What's In Your LunchBox?
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In order to use the LunchBox, you will also need a video camera and monitor to provide input and output.
It only supports NTSC cameras and monitors, so it wouldn't be ideal for users in the U.K., or other PAL-format countries.
You can use a NTSC video recorder (i.e. VHS VCR) to record animation to video tape.
The advertised capacities (256 frames, 512 frames, etc.) are for what they call "normal" resolution. This means a resolution of approximately 512 x 256 pixels, or roughly half that of standard video. This quality is likely sufficient for any test animation and line tests, for which the LunchBox is designed.
For better quality, you can use the "high quality" mode to get resolution of 512 x 512 pixels, a little less than standard VHS video quality, but this reduces the frame capacity by half (i.e. the 256 frame version can only record 128 high quality frames).
The input and output is not broadcast quality, so it's unlikely that you would want to use it to produce actual animation for recording to video. It is a device for testing and experimenting with different types of animation.
It may be useful to use as a final recording / output device for multimedia quality, but the user should evaluate it first.
Again, it's an animation test machine, not a recording device.
All frames are stored in the device in a digital format, so there is no loss of quality by repeatedly capturing and playing back animation.
Storage is provided with solid state computer memory (RAM), so it is extremely fast, and reliable. There is no hard drive, so no moving components, and it is not susceptible to being dropped or bumped.
The fact that everything is stored in RAM probably influences it's cost significantly. RAM is much more expensive than hard drive space (but also much, much faster, and more robust).
Because storage is in RAM, all frames are lost when the device is turned off. If you need to keep a copy of your animation to review later, you need to output it to video tape before you turn the device off.
Everything is performed in real time.
There is no delay in capturing frames, or playing them back.
It can even record full motion video in real time. This makes it easy and fast to test several versions of an idea or to experiment with different techniques.
Because there are no moving components, and all the images are stored in computer memory, it is very robust. Animation Toolworks claims that one of their demo devices has survived more than ten round trip flights going through the airline baggage system without damage.
It comes with a one-year parts and labor warranty.
For a current model description and price list, visit the Animation Toolworks web site.
Kellie-Bea Rainey is in the animation and SPFX industry and has produced both traditional animation and computer animation. Kellie-Bea has worked for Pacific Title Digital, National SIGGRAPH `95, The Baer Animation Company, and most recently, Jim Henson Interactive. Kellie-Bea is currently the owner and president of her new studio and school, The Better Mouse Trap.
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