Monday, March 19, 2007

I Can't Animate

Maybe you've heard of the Mac-only framegrabber called I Can Animate? Well I can't! Let me relate my woes....

For many months now my computer has been on the fritz. It began innocently enough, the occasional glitch and sometimes it would freeze up. Then it got more frequent and more severe, until I got used to actually spending an hour or more some days re-starting it over and over before it works, and then there's no telling how long it will last. Watching video generally kills it, though I can often get in a few minutes before things start to go wonky. So I tend to wait till I'm about done for the day before watching any clips.

Then a few months ago I tried to start up my trusty Framethief, and lo and Behold! It was unable to connect with my camera! That had never happened before! Oddly, iMovie connects to it every time without a problem. I ran my diagnostic software, which told me at this point the only thing remaining to try was a complete re-install of my operating system. Failing that the computer needs to be serviced. Well, I did a re-install - took the better part of a night, and the problems still persist! I've been putting off getting the computer serviced, partly for monetary reasons (no idea yet what it will cost) and partly while I try to decide if I should just get a new one or not instead. The new Macs are intel-based, and from what I understand there are problems getting them to play nice with some video programs. I'm sure Framethief won't run on the intel macs (and from my recent experiences, I want my Framethief back!).

I'm listing this info mostly for my own benefit, so I can always refer back to this post in the future when I need the info. Here are my experiences thus far with trying alternative mac framegrabbers:

The first one I tried was iStopmotion. To my surprise, it immediately connected with my camera (a Hitachi HV-C20 run through a Canopus ADVC-100 analog/digital converter to convert the signal to Firewire). It's not a bad program for the most part, very Framethief-like, but with limitations. The biggest problem for me (a fatal one) is that it doesn't store individual frames in a folder the way Framethief does. Instead it creates a temp folder and when you're done with your session you save the project or export it to Quicktime. What this means to me specifically is that, if (when) my computer crashes I lose everything I shot - unless I've been saving frequently, and even then I lose everything since the last save. But that's really no good unless I save after every frame shot, otherwise I'd need to somehow go back and painstakingly re-position the puppets precisely where they were at my last save.... a laborious and heartbreaking procedure that I'd rather not even mess with.

Another problem with iStopmotion is that you can accidentally mix up your frames! This is really bizarre... I don't see the benefit of it, but apparently you can grab a frame (there are little tiny thumbnails images along the timeline) and drag it to a new position! I can see where this might be neat for a beginner, or maybe a pro in extremely limited circumstances, but it's not something I'd ever use, and I wish there was a way to disable it. The problem is that the thumbnails are so close to the playback head, which I want to grab to try to scroll through my animation (another problem, that doesn't work in iStopmotion, but it's a habit from longtime FT use).

And the final iStopmotion problem that really seals the deal.... sometimes when I try to export my animation the program crashes and I lose everything I shot. No good!

So I tried I Can Animate next. It recognizes my camera. It also doesn't allow scrubbing-through by dragging the playback head across the timeline, a feature I like to use. Unlike iStopmotion however, I Can Animate doesn't have to render out a clip every time you want to play it through to see what you've got. So that's a plus. But it also doesn't save individual frames as image files, and doesn't automatically save every time you take a shot (which amounts to the same thing). AND it causes my computer to crash very quickly, just like iStopmotion. I also don't like that you can't use the space bar to take a single frame... that's pretty standard in other 'grabber's ive tried. The 1 key is hard to spot, not front and center (and BIG) like the space bar! Finally, I Can Animate also causes my computer to crash after shooting just a few frames!

So next I tried Stopmotioner. It can't find my camera, so that's that!

Sorry, I know this post doesn't mean anything to my readers.... it's just a notepad for my own use today!


jriggity said...

Aww dood....I feel for ya.

computer problems are the biggest pain in the arse out there.

I have so little knowledge of how computers work that its incredibly frustrating when I get stuck.


Well I m sure youll get it back on its feel before ya know it.



Wesley Bohannon said...

Sorry to hear about the Mac problems... Have you considered the refurbished products at Apple store? I see they still have Dual-Core 2GHZ G5 PowerMacs for $1600.

Good Luck,

Darkstrider said...

Thanks for the support Justin! And Wes, thanks to you too! I'll definitely have to check into that.

jriggity said...

Hey Man!

I ordered the Krysar dvd....looking forward to watching it!

Hey man , I really want to see a few other ones on your site.

How would I get my hands on the Peter and the Wolf dvd?? I cant find it.

as well as the pirate clips on your site...cartoon pirate.

thanks man!


Darkstrider said...

Yeah, I keep checking, but so far nothing about an American release for Peter and the Wolf. I got mine from Amazon UK, it's a region 2 disc so I have to watch it on my region-free DVD player.

Pirat is on the Ceska Animace, Nova Generace series (it means Czech Animation, the New Generation). I'd need to check to see which disc it's on. The discs can be bought through HMV Japan, but again, they're not Region 1 and you'd need a region-free player to watch them. Of course, that's not really a problem. You can easily get a region-free player from (need to make sure it's all-region, all-system, and will play on any TV... they have a special page of them). The price is no big deal either - they start at around $55 or so... pretty much the same price range as regular players.

Sven Bonnichsen said...

Re framegrabbers: On top of the deficits you already mentioned about iStopMotion, I'll add that it doesn't let you import sound unless you go for the $400 pro version. What?!? Simply having sound with your animation is a "pro" feature??

I did extensive testing of AnimAide XT, too... While it's an ambitious little piece of software that I'd like to see succeed -- it get's buggy with onionskinning! Hello? Onion-skinning is pretty much the most basic function of a grabber. If you can't get that right, then you're not ready to release your software.

The problem of the new Intel chips has been on my radar... But now that you mention it, I may try to get one of my techie friends to let me try out FrameThief on their machine, just to see for myself. If I actually get around to doing that, I'll be sure to report back.

Sven Bonnichsen said...

OK, I've just started the communication process for borrowing a friend's Intel Mac. If all goes well, I may be able to give FT a workout within a week.

Anonymous said...

"Use your wits Jason (as in the Argonauts, the Goddess Hera, conversing with him). Look around you and you will find the answers, plainly before the gaze of your vision"

The Sanyo IDshot. I believe you got yourself one when a few members, i.e., prammaven ;) created a lot of noise about that camera a few years ago?

Computerless animation. Just connect the Idshot to TV and use its built-in framegrabber feature. After you finish, iDshot saves it to QuickTime movie. If you have not done so already, the idshots animation feature performs better with the firmware update. Idshot can work as a regular DVcamcorder connected to framegrabber program & computer, but also, one can use the iDshot with the built-in animation function without NO 'Puter.

Only time you need the 'pewter, is to download the idshot QT animation to your hard-drive. Just in case; to anyone, do not ask where you can buy idshot. Discontinued some years ago & difficult to find. Anyway, just an option.

Darkstrider said...

Ahhhh yes.... I suppose it is time to bust out the old iDshot! I had packed it away because I really didn't like using it, but now it looks like my only hope Obi-Wan! Now close your eyes before somebody sees you and realizes you're not just a statue head!!

Hila said...

O my, did I had my share of computer problems. But now I've got my own Mac-Technician/Husband and I'm more clueless about those things then ever!

May the force be with you (I'm so Not a star wars fan - but that much I know - weeee).

Mathias said...

I have given FrameThief a go on my Intel Macbook Pro and no problems-- it wanted to play before I was even ready using the Macbook's built-in webcam!

zawadi said...

Really nice blog you made here. I really like it the only thing is some of these pics here look like relatives, especially that "Witchwhisper". omg stop that looks like family :)

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