Sunday, September 23, 2007

Embrace Global Warming! New Global Warming Animations!







Paying attention....

The New Receptionist


Stupid Computers – Part One


For the past several years, my family has used Rhapsody’s music service. We love it.

For the past six months, my version has urged me to update my Rhapsody software. I HATE doing this. If you are happy with the current product, why update?

Finally, this past month, the software announced that, like it or not, it was going to update my software.

Swell!

So, I waited while Rhapsody went through its activities. After about three minutes, it announced it was getting ready to start. Then, it crashed. Attempts to restart the software failed. I even uninstalled it and tried to download the new install version. It only crashed, again.

How grand! I’m paying for a service that now refuses to function.

Attempts to get tech support were incredible wastes of time. After two hours, I finally found an obscure website article that discussed the problem and advised renaming a hidden folder on my hard drive.

Success!

Here is my gripe. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about PC’s and their various glitches and repairs. I am fairly certain I could tear apart and reassemble my PC in the dark with my eyes closed. Most of my friends bring their PC’s to me for repair or trouble-shooting.

Everyone should be computerized, we are told. The government wants my medical office to abandon all paper charts, schedules, pencils, and pens to use sleek new medical computers, electronic medical records, and fancy software.

Yet, here is software which tries to be an elaborate equivalent of my old cassette stereo and it is still so primitive and inept that it takes a relative computer geek two hours to solve a stupid software mistake!

Do you think 80% of your friends would even know where to start when trying to find a “hidden system folder” with a certain name and then deleting the entire folder or renaming it?

Stay tuned for more reasons why computers are NOT the answer to everything and why electronic medical records are still not ready for prime time!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Embrace Global Warming!

The latest animation is finished. This time, we're solving the problem of global warming.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Cut Out Animation in Toon Boom Digital Pro


Wow! I feel like a real doof! I have never given much thought to cut-out animation.


Digital Pro spends a great deal of effort on the topic. After watching the Quick Start Videos with the software, I now understand the enthusiasm.


Then, I went back and watched Cartoon Network with my daughter. Never before had I noticed how much animation was “cut out” style. No wonder they can slap those shows together so fast!


When I get this figured out, I could create a whole half hour show myself in just a short period of time!


Heck! Maybe I could become a single person animation cable channel!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Toon Boom Digital Pro Report - Part 2

I am extremely impressed with the quality of documentation for Digital Pro.

In general, the greatest flaw in animation programs, both 2D and 3D is usually with the documentation. Many years ago, I read an article about writing great animation software, particularly 3D software, and it stated the prevailing attitude of the time:
The programmers spend many intensive hours writing high quality software. Once they finish and have it ready to release to market, somebody says, “Maybe we should put together a manual.” So, the crew breaks out a case of beer and scribbles together a manual the night before the software’s release.
Anyone who used those early programs could easily believe this scenario.

Toon Boom’s documentation, however, is extremely good. Their documentation has represented a major advantage for users. Studio’s documentation, in particular, has really excelled in the past few years.

Solo’s documentation, however, often left out significant areas of explanation. To some extent, I appreciated the gaps, since the two manuals were rather lengthy, even with the gaps. So, even though I complained about the gaps, part of me appreciated that the documentation could become overwhelming if Toon Boom covered every possible topic.

Unfortunately, as I became more comfortable with the program (Solo), I felt that I was missing a lot of the program’s potential.

Digital Pro has greatly expanded the documentation. To keep things reasonable, there is a “basic” guide and then a more intensive guide. There are also hours of video instruction provided.

Clearly, this is a huge improvement with the upgrade. I generally find the documentation to be very readable, even when I am not running the program in front of me.

This is exactly what you need when encountering such a program. It is also what you would expect and should demand with such a high level product. I am thankful Toon Boom has made this investment.

Digital Pro Report - Part 1


My copy of Toon Boom’s Digital Pro, the high end animation software for individual users and small animation companies arrived yesterday. I am a very familiar and heavy user of Solo, the first version of the software, and was extremely anxious to start using the new program.

The software installs fairly easily. There is an activation process and a dongle, which is expected for software of this caliber. Thankfully, the software can be installed on more than one machine and it does not tie itself to the machine’s hardware. The only catch: To run a copy of the software, you need to move the dongle to the machine in use. Compared to software like Adobe Premiere, this is much more user friendly and allows you to move from machine to machine in your setup without being treated like a software pirate. For me, this allows me to animate on my Tablet PC, but compile and do fancy effects, color correction, etc. on my big desktop without going blind using the small screen on my portable PC.

