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                      Review: The Kara Collection CD
                            By:  Bohus Blahut 
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A CD rom comprising the entire Kara line of color fonts, animfonts,
backgrounds, animated backgrounds and elements.  Also included are a pair
of Cloanto programs to edit both conventional and color fonts, and an
upgrade for PersonalPaint owners to version 6.4

Ah, those halcyon days of Kara fonts.  God bless 'em.  Warp back with me
now to those heady days of 16 color high res animation, and interlace
flicker headaches.  In the early days of the Amiga, we didn't have much
choice in the ol' font directory.  Everything was a bitmapped font, and it
never came in more than a few sizes.  Fonts were either really huge for
video, or small enough to be a workbench font (or a lousy publishing font).

Then Kara Blohm and KaraFonts came along.  These maximized the ECS limit of
16 colors in High Res.  The fonts were big and finely textured with bricks,
chrome, gold, etc.  Keep in mind that the 1.3 OS wasn't really set up to
allow for colors to be embedded into fonts, but there was a little program
that came with Deluxe Paint (Electronic Arts) that allowed the use of these
color fonts. 

KaraFonts didn't stop there.  There was also a series of animated color
fonts.  Each letter was an animbrush going through an animated reveal.  A
good example of this is the set of chrome letters that rotates into view
while a glint of light passes across each letter's face.   There's also a
script effect that gradually writes out your title, and several other
motion reveals. 

The only drawback was that since there were only 16 available colors in
High Res, the fonts often took over the whole palette.  This meant that you
couldn't have multiple color fonts on the same page.  This meant retreating
to the smeary world of HAM, or using several Amigas and genlocks to have
several palettes at the same time.  Ahh those heady days of hotwiring
Amigas! 

Zap back to the present... 

I haven't thought about Kara fonts for a long time.  Since I started using
Amigas with graphics cards and accelerators, my work drifted farther and
farther away from Dpaint compatibility.  Recently, I purchased an A4000 and
started playing around with AGA.  Since so many Amiga users are now using
AGA or similar machines, this means that several KaraFonts can share the
same page! 

This is perfect for video folks since the titles are nice and big, and the
256 colorspace is enough to stamp down several lines of Kara text.   One of
the later 256 color versions of DPaint or Cloanto's own Personal Paint
would do the job of actually animating this text.  The good news is that
Personal Paint runs on graphics cards! 

In addition to fonts, Kara has created "PlaqueGrounds".  These are reliefs
of textured tablets of wood, various types of marble, metals, etc.   These
are in 24bit, 256 and 16 color flavors.  The 24bit versions are designed to
load into framebuffers like the Video Toaster, and the other versions load
into a variety of Amga configurations.  These are meant to be backdrops for
text, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  There are also included
alpha masks for really clean composites. 

The recent re-release of Star Wars in the US will probably be fodder for
the fertile minds of Amiga users.  Kara created a package of space themed
animbrushes including moving star fields, an asteroid or two, and the
invariable satelite.  Think of it as a clip art collection for the
intergalactic jet set. 

Not to be outdone, Cloanto has included some of their own software on the
typically beautiful Cloanto-style packaging of this disc.  There's Personal
Fonts Maker, an editor/creator for conventional single color fonts.  Also
included is ColorType, the same kind of utility, but this one to create
color fonts. 

For those who have earlier original versions of Personal Paint (not
coverdisks), there is an upgrade on this disc to allow Ppaint to use
animbrushes.  There also an Arexx script to make setting up some of the
more elaborate animfonts (i.e.  setting up a series of animbrushes to make
the gradual effect seem like it's happening from left to right) easier. 

I'm a sucker for programs that run right off of a CD.  This disc lets the
user choose to either run everything from the disc (in several languages),
do a full IFF install of everything (maximum quality, maximum HD space), or
do a Jpeg install (quality slightly degraded, significant saving of hard
drive space).  The disc is also fairly well organized, although with some
redundancy.  For example, the PlaqueGrounds are sorted both by style, and
by material.  I suppose that this could make work easier at times.  When
one is searching for inspiration, they shouldn't also have to search hell's
half-acre for a file! 

It's also good to see Cloanto with some encouraging words in the extensive
AmigaGuide documentation.  They talk of future plans for Personal Paint,
and animfonts in particular.  They mention allowing imageprocessing to take
place on colorfonts, and also to save scalable fonts as colorfonts.  This
makes the creation of new colorfonts in the future a snap! 

There are 28 distinctly different Kara fonts, each hand-tuned to different
bitmap sizes, making for a total of 80 fonts.  The fonts are already
converted for use in specialty programs like Innovision's Broadcast Titler.
The disc is also complete with animated tutorials and slideshows showing
you what to do with colorfonts and how to do it. 

I feel that many of the styles of colorfonts are quite dated.   Current
print and TV aesthetic has strayed away from fonts who have textures that
call a lot of attention to themselves.  There are tons of included palettes
to change the look of some of these fonts, and I'd suggest that you explore
these.  While many of these fonts and effects were cool in their day,
there's been too much cheap cable TV that has overused this style of
lettering. 

A place where I think these fonts may come into their own is on the Web.
While television no longer embraces this style of font, nutty textures look
great on a web page.  This runs parallel to Cloanto's development of Web
specific tools for Personal Paint.  Some of these animfonts could look good
as animated GIFs on a Web page somewhere. 

Obviously, any limits here are the artist's creativity and time.   This is
a disc of raw material.  One can either use the raw material as-is, or one
can inject imagination and artistry to get something different.  I hope
that a whole new generation of artists discover KaraFonts, and are able to
get something new and exciting out of them. 


Cloanto
P.O. Box 118
33100 Udine
Italy

+39 432 545902
net:   info@cloanto.com
web:   http://www.cloanto.com