ainActor from MainConcept is a cross-platform animation processing tool that supports a wide variety of animation formats. Versions are available for both OS/2 and Win95/NT. MainActor makes the creation and editing of animations about as simple as it can get. (Note though, that MainActor does not create frames; it takes frames output by some other program, like POV-Ray or Neon Grafix 3D, and creates an animation file such as an Animated GIF or MPEG file.)
MainActor is a shareware application that you can download from the various OS/2 sites, such as the OS/2 Supersite. Installation amounts to unzipping the file in the desired directory and running the install program, which creates Desktop objects.
The main window (GIF, 12.3k) of MainActor organizes animations as "Projects" on the left and the animation frames on the right. Most programs that generate frames for an animation will output the frames with sequential numbers such as frame01.gif, frame02.gif, frame03.gif and so on. Loading the frames into MainActor is very easy. Choose "File" then "Open" from the menu, select the first image in the file dialog (GIF, 8.3k) and load it. MainActor will detect that the file is part of a sequence and ask if you want to load the others. Or, you can drag and drop image objects directly into the project container.
Once you have all of the images loaded, you can preview the animation by clicking on the play button on the toolbar. The default time between frames (the timecode) is 1,000 milliseconds. Changing the timecodes of the frames is almost effortless. If all of the timecodes are the same, you can set the Global Timecode. If you need to set timecodes for each frame, MainActor makes that easy too. Just right-click on the frame and select the "Local Timecodes" item in the pop-up menu (GIF, 13k).
When you have all of the frames for an animation and you have the timecodes set the way you want them, you are ready to create an animation file. There are many different animation formats and MainActor supports -- more than any other program I have seen. The frame, animation, and audio formats currently supported are:
And if the format you need isn't supported, MainConcept makes their plug-in Developer's Kit available for free.
From the Save Window dialog (GIF, 6k), you can choose the type of animation file, make palette modifications, and set the options for that particular format. For example, with the Animated GIF format, you can set the number of loops and the transparent color. Pressing the "Save" button then brings up a file dialog. Enter a name for the animation file and MainActor creates it. If you want to save the same animation in another format, just choose one in the Save Window, enter a name, and it's done. I don't think creating animations could get any simpler than this.
MainActor does more than just create animations too. It is a powerful multimedia processing tool. If you have an animation that you need to do some work on, perhaps palette changes or timecode changes, MainActor can load the animation and let you work on it frame-by-frame. You can then save the animation in any of the formats that the program supports. You can also split audio from an animation and even join animations. And it also comes with a viewer, MainView, that supports the various animation formats and which can be used as a helper application with Navigator/2 for displaying animations such as QuickTime movies.
MainActor is a shining example of the kind of high quality work that can be done by a small ISV. There are several programs out there for creating animations, but none of them have the breadth of features and the polish of MainActor. German users will be pleased to find that the program can display its text in German as well as English.
When it comes to animation, nothing on any platform approaches the power and ease of use of MainActor, and the registration fee of US$60 is quite reasonable given the program's features.
Dr. Dirk Terrell is an astronomer at the University of Florida specializing in interacting binary stars. His hobbies include cave diving, martial arts, painting and writing OS/2 software such as HTML Wizard.
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