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%% UseNet Review - MainActor 1.23                  by Keith Christopher %%
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PRODUCT NAME

	MainActor 1.23


BRIEF DESCRIPTION

	MainActor is a modular animation package.


AUTHOR/COMPANY INFORMATION

	Name:		Markus Moenig
	Address:	Im Johannistal 36
			52064 Aachen
			Germany

	Telephone:	(49)-241-71844

	E-mail:		moenig@pool.informatik.rwth-aachen.de
			FIDO: 2:242/7.13


LIST PRICE

	There are two types of registration on this product:

	Package 1:  $50 (US), which gets one a packet containing:

	o 	A TeX set, printed/bound handbook.
	o 	The latest version of the program.
	o 	A keyfile.
 	o	Two free updates (author must be contacted for them).

	Additional updates are $20 with and $10 without a printed handbook.

	Package 2:  $25 (US), which gets one a packet containing:

	o	The latest version of MainActor.
	o	A key file.

	Additional updates cost the same as above. No free updates here.


SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS

	HARDWARE

		NONE.

		While no substantial RAM is required, more is better.
	
		While it is not required to run, a hard drive should not
		be considered optional.  (How long can an animation be on 
		a floppy?)

		Worked great on my A2500/020 and on my A4000/040 !

		A faster CPU will mean increased performance, but is not
		necessary to run this software.

	SOFTWARE
	
		AmigaDOS 2.0 or higher is required.

		Flawless operation under AmigaDOS 3.0.  It even has AmigaDOS
		3.0 specific functionality -- see later in the REVIEW
		section.

COPY PROTECTION

	None. However a nasty and VERY bothersome requestor will popup
during saving/loading of animations in the unregistered version. This is
very annoying.

	The program installs on a hard drive simply by dearchiving it into
the partition you wish.


MACHINES USED FOR TESTING

	Amiga 2500 68020/881, 8 MB Fast RAM, 1 MB Chip RAM.
	52 MB hard drive.
	Commodore 68020 daughter board.
	Kickstart 2.05

	Amiga 4000/040
	Kickstart 3.0


REVIEW

	Like many other animators, I felt the need to take my work and show
it to many of my friends.  Of course not all of my friends own an Amiga.
Solution?  Convert my animations to a style that they can display.  I asked
around and no one knew how to it except using a klunky method:  load the
animation, save each frame as an IFF file, then convert each to GIF format,
copy the files to a PC, and run filmmaker(TM) or GRASPRT(TM) and convert
it.  No way!  I thought this was to be my destiny until someone mentioned a
program called MainActor.

	I ftp'd the file from my favorite Aminet site.  I thought this
program can't be much as I downloaded if from my unix host, since it was
only 371K.  I thought it is probably a command-line style program, slow and
klunky.  Boy was I wrong!

	I unarchived the LhA file, which nicely created its own drawer.
After double clicking the drawer, it opens to a nicely sized window.  First
impressions: bravo to the icon creator (who I later find out is Norbert
Bogenrieder).  These icons are professional looking, very creative, and
sit nicely on a Workbench screen.  The next thing I see is a README file, a
Prefs drawer, Doc drawer, and an ARexx script drawer.

	The two main programs are MainActor (the main program) and MainView
(MainActor's external player).  I double clicked on the MainActor icon and
was presented a very nice screen with several smaller windows.  First is the
Project View Settings window, used to define screen attributes as well as
the animation display mode (whether to play the anim in a window or on its
own screen).  Second is the Project window, which controls which type of
animation is loaded and in what format it is saved.

	A nice thing about MainActor is the modular setup.  It has modules
much like ADPro(tm) for loading and saving.  These modules make it easy to
upgrade:  simply get a new module and put it into its proper directory.  The
currently supported modules (Version 1.23 Rel 1/94) are:

	Loaders					Savers
	-------					------
	DL					FLC
	FLC (>320x200 FLI's)			FLI
	FLI					IFF_ANIM5
	IFF_ANIM5				IFF_ANIM7_16 and 7_32
	IFF_ANIM7_16 and 7_32			IFF_ANIM8_16 and 8_32
	IFF_ANIM8_16 and 8_32
	Universal (automatic)
	Universal_Merlin
	Universal_PicassoII
	Universal_Retina

These may be updated simply by adding more modules!

