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               Review: Movie Maker - Special Effects Vol. 1
  Bohus Blahut - Modern Filmmaker                          bohus@xnet.com
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John Pasternak's Movie Maker Series- Special Effects Volume 1
  A multimedia CD rom that teaches special effects for filmmaking.  

 Plexus7 Media
 Ground Floor Studios
 139 Victoria Road
 Swindon
 Wiltshire
 SN1 3BU
 UK

 Tel  : +44 (0)1793 484097
 EMail: plexus@epma.demon.co.uk

As we all know, the Amiga was a multimedia innovator before the term
"multimedia" came into common parlance.  Therefore, I've always wondered
why it's taken so long for multimedia CD roms to come out for the Amiga.
The first one that I saw was Club Toaster- a CD rom magazine for Toaster
owners.  It has a very nice interface, with audio cues and music, and all
in all is a proud achievement for the Amiga.  Unfortunately, other
platforms have much more extensive use of multimedia CD roms. 

You can imagine my excitement when we received this Movie Maker CD rom for
review.  From what I could make out on the back of the disc, it was a CD
that intended to teach techniques for creating special effects for film and
video.  I popped the disc into my Amiga 2000's CD rom drive, and was ready
for the ride. 

Though the jacket of the disc says nothing about compatibility issues, the
CD seems intended for AGA machines.  Therefore, I conducted further trials
on AR's Amiga 4000T.  This wasn't effortless either.  There are several
files that need to be installed from the CD onto your native hard drive,
and there were several problems with PAL settings.  Once we conquered these
initial problems, we were able to fire up the disc. 

First, the viewer (Or participant, I guess.  This IS multimedia, right?)
listens to some music as some introductory screens pop up.  These interface
screens look quite professional.  The main menu has a TV and what looks
like a CD player control panel.  The control panel allows you to navigate
the contents of the disc.  Unfortunately, there's no instruction given on
what buttons to actually press, so we had to figure it out through trial
and error. 

The concept of the disc is novel.  The viewer first watches a video clip,
and each clip prominently features a specific special effect.   Then you
learn how to re- create that effect with props manufactured from common
household materials, a little makeup, and you'll also learn techniques for
shooting the scene effectively.  We had a few problems with the movie clips
stuttering.  Since they don't animate smoothly, this served as a
distraction from the effect that we were trying to learn about. 

Again, the lack of instruction forced us to figure out what control buttons
to press in order to access the tutorial portions of the disc.  Once there,
the techniques were quite intriguing, but again technical problems got in
the way of effective learning. 

The effects are terrific ideas.  In one sequence, a woman removes her
artificial eye made from a ping-pong ball.  In another, she lays her
damaged arm down on a table to reveal the working cybernetics within.  
They even use Deluxe Paint to rotoscope in laser bolts.  I like the
emphasis on using inexpensive materials around the home.  This
do-it-yourself approach really embraces the Amiga spirit. 

Unfortunately, this disc suffers from far too many technical problems to
make learning beneficial.  Also, I can't figure out why this material is
presented to us on a CD rom.  As far as I can tell, this disc doesn't
really take advantage of the CD rom format.  The material could easily be
presented in a linear fashion on a video, perhaps with an accompanying CD
or floppy disc with accompanying tutorial imagemaps. 

This is the approach that the In-Focus video tape series takes.   This is a
LightWave video tutorial series that includes a CD to accompany lessons
taught on the video.  The CD contains examples and finished renders to
practice new techniques on.  This, I think, is a very good approach to
learning new skills. 

For whatever reason, Plexus7 Media decided to disseminate this material on
CD rom, but unfortunately getting the material out of the disc is proving
more difficult than it has to be.  The interface looks good, the material
being taught is of high caliber, all we need is easier implementation to
make this one of the growing number of successful Amiga multimedia CD roms.