FOSSPicks

FOSSPicks

Article from Issue 233/2020
Author(s):

Graham has just recorded a one-off podcast featuring the wonderful open source VCV Eurorack emulator, often written about here. He's now strongly considering doing a more regular synth-related podcast.

Drawing and animation

enve

Back at the dawn of home computing, there was a brilliant drawing and animation application for the Apple II and Commodore Amiga called Fantavision. It had been ported from the Apple to the Amiga, which was something of a surprise because Electronic Arts' Deluxe Paint ruled the platform and was often bundled with a new Amiga. Most users wouldn't need anything else. But there was something that set Fantavision apart, and this made it unique in a world full of pixel art – it was a vector drawing application. Images were constructed by drawing lines from one point to another. This was more arduous than the virtual spray paint of Deluxe Paint, but it meant that your images were resolution independent, much like SVG in the modern era.

There was another advantage: Vector images like these are much easier to animate, because you simply move the start or end point and take a snapshot of their location at a specific frame. A tweening algorithm then generates the frames in-between, making the resultant animation far more flexible and potentially smoother than the equivalent bitmap animation. It's what made Flash so hugely successful, and it's the same principle at the heart of this excellent new drawing and animation tool, enve. Enve is a cross between Fantavision, Inkscape, and Blender. Its drawing tools include paths, circles, rectangles, and text, and you can create a different fill, either gradient or solid, and change the outside stroke. You can also group these objects together, and perform raster/bitmap effects on them, including blur and drop-shadows. These tools and editing options cover all the principal requirements for drawing and design and are equally as capable of producing complex illustrations as they are simple sketches.

But the real power comes from enve's ability to animate these components. This is achieved from the timeline beneath the editing window, where you can see frame numbers stretched across to the right and objects listed vertically on the left. The object list, also available from the main view, is where you can drag and drop the hierarchy of the objects and unfold them to show all their parameters, from radius values to fill types. The clever part is that, by clicking on the small record button to the left of each value, you save this value at the current frame. Change both the frame and the values, and enve will smoothly animate the transition between one set of values and the next, creating a beautifully smooth and crisply rendered animation. When you want to output the final result, the render tab lets you generate a PNG or MPEG animation of the scene, at whatever resolution or frame rate you need. It's an application that may only be in a beta and early release state, but it already works brilliantly and can finally replace the immortal Fantavision.

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