Learning Animation with Alice

By Matthew Miramontes- 12th Grade, Cornell High School

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Young or old can learn with Alice and experience a new way to look at computer programming.

Video animation is something that can take years to learn and even longer to master as animation can be a tedious and unrelenting art form. The time and effort it takes to perform even the simplest of tasks can be disheartening to newcomers. However, with “Alice,” the development tool that gives less steep of a learning curve toward programming and basic animation, young and old can learn just how to make a storyboard dream come to life.

Alice was originally based on Randy Pausch, a professor at CMU who became famous for his work with Disney Imagineers, his famous Last Lecture, and finally virtual reality (V.R.). At first, V.R. seemed like a thing of the future as the idea was still very new and while impressive, it was not anything like it is today. Pausch’s ideas and teachings started to stem over to other professors who also began working with V.R. and while Alice does not support first person V.R., it still supports 3D worlds that can be created at the snap of the fingers.

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Jude (Left) and Ethan (Right) take time to look over each others Virtual Spaces to see what kind of creations are spawned.

Alice is an application on both PC and Mac computers that allows for a virtual space to be designed and this is where the playground begins. It allows people of any programming or designing level to create simple storyboards and simple animation frames, bringing characters with full-fledged mobility and personality. It is no easy feat to create a space where the 3D models are integrated into a scene. Alice is sleek, lightning fast, and most importantly educational.

Alice seems to be more a diorama tool where the spaces and characters inside can be manipulated into doing whatever the programmer could want. One thirteen-year-old student of the class went on to make a giant panda that was attacking the exterior of a castle while riding on a spaceship, and fighting flamingos. Alice broadcasts the freedom of choice and how every move is up to the programmer. Nothing is out of reach or unable to be created. Young or old, experienced or newbie, there is something to be learned from all aspects of this class and Alice.

I was able to speak with  Eric Brown who was once a student of Pausch’s, but now runs the entire Alice Project while teaching at CMU. I wanted to ask him some more information about Alice and what the most important thing taken from the class would be to him. Brown replied “The class is primarily purposed to bring an intimidating subject down to a basic science. Programming can be a so called scary topic if dove right into, that’s why we think it is important to look at Alice and make sure it can be for the expert or the beginner. Alice is also free to the public which means anyone anywhere can download it and begin making their own dynamic scenes.”

I then asked more about the limitations, if any, there were with Alice. “Well Alice is unique for the 3D storytelling animation and there is lots of scratch involved. Scratch is a program out of M.I.T. that uses 2D sprites like an old arcade game to show animation. As far as limitations go, Alice is a great program that is available for free and I would say that it is one of the best out there for that reason.” Brown went on to say.

The logo for Alice, click on this to be linked to Alice’s website where it can be download and programmed with right now.

Alice is a great storyboard tool that can teach basic dialog trees and programming skills that could be used in the ever-changing market in today’s modern society. As technology changes, so do the jobs and skills needed to come out on top, and Alice might just be the best way to get a head start on the competition.

 

 

 

IMG_1658Matthew Miramontes is an incoming senior. He lives in Pittsburgh and has been with Pittsburgh Youth Media for two years. Matthew is also the Chief Editor of his school newspaper, and has now started his own music website (mattsmusicmine.wordpress.com) that acts as a key of reviewing and previewing up and coming music.

 

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