David Jefferson tries his hand at computer animation with a software package for personal computers.
DeluxPaint Animation is a comprehensive animation program for personal computers. It runs in 320 x 200 lines mode with 256 colours. This resolution is good enough for line testing animation, producing computer based business presentations or adding animated titles to home video productions. There are versions available for the Amiga, Atari and IBM compatibles; the program reviewed here was run on an IBM compatible.
The software is supplied on floppy disks together with a comprehensive manual. The program is installed on the computer hard disk by following the instructions supplied. Once the program is started a painting screen appears and all the operations are controlled from here. There is a toolbox menu on the right-hand side of the screen with various items for creating a colour picture and below that a palette for selecting brush colours. Along the top is a menu bar with pull-down menus for the various animation tools.
There are several demonstration programs created by professional artists. I began by playing the ‘demo’ sequence that loops through five of these animations. A multi-coloured title spins and flies forward; a woman sheds a tear; a golden ball with the face spinning around it rolls across a tiled floor; we are in space with stars rushing towards the screen and a strange creature flies in and fills the screen; and paint splashes over a television set.
When I had seen what DP Animation could produce I was keen to create my own animation. The first step was a quick tour of the painting tools. They are selected by clicking icons with a mouse. You can draw and paint freehand with various sized brushes or use a variety of tools to create geometric shapes such as circles, rectangles and ellipses. An airbrush tool allows the spraying of colour and text can be added from a library of typefaces.
It was great fun to dive in and try various items on the paint menu. The screen was quickly filled with colourful squares, circles and freehand squiggles. An erase icon will remove the last action or the whole screen can be cleared. If you create something worth keeping it can be saved on disc.
The next step was to try some animation. When the program starts it allocates a set of twenty blank pages. More can be added as they are required. These can be treated just as they would be with conventional animation by drawing each step of the action on each successive page. A key is pressed to move to the next page and another moves the sequence back by a page. It is like flicking backwards and forwards through the drawings. The whole sequence can be played continuously at any time.
In conventional animation the drawings are placed on a light box so the previous drawings can be seen below the present one. DP Animation does not make any provision for viewing various levels. However, it will copy a drawing to the next page and the colour can be changed with a clever stencil facility. I made drawing one in black lines, copied it to page two and changed the colour of the lines to blue. I made drawing two in black and copied them both to page three. Drawing two was changed to another colour and so it progressed. I then went back over the pages and erased the coloured drawings leaving only the drawings made in black. The stencil works by masking any colours selected from the screen. These colours will not be changed by any painting tools until the stencil is switched off. For example, a
drawing is made in black lines on a white background; the white background is selected as a stencil and the black lines are left unprotected. If a blue box is drawn over the whole screen the colour will only paint the black lines that become blue, the background remains white.
A powerful feature of DP Animation is the ability to create animation brushes. A sequence of animation can be picked up from the screen and placed anywhere on the screen. A number of these animated brushes are supplied with the program. I chose one called ‘bird’ and stamped it over twenty pages so it appeared to fly across the screen. Then I stamped it across the same pages in a different position. Very soon I had a flock of birds flying across the screen. Animation brushes can be created and saved to use in any other sequence.
Animation drawings can be created as if they are on a transparent background and then overlaid on a drawing that has been created separately. This gives the animation the same flexibility as conventional cel animation. When this feature is combined with the animation brushes it allows the animation to be built up in layers.
page 1 | page 2