Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A letter from a new user

I welcome the views of all users of Antics, here's a letter from Mark Willner.

He wrote...."I acquired Antics to be able to take a script and create a motion picture per se or a design for live action . Antics provides a way to explore all areas of movie making, inexpensively. I purchased the pro bundle and thought it was a bargain - a movie studio on my desktop. I did look at competitors and there are quite a few. I liked Antics model the best.Making my first Antics movie took me a lot time and was very frustrating.........................
continued in the comments section

Good points for discussion. All comments welcome. - T

1 comment:

previz said...

Mark continues....." I have made seventeen live action shorts. Coming to Antics required a workflow adjustment. Also if you have never worked in 3-space, it requires getting used to. On one of the Antics postings or webinars, I heard it said or saw it written that some indie filmmaker claimed he learned Antics in an afternoon. You can certainly install it and put a few characters on the stage but I'm not sure you can grasp its depth that fast. (I was a commercial software developer. I think I am pretty savvy and I could not learn this product in an afternoon. I would be cautious of the bravado.)
I am a long time user of SketchUp, Poser, Adobe Photoshop, Premier, After Effects, Audition, etc. I am very used to their interfaces and workflows, which are different from Antics. I really struggled with the Antics Timeline and the way it works. One of my biggest conflicts was between the Record button and the Shotline active switch. My Adobe experience really kept me in hot water until I adjusted after much trial and error and wasted time - but then again, that is the normal process with computer learning. It is healthy in the long run, but in short run, it cost me several keyboards. (Just kidding)
Once you understand Antics' approach to recording action on a set, the workflow is sensible, though I really wish the default state for the Timeline Record Button was inactive Once you activate it, if you forget about them, you can really find yourself tied in a knot. This is an area worth getting to know and understand since it can really impact your results.

Here are some additional workflow issues I encountered and adjusted to. Also, if you are interested, I created a workflow document for myself, which I am more than willing to share. (You can write to me at if you want a copy. )
First and foremost, Antics movie making is like writing: solitary. You do it alone. With a live action movie, there is typically collaboration among individuals with specific roles: sound, cinematography, make-up, actor, director, producer, gaffer, production assistant, etc. In Antics, you are the production crew. You have full control which is not always productive. You have to get your own coffee.
Secondly, you need to pre-produce or plan. I suggest you start with a script, which I do. A great benefit to Antics is that you can shoot your script linear. However, you should not ignore the need to analyze and breakdown your script into its many components. For example, identify a set, then identify all the things you need on the set to accommodate the scenes to be shot on it.
Antics has some classifications to help you think about set attributes. What I don't like, however, is the way the content library is structured. There are bits and pieces everywhere. It would enhance the workflow if the user could modify the library hierarchy and classifications to create a customized property environment that facilitates design. When I moved to Antics 4 I lost a lot of content that came with my pro bundle in 3.x. I was really confused trying to download the missing content and put my content library back to its 3.x level. Antics premium packs have a file name which does not always match the installed name. It can get a little confusing.
One of the biggest struggles I had is with actors (characters). What a big difference between a live actor and an animated actor. I determined it was best to take the cast list and audition the actors I needed. This includes an extras breakdown since the characters are limited and it helps to not duplicate the same face. I wanted an older character, but I could only find his look in a formal suit. I wanted a doctor character, but the available doctor character in the medical set was the same character in the suit. If you look at Antics' competitors, some offer more flexible character creation. Also, Antics' characters are expressionless. You need something like CrazyTalk -- but CrazyTalk distorts the background, so you might need to composite or mask the background to hide the distortion. You can control it in CrazyTalk but it is not 100 percent.
Another struggle I had was with the character animations and posing. Posing is powerful in Antics but it takes some getting used to and you really need to understand the Antics environment. However, between the motion capture (bvh) files and posing, I learned a lot. I even learned how to edit the bvh files to control the actions I wanted. I need more practice but I was able to do it.
Paths were another area that nearly drove me crazy. I would try to have a character interact with a door only to find it was too close or not positioned right, so it would walk through a wall. Of course, I had the Record and Shotline active, which added to the confusion. I once took time to ask a few questions and experiment, the learning was valuable.
Create some test projects in which you can test out animations, poses, altered bvh files and other scenarios so that you do not mess up your production environment. This is invaluable when trying to work out a problem. Save an existing project as a test project so you can use the same environment.
Something that has failed to work is cut and paste. Every time I tried to cut and paste, Antics encountered a Severity 1 Error and shutdown. I just worked around this and failed to report it.
One thing that worked well was the interface to Google Warehouse, which I was used to from SketchUp. I was able to import many props that I felt expedited my effort and made my sets more realistic. This was a very nice addition. I did not encounter any problems.
Another problem I continue to have, and it may just be me, is that mouse cursor precision in Antics is difficult. When I think I have selected the Z axis either I wind up on the Y axis or something weird happens. I found zooming and zooming out and rotating helped a lot but added to confusion. I also found the character inverse kinematics to work a bit differently than in Poser. So I had to adapt.
Overall, I really like Antics. It is a clean, well organized product and its workflow is capable of producing solid results. "