The software’s interface is significantly improved from Solo. Solo had a tremendous amount of versatility, but Digital Pro seems to have improved further. The program is easy to customize to your particular style and machine.

I encountered no issues of lag or drawing problems using an older Toshiba m200 Tablet PC or a desktop AMD two year old machine with a Wacom tablet.

My first impression on firing up the software is one of extreme awe with a touch of intimidation. I am very comfortable in Solo, though there are program areas in Solo, such as automatic in-betweening and inverse kinematics that I have only briefly attempted. I feel comfortable immediately grabbing my Wacom pen and animating in Digital Pro.

There is obvious power and extreme depth in this program. I have a feeling that it will be many months to get into the more powerful tools of the program. On the one hand, I feel I can create a finished product in this program with ease, thanks to my prior knowledge of Solo. On the other hand, I am very aware that this is a serious-serious upgrade.

Digital Pro has dramatically improved the implementation of “texture pens” to provide a bit-mapped type of drawing flavor to this vector-based program. These were difficult to accomplish in Solo, but are very easy to use in Digital Pro. They will prove useful in the future. There is no hardware drag using these tools.

If you are a new animator, not yet familiar with any animation software, I would advise starting with Toon Boom Studio 4 and getting familiar with that program. The learning curve is still significant with that program, but much easier to traverse. The program is also way less of a financial commitment compared to Digital Pro.

Once you get familiar with Studio and are happy with the tools and want to “take the next step,” you are ready for Digital Pro. The interfaces are very similar and your learning curve will be far more reasonable.

I am currently working on an animation and will simply load my Solo files into Digital Pro and go from there. This is a way to force my learning of the new program.

I will report more as things move along.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Global Warming Animation


I’m working on a new animation that will be a bit longer than my usual 30-second PSA. This one is about global warming and I’m working on a real tight deadline. I’m using Solo, exclusively. This time, I’m taking all the short-cuts typical of limited TV animation and using Solo’s template feature to its maximum. This is new for me. I’m hoping it looks okay. I will not be posting “in progress” animations because of the template nature. I am using only my own templates, but I have never reused animation like this to such an extent. We’ll see.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Digital Pro/Solo Animation Software: Why upgrade?

I’m working on an animation project currently in Toon Boom’s Solo. Many have asked the question: “Why Solo?”

Toon Boom makes many types and levels of animation software. Their main consumer product is called Studio. Studio is priced far below such software as Flash and other art products.

Studio is an extremely capable animation software product. Virtually everything you see on cable’s Cartoon Network can be done in Studio and can be done easily.

Meanwhile, Toon Boom also makes Solo, a dramatically more expensive software product that is similar to its “super-expensive” software used by “the big guys” in animation who make feature length theater motion pictures.

The price difference between Solo (now being renamed Digital Pro) and Studio makes many wonder: “What the heck do I get for all the extra money?”

In other words, why animate in Solo? Why am I doing my current animation in Solo?

Solo really cranks up the software capabilities. Do you need all of these capabilities? My answer: No, but I need some of them and they are so valuable that the software is worth the price for me.

For one thing, the scene planning tools are even more sophisticated than in Studio.

Currently, I am constructing a scene of many different objects. The sizes of the scene components needed to be adjusted dramatically. Solo has a Network view that allows me to shrink whole groups in a coordinated manner, but allows me to also work with drawings in a larger form. Could I do this in Studio? Yes, but it can more challenging when done to the extent that I need for this scene.

Special effects can be done directly in the software. Studio is becoming more versatile with each release. Yet, so is Solo/Digital Pro. With great ease, I can blur backgrounds and add shadows, creating a dramatically improved result. Can I do this in Studio with help from photo editing programs? Yes, but it’s definitely more difficult. With great ease, in Solo, you can shade characters and do special effects.

I used to believe that the advanced animation effects that became routine in more expensive commercials and feature animations after 1990 were due to vast teams of animators laboring long hours. Now that I see a professional product like Solo, I know this is no longer the case. The advances in software allow animators to cheat.

That's okay! I'm not above taking some short-cuts!

Currently, I am working on a quick animation with a severe time limit for a due date. As such, this is not exactly Disney quality animation. But… Solo is letting me cheat, allowing me to add some extra touches that will partially hide the fact that the animation is very limited.

