Be Kool!

excellent
key review info
application features
  • Import SWFs as editable movies
  • (8 more, see all...)

Advertisers have discovered the power of images a long time ago. With the popularity of the Internet the possibilities in advertising grew a hundred times. They could penetrate every home connected to the WWW.

If "a picture speaks a thousand words", how much can you say with a moving picture? So, enter KoolMove, a flash authoring tool developed by Lucky Monkey Designs. The version analyzed today is a demo, so not all the features are activated. The full version costs only $49.00.

The software is designed to create flash animations for websites. The advertisers and designers have now a much easier alternative in promoting their products. Of course, you may use it to create artistic visuals or different movies. It all depends on your talent and patience.

The interface is as simple as can be. It is structured on four skill levels: Wizards, Basic, Advanced and Cartooning. This way the user can begin from one level and, as the experience grows, can pass to the next stage until the software has no more secrets to reveal. The level bar is in the upper right side of the application window.

You can also configure the interface from the File menu>Configure. There are two windows in there, where you can define the principal task and the skill level (novice, intermediate and advanced), and the "recommendations" window, where the user is allowed to make some finishing settings (interface, key frames duration, etc.).

I used mostly the "Advanced" skill level interface as it offered almost everything I needed. But I must confess that the interface with all the options of the software is "Cartooning"; you will benefit from tools like "non-linear morphing" and "bones".

Non-linear morphing involves a cubic fit between 4 key frames and the result will be a superior movement (the .swf file will be larger). "Bones" tool allows the designer to attach a skeleton to a figure. This feature is usually included in expensive character animation software.

The most important tools in KoolMoves are the "Shape Properties", "Score/Timeline" and "Movie Overview". These options are displayed only in "Advanced" and "Cartooning" modes and are located on the top toolbar.

"Shape Properties" controls the appearance of shapes with points. Through the options of this tool the user can define a series of attributes of the shape from the "looks", "effects" and "behavior" points of view. The "look" submenu contains shape settings like filling with color and define the line color and width.

The "Effects" menu defines the desired motion of the shape. In "motion script", the user has about 70 options to choose from. The motion scripts are based on Flash 5,6 or 8 action scripting and can be applied to almost all objects (image, text, movie or shape). The motion script menu has a preview option for you to be aware of the applied effect.

The big surprise is that if, as an advanced user, you're not content with the effects in the software, you can create your own effects or even change the existent ones. Look in the installation folder in Motion Scripts>My Scripts for more information.
The "Behaviors" menu allows the user to create buttons from shapes, text, etc. In here you can define the way the object acts at pressing it with the mouse. Make the button a link to a user-defined URL and add sound to it. This does not involve any kind of experience.

After applying an effect or behavior, the user can utilize the preview option by pressing the "play" button in the lower part of the application window. The options here are playing in web browser, play portion of the movie, play in stand alone player, set a play directory, play single step, and the last option is to display the .swf file statistics (size of the movie).

In the same bar the user can add or remove frames from the movie and see the duration of the animation.

The registered software includes a collection of 70 buttons created in KoolMoves and designed to be used in Flash movies.

The "Score/Timeline" view has four tabbed pages (score, effects, actions and sounds and storyboards). In the Score window the user can edit the frames and shapes. Effects is used when adding or managing effects.

In Actions and Sounds you can add new sounds and actions (an action script editor is available for the advanced users) - add URL, go to key frame. The Storyboard simply presents thumbnail images of adjacent keyframes.

After the work is done, the user can export the file for Web as .swf, HTML or image file. The "Export Settings" will allow the user to make the settings for the Flash movie (set the quality for the JPEG images, compression of the .wav sound, choose the version for .swf files (5,6,7 or 8), etc.) and the HTML file.

The "Export movie" in the upper left side of the application window also contains options like adding a flash movie to a web page (use the Wizard or the Expert mode).

The Good

The interface may seem a bit complicated at the beginning, but after a while (about five minutes) you get used to it and you can start working. The Help menu is a true asset for the software, because, in addition to offering information about the use of the software, it also provides links for online flash tutorials (most of them are for action scripts and examples). It has a list of all the shortcut keys you can use.
The "Bones" feature in "Cartooning" skill level is a useful tool for more advanced users.
The price is not too much considering the results ($49.00).

The Bad

It really bugged me that upon resizing the application window I had to drag the tool bars back in. The "Pan the View" button has to be pressed every time you want to pan. The movie frame has to be resized one step at a time; you cannot drag the corners in order to enlarge it. In fact, the same happens with scaling all objects.

The Truth

The results are pretty amazing. If you are an advanced user you can make a movie really quick, and a good one.
The software addresses all types of users through the skill level interfaces, but do not expect to find the features of a professional software. KoolMoves in somewhere in between, balancing to the professional side.
The software could use a little retouching, but for the moment it's great as it is. I recommend using the demo version before buying it and keep in mind that only the registered version will unlock all the options.

Here are some snapshots of the application in action:


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user interface 4
features 4
ease of use 5
pricing / value 5


final rating 5
Editor's review
excellent
 

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