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FIRST LOOK: The Animator’s Survival Kit app by Richard Williams

FIRST LOOK: The Animator's Survival Kit app by Richard Williams

As an animator who learns best by seeing things in action, and has a natural affinity for all things technical, imagine my joy when I was asked to review this app from Richard Williams!

Let me start by saying that although I was excited, I honestly did not have high hopes for this app. I was expecting just a simple dump of the book (which is great in its own right) as a beefed up PDF file or something. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this app goes above and beyond the books, both standard and extended editions. Given its portability on the iPad (not to mention its price), it even beats the DVD set.

This app is beautifully crafted. Faber and Faber, publisher of both the book versions and this app, have done a great job with the interface. It is very simple to find the information you are looking for. You can easily watch just a specific section for quick reference, or as Richard puts it, “swallow the whole pill” and go sequentially from start to finish. Chapters run down the left hand side column, while the chapter breakdowns run across the bottom right corner. You can also quickly access the more than 100 videos via a button in the top right corner.

Each chapter begins with a video message from Richard Williams. These serve as an overview of what is to come, and a sort of pep talk/personal trainer type message, encouraging you forward. The video examples are what make this app shine.  Wherever you see the filmstrip icon, you can tap it to access a corresponding video example. The app contains over 100 animated examples, which you can look at frame by frame, and scrub through freely, back and forth with a swipe of your finger.

Many of the videos also have an onion skin feature which you can turn on or off. This is quite helpful when trying to see how he is getting from one drawing to another. The timing of the animation examples in the book have always been hard for me to get my head around.  This app shows the drawings come to life through animation. You can loop playback or scrub through the animation. I found this feature to be the most useful thing about the app.

The only improvement to this app would be the addition of even more animated examples. For instance, the Enlarged Edition chapter could benefit from some examples of things like bird flight, which is shown as still drawings instead of an animation. This omission is more than made up for however, with the inclusion of some extras. These include two short films (Circus Drawings and Silent Film), the Intro Animation (an animated version of the cover of the book), and a set of promos for the DVD set.

Available now for the iPad (sorry iPhone, Android, and others), this app is an ABSOLUTE MUST HAVE for any animators with an iPad. If you are an animator, and you don’t have an iPad, you may even consider buying one just for this app alone. It really is that good! You can learn more about the app here, but you can also download a free sample version from the App Store, and see for yourself just how valuable a resource this truly is. At $34.99, the app only costs a few dollars more than the Extended Edition of The Animator’s Survival Kit, and given its functionality and ease of use, you’ll use it even more than the book.

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