big and small screens. And, while the likes of Wallace and Gromit show there’s still room for the old-fashioned virtues of character and personality, no one can deny the impact technological advances have made in animation.

It’s not just studios that can benefit, either. PC animation software has fallen in price as processing power has increased. Armed with some templates and sample characters, you can create your own scenes in no time.

We suggest ignoring the well-known animation tools, which quickly step up in complexity and are notoriously difficult to use for animating humans. Instead, load up Antics 3.1. Ready-made content can be downloaded from Antics’ website, which means that you can immediately populate your scenes with characters and props.

Here's our guide to getting started.

1. To get the most out of Antics 3.1, install the free content pack from our cover DVD. When you first open the application, you’ll see that the main window is dominated by a ‘set’. A room is laid out for your characters and props. There are toolbars and folders for creating and directing your scene.

Step 1

Step 1

2. By default, a basic square room is provided for you to stage the scene. You can change the shape of this area by clicking the Select icon (the arrow near the top righthand corner of the screen), choosing the room you want to modify, then selecting the Edit Room icon at the top lefthand corner of the screen.

Step 2

Step 2

3. Add walls to your scene by clicking the Create/Edit Walls icon (the brick wall near the top lefthand corner of the screen), then click the side of the room where you want it to be added. Right-click a surface and select Textures from the menu to change its appearance.

Step 3

Step 3

4. To create a split-level floor, click the Create Room icon (the L-shaped box), select Move (the four-way arrow icon) and drag it above the main floor. Do the same when you want to move and rotate any item. To connect the different levels, click the Add Stairs icon and drag your mouse between the two floors.

Step 4

Step 4

5. Our set is ready, so we can add a character to animate. Head to View, Content Viewer. In the Local Warehouse folders, which store the Antics content pack, select a character from the drop-down hierarchies – we’ve chosen an adult female – and drag-and-drop its icon on to the room in the main set.

Step 5

Step 5

6. As in step 4, use the Move icon to position your character within the scene. To rotate the character to face a different direction, move your mouse over one of the three attached arcs (green, yellow and red) and drag in the direction desired. Once you’re satisfied you can think about adding other elements.

Step 6

Step 6

7. Continue to populate the set with items from the Local Warehouse. Drag each one on to the set from the Content Viewer and move it into the desired position. Use the Scale icon to change the size of the items so that they are correctly proportioned to your main character.

Step 7

Step 7

8. Adding illumination to your scene will create drama. Click the Lights icon in the top toolbar, then select the object you wish to act as the light source. Now double-click its icon in the set list to bring up a dialog box allowing you to change such settings as the light’s strength and colour.

Step 8

Step 8

9. So far, we’ve been working in Create view. Now we’re going to look at animation, which is handled via Direct view. Access this view under the Layout menu – it will display a timeline at the bottom of the screen. From here you can record, edit and play back animations, creating a ‘take’ for your final video.

Step 9

Step 9

10. For the purposes of this walkthrough, we’ll start with one of the basic animations included in the Warehouse. Browse to the animations folder and select the walking woman, then drop this item on to your scene. The animation doesn’t have to be dropped directly on to your character to be activated on set.

Step 10

Step 10

11. To view the animation, click the Play Animation button in the top toolbar (it resembles a small arm). This will bring up a list of possible actions available in the scene. Select the one for the woman walking and click Record in the timeline to create a take.

Step 11

Step 11

12. A character can interact with various props placed on the set. Click the Play Animation button, select an animation (in this case, making our character open a drawer) and press Record. This is an easy way to build up a complex series of actions in a scene.

Step 12

Step 12

13. The final stage is to render your movie and output it as a video file. Go to Preferences, Output to bring up a dialog box presenting various options. These include selecting the video and audio format, and whether to make lights visible.

Step 13

Step 13

14. Double-click the Takes folder in the set list and right-click on any recordings of animations that you’ve made in the timeline. From the menu that appears, select Create Video to start rendering your scene and save it to your hard drive.

Step 14

Step 14