By Michael Burns | on October 09, 2003
Price When Reviewed: $995 . $149
Anark Studio 2 uses layers, inspector palettes, scenes, and timelines that will be familiar to anyone used to Director or Flash. Veteran users will notice that the Timeline has been redesigned, ostensibly for handling larger projects, and now allows you to zoom in to elements for precise editing. Filters in the Timeline also allow you to hide layers, behaviours, and properties so you can focus on your work. Another improvement is the Storage Palette, an inspector that allows quick access to content and media assets. Again in keeping with the multimedia-authoring zeitgeist, the whole workspace can be customized to fit your needs. The process of creating impressive looking visuals is reasonably painless. The Inspector allows objects from the Library and Storage Palette to be picked up, transformed, and converted easily. Sliders and drop-down menus control the customization process. 3D primitives are integrated into the library, making bringing simple models onto your stage a seamless task. Going further, the Anark Exchange format (.AMX) lets you export models from 3D modelling packages into the Storage Palette. New exporters include an updated LightWave AMX exporter for Windows and new AMX plug-ins for the Mac versions of Maya, LightWave, and Cinema 4D. In addition, the Studio has been optimized so that even large 3D objects loaded in from 3DS max were brought into the workspace with little delay. Animation is easy, too. Behaviours (or predefined scripts) are available to add interactivity and animation events to the presentation through the drag-&-drop approach, and full animation control is available for both 3D objects and texturing. Adding Internet hyperlinks is just as simple, and there’s extensive scripting support. Testing this became complex and unwieldy though, but the simple addition of folder buttons to hide the various timeline elements came in handy. Many of these features can be found in other multimedia authoring apps, but for Anark Studio, the keyword is quality. It offers Org Vobis compression for audio, Windows Media 9 codec for video, and an output-to-video function that can range from broadcast quality to postage stamp-sized Web video. Export options also include screen savers (Windows), projector files, and multiple video formats – and the resulting file sizes are highly compact. OpenGL hardware acceleration gives real-time 3D rendering, while professional 3D software attributes such as dynamic lights, advanced materials, and layer-based multiple cameras lift this application above the norm. Another standout factor is the ability to map video onto 2D or 3D surfaces, using the video element as a material and attaching it to any object. This isn’t to say that it’s a perfect product, however. The interface could do with some preset forms or stacking palettes – so if your workspace is littered with windows, you don’t have to keep moving them. You can only open one project at a time, which is a pain, and we also encountered a bug when keyframing. The quality and ease of use outweighs these niggles, though – and Anark Studio looks set to be a serious contender.