Animation:Master 10.5 for Mac OS X
Long responsible for providing the first steps in character animation, the latest version of the venerable Animation:Master (A:M) has now been rebuilt for Mac OS X.
It’s different from most of the 3D-animation tools on the market, a fact evident by looking at the layout of the manual. This is a friendly volume (chock-full of tutorials) organized into three parts aimed at different user levels.
The actual action in a filmic sense depends on how props, cameras and characters are arranged and interact in a Choreography window – drawn from the same root concept as the stage in Director and providing real-time rendering capabilities. Animation can be added in a variety of ways, including timeline-based events and keyframed animations, as well as channel-based motion, dynamics and motion-capture input.
Specific character tools include the ability to follow a path, IK and Bones modes, layered animation, motion ease-in and -out, and spline-based animation, as well as controls for stride length and constraints to stop feet from slipping. In the simplest method, Actions can be dragged from the library onto the models for instant animation. The application comes complete with Motion actions such as walking running, skipping and so on, and it’s relatively easy to make your own or customize those in the library.
Lip-syncing is difficult to get right – but by using some automation and a Dope Sheet, A:M tries to make it easier. The software matches the words you type with phonemes (lip motions representing sounds) and applies them over the breadth of the timeline in an attempt to correspond with imported sound clips. This is a relatively inexpensive animation package, so you can perhaps forgive the rather clunky controls on the timeline that you use to modify the words. They are effective enough for the job however, as are the controls for secondary actions such as winks, smiles and so on. These are in the form of pose sliders – a common enough feature to be found in most character animation packages, but used to good effect here. In another key point, A:M is well stocked with rendering options, with Toon, Multi-Pass and even stereographic rendering (Hash has included a pair of 3D specs in the box) among the choices available. Rotoscoping is also a straightforward procedure.
Animation:Master is similar in some ways to Kaydara’s MotionBuilder 5.5 in that both can be used for storyboarding and pre-viz tasks, while character rigging is central to both products. The application has a unique reference in the form of a direct link within the interface to the online A:M community, but the application’s own online help didn’t work. Controls are often basic and access to the libraries could be better, but whatever the interface gripes, there’s no denying that this is a fully fledged character-animation tool and one that should be considered if you’re a serious animator.