Animating with the Commodore Amiga – Page 3

Scene construction in Deluxe Video.

Despite its image-format limitations, Take 2 is a superb animation package. Whereas I have experimented with Deluxe Paint and Deluxe Video, and have used them for titling showreels and creating character colour designs, Take 2 is the only package that has proved invaluable professionally. Specifically, I used Take 2, a Vidi Amiga digitizer, a reconditioned black and white security camera, and an Amiga 500 with a hard disk and 3 megabytes of RAM, to line test my animations for the last two series of the Children’s BBC programme Hart Beat.

Previously super-8 film had been used for test purposes before shooting on 16mm on one of the BBC’s lovely Oxberry rostrum cameras. With Take 2 life became so much simpler. Images were digitized from within the program, from either my animation drawings or pre-painted cells. ‘What’s more, different cells could be automatically superimposed, so that the composition of animation created on different cell levels or in critical background registration could be quickly reviewed at the line test stage. Sound effects from Take 2’s extensive library of sounds were also pasted into the line tests. This further enabled them to be fine-tuned before the long process of painting began.

Shooting line tests in Take 2 also proved far less time consuming than using a film medium. Each drawing or cell only had to be digitized once, with repetition achieved via multiple pasting into the exposure sheet. Line testing direct from cells was therefore less risky as there was no danger of damage in multiple handling as would have been required if cells had been cycled repeatedly below a film camera. It was also possible to experiment in real-time by altering the length of pauses between character actions. Once you’ve tried computer line testing, the idea of having to wait for a film lab to do their business before results can be seen becomes intolerable.

Deluxe Paint AGA, Deluxe Video III and Take 2 are just three of the more basic animation programs available for the Amiga computer range. As such they are the cheapest (Deluxe Paint AGA is now free with every Amiga A1200 or A4000 sold, whilst Take 2 sells for just under £40, and Deluxe Video is in a range from around £30 – £70 these days).

Other programs of note for putting-together 2D Amiga animation include Scala (from around £140 upwards for versions MM21O and above – note that the HVT version does not handle animation), and Adorage (at around £80), which can be used to produce extremely complex video effects. Both of these programs can utilise all AGA screen resolutions. For those not insistent on advanced, high-resolution display output, Disney’s Animation Studio (see Animator, issue 30), or the Hanna-Barbara Animation Workshop offer animation and art! painting facilities with a range of sample animations included involving old-time favourite characters.

Getting to grips with computer animation, having already gone through the learning curve with traditional methods, can prove somewhat frustrating. At some things (such as manipulating brushes and animbrushes in 3D motion), personal computers like the Amiga range are extremely adept. They also allow infinite experimentation. Unfortunately, this means that it is far too easy to get drawn in and spend a lot of time playing without producing anything of satisfaction at the end of the day. The old disciplines of writing and storyboarding have to remain to the fore if you wish to produce animations which are entertaining rather than just clever. These days, people bore very easily when watching rotating 3D logos!

When using Take 2 as a line tester for Hart Beat, my initial idea was to produce an animatic from the storyboard, then to line-test every shot, every motion, as it was completed. This idea soon proved disastrous, and I took to leaving the computer switched off until I had finished a complete animation, which I then line-tested in its entirety. Too much freedom in line testing can prove too much of a good thing, meaning that you never make any decisions or get any work actually completed!

For me, Amiga animation over the past three years has always equated to both fun and frustration. I now have a hard disk full of nice test shots and nothing to do with them! Mastering the software clearly constitutes only one element of becoming a competent computer animator.

Personally, what is more and more obvious is the problem of learning to avoid the pitfalls of a medium that is so tolerant, so free, so instantaneous, that it can make you lose sight of what you actually sat down to achieve in the first place.

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Printed in Animator Issue 33 (Summer 1995)