	Next is the Project Control Panel, which has the buttons to control
anim loading, saving, playing, unloading, appending, and showing the current
frame.  Basically, this window causes the magic.

	Then there is a Project information window.  This has buttons for
displaying information about the anim, profiling the size or the time base
and the bitmap time.  This is a MOST information window:  a MUST for making
FLI animations, as the PC timing differs from Amiga timing.  Last but
definitely not least is the text output window or the console window.  This
window spits out more information about what the program is doing.  From this
I learned that FLI's may only be 320x200x256. 

	The program menus are pretty much self-explanatory. The Project menu
allows one to open a new project, run control panel functions, configure the
program preferences, and iconify the program (a very, very nice option -- one
of the most desirable functions any program should have).  As I write this
review, I have a 68 frame animation loaded in MainActor (iconified), and am
downloading using zmodem and still getting 1620 CPS on a binary transfer!
This includes when I was saving my anim to FLI format and it rang up
approximately 1 frame per second on my A4000.  Basically, this program
multitasks VERY well.  There is a Misc menu which controls the opening and
closing of animations, and the selection of frames to edit/load/save/view.
There's a Text Buffer menu which allows one to print the text buffer, save
it as a file, or the it. (This refers to the text output window.)  There is
an ARexx menu... anyone wonder what that is used for?  Running ARexx
scripts.  Lastly, there is a Windows menu which allows one to decide which
windows should open on the screen.  The menus are well laid out, and almost
all of the commands have keystroke equivlents.

	For only 371K (packed size), this program has a lot of horsepower.  I
converted a 200 frame animation I created into an FLC format, and it broke
down to 2 frames/second!  Very nice.  This was running alone and in RAM.
WOW!  Now to all my friends who have a PC:  wait until you see the animations
an Amiga can create!  This however is not the only thing this program is
useful for.  Say you wanted to grab a particular image from an FLI animation
you've seen and put it into you Amiga animation.  Simple.  Load the
animation, select the particular frame you want (highlight it and then
select Show from the control panel to see if it's the correct one), then
click on the Select save module button in the project window.  When the
requestor comes up, click on the animation saver bar and it flips to PICTURE
saver!  Save it as IFF and incorporate it into your anim!

	That's right:  not only can one load/save in various anim formats,
but also MainActor allows one to load/save the following picture formats:

	LOAD			SAVE
	----			----
	GIF			IFF
	IFF			Workbench Icon <---most cool!
	PCX
	Universal (autoload type)
	Universal_Merlin
	Universal_PicassoII
	Universal_Retina
	Workbench-Icon

MainActor also has excellent ARexx support, with more scripts planned for
the future!  For those ARexx junkies out there, this ranks up there!

	This program ranks in my high priority backup directory:  don't want
to lose this one due to hard disk crash. 

	This software is not copy protected; however, during the course of
saving a anim to FLI format I kept getting the requestor every 2-3 frames.
This requestor freezes up the processing of you anim until you click OK. I
decided that I couldn't wait until my key file arrived.  Markus sent the key
via email, and much to my pleasure, this program flows smoothly now.  The
documentation comes in 2 basic versions: disk based and printed TeX bound.
The printed documentation is very well done! It is staple bound and on a
very good bond paper. It is will organized and easy to read.  Good font
choices.  The disk based documentation is also well organized (AmigaGuide
format) and covers the use of the software very well!  The differences
between the two?  Other than the obvious that one if printed and one is
diskbased, the printed documentation comes with the $50 registration package
and the diskbased comes with both the $50 and the $25 documentation.

	The program is registered by placing your personal keyfile in the L:
directory and then assigning MainActor to where ever you installed it: i.e.,
"assign MainActor: hd3:MainActor".