Solo adds tremendous versatility to your animations. Does it add the difference in upgrade price from Studio to Solo? Well, for me it does. You must remember, when dealing with professional grade software, the steps get more expensive.

Think about the difference between a consumer HDTV camcorder and a “near professional” HDTV camcorder. The price difference STARTS at ten or twenty thousand dollars! Does that mean you cannot make a professional level production with a consumer HDTV camcorder? With proper tender loving care and sweat, I bet you can make a production with the entry level consumer HDTV camcorder that is impossible to distinguish from the product of the very expensive camcorder. Will you do it as consistently or easily? Definitely not. Thus, the professionals opt for the high end expensive product if their budget permits.

The same is true with production quality animation software. You can easily create professional grade animation with Studio. However, those special touches and effects that are so easily done in Solo will make your animation immediately stand out as something….well… more professional.

Fortunately, the price difference between Studio and Solo/Digital Pro is not tens of thousands of dollars, though it was, for similar capabilities, just a few years ago.

When Solo was released, it brought Disney-grade production software down to the availability of the smaller animators. Yes, it is expensive, but not nearly what it used to cost.

Have you jumped into Toon Boom software, yet? Don’t start with Solo/Digital Pro. Start with Studio. The price is reasonable and you’ll have more capabilities than you may ever need for years to come.

If, however, you find yourself wanting to add some features and feel you have maximized your potential in Studio, then it is time to upgrade to Digital Pro.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Software Dongles

There has been some criticism of Toon Boom’s decision to use software dongles for Storyboard Pro and Digital Pro (originally known as Solo).

For those of you unfamiliar with Software dongles, a dongle is a small piece of hardware which plugs into the computer to enable the software to run. Typically, it is a small USB plug which unlocks the software.

Note that Toon Boom’s main consumer product, Toon Boom Studio, does not have a dongle. It simply uses a serial number to unlock the software, but there is no “activation” such as software like Windows Vista.

I am normally not a fan of dongles, but for software in the price range of Storyboard and Solo/Digital Pro, I take the dongle as a necessary evil.

In defense of the dongle, let me make these points:

1. Animation software at the level and cost of Storyboard Pro and Solo\Digital Pro has a relatively small user base and is expensive to create. These are professional level products. Specialized software is always expensive.

2. Studio, an amazingly capable and complete software package, comes with no dongle. It also has an amazing price, given its capabilities. Despite its amazingly low price, it is also heavily pirated. The frequent updates on this product place the pirate users at a a disadvantage, but I would be highly distressed if my livelihood depended only on this product. I know the arguments of pirate users simply trying out software that they would never buy, but in this case, I believe Toon Boom is losing sales to the pirates. Each copy’s serial code allows Toon Boom to track the original offender, but the legal hoops needed to prosecute the initial pirate are overwhelming.

3. Another option is to tie the software to the hardware, sort of like Adobe Premiere. The problems with this are multiple:

a. I use my animation software on multiple machines. Obviously, I don’t do this all at the same time. I draw on my Tablet PC. I tend to organize and paint my animations on my desktop PC with its massive screen. When I’m traveling light, I use a tiny Fujitsu tablet PC with an 8 inch screen to draw animations. Using a dongle is simple. I simply move the dongle from machine to machine. This complies with the software agreement, since removing the dongle effectively uninstalls the software from the machine.

b. If I had to work with a set-up like Adobe Premiere, I could never do this. I would need to buy at least three separate copies of the software, even though I am just one user, using one version at a time. The activation process would require a lengthy tech support call the moment I uninstalled the software from one machine to move it to another machine. Plus, the total uninstall and then install process is very time and hassle intensive.

c. I am also frequently changing my main PC’s hardware. A few months back, my hard-drive became too small, so I backed it up to an image, installed a new drive, and then installed the image. Much to my distress, several copies of my various programs were inactivated because I changed my machine’s configuration. Talk about substantial delays! Again, with a dongle, this is not a problem.

4. In essence, these pieces of software, which require complex activation schemes, also have a physical dongle: Certain components of your machine. Admittedly, these components are tough to lose and if you lose them, your hassle is not $250. It is simply hassle on the phone.

5. The other makers of high level animation software also have dongles. Toon Boom is not alone. For instance, Mirage (now TVPaint) also has a dongle.

6. EVERY piece of software that I use with a retail price approaching $1k or more has a dongle, using either a physical device or components of the machine, via complex activation schemes. Have you installed Microsoft Office lately?


