Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 125 / JANUARY 1991 / PAGE 50

DeluxePaint Animation. (Compute Choice) (evaluation)
by Wayne N. Kawamoto


Animation makes anything possible. Elephants can fly, wooden puppets can come to life, rabbits can make wisecracks, and pitiful coyotes can spring resiliently back after being run over, blown up, and hurled down from precipitous heights.

Now DeluxePaint Animation from Electronic Arts gives you the power of the computer to create stunning animation sequences that rival Saturday-morning cartoons. The program's animation tools and first-rate paint will unleash your imagination.

I don't consider myself an artist (years ago I did design the back cover of my junior high school yearbook), but with this program and a reasonable investment of time, I could create animations that impressed me and everyone that I roped into watching them.

The basic idea behind animation is to create a series of frames, or cels, that differ slightly. If you rapidly view these frames in sequence, they create the illusion of motion. Everybody has seen cartoon flip books--the concept is the same on the computer and, for that matter, in the production of commercial cartoons.

DeluxePaint Animation (DA) allows you to paint and manipulate objects on individual frames. It will also create in between-frames, the ones needed to complete the illusion of motion between images.

At the most basic level, you can sequence the screens frame by frame and draw the different pictures. But you'll really want to take advantage of DA's powerful animation tools.

DA features an animation technique called animpainting. Here the computer automatically sequences frames while you draw. For example, if you want to show a ball moving around, you draw a ball, get into animpainting mode, and just move the ball with your mouse as you want to see it in your cartoon. DA will automatically flip the frames as you draw, so when you replay the cartoon, the ball will fly around exactly as you drew it.

You can also create animbrushes. These are animated sequences that you can insert into other cartoons. This particular feature came in handy when I wanted a rotating planet in an outer-space animation that I was making. After first creating an endless looping cartoon of the spinning planet, I saved the entire sequence as an animbrush. When I put together the full cartoon with all of the elements, which included comets and moving galaxies, I merely inserted that animated planet into the scene.

DA includes some professionally created animbrushes--detailed birds, fish, and human figures. You can blend these moving figures into your own cartoons, almost as if they were animated clip art.

You can also use a variety of commands to have DA animate your images in delightfully impressive ways.

To change one object into another, you can produce transformations with the metamorphose animbrush. You create or select two objects and tell DA how many frames you want for the change; DA will provide all the in-between frames. The tutorial shows you how to make an amazing sequence in which an egg gradually turns into a chicken. The resulting animation is surprisingly smooth, even though you have very different shapes and colors.

With move commands, you can tell DA to move objects anywhere, rotate them, and even make them look as if they're flying toward or away from the screen. Using a Cartesian coordinate system (remember Algebra 1A in high school?), you can tell DA to move an object so many spaces, along any combination of axes and within a given number of frames. The results are images that go virtually anyplace on the screen, tumble, and even move away while gradually diminishing in size. The possibilities for movement are endless. You can even make your objects bounce and fall naturally as if they were real objects.

The program can also do color-cycling animation, in which sequences of color create the illusion of motion. Use this feature to make colorful movie marquees and falling snow.

You can also animate figures against scrolling backgrounds that are wider than your viewing screen. The characters can appear to walk along a street or through a changing forest. You cannot, however, create scrolling backgrounds in DA; you have to use the companion product, DeluxePaint II Enhanced.

Three-dimensional effects can simulate the view from the cockpit of a plane, which is very much like the view in most simulators. DA can generate a moving horizon and land, and it even lets you do barrel rolls in your plane.

Besides being an animation program, DA is an excellent paint program. Bearing a strong resemblance to its cousin. DeluxePaint II Enhanced, DA has inherited virtually all the paint features and the easy interface. Although I has never worked with DeluxePaint before, I found painting with it easy and the results impressive.

You can paint in 256 colors, which may at first seem overwhelming, but the interface lets you view all the colors at once for easy selection. Since subtle differences in hue can be hard to tell apart, I really liked the color-matching tool, which determines what color you have already painted with. All you do is select the tool and click on the color that you want to match in your drawing, and then DA automatically loads that color for your brush.

