A computer program for budding Walt Disneys
Budding Walt Disneys, take note. Recently a unique new software program was released which allows you to produce short, animated movies on your home computer.Skip to next paragraph
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The name of this program is the Movie Maker Toolkit. Marketed by Reston Publishing, the program sells for $60 and runs on Atari computers equipped with a floppy disk drive and joystick. In the future, versions for other computers - Apple, IBM, and Commodore - will also be available.
Movie Maker is one of a new and still rare breed of home computer programs which successfully add an element of creativity to the intrinsic dynamism of this novel medium. Programs such as this and the recently released Music Construction Set from Electronic Arts allow aspiring high-tech Mozarts to compose and play electronic music on a computer. The shoot-em-up arcade-type games pale by comparison.
The new program's author is Guy Nouri, an ex-painter from New York City who is now head of Interactive Picture Systems (IPS). This is his second programming effort. His first software package, Paint, turns the Atari computer into an electronic palette, paintbrush, and canvas. His brother, Michael, was the male lead in the popular movie ''Flashdance,'' making the Nouris an animated family.
As the preface to the Movie Maker manual puts it (with a little excusable hyperbole), ''This system is a totally new tool for artistic expression. Because it can do things that have not been possible before, it entices you to think in new ways.''
The program is definitely not a game, insists Nouri. He envisions it as a new form of entertainment for today's computer buyers who have grown tired of Space Invaders and Centipede.
The concept underlying Movie Maker is an animation studio. To make a commercial cartoon, artists paint figures in various poses on transparent plastic sheets. These sheets are laid on a painted background and photographed in thousands of carefully arranged sequences so that, when run on a movie projector, the cartoon figures seem to move and talk.
Within the limits of the computer graphics, Nouri appears to have successfully captured the essence of this process. But making even the simplest cartoon is a complex endeavor. So, of necessity, Movie Maker is a fairly complicated program to learn. It employs over 30 different commands which must be memorized. And the chore is further complicated by the fact that some commands have slightly different meanings in different parts of the program.
''It will probably take most people at least a solid day to produce their first simple animation,'' acknowledges Jerry Brecher of Reston, who was demonstrating the program at a recent computer show.
Still, there are tangible rewards for those willing to make the Effort. In the hands of a professional, the results are surprisingly close to the output of commercial cartoonmakers like Hannah Barbera. Unfortunately, microcomputer graphics are still too crude to obtain anything analogous to the animation in the old Disney cartoon classics. But, at the rate the technology is improving, it shouldn't be too long a wait. In fact, IPS has developed a more powerful version of Movie Maker and has leased it for commercial TV development.