My criticism of dongles:

1. For a laptop, dongles are a pain. They stick out and invite damage to the machine and the dongle.

2. The risk of loss makes me very paranoid.

3. The size of the Toon Boom dongles are tiny, meaning they are easy to lose. However, they do have the capabilities of being attached to a string or key-chain, such as with a typical flash memory drive. I have gone so far as to attach my dongles to such a string and add an attached old copy of my driver’s license. This makes it very difficult to lose the dongle.

4. If every software manufacturer demanded dongles, computing would become a major pain. Toon Boom recognizes this and limits the dongles to software that costs close to $1k or more.

In the end, as a business person, I accept that the dongle is inevitable with such a high level program. Frankly, now that I’ve paid a significant amount of money to buy the program, I get very angry at the thought that pirates might distribute such a program. Even a few lost sales of Solo or Storyboard Pro translate into many, many dollars.

Since, it is in my best interest for Toon Boom to be a very successful company, I put up the dongle.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Toon Boom Studio 4 rated a "BUY!"

Toon Boom Studio 4 will soon be available for sale. I had a chance to review a copy of the software this week and am extremely pleased.

My priorities in working with animation software are:

1. Will I be able to learn the software in a reasonable time frame?

2. Can I make a professional grade production using the software?

3. Is the software something that is usable creatively? Is there a creative flow to the software? This is difficult to measure, but when you find it, you know it.

4. Is the documentation good? Is it REALLY good?

5. Are there tutorials? Are they also really good?

6. Features are nice, but I don’t want to drown in a sea of endless features. Other artistic programs often add so many features they make the program unusable.

7. Is the software technically solid? Crashing software only makes me insane.



My conclusions about Toon Boom Studio 4:

1. The software is very logically laid out for conventional 2-D animation. If you are used to working with old fashioned animation and are fans of techniques describes in classic animation texts, you will find Studio is very well organized.

2. The upgrade continues to improve the interface.

3. You can make anything from a web production in Flash format to Film or HDTV quality animation output. You can also output the full spectrum of production from the same project with a few clicks to simply change settings.

4.I find the software provides the best environment for creating animation. The workflow is very conducive to productivity. Amazingly, the upgrade has improved the workflow further.

5. The documentation is incredibly good. In fact, Toon Boom’s documentation with Studio is the best I have ever seen with an animation program. Manuals are sold separately, but a “pdf” file of documentation accompanies the software. I would advise printing out sections on a color laser printer for study. The quality of writing and artwork in the documentation is excellent.

6. The tutorials are very good and give you a fast of the program. Later tutorials give a deeper knowledge of the program. All are very doable.

7. I did not yet investigate the latest features of the program. My biggest concern is always: “How usable is this program?” I did not drown in the added features, so nothing about the upgrade has harmed overall usability. On the contrary, it is even better.

8. The program is solid. On my older Tablet PC, I needed to tweak some settings, but it worked very well.

9. The price point for this program is very generous. No other program of this quality is priced so affordably. This is better than the “professional grade” products of other companies. For anyone interested in animation, this program is a “no-brainer.”

10. Toon Boom is on top of this program and constantly working to provide improvements.

Bottom line:
I am very excited and pleased with this product. I would rate it as an extremely strong “Buy.”

Monday, August 6, 2007

It's Here!


Toon Boom has announced a new high-end animating product!

Check it out at

http://www.toonboom.com/

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Cartoon in this week's Free Lance Star: Terrorist doctors




The latest animation: Thoughts on its production


Another animation has, finally, been completed. Often, this serves as a useful time to step back and reflect on what went right and wrong, as well as the tools used to complete the job.

The project had sharp limitations: Less than 30-seconds, factual accuracy, and convey the message in a memorable manner.

As usual, I completed the soundtrack first. Soundtrack editing programs are all fairly generic. You simply need to be able to layer the sounds in a somewhat reversible manner.

Typically, this comprises all of the “planning” or “storyboarding” that I need for a project. I got stuck, however, at trying to time a lot of the events in the animation. I also was baffled at creating a rapid transition midway through the animation that would take the viewer from land to water.

About this time, I had invested in Toon Boom’s Storyboard Pro. There is a cheaper version now available, also. I was very uncertain about my investment in the first few weeks of this program’s ownership. The program, however, is more handy and helpful than you might think. Also, features such as onion skinning, which are not present in the cheaper version, are hugely helpful in the Pro version.

