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Mike Clifton Self Portrait "The BeOS does things correctly"

Be Dope was fortunate enough to talk a bit with Lost Marble's Mike Clifton, creator of the spectacular and feature-rich 2D animation and drawing program Moho. Moho is available from BeDepot.com.

How did you first hear of BeOS and what made you decide to develop for the BeOS platform?

I heard about Be back in 1995 when I was working at Apple. I was spending most of my time pacing the halls while my machine rebooted, so the idea of a stable AND friendly OS was very appealing. I went to a demo and soon had a BeBox of my own (with DR5 I think it was). The decision to develop Moho on BeOS was made for a couple reasons. First, Moho itself is faster and cleaner because of the good foundation the BeOS provides. Second, if Moho was a Windows product it would get lost in the crowd. As a BeOS product, especially a pretty early one, it will hopefully get a little more notice, which is a tough thing for a small company to get.

What is your animation background?

I've been writing and using 3D software for a long time, both for work and on the side. I even tried animation production for film for a while, but my skills really lie on the tool development side.

What made you decide to develop Moho?

3D animation is very popular these days, and while it looks great and all, sometimes a simpler-looking 2D animation can be very refreshing to see. It took me a while to realize why I wasn't ever really satisfied with 3D, and I think that while you can go to great effort to create a compelling 3D animation, the most appealing and enduring characters are essentially 2D. Most of the existing 2D animation programs out there are ink & paint systems. These require you to draw the frames by hand, and then help you paint in colors and do compositing. This is still a huge amount of work. There really wasn't an affordable product that would let an animator simply manipulate a character to create an animation without drawing every frame.

What is Moho's target audience?

Moho is targeted towards both professional and hobbyist animators. Video producers will also find Moho useful for compositing animated effects on top of video such as text and logos.

How does Moho stack up against comparable products on other operating systems (if any) when it comes to feature sets and price?

I would say the closest thing to Moho is Macromedia's Flash. They're both vector-based drawing and animation tools, but Moho has better tools for character animation. Moho's skeleton system uses inverse kinematics to let you drag a character's arms and legs around into new poses very easily. Moho is also more targeted toward producing a video, rather than an online streaming experience like Flash. As far as price, Moho is about one third the cost of Flash.

Why the name "Moho"?

Software names are difficult. Moho doesn't really mean anything as far as the product goes - it's just a name. It started out as a random search through a dictionary, looking for words that felt like software names. Moho doesn't have a very serious "ring" to it, and the product is meant to be a fun thing to use.

What can we look forward to in the next version of Moho, and what is the timeline for future releases?

Well, I can't give any definite answers on timeline, but the big upcoming feature is sound. Animators need to be able to drop in sounds and position them in time so that they can make things properly sync up.

What kind of effort/resources would it take to produce a full half-hour animated feature with Moho?

A full half-hour is a big project. Moho is up to it, but you're talking a lot of work, no matter what tools you use. The first thing to think about (even if you're only doing 1-2 minutes of animation) is organization. Don't try to do the whole thing as one Moho file. Break it up into different scenes and shots. Moho project files are very small, so disk space shouldn't be a big problem until you output the final result. Because Moho is vector-based, you can always change your output resolution when you go from test movies to final product. A video editing package to put all the pieces together would be a great companion tool, and there are a few showing up now on the BeOS.

Have any "big names" adopted Moho for their animation needs?

Not yet. Moho has only been out for about a month, but we're planning on sending evaluation copies out to some studios to see what they think.

Is Lost Marble working on any other titles?

There are lots of ideas, but nothing I can really announce...

What are the plusses and minuses of programming BeOS?

Be has been extremely supportive, both technically as well as on the marketing side - that's a huge plus. As far as coding, the BeOS kits are a joy to program with - the Be engineers must think the same way I do. On the downside, debugging on the BeOS is not nearly as nice as on Mac or Windows. Luckily, I seem to do a lot less of it on BeOS than the others.

What books (programming/animation and otherwise) do you consider a must- read?

Programming: I can't say I actually like reading these, although I always have a C++ book and BeBook handy for reference. Animation: The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston - a classic. Also, any cartoon book with pictures that you like the style of, just to generate ideas. Other: On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Ask the Dust by John Fante, 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Blood Lake by Jim Krusoe, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, ...I could go on and on

If the BeOS was an animal, what kind would it be?

garlic

Who is your favorite muppet, if any, and why?

That guy who played the sax [Editor's note: Zoot]. He was very cool without screaming out "Hey look at me! I'm a muppet!"

Finish this sentence: "Developing for BeOS kicks ass because __________"

...the BeOS does things correctly.

More Interviews:

Mike Clifton
creator of Moho

Scott Barta
NetPositive author

Joe Palmer
the father of the BeBox

Seth Flaxman
CEO of ABiSoft

Scot Hacker
BeOS Bible author

Michael Alderete
Be's Webmaster

Melanie Walker
Be Web Diva

Dominic Giampaolo
Be engineer and creator of the BFS

Douglas Irving Repetto
creator of geektoys


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