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Art & Film Director

Art & Film Director
Art & Film Director

SystemAtari ST


Atari ST

0  80561  00360  3

Release Date: 1/1/1988
Manufacturer: Epyx
Original Retail Price:
Adjusted Inflation Price:
Donated By: Andy Bell
Both Art and Film use a mouse-driven GEM-like user interface, with drop-down menus and dialog boxes. One nice touch is that the menu bar does not appear until you want it to, which allows you to see your whole picture at once. You can set the mouse pointer so it will be restricted to the visible screen or will be able to move beyond its edges (useful for dragging items partially off screen), and toggle on or off warning messages.

Both programs have toolboxes for selecting common tools, and these toolboxes can be moved horizontally across the screen or removed entirely. I particularly like the toolbox in Art, because you can select a tool by left-clicking on its icon. Right-clicking on the same icon gives you access to a box that allows you to select the settings and options for the tool. Very nice.

Both programs allow you to toggle on status lines that report the current tool (often explaining which step you are on) and the coordinates of the mouse pointer (for fine positioning). Also, in both programs you can turn on a set of "rulers" that appear along the screen edges. The manual fails to note that these rulers can be moved by clicking on and holding down the left mouse button while pointing at the small block at the root of each ruler. You can therefore use the rulers for lining up elements in your drawing or while animating.

Another nice feature is that just about every function in both programs can be called into action with a keyboard command. I heartily recommend learning these as it speeds up your work by severalfold in the long run. Oddly enough, for programs that are so mouse-dependent, you are forced to type either a Y or an N to confirm quitting the program. This is inconsistent.

Now we get to some of the problems with the programs. First and foremost, both work in low resolution only. You can't even run them from medium resolution (which is a simple thing to do).

Strangely, for two programs so closely linked, there is no way to jump from one to another. To go from Art to Film or vice-versa you must quit to the desktop and then run the other program. The programmers should have used GEM's shel__write call to have the desktop automatically run the other program when the current one exited. (It would have been easy for it to have gone to a specified directory path for this.)

Worse than these other problems, both programs (along with their stand-alone "player" programs) are hard addressed, meaning they are designed to load at specific places in your ST's memory. Thus if something else is residing there, like a desk accessory or program you ran from your AUTO folder (like Templemon or UIS II,) when you try to run Art or Film, the programs will not load! The only way I have discovered to circumvent this is to have a machine with over 1024K (I have a Mega ST4) and use CodeHead's TopDown loader (which forces accessories and AUTO programs to load at the top of RAM, out of ArtlFilm's way). This solution doesn't seem viable on machines with one meg or less RAM.

Another problem is that Art and Film do something slightly wrong when calling up GEM alert boxes and menu bars. Occasionally you will hear a sound like a key being held down. It only lasts an instant, then stops. The reason it stops is that the programmers shut off the ST's key repeat, so the programs have no key repeat at all. If you want to move your mouse pointer using the arrow keys, you'll have to tap them over and over! (One way around this is to call up the Templemon monitor (if you have it—it's public domain) from inside one of the programs and switch the key repeat on by using the command ":484.7" [sans quotes]).

The manual is about 150 pages long, and pretty good, all in all. Unfortunately, some details have been missed (such as the aforementioned fact that you can move the rulers), and there are some flat-out errors. The keyboard command guide for Art omits some information regarding that you must already be in a specific mode before the commands listed will work. Also, the section on videotaping your animation mentions only STs equipped with composite video output jacks—which just don't exist!

Big bothers all, but not insurmountable ones. Interestingly, this package marks Epyx's first step into applications software on the ST. If the product does not go over well, it may also be its last, which would be too bad. As of this date the programs have been available for over three months, and Epyx hasn't advertised them yet. Perhaps it doesn't realize that most ST users won't buy applications software if they don't know what it is.

From a review by Maurice Molyneaux

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