An Inexpensive Pencil Test System copyright by David Thrasher

What I've put together is a used Amiga 500 computer with an accelerator (40 MHz, 68EC030 CPU, 4 meg of 32 bit memory) and a Vidi Amiga 12 digitizer to capture images from a color video camera. For software, I've had Disney Animation Studio and Deluxe Paint IV. What I've found out is that this set-up is perfectly adequate for pencil tests but lacks suitable quality for finished work.

The Disney Animation Studio package is not well suited for my purpose of doing pencil tests but is very good for learning animation techniques. It includes several animation files demonstrating basic animation techniques (squash and stretch, two legged walk, etc.) and the program is written to be very similar to a traditional animation studio setup. You do a pencil test, you use an exposure sheet to adjust timing, and you use Ink and Paint to composite your animation over a background and color it. This program is also available on the IBM platform, in case you are interested.

Deluxe Paint IV turned out to be a little better suited to my purpose of a pencil test. After you've loaded your animation it is very easy to duplicate or delete frames to make your timing work and there is an adjustment for the frame rate so you could adjust it to reflect your final use (12 fps if you are shooting on straight twos, 24 fps if you are shooting on ones or if you want the number of frames to accurately reflect your shooting strategy, or 30 fps for video). A further advantage of Deluxe Paint is its variety of painting tools.

The Vidi Amiga 12 digitizer (which plugs into the parallel port) doesn't give very clean images but, of course, it isn't a high end product either. The camera being used and the lighting could be the contributing factors too.

For output to tape I can either use the monochrome output directly from the computer or use the Amiga 520 video adapter that I bought for color output. For most pencil tests color is probably optional. All output is real-time with this system and requires no single frame recorders because of the resolutions and number of colors that I'm using. What I've described is something that would fit into a shoestring budget (or in my case, a "frayed thread" budget).

Here is a cost breakdown of what I spent for comparison purposes:

The video adapter and the Disney software are really optional if this set up is just used for pencil tests. I'm sure it is possible to do something similar with a Macintosh or a PC but it will be more costly. The software will cost more and special, more expensive, adaptive hardware is required since these systems do not put out NTSC video.

There is a new paint program for the Amiga on the low end of the price scale that might be worth looking into called Brilliance. I don't know too much about it yet so I really can't comment on its animation suitability.

*** please note that technology has changed and the Disney animation studio software and suggested computer configurations noted above are outdated.