Price: £995 plus VAT
2D animation tools, unlike their 3D cousins, are rare. One player in this rarefied market is i-Pegs, from French company MediaPegs. i-Pegs is the cut-down version of the company's full-blown Pegs software, designed for broadcast and film work. This iteration is designed for Web animation, PDAs, and so on. Price-wise, it's no lightweight - although it's still a lot cheaper than the full broadcast/film Pegs version, which costs almost £10,000. However, its modular technology means that MediaPegs will kit you out with a system that suits your production requirements and budget. The company will even take into account the number of animators, their shifts, and the animation throughput required to create a bespoke software solution. i-Pegs is certainly different. The system comprises a hub application, Pegs Integrator, from which you call the other models when needed. These include a scanning and vectorizing application, vector drawing, bitmap painting, an exposure sheet, a previewing application, a compositor, and a camera editor. These open inside the Integrator environment, which runs on Windows and Unix. It makes sense in many ways, and there's no single, bloated application. For starters, it makes development and managing upgrades easier, and should result in a more stable system. This is important for production. Everything in i-Pegs is real-time: drawing, painting, rendering, and playback. MediaPegs claim that both Pegs and i-Pegs allow you to 'render over 200 scenes and paint over 300 cells in a eight-hour shift'. Impressive, but getting your staff up to speed with the system make take a little longer than that. It doesn't have a terribly intuitive interface - in the paint and vector modules, for example, there are icons, but no text. This would be fine if the icons weren?t so cryptic. So, generally, the system has to be learned: it isn?t like an Adobe application where you can comfortably fumble around until the right things happen. Multiply this by the number of modules and the number of artists using the system, and the getting-up-to-speed time may be considerable. However, the system has several benefits, which makes the negative aspects seem insubstantial in the long run. Pegs is designed to work in a team environment, and uses a central fileserver system to allow all users within a team - even teams between companies - to work together on a project. It also allows you to work digitally, or if necessary to digitize hand-drawn artwork through its vectorizing software. The tools are excellent. The Paint and Vector modules offer great features, such as the ability to control line weights, add fills, and so on. Unlike conventional vector and paint programs, these are streamlined for 2D animation tasks. Output is via Flash, with excellent options for optimizing the components in a scene. i-Pegs is a fine system designed to meet the requirements of production facilities producing a significant amount of 2D animation. For smaller-scale work, its expense and unintuitive interface make it less compelling.