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%% Amiga User Profile: Jim Carey by Douglas J. Nakakihara %%
%% One prolific, talented guy dnakikihara@BIX.com %%
NOTICE: This is the originally submitted text for an article that
appeared in the Aug 8, 1994 issue (#126) of MICROTIMES magazine.
(There are some slight edited differences between the published
version and this one.)
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Copyright(C)1994 Douglas J. Nakakihara.
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Amiga User Profile: Jim Carey
By Douglas J. Nakakihara
Since meeting Jim Carey a few years ago, I've often been
puzzled by the range of work he does: a producer on this, an editor
on that, an animator on this, etc. etc. Jim is unique, a jack of
all trades and an amateur at none. He has worked on everything
from low budget industrial videos to very high-end commercials.
One of his current projects is doing some of the graphics for the
Emmy-nominated FOX Saturday morning cartoon "Where in the World is
Carmen San Diego." "Carmen" is a slick blend of traditional
cartoon, 3-D, and short computer animations. Carey, along with
David Kahn (producer), Kent Butterworth (storyboards and
characters), and Mike Kast (co-animator), handle the later. He
refers to it as "animated image processing", a computerized
take-off from the cut-and-paste Monty Python style of animation. I
had a chance to talk with Jim at his place in Westlake, California
and look at some of his current work.
How was this piece put together?
The animation itself is in 256 colors. But then this animation
is 256 and the next animation is 256, so I would use ADPro (ASDG)
to bridge them together. Of course when you're using ADPro you're
in 24-bits, so there's like three different elements that are
coming together here. Because I had the luxury of going a frame at
a time and compositing at the last minute to an Exabyte drive, I
could do my transitions in 24-bit in ADPro.
You actually would go directly to it?
Yeah, directly to it. For instance I would have a 24-bit
background and I would have two or three animations each with their
own 256-color palette and the ARexx script would throw it together.
How do you know it came out OK?
I do check-animations back off the drive. In the beginning I
would do a lot more testing because I was unsure of the format.
Out of all that animation, we had maybe two or three bad frames.
That's just amazing.
So basically you did a lot of stuff in 256-color independently and
just composited it in ADPro.
Right. Especially if I have a real nice background which I
would want to keep the color fidelity as high as possible. This
background is 24-bit because it had such a nice gradient, this
Wolfgang Mozart piece. Little Mozart, the second character, and
the piano were a single 256-color DeluxePaint (Electronic Arts)
animation. So with ADPro I would just take the background and
composite the animation frames over it.
I had to get this one (another animation) done fairly quickly
so I just maximized one 256-color palette. I would take a look at
all of the characters necessary and I'd assign a certain range in
the palette for characters' costumes, and a certain other range for
the background, and another range for the cutout of the heads. But
you can see--even though it's just 8-bit--you still have a wide
enough range of colors.
I would have guessed that the head was 24-bit.
Yeah. It's not, on this one I probably assigned just 32
colors, dithered the head in ADPro and it worked fine. So,
especially with dithering--random dithering--you see all of the
rest of the characters come in using just 256 colors.
You really don't have that much disk capacity. How do you store
all of this stuff?
The backgrounds are just static and this is what we provide the
client, 8mm tape. A 120 minute (tape) will hold about 10 GB. A 60
minute will hold a little over 3,000 frames.
You use ARexx to control ADPro quite extensively. Aren't there
programs that do this for you?
I don't mind writing ARexx scripts because a lot of times you
have to do very specific things. Now ProControl (ASDG) does quite
a bit and so does Multiframe (MacroSystemUS). They both have
things that are really handy. But there are some times you need to
get so specific you gotta write it. Thank God for ARexx. I would
say 70 percent of the animations that I did on Carmen San Diego had
an ARexx script to do the final compositing. No way I could have
turned out 30 minutes of animation in that period of time, of that
type of single frame animation, without ARexx. And I am excited
that DeluxePaint 5 (a forthcoming upgrade) will support ARexx.
It's amazing how powerful DeluxePaint is.
