Issue: Volume: 22 Issue: 12 (December 1999)

Spotlight: Cambridge Animation Stretches 2D

Animo Inkworks, a plug-in for Maya and Max, renders 3D objects with 'toon shading and converts the data into Animo format. Then, using Scene III, a new plug-in for Animo 3, animators can import the 3D scene including model data, positioning, lighting, camera, and material information into Animo 3. Once inside Animo 3, the 3D model can be scaled and rotated, and the lights, camera, and animation curve can be adjusted. The 3D data can be viewed alongside 2D data within Animo 3 and scenes composited within Animo 3 can be exported to Maya or Max for viewing as 2D texture planes. "If a scene is mostly 3D, people will probably work within the 3D software, but if it is mostly 2D, they'll probably work in the Animo space," says Brian Tyler, vice president of sales and marketing.

To create the cartoon shading for 3D geometry, Inkworks handles the edges of models as geometry to create the ink lines, according to Tyler. In addition, lines that don't exist on the model can be created to designate such things as crease lines. The thickness and shape of the lines can be controlled by an artist who can also set parameters to change the highlighting, base color, and shade color of the materials. "We're keeping the lines and the painting separate," says Tyler.

In addition to these tools, Cambridge Animation will roll out three other packages this year. Pencil Tester (£750 UK), a stand-alone software package for NT machines, can play scanned drawings in real time. Sound Track Editor ($2,000), a stand-alone software package or an Animo 3 plug-in, produces a printed break down with timecodes and phonemes for audio files on DAT tapes. It runs on SGI Irix and NT machines. Pro duction Track er, also for SGI Irix and NT machines, automatically logs in data from Animo files and can use information entered into the system to help studios track job status and costs. The software costs £500 UK per station plus £1000UK for a manager's version.

Animo 3, for SGI Irix and NT machines, is $10,000. Animo Inkworks for Maya or Max is £750 UK. Scene III is priced at $4125. All the software is scheduled to be available by the end of the year. (Cambridge Animation Systems; Cambridge, UK; 44 (0) 1223 578100;
-Barbara Robertson