Computer-Music.com contains articles and product reviews related to making music using computers and creating 3D computer animation in sync with music. Computer-Music.com is also the home page of  Donald S. Griffin, an experienced professional composer, sound effects designer and audio consultant with an emphasis on computer games,  video games and internet music and sound effects. For pricing and contract availability send email to: DGriffin (@) Computer-Music (.) com

Computer-Music.com  contains articles and product reviews related to making music using computers and creating 3D computer animation in sync with music.
Computer-Music.com is also the home page of  Donald S. Griffin, an experienced professional composer, sound effects designer and audio consultant with an emphasis on computer games,  video games and internet music and sound effects. For pricing and contract availability send email to: DGriffin (@) Computer-Music (.) com



 

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Animation Master

After a short time with Animation Master (AM for short) I remembered why I had set aside Will Vinton's Playmation. The modeling paradigm was very difficult to understand and to use. AM uses its own type of spline modeling. It is very powerful for character animation so they chose a modeling method ideally suited to their purposes but it can also be very difficult to learn. While spline modeling is quite powerful and allows a lot of complex and curvy shapes that are fairly easily changed, it is also difficult to learn and initially creating models can be difficult and time consuming with some awkward problems here and there. In spite of this I really liked AM. It has a huge amount of depth and I can not image another program at any price that offers as comprehensive control over animated characters. Nesting controls within controls within controls allows you to drag a hand to move an arm but at the same time all of the necessary details to insure that the are changes shape correctly are automatically handled from muscle bulges, limiting movement ranges and fixing awkward creases to assuring that a hand properly grasps and lets go of a tea cup. Sound can even be assigned to events. At the time I tried this it kept crashing. A later version seemed much more stable with regard to this feature but by then I had firmly decided that mastering the AM modeling method was more than I wanted to tackle.

I learned from BryceTalk and trueSpace that the email list is very important to learning a CG program and helping you past difficult problems. Unlike the trueSpace mailing list the AM list is strictly moderated. My first posts were about my surprise that the program seemed to require you to keep the program CD In the drive every moment you were running the program. Since this was my initial participation in the mailing list I did not know this was a taboo subject. I quickly asked if this the CD was required all the time or if I had just not turned on some feature or finished the installation properly. Once I determined that it was required I mentioned that it would have been a lot more fair to potential customers if they did not wait until after you bought the program to tell you this. Also asked what would happen if I was on a critical project and I accidentally scratched my CD because of the need to constantly move into and out of the CD tray. They moderators seemed to interpret this as an attempt to learn how to violate the copy protection. It was not and after I had been banned from the list we worked the whole thing out over the phone. It turns out that Hash is very good with telephone tech support and much prefers that you keep any questions that could be related to a problem with the program on private tech support channels. After some investigation and some thought I came to understand why they have to have a very strict moderation of their mailing list. Although last year they raised the price of their program by one hundred dollars it is still extremely inexpensive and so it has a very large user base. Many of them may even be children or people who are totally new to CG. The huge user base combined with the wide variety of skill levels means that the email list could easily become so cluttered with off topic traffic that it could become completely unusable. In a case like this the TSML method of peer pressure expecting the readers to filter messages by topic is not enough. So a word of warning. If you choose to try Hash Animation Master you should join the email list for the information it provides but you should not make any posts until you have read the agreement (which I had done by the way) and seen how it is interpreted by the moderators in actual practice.

As I said AM is a very capable program that allow a tremendous degree of complexity in your model, scene and animation design. This makes it extra difficult to track down each and every potential bug. When I was trying the program there were bug fix updates every few weeks. They develop each subsequent version online allowing present customers to beta test the new version before it comes out and without having to pay for the new version until the final release is available. In spite if this the versions I used tended to crash a lot more often that I, or many others felt was reasonable. Since I have not used AM for over a year it is possible that it is much more stable. Unfortunately you can not judge this from the email list since any mention of bugs is strictly forbidden. Much like trueSpace I think Animation Master is a tremendous learning tool that also has some drawbacks that may prove unacceptable for some users. Unlike trueSpace I can imagine and have seen great, professional character animation being done in Animation Master. In that way the programs are almost opposites. trueSpace 4.2 is highly not recommended for character animation. trueSpace 5 does not seem to be a lot better on that count though it is reported to have fixed some outright bugs in the animation system from version 4.2. On the other hand while AM is well suited to curvy surfaces it is much more difficult than seams reasonable for modeling non-organic, especially hard edged objects.

After my interest in AM died out I went back to trueSpace for quite a while longer. But again, the trueSpace mailing list let me know about another program and this one turned out to be a real gem. Rhinoceros 3D, commonly called Rhino.

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