Anyway, I decided to create a formal storyboard for the project. The entire process barely took an hour. The program’s learning curve is not steep and the short videos teach you almost every aspect of the program. When I was finished with my storyboard, I immediately knew how the animation should flow. The process seemed so brief, obvious, and easy, that I could easily underestimate the value of the critical storyboarding process and the program.

I do about 95% of my animation in Toon Boom’s Solo. This project was no exception and the program proved very useful. Could I have done the same project in Toon Boom’s Studio program? Since I did not use a lot of special effects, which make Solo so valuable, theoretically, Studio would have sufficed. Later, however, Solo’s NETWORK view proved absolutely critical when the animation became extremely complex.

Many of Solo’s features were not used in this animation. I did not use a lot of shading to create the shadows typically seen in feature animation films. I did use a texture pen, but this often suffers from a serious technical problem where the program slows to a crawl. The texture pen was used to show the approaching algae. In retrospect, I could have just used a standard pen with a reduced alpha channel.

I had hoped to create a fancy animation for the algae in the old Painter program, now owned by Corel, which allows bit-mapped animation with paint-like pens. After many hours of experimentation, I just did not like the effect and could see no advantage over simply using the vector brushes in Solo.

The final scene with the fish was fairly complex and involved lots of individually moving elements. Solo’s network view was helpful, but not indispensable at that point.

After a client review of the working animation, several criticisms came up. I needed to add dialog to improve the factual accuracy of the message. This was going to be tough to accomplish in 30-seconds, but I quickly solved that issue and was able to cram in the extra dialog.

The real problem involved the needed changes in the intricately timed and complex scene with all of the fish that move independently. I needed to somehow preserve their sequencing as a reference, yet create a new adjusted sequencing to accommodate the dialog timing changes and the new motions for the dialog.

Interestingly, no additional drawing was necessary because I had all of the raw work accomplished. This was simply a sequencing problem for each individual element. I decided to duplicate elements, saving the old element sequences for reference, simply disconnecting them from the final animation in the complex Network view of Solo.

Now, the value of Solo versus Studio became obvious. Theoretically, I could have done this work in Studio, but the complexity would have killed me and I would have needed many, many more hours and hair-pulling to finish the project.

The animation was rendered in final form in Solo and the only need for an additional program was to simply burn a DVD for distribution.

For me, the investment in Solo has been wonderful. Yes, it is expensive, but I really have found it to be indispensable.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The River Animation is finished!

Here it is! This animation was created totally in ToonBoom SOLO.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Andrew Mussey's Trebuchet Video:

Trebuchet by Andrew Mussey

Andrew Mussey has a video and a companion story prominently featured in the June 28 Free Lance Star and Fredericksburg.com!

The story is at:

http://www.fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2007/062007/06282007/295550

The video will be in a later link.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Toon Boom's Storyboard Pro gets a glowing review


Congratulations on the great review for Storyboard Pro in Animation World Magazine! The review is available at http://mag.awn.com/index.php?ltype=pageone&article_no=3320&page=1

Since I purchased Storyboard Pro, I find more cartoon/animation ideas are being recorded and hashed out, usually VERY quickly, rather than getting lost in a scrap pile of paper or, worse, simply lost from memory! The software is very well designed to encourage development of ideas from a rough stage to an actual viable animation project. Even though storyboarding is critical to an animation, it is the one step I least enjoyed prior to this software.

I now also use the software exclusively for my regular newspaper comics.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

"Just a few changes..."


You’ve finished the animation. Proudly, you show it for final approval. You’re confident it’s great. Then it comes back: “Uh, we just need a few changes.”

In the world of filmed animation, those words would likely have provoked violence.

Fortunately, those days are behind us. Now, you can be much more flexible.

The process of tweaking an animation with a rigid thirty second limit usually involves tweaking the entire sequence. Sound tracks must be either redone or modified to make longer or shorter… usually shorter. You clip out small silent spots. You electronically speed up the sound without changing the pitch, being careful not to destroy its natural quality. Finally, you have a soundtrack that meets the necessary demands.

Now, you have to fix the pictures. The sound sync is now totally wrong. The camera moves to the wrong spots. ..And, you have some more drawing to do.

I’m learning all sorts of tricks in Toon Boom’s Solo animation software to carefully modify the animation without totally redoing it all. It’s easier than you think, though not without careful effort and thought.
Solo has an ability to duplicate character drawings, change the sequences before eliminating the original sequence, and then automatically synching the words to the mouth positions (which is only a rough guide, but incredibly helpful).

