By Michael Burns | on January 31, 2008
Pros: Import of .fbx, .3ds and .bvh formats; improved camera and prop management; new content viewer and online links; attractive package deal.
Cons: Windows only; no Flash export; no printable/PDF shot list; facial animation limited to eye movement.
Antics is a scene-planning tool that creates a 3D animated previsualization of live action and animated productions in real-time.
The software incorporates 3D animated storyboards consisting of scene layouts, characters, props, actions, and camera choreography. Content can be drag-&-dropped from the bundled asset libraries and placed in scenes, while characters can be directed to pick objects up, sit on chairs, and open doors.
All props in Antics can have animations associated with them, and directing a character to use them is simply a case of clicking first on the character, then on the direct button, then on the prop, after which predefined animations kick in. It’s important to build sets with care though, as actors have to be within the same active area as the prop for this to work properly.
The last release included an importer for files in 3DS Max format, but Antics V3 adds direct import of .fbx content. When importing .3ds and .fbx scene files you can specify a number of options, such as scaling and how to handle UVs and normals, or choose which objects you want to import, preserving or changing existing hierarchies.
There’s also improved import of animation in the motion-capture .bvh format. Once in your set, these work just like any other character or prop animation.
Keyframe animation of camera moves is straightforward, and although you can’t use the main or POV cameras as your focus, sophisticated camera moves can be planned out using free-moving dolly, pan and zoom cameras. The cameras have a separate keyframe control from the timeline, so that you can animate them independently of the action on set. Hold keys can be applied to the timeline to allow the camera to wait in situ for a specified amount of time, before taking another action such as dollying out.
Both manual and auto-keyframes can be set, and it’s also possible to edit the camera’s animation curves, allowing slowing and smoothing of camera motion. Curve editing is also possible for other props and actors appearing on the timeline, allowing more natural movement to be applied.
Asset management has been improved with a new hierarchical asset storage and content viewer, which is integrated directly with an online content warehouse.
Considering Antics used to cost more than twice the present RRP, the current promotional pricing is a very good deal. Among other incentives, the deal includes the V3 ProPack software with a licence for two activations, as well as all free content packs launched in the coming year and discounts off future product releases. There’s also a free base version.
Antics has strong competition from the likes of FrameForge 3D and, to a lesser extent, RealViz StoryViz – as well as low-end 3D character animators. Competitors offer pipeline-friendly options like printable shot lists and Flash among other export options, whereas with Antics the output is restricted to movie and image sequence, and it’s not available for Mac OS X. The new import features, however, do bring it in line with more-dedicated character tools like MotionBuilder, so V3 now shows more potential as the pre-visualization part of a studio workflow than previously.