	I didn't get a disk due to my lack of patience and my getting the
archive and key file via email.  Markus sent them to me the very next day,
and when I had a question he answered it in the same manner.

	This software is one of the most useful software packages I've used!
It is almost hard to believe it's shareware. I think ASDG ought to look into
this software!

	I've been waiting for software that will do what this does! It even
has an ICONIFY option!  (Which I think all programs should have.) This
software multitasks like a champ and does what it is supposed to do. I
created a 200 frame animation with some serious morphing and converted it
into FLC format and (even though a couple of PC FLC players choked on it) it
worked fine.  I'm surprised ASDG hasn't contacted Markus and asked about
buying it from him. This software has a very good user interface and works
well under 2.X and 3.0! In fact, it operates a little faster under 3.0!  If
you animate and you want to convert it to a PC format or various other
formats listed above, and want the easiest most trouble free way to do it,
MainActor is for you!  I really hope to see this software updated and would
definitely like to see more coded by Markus.

	EXCELLENT JOB MARKUS!!!!!

	Some exciting features planned for the future:

		Faster Hard disk playback of IFFANIM formats.

		Animation loader/saver for VRLIs (Vistapro format and Real
		3d anim format)

		MPEG and JPEG loader.

		More ARexx scripts

		Synching sound.

		More special modules for commercial hardware..


	The archive comes with online documentation in amigaguide format,
ASCII format, and DVI format. The guide files are well laid out and easy to
navigate. The information is complete.



DOCUMENTATION

	MainActor comes in two different versions, one with printed
documentation and one without.
	
	The printed documentation is in TeX format and is very clear and
concise in describing the features on this software. It is also an
attractive manual, that is printed on a good bond paper so one doesn't have
to worry too much about tearing. The font size is easy to read and the
manual is very well laid out.

	The disk based documentation comes in 3 different formats:

	AmigaGuide: Very well organized and detailed, well done!

	ASCII: The icon defaults to call more and is the ACSII version of the
		guide documentation.

	DVI:   Didn't look at it. (no need to really. I had the printed and
					amigaguide docs! )

LIKES AND DISLIKES

	I most liked the modular programming, this will make
		upgrades/updates easy and painless. New modules,
		copy then in the respective drawer(s) (loaders/savers)
		done. 

	I have to mention the ICONIFY menu option (A. <- keystroke option)
		it worked flawlessly! I am always a fan of this option.

	Improvements? I would love to see an MPEG saver!  I spoke to
			Markus about this and he said that in the
			event he could get information on it, he 
			would give it a try, but thought it was beyond his
			programming ability. After seeing MainActor in action
			I don't think anything is beyond Markus's skill as a
			programmer.
			Sound support is promised in a future version. Which
			will be VERY nice! 
                        GRASPRT saver also would be nice.


COMPARISON TO OTHER SIMILAR PRODUCTS

	MainActor is alone in what it does and shines like a bright star!

	ASDG's ADPro(tm) is the only package that I've see to come close,
		and we all know how much it costs!  I think ASDG should take
		a look at Markus's software! While ADPro(tm) is the best of
		the best, I feel that MainActor ranks up there. I use it to
		do with animation what I use ADPro(tm) to do with image
		files.

BUGS

	I had a problem running some animations I converted to FLC format on
my PC (I need one for work compatibility) which had major morph sequences in
them.  After talking to Markus via email and trying a different FLC player, I
determined it was the FLC player not the animation.


VENDOR SUPPORT

	I emailed Markus about the above problem and he responded quickly and
hammered out some suggestion which worked.  Rating:  A+.  Markus knows his
software and its limitations and high points!`


WARRANTY

	Author is not responsible for misuse or damage caused by MainActor.
	(Taken straight from the documentation.)


CONCLUSIONS

	I have concluded that this product will stay in my Amiga software
collection as long as it maintains the quality (or better) that it has today.

	*****  (5 out of 5 stars!)



COPYRIGHT NOTICE

	Copyright 1994 Keith Christopher.  All rights reserved.
	http://tomahawk.welch.jhu.edu/