You can create impressive 3-D figures in the perspective mode. Here you position a vanishing point to which all of your objects will be oriented. As you create shapes to form the final object, DA alters them to fit your perspective.

You can also create stencils to mask areas of your drawings. Like electronic masking tape, the stencils allow you to color tricky areas without having to worry about painting over something else.

Of course, DA features the requisite array of painting tools you would expect in a high-end paint program. With these tools, you can create circles, curves, rectangles, and gradients of color; fill areas; adjust brush sizes; and magnify areas for more detailed drawing. I liked using the right and left buttons on my mouse to control different colors. This kind of control makes drawing and erasing easy. Another handy feature is the ability to alter brush sizes as you draw.

DA also provides a play utility that allows your friends to play your animation on their computers. A conversion utility lets you import pictures in other paint formats, and a camera function will take pictures of graphic screens so that you can use them in DA.

I don't know what DA's actual limits are, but I created animation that had at least ten different elements simultaneously moving. Birds fly with flapping wings, figures walk or dance, titles rotate and grow in size, pie charts "fly together," balls bounce away in the distance, images transform into other objects--the effects are endless.

The program turned out to be a lot of fun. I created a pretty decent picture of Flounder, the fish from Disney's The Little Mermaid. After saving this as a brush, I animated him against a blue ocean backdrop. Seeing Flounder wink and swim around enchanted my four-year-old daughter.

Inspired by an article that discusses how directors use computer animation to preview special effects in movies and because I happen to be something of a Trekkie (both generations), I made a cartoon of the opening sequence from "Star Trek."

My final cartoon was complete with moving planets, shooting stars, and, of course, an Enterprise starship that jumped to warpspeed. All I needed was Captain Jean Luc Picard's opening narration.

Generally, the results are excellent, but don't expect classic Disney quality. With some work you can probably get results similar to the limited animation shown on children's Saturday-morning television. The professionally created examples included with the program, particularly the mermaid and the spinning King Tuts, are truly spectacular.

You can use DA to develop attractive sales and point-of-purchase demos, illustrate educational concepts, and preview sequences before filming them. But I think that this program is, most of all, a colorful, animated screen full of fun.

Prepare for some investment of time to get started. It takes a while to really get the animation concepts down. The interface and screens are intuitive and easily understood, particularly if you've used paint programs before. The program relies on a mouse, and you can use keyboard shortcuts.

The thick 295-page manual is very well written, considering that the writers had to explain an entire paint program and then the animation features. The manual's only drawbacks are, first, that it asks you to use some features before it explains them and, second, that some icons are hard to read. But overall, it gives excellent step-by-step examples and starts you on your way.

The hardware requirements are steep. You must have a VGA monitor and card and a mouse. DA runs the program in the 256-color, 320 X 200 VGA mode. Also, the manufacturer recommends that you have at least a 286-based computer or faster, and you must have a hard drive to hold the program's three megabytes of data. (Actually, the manufacturer encourages you have to five megabytes of free hard disk space.)

With DA, the PC now has animation power comparable to that of the Amiga and Macintosh. DA is an outstanding choice if you're looking for an animation program. There's another highly regarded animation program called Autodesk Animator that's also a COMPUTE Choice (see January 1990 COMPUTE!); it is, however, more expensive.

For those of you familiar with the older animation program Fantavision, DA belongs to an entire new generation that can handle more elements, avoid distorting objects when rotating, and give you a real 256-color paint program to draw with. Comparing Fantavision with DA is like comparing the MS-DOS text editor Edlin with a high-end word processor.

DeluxePaint Animation is an excellent program. It not only gives you comprehensive paint and animation capabilities, but it also makes using them fun and easy.

Ease of Use [star][star][star][star]

Documentation [star][star][star][star]

Features [star][star][star][star][star]

Innovation [star][star][star][star]

DeluxePaint Animation

IBM and compatibles (286 or 386 recommended), 640K, hard disk, VGA, DOS 2.1 or higher, Microsoft-compatible mouse--$134.95


P.O. Box 7530

San Mateo, CA 94403

(800) 245-4525