Certainly, the process is very different than film!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

TVPaint, Bauhaus, Mirage: A serious concern for animation software users!


This is extremely important if you are looking at purchasing “Mirage” from Bauhaus for animation. There is a very serious problem with this software that will greatly reduce your ability to use this software in the future. I refer you specifically to http://www.tvpaint.com/ for details. The following messages are posted on that website:


TVPaint and Bauhaus entered into a license agreement that allowed Bauhaus to distribute TVPaint’s software in the United States on July 11, 2003. When Bauhaus failed to meet its agreed sales levels of TVPaint’s software, the parties settled their differences by modifying the license agreement on January 31, 2005. By October of 2005 it became apparent that Bauhaus was not going to comply with the required license payments to TVPaint. When Bauhaus defaulted under the license agreement, TVPaint offered to meet with Bauhaus in San Antonio to discuss Bauhaus’s failure to pay under the license agreement. The meeting was finally arranged for Canada in November.

In November of 2005, TVPaint traveled all the way from France to Canada to meet with Bauhaus. Instead of beginning negotiations to resolve the failure of Bauhaus to pay its agreed royalties, Mr. Paul Ford with Bauhaus started and ended the meeting by reading TVPaint a letter that must have been prepared by a lawyer threatening the filing of a $12,000,000.00 USD lawsuit against TVPaint if TVPaint terminated the license agreement because Bauhaus failed to paid the agreed royaties to TVPaint and if TVPaint began to sell and market TVPaint’s software in the USA. Bauhaus secretly filed a suit against TVPaint in December of 2005 but kept it secret until May of 2006 when the U.S. Judge was going to dismiss the suit for failure to give notice and serve TVPaint. The license agreement provided in not uncertain terms that if Bauhaus failed to pay the agreed royalties, the right of Bauhaus to distribute TVPaint’s software could be terminated. Pursuant to the agreement, TVPaint gave Bauhaus the required notice of default which gave Bauhaus a chance to pay the past due royalties owed to TVPaint. Bauhaus continued to refuse to pay the past due royalties and was notified on January 25, 2006 that the rights of Bauhaus under the license agreement were canceled. After cancellation of all of Bauhaus’s rights under the license agreement, only TVPaint could sell authorized copies of its copyrighted software in the US, and any continued sales by Bauhaus would be in violation of the agreement and the copyright laws.

Bauhaus ignored the cancellation and continued to sell unauthorized copies of TVPaint’s software. There are lawsuits pending in the French Court in Metz and the United States District Court in San Antonio. In the suits, TVPaint has asked for an injunction against Bauhaus from selling unauthorized copies of TVPaint’s copyrighted software. The license agreement clearly states that it can be terminated for failure to pay royalties and any claimed breaches by TVPaint cannot prevent the cancellation. Bauhaus’s untenable and outrageous $12,000,000.00 USD lawsuit lists what BHS calls "contractual failures" but the claims of Bauhaus are contradicted by the terms of the license agreement. Furthermore, even assuming that TVPaint breached the license agreement, which is vehemently denied, this would not avoid termination of Bauhaus’s rights under the license agreement for failure to pay royalties.

One preposterous claim of Bauhaus is that because it participated in adding an animator toolbar to the TVPaint software, this gives Bauhaus sole and exclusive ownership of TVPaint’s software and the right to ignore the royalty and cancellation provisions of the license agreement. Even assuming that Bauhaus is the “author” of the animator toolbar added to TVPaint’s software, which is denied, this would not give Bauhaus any ownership or distribution rights to TVPaint’s underlying software and copyright. It is fundamental copyright law that creating a derivative work does not give additional rights to the underlying work. When the license on the underlying TVPaint software and copyright is cancelled for non-payment of royalties, all rights to distributing the otherwise infringing derivative work terminate.

At this point the biggest fear of TVPaint is that faced with the inevitable loss of all of its rights in TVPaint’s software, Bauhaus Software will act to destroy all good will in TVPaint’s software. We'd like to make it crystal clear that Bauhaus Software does not now and never did have access to or own the source code for the TVPaint software it sold under the Mirage name before its license was cancelled in January of 2006. Consequently, Bauhaus Software, like any other user, is only able to make plugins such as the Animator's Toolbar, copied largely from (edit : not by of course) Dhomas Trenn's Toolbox, or Board-o-Matic thanks to the SDK which has its own limitations though. The SDK allows anyone to do very cool plugins to the TVPaint software. The TVPaint SDK was not intended to make a rotative canvas for example...

