What Kind of Computer do You Need?
This stuff changes every year so anything that I write now will be outdated in about 12 months. I’ll try not to be specific but in some cases, it’s impossible.

When I went to Sheridan College way back in 1977, we were using 16 mm film Bolex cameras to shoot our animation pencil tests. It took a day to get the film developed before we could see the results. Now, at home with my own computer setup, I can shoot a pencil test and see the results immediately after I’ve finished exposing/scanning the animation.

My setup is nothing elaborate. I have a “kit” computer. I went to a local computer store and asked for the different components, then went home and put them together in and afternoon. I’m not a computer geek or mechanical wiz by any stretch of the imagination, I just followed the instructions in the booklet then loaded the software (actually, I had a friend help me with that part). Most computer stores will do all this stuff for you for a nominal fee.

My hard drive has a 250 GB hard drive using an Intel Pentium 4 processor at 1.8 GHz with 2 GB ram, a CD/DVD burner, and a 17” flat screen monitor, the whole setup cost me $2000.00 Canadian. I’m running Windows XP. Externally, I have a Sony Media Converter for importing and exporting video, 2 VHS players, 2 DVD player/recorders, a Laser Disk player and a Beta video machine hooked to a 10” color monitor. I also have a digital web cam and a digital video camera along with a scanner/printer. All the external stuff I either got at discount prices (the Beta and Laser Disk players), I think I paid about $60.00 for the two of them and the rest were bought over a period of years for a total of about $1300.00. So my total setup cost me about $3400.00. It seems like a lot all at once but it’s well worth it. I now have a complete animation production studio right in my house.

As a bare minimum, you should have a computer and a camera or scanner. You need the computer to store, manipulate and playback your drawings and a camera or scanner to get them into the computer. Most (if not every) computer now has an interface outlet for a digital camera or video camera, so the Sony Media Converter that I have is really redundant.

Do lots of shopping around and ask lots of questions about what you want the computer to do for you. Just remember that not every sales rep is going to be completely knowledgeable so don’t get frustrated with answers like, “I dunno.” Go ask someone else. Just glancing at a local flyer that came with my newspaper, the basic setup I’ve described above is for sale for $900.00 at Best Buy.

Another Alternative
The other alternative is to go with animation specific hardware such as the ACME Toolworks Lunchbox. This is a stand alone hardware system that has a hard drive memory built into it. You also need a camera to get the images in and a monitor to see the end result.

This is a pretty pricey piece of equipment at around $4000.00. The downside is the one dimensional use of this equipment: it only records and plays back what you shoot. It’s best application really is for puppet or clay animation.

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