There are a number of features of computer control which are extremely beneficial for the rostrum cameraman. Firstly the enormous amount of time saved by getting the computer to do the number crunching. This is what computers do best. The speed of calculation is quite dazzling. Take a typical diagonal pan and zoom shot of say 100 frames without any cel cycling. Having specified which type of fairing (radial or linear) and start and end frame numbers for the shot, all the individual moves will be calculated and ready to be implemented in less than one minute, with most of that time being taken for the parameters to be entered by a slow human being at the keyboard!
Secondly, linear distances across the table can be more readily visualised because no negative positional numbers are used. A zero/zero datum is setup in the south/west corner to which all subsequent N/S and E/W moves are related.
Thirdly, much more ambitious shots can be undertaken with all of the brain-strain removed and fail safe prompts generated by the computer (it will not let you make a mistake, ya!). Take for example an eight-cel cycle, panning east, zooming out and dissolving to a static scene. No problem. Provided you are clear in your own mind when each individual action starts and ends, the computer will take it all in its stride – and fast!
The arrival of large memory cheap home computers, and triple drive control units, means that for a very modest outlay, any serious animator can now have at his finger tips a ‘Star Wars’ rig, the cost of which two years ago, would have been unthinkable.
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Printed in Animator Issue 16 (Summer 1986)