Anark Studio 2.5
Issue: Volume: 27 Issue: 4 (April 2004)

Anark Studio 2.5

Having used Anark Studio 1.5 following its release in 2002, I was impressed by the ease with which I was able to create custom interactive graphics for the Web or a CD-ROM. Recently, I was afforded a sneak peak at Version 2.5, which will soon ship with a number of improvements and updates.

Anark Studio was designed to be the next generation of multimedia authoring. With the use of drag-and-drop programming and pre-created scripts called Behaviors, users can quickly streamline the authoring process of multimedia and video projects. The creations then can be deployed in small file sizes to the Web, trade-show presentations, kiosks, CD-ROM, and more via the free Anark Web Client and Anark Client for Windows Media 9 Series.

Version 2.5 boasts an improved interface, which keeps all the necessary tools at your fingertips.

The user interface has changed little. When I launch the program, all the windows open, including the Library, Inspector, Timeline, Assistant, Storage, and main windows. Improvements have been made to the Inspector palette, where each of the controls for scale, position, and more has been visually enhanced with Mac-style buttons and slider controls. This is a vast improvement over the text-based, flat, gray interface of past versions. A new addition is the Animation button on many controls, which, when depressed, enables you to animate that particular modifier.

One problem I noticed in the previous version has been fixed in this edition:.Users can now zoom in on the Timeline. You also can double-click anywhere in the top portion of the Timeline and open a Go To dialog, which aids you in precisely placing queues for your scene. These two enhancements should make fine-tuning your animation and events much easier.

The real power of Anark 2.5 lies in the new set of rendering options for Windows, as well as the remote sourcing of images, an improved cross-platform Storage palette, enhanced video export for Windows, new component and image properties, and new scripting properties.

One of the strongest new exporting features is Remote Sourcing. JPEG and PNG files can be loaded from a remote source, instead of having to be embedded in the project file. Remote Sourcing, when used in conjunction with a properly written behavior, also can load sequential image files. As a result, an architect can create a 3D presentation of a house or a building and offer hundreds, if not thousands, of textures for carpets and walls for a client to review. This can be done without embedding all the images and, thereby, without increasing the size of the file. Moreover, museums can offer 3D representations of an entire exhibit on-line, while keeping file sizes small to ensure efficient page viewing and download times.

Making Anark Media presentations available on the largest number of platforms, the company provides three rendering options: Software, OpenGL, and DirectX. As you develop a media presentation, you can set the export to any of the above and preview in each of the playback applications to determine how your media will perform. The support of OpenGL, Microsoft DirectX, and Windows Media Player should make Version 2.5 accessible to more users.

In addition to these improvements, new Behaviors have been added, including a physics-based script called Collider. While not as robust as Havok, for example, Collider enables users to create realistic particle simulations for presentations, with the same ease of use as the rest of the tools in Anark Studio. More Action Behaviors have been added, nearly doubling the number shipped in Version 1.5.

To improve work flow, a new Independent Group aids users in setting a specific play state for an object or event, alleviating the need to define a Pause Behavior and an activating Behavior for the animation. It saves time in creating the application, and the finished project file is smaller given fewer Behaviors in the scene.

Version 2.5 is a fine improvement to Anark Studio, which continues to grow in power and capability without losing its ease of use. Anark fixed past problems, enhanced user friendliness, added new tools and options, and, by working on exporting features, opened it to a larger audience. Anark Studio might give entrenched interactive programming software a run for the money. Those who develop interactive media or programs should check out Anark Studio 2.5. It's what the next generation of authoring software looks like.

Doug King, a contributing editor based in Dallas, develops animated projects for his company, Day III Productions.

Price: $995
Minimum System Requirements: Pentium II 300mhz or better, Windows 98/ SE/2000/ME/XP, 256mb of RAM, Windows Media Player 7, 100mb of free disk space, and a graphics card that supports OpenGL 1.2.1