That means that the old versions of TVPaint software sold under the name Mirage cannot be updated or adapted by Bauhaus Software to recent and future platforms like the new Intel CPU based Macs and take advantage of their new abilities. That's why more and more users of TVPaint software formerly sold under the Mirage name are switching to TVPaint each day... the only current legal source of genuine TVPaint software is from TVPaint so beware of buying from unauthorized sources!

Let me emphasize a key point:


"That means that the old versions of TVPaint software sold under the name Mirage cannot be updated or adapted by Bauhaus Software to recent and future platforms like the new Intel CPU based Macs."

This is distressing news. If you are interested in software like Mirage, you should look at TVPaint’s website at http://www.tvpaint.com/

Obviously, I find the Toon Boom line of products to be more practical for my projects ( http://www.toonboom.com/ ).

Since I did a previous post about Mirage, I wanted it known that users need to be very careful about their purchases, since the software is fairly expensive. I have found TVPaint’s email responses to be very speedy if you have questions. It appears that anyone interested in this type of animation software, which uses bit mapping, should purchase the software from TVPaint in France.

What a mess!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Toon Boom's new software: Storyboard Pro


Toon Boom’s Storyboard Pro arrived last Monday and I’ve had some limited opportunity to use the software to create a real project. For the past several weeks, I’ve been stuck on a public service advertisement. I had already created a finished soundtrack, but was stuck on the mechanics of how to structure the scene.

The tools of Storyboard Pro are very easy to use. The video teaching files are particularly helpful and my learning curve was very easy. The program is stable and I encountered no strange behavior. Installation was easy. Tablet PC operation has been extremely smooth.

As a valuable tool, I was able to quickly structure out a rough test file that let me place out what I needed to accomplish and the result should speed the final work when I go back into Solo. The total time to create the result was so short that it made me almost regret spending so much for a program that I seem to be using only for small chunks of time. Without the tool, however, I was not coming up with a plan. The bottom line here is Storyboard Pro is a valuable tool that works quickly.

Most of the components of the ad, in terms of drawing files, had already been created in Toon Boom Solo. I was simply getting stuck on integrating them together. It was extremely easy to use the Solo libraries to integrate the components into Storyboard Pro with simple “click and drag.”

Now that I have the file, I am a bit stuck as to where I go from here. After messing around, I decided to use a QuickTime file with time code imprinted onto the screen as a reference.

We’ll see how this goes.

Sunday, March 4, 2007




Walks and Timing the Total Ad



Slow work on the animation.... Seems there is always something else that needs to be done.

I want one of the main characters to have a "fat walk." The Animators Survival Kit by Richard Williams is an excellent reference with all sorts of different walks.

A preliminary soundtrack is together, but I don't like parts of it. The timing, however, works for a thirty-second spot. That is a key element. Virtually every animation in the past has been more than the thirty-second limit. At that point, I am forced to use sound-editing tricks to speed up the dialog and cut "precious animated frames."

My first aggressive driving spot was a full minute. After I showed it to the staff, they delicately let me know that only a thirty-second spot is appropriate. I went back and aggressively cut scenes, dialog, and frames. I also sped up the dialog electronically, as much as acceptable. Amazingly, it came down to thirty-seconds. When I previewed it for the first time, it was tough to adjust my thinking. Those meaningful glares between the husband and wife pretty much vanished, which made me a bit disappointed. After the third preview, or so, it became clear that the heavily edited version was better. Lesson: Edit, edit, edit, edit!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Working on a new Public Service Advertisement

I was recently asked to work on a series of public service advertisements. They will all be animated, of course. The topic is the serious state of our local river. Much to my horror, this wonderful landmark is rapidly dying. The culprit appears to be the huge increase in local development, resulting in massive amounts of fertilizer. The fertilizer is leading to a series of events which ultimately eliminate oxygen… and life… from the river.

I had taken a couple of months off from animating and decided to fire up ToonBoom’s animation software SOLO.

I’ve said it before and will say it again: This is incredibly powerful software.

Though I am a huge fan of their STUDIO software, working in SOLO is an entirely different experience. You KNOW you are using a professional product.

I’ll post updates on the production as it progresses.

Stay tuned!