It was a first exercise, cleanly and cleverly executed, showing an intuitive sense of timing, and very nearly filling one floppy disk. Great care had been taken over the modelling of the character with appropriate highlight and shadow values added to his form. It attracted the attention of the PD libraries.
His second effort The Chips Are Up, was more ambitious. By now his Amiga had been upgraded to 2Mb, with DeluxePaint 4, but even with these improvements due to the limitations of his set-up his second cartoon had to be constructed in two parts consisting of some 1 50 frames each part, in 16 colours. There is a pause half-way while the second half is loaded. Contained on one disk, it runs for 40 seconds. This enjoyed the same degree of popularity as the first, and a PD library badgered him for more.
“Making At the Circus was a bit daunting,” said Chris. “An announcement had appeared in print that it was being made and I had not even completed a storyline. I am not used to the traditional method of drawing separate animations on paper, I have mastered the art of drawing directly into the computer using the mouse. Computer animation at this level is relatively restricted due to memory limitation.”
During the making of this cartoon Chris received an invitation to join Bulldog Productions, a Guildford games manufacturer. With a little commercial experience behind him, Chris was able to add: “On the other hand, greater memory and a 486 IBM compatible computer is just as restricting, because the little figures used in our games consist of so few pixels we are reduced to very simple broad movements and a reduction in details. The advanced technology in my commercial environment ensures speed of production but games manufacturers are governed by their market. The power requirements of their products must not exceed the power of the majority of home computers.
“When I joined Bulldog Productions I was teamed with Paul McLachlin, a gifted artist, and we were asked to design the backgrounds and graphics for a Blade Runner type game called ‘Bob’. But you know, good graphics on their own cannot guarantee the success of a game. Take ‘Dragon’s Lair’ for example. Superbly animated by Don Bluth Studios, it has not been successful because the game itself lacked lustre.”
Eric Schwartz has been animating since the age of 10 years with the aid of a Super-8 cine camera. After experimenting with flip books, cut-outs, etc. he transferred his animations onto disk using a Commodore 64 home computer.
He learned to animate on the Amiga using Gold Disk’s software program Moviesetter. Although this is no longer commercially marketed, it was given away on the front cover of an Amiga magazine recently. The Moviesetter program is restricted to about 8 to 10 fps on replay in low-resolution mode, but this is not a drawback if a limited animation technique is adopted. Schwartz is not deterred, although he uses a variety of animation software he still prefers to use Moviesetter when the occasion permits. Nowadays, he works on an Amiga 2000 with 3Mbs of RAM with a 40Mb hard drive.
Software programs, The Disney Animation Studio, Animation Station, DeluxePaint 3 and Sculpt-4Djr enabled him to make a fully animated 24 second., 298 frame Aerotoon cartoon entitled ATE Agility requiring 1Mb to run and stored on one disk. The military aircraft known as an Advanced Tactical Fighter was designed and animated using the Sculpt-4Djr program, while the backgrounds were created using Scene Generator, a fractal landscape generating program.
Eric’s father is an engineer at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base, which accounts for Eric’s close affinity with airplanes. Stealthy Maneuver was the first disk cartoon to appear in his self-styled ‘Aerotoons’ series; that was in 1989, since then over twelve more have been bought by his admirers. In fact, over 45 Schwartz cartoons are now available through PD libraries.
His most famous character is Amy Squirrel. Without a doubt, she is the most engagingly sexy character found on computer disk today. Eric devised a background history for her, showing her different stages of development dating back to the early days of animation, entitled The History of Amy Squirrel ( 1990).
On the other hand, if you feel nostalgic, you could try a one-off cartoon starring Flip the Frog and Clarice the Cat in The Dating Game, first prize winner of BIT MOVIE ‘91 – a computer graphics show mounted in Riccione, Italy.
His first professional assignment has been a three-minute demo included in Team 1 7’s recent ‘Superfrog’ game. It is said the Bluth organization’s Dublin-based animation college which uses Amigas extensively has taken an interest in him.
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Printed in Animator Issue 31 (Spring 1994)