Animation Apprentice

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Animated Monkey

The Animator's Survival Kit - a brand new app for the iPad

The Animator's Survival Kit was first released as a book around a decade ago. Then it became a DVD set, and it quickly became established as the chief resource for students wanting to learn animation. We can't recommend it too highly - it is at the top of our reading list for good reason. Anyone who is serious about the medium should have a copy of the book. Until now that is - because it just got a big fat digital upgrade. We have been lucky to have been granted a sneak preview of the brand-new, just-released The Animator's Survival Kit - now an app for the iPad. Here is our review of this new electronic addition to the animator's tool kit.

Basically, we love it. It is better than the book, better than the DVD series. It perfectly combines the best qualities of print and video. It costs just £25 - barely more than the book itself. So this is - in short - a huge step forward for learning animation. The only downside? (and it may not be a downside) - you'll have to buy an iPad first.

The iPad feels as if it is made specially for this kind of thing. The new app has many of the traditional features of a book - such as plain text, page numbers, pretty pictures - just what you would expect from a book.  But, as you scroll through the pages, you find short video introductions to the chapters. Click on these, and you get a personal intro to the subject by the author, giving his own view on what is important, why you should read it, and what you will learn.

Other little miniature animation icons blink at you invitingly - if you click on these you get the animated sample videos - short explanations of the principle being addressed. Much of this is taken from the ASK DVD set, but it works even better here because it is embedded in the text, so you can pick and choose the bits you want. Confused about overlapping action? Successive breaking of joints? The importance of key poses? A short animated example shows you what the principles means, and demonstrates in simple clear terms exactly how it gets applied in practice.

The videos themselves are highly interactive. It's not like YouTube, where you can't scrub and scroll through the animation, frame by frame. Here, you can pause the video, scroll through it, fast or slow, focus on an individual frame, step through it frame by frame. It all works super well.

It's a bit like having a really great animation tutor right there in the classroom with you, equipped with all the latest bits of kit - video, slide lecture, white board, and old-fashioned books - but it is all at your disposal in exactly the format you want.

It is obvious that a great deal of thought and effort has gone into the presentation. The interface is very easy to get the hang of, and simple to operate. Tap the screen and the chapters are revealed on a scroll bar at the base of the screen - so you can easily navigate to the bits you need.

In short - it's the best £25 you will spend on any device to help you learn animation. But you have to buy the iPad first, of course.

---Alex