It's much more powerful than I think people realize. The
surprising thing, at Electronic Arts, they never think of
DeluxePaint, even DeluxePaint 5, as a professional program--this is
a program for amateurs. That's the way they look at it. Of
course, I'm always urging them to do a little bit more. There are
a few more things I would like in there, which they probably won't
be able to put in because they don't think many people would take
advantage of it, because they don't view it as a professional
What's the definition of "professional."
Some of your techniques seem to break tradition.
That's true. In fact, you want to stay away from tradition.
The thing about it is, you usually have to learn the tradition
before you can learn how to stay out of it. Rules are usually
written after somebody's done something enough times. By the time
they are codified, it's time to break them. (But it's a necessary
evolution.) You get used to things and you have to take it a step
at a time. I think that's true for the artists and animators, as
well as the audience--you kind of have to grow up into it. I don't
think you can just sit down and listen to a symphony by Beethoven
and immediately grasp what you're suppose to grasp. You have to
bring some information along with you.
Do people care that you do things on an Amiga?
I've gone to see a few companies and there is a prejudice when
they find out I'm using an Amiga. I think I've lost some jobs
because they know I'm using an Amiga--even though I know the stuff
they're working with--but yes I have run into that preference. I
would say well over half of the clients out there don't care. Part
of that is because they don't know what the platform is doing
anyway and the people that do know about the Amiga, appreciate it.
I guess the director you were telling me about early was at the
opposite end of the spectrum.
Yeah, because he hadn't seen this on any platform. A platform
where he came to my office, sat down, and saw all of the equipment
right there in front of him that it was being done on. I showed
him a few clips from the Carmen San Diego show and he was just
amazed. "You did that on this computer?" He couldn't believe some
of the things I was doing, especially the pans and scans on
animated pieces, and some of the image processing.
You have to be a little worried now about the Amiga. Have you
investigated Mac and PCs?
I was worried when I first learned about what was happening
with Commodore--I've since regained a little optimism. So I
started looking at what is available for what I do on the Mac and
the IBM. I can put together a number of programs together on the
Mac and IBM that would be far more expensive than I am used to
paying for on the Amiga.
The biggest limitation is I have yet to find a comparable
program to DeluxePaint. I wish someone would tell me about a
program that animates as easy while still allowing me to work in
8-bit and in video resolution, 724 x 482--I haven't found it yet.
Right now, I can do essentially everything I want to do 2D-wise
with ADPro and DeluxePaint. What machine out there, what IBM or
Mac is going to have the Toaster, plus ADPro, plus DeluxePaint,
plus multitasking, plus... I can't imagine another machine giving
me the productivity that this machine has given me, without
multitasking. I'm always running two programs, sometimes three.
The other big advantage I've found is the Amiga community
itself. The programs that I use have great tech support. I find I
can get a hold of somebody on the phone and they listen to my
problem. It's obvious they listen to users because the programs
that I use are upgraded constantly and have just gotten better. I
mean, look at ADPro, DeluxePaint--it's just a constant improvement.
And often you get to talk to the actual programmer.
Right! More times than not, I do talk to the programmer. And
I have been in a situation more than once, where I've talked to the
programmer and gotten an upgrade to solve a particular problem.
With ASDG on Carmen San Diego, we got the new 8505 Exabyte and they
upgraded their software for us--I understood or moved up the
upgrade date--and we got it. They downloaded it to me directly and
I was using it an hour later. I can't imagine that in the IBM
Can you summarize your feelings on the Amiga?
The thing about the Amiga which is most important to me are the
programs I've chosen to use, which have become so easy for me to
express my creativity. Because of the way the programs are
written, because of the user-friendliness of the Amiga, because the
Amiga multitasks, I can eliminate the technique and work right on
the creative process, putting it together. If I have an idea, I
can get right to it, and I won't lose that idea. Because of the
depth of the programs, like ADPro and DeluxePaint, I can solve
problems. If I want to do something, I can figure out how to do it
with these programs. I probably could do it with other programs,
but I grew up with ADPro and DeluxePaint, and now the VideoToaster.
Because it's not that easy for me to learn a program, I struggle...
But once I learn one, I stick with it.
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