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Roger Stone has 25 years experience of marketing with companies in the ITC area, including 11 years with Dell Computer Corporation ending up as Director of Online Marketing for Northern Europe. For the past seven years he has been working with startup companies, both evaluating them for potential investors and helping them to grow.
He joined Antics Technologies in 2005 in charge of marketing and sales. He is now business development director for Antics3D software for Machinima and Pre-Visualization. DMN contributor Mike Jones spoke with Roger about the Antics system and Machinima
DMN: Roger, Antics is an interesting hybrid media production system; can you tell what the history of Antics as a software tool is?
Roger Stone: Antics was developed out of a general R&D project into advances in animation which started in 2000. After a couple of years, the research effort crystallised round the idea of making animation simple by building intelligence into characters and props. The initial prototype software was released in 2004 and targeted as a pre-visualisation tool for films, TV and adverts. It was well received in the professional creative industry (with accolades from people such as Jim Rygiel and Robert Stadd) and the software continued to develop during 2005-06.
However, the potential for Antics in the consumer market and in other professional markets soon became apparent and during 2007 focus was switched to providing an entry point for the technical consumer leading to the release of Antics V3 in December 2007, with a free BasePack version that allowed people with limited budgets to try out and learn the product.
DMN: Would you call Antics an "Animation" tool? Or is it something else? How do you define what Antics does that separates it from traditional animation tools?
RS: Antics is an animation tool, one that allows users to tell their stories using real-time 3D animation. It differs from traditional animation tools in that it does not require extensive training for users to be able to produce their own stories, plans or reconstructions. Traditional animation tools are normally used by experts whose main job is the animation, while Antics is software that can just be part of a general software toolbox for ordinary users. They can load up Antics just like they might a standard presentation or video editing program.
DMN: Who do you see as Antics users? Are they dominantly Machinima makers or gamers? Or is the user-base broader?
RS: The user base is anyone who has a story to tell which would benefit from being seen in 3D. Initially they will be relatively technically savvy, so Machinima makers and gamers are an important constituency, but so are film and animation enthusiasts. As users become more and more comfortable with (and demanding of) 3D software and as Antics develops, the user base will expand to cover more and more of the consumer market.
We expect animation software to be something nearly everyone uses in 5-10 years and are positioning Antics to be an important part of that market.
DMN: How do you see Antics fitting into different production platforms - broadcast, film, online, animation, short and long form projects?
RS: With its background in pre-viz, Antics is obviously well adapted to fit into the broadcast, film and TV market to provide "throwaway pre-viz." But we are seeing more and more usage of it for short form projects. While there are some people who are using it for longer projects, we expect the large majority to be producing short clips and sharing them.
DMN: How do you plan to expand Antics in the future? What are the areas you want to expand into which currently aren't covered?
RS: We will continue to work on improving the user interface and the ease of importing content from other sources to make Antics accessible to a wider base of consumers. But we have also just announced a distribution deal with Torcomp Studica, the largest educational software reseller in the US, which is part of our drive into the education market. In addition we have a number of users in different professions which we will look to address from 2009 onwards.
DMN: Currently you have two versions of Antics; the Base Pack and the Pro Pack. Can you describe the difference between them?
RS: The BasePack and the ProPack offer the same functionality but differ in the content included and the service and support. BasePack users have access to one hundred content packs, but there are an additional fifty Premium packs (which they can purchase individually) which are included in the ProPack version. Support for the BasePack is also via our forum while the ProPack users get full support directly from our teams. In addition, the ProPack version includes a plug-in to allow export of characters and props from 3ds Max to Antics. Finally, the ProPack has a number of licensing options specially designed for commercial sales (site licenses, floating licenses, ability to install on a workstation and a laptop, etc)
DMN: Machinima makers are known for the dynamic communities they form and a very open culture of exchange. How does Antics seek to take advantage of this?
RS: Antics has its own lively forum and encourages interchange with other forums. We are now opening up areas of our forum where users can share projects and content and collaborate. We are also looking at other ways to bring together people with different skills (writing, designing, directing, music) to work together on projects.
Mike Jones is a digital media producer, author, educator from Sydney, Australia. He has a diverse background across all areas of media production including film, video, TV, journalism, photography, music and on-line projects. Mike is the author of three books and more than 200 published essays, articles and reviews covering all aspects of cinematic form, technology and culture. Mike is currently Head of Technological Arts at the International Film School Sydney (www.ifss.edu.au), has an online home at www.mikejones.net and can be found profusely blogging for DMN at www.digitalbasin.net