Anark Studio 1.5
Issue: Volume: 25 Issue: 10 (October 2002)

Anark Studio 1.5

Animation and interactivity on the Web are becoming increasingly popular. Graphic designers and Web masters are always pushing the boundaries of what can be downloaded or streamed without requiring a viewer with a dial-up connection to wait for minutes, or even hours. Programs such as Shockwave, Fireworks, Flash, and others all purport to make multimedia authoring easy and many of them do. But a relatively new kid on the block is unleashing a program that puts creative power in the hands of artists and media developers hoping to create the next revolution of interactive digital media experiences.

Anark Studio 1.5 from Anark Corp. is multimedia-authoring software that allows users to create interactive content that seamlessly integrates 3D models, video, images, and audio for Web sites, and many kinds of multimedia presentations. Anark Studio streamlines the authoring process with interface elements and tools typical of multimedia, video, and scripting environments, making it a user-friendly media integration and development tool.

Upon opening Anark Studio I was faced with five windows, or palettes: the Library, a Project window (or Scene preview), a Timeline, the Inspector, and the new Assistant palette. The Library is where you store the materials, images, models, sounds, and behaviors used for a particular project, all of which you find first in a new palette, Storage. Another new palette is the Assistant, which offers lessons, tutorials, and tips from within the authoring UI.

More than 60 behaviors, sample sounds, materials, and models came with the program, which I found very handy. Upon installation I had the ability to create complex event-driven interactions through drag-and-drop authoring without any scripting. For someone like me who hates writing any type of code, this is a blessing. I was able to quickly drop mouse control behaviors into my project so that I had rollover sound effects and mouse-controlled animations, all within a few minutes of installing the program. Advanced users can write their own JavaScript behaviors using an integrated scripting environment.

Everything is drag and drop. You can drop selected items into the Library, directly into the Timeline, or into the Scene preview. Once you've added an element to your scene, you can modify it by selecting it on the Timeline and making adjustments in the Inspector palette or via the tools on the Project window. One incredible feature is the ability to map video onto 3D models by simply dragging and dropping a video clip onto the model's material in the Timeline window. There is no need to mess with UVW mapping coordinates.

The Inspector palette is basically the modifier window and gives context-sensitive control of properties for a large number of objects and behaviors. This is where I found my first bug. The sliders do not step between values and instead zero out when clicked on. Anark says it is aware of the problem and is fixing it. In the meantime, the workaround is to click on the numeric value and use the Up and Down arrow keys on the keyboard to increment the value.

Another complaint I have is the inability to scale the Timeline. There are no zoom in or out options and instead I was constantly scrolling back and forth to find edit In and Out points. I was told this is currently a top-priority feature for an update.

The program supports a large number of file formats for import and export, including 3DS, WAV, PSD with transparency, PNG, JPG, TGA, TIF, BMP, AVI, WMV, MOV, QT, MPEG, and many more. The modeling package included with the program is well suited for creating simple primitives, and nearly all modifiers within the program are animatable.

To sum up, Anark did not try to reinvent the wheel. Instead it uses layers, scenes, and timelines that are industry standards. What sets the product apart is its ease of use. It didn't take me long to incorporate incredible animated backgrounds, models, and interactivity into a multimedia presentation. While it's not yet perfect, Anark Studio puts a great deal of power in the hands of designers who do not know how to write JavaScript, but want to create compelling presentations and interactive Web sites.

Anark Studio uses a palette-based interface in which all objects can be dragged and dropped.

Doug King is a writer and animator based in Dallas, Texas.

Anark Studio 1.5
Price: $995
Minimum System Requirements: Windows 98/SE/2000/ME/XP; 300MHz Pentium II; Direct X 7; 128MB of RAM
Anark Corp.