Thursday, December 1, 2011

A new Animation Pencil Test capture station: SIMPLICITY CAM 5e HD DOCUMENT SCANNER

As seen on the TVPaint Community User Forum :

This relatively new image capture station , the Simplicity Cam 5e HD Document Scanner by Recordex-USA may be of interest to online students who are looking to purchase an image capture station or scanner for digitizing their animation drawings --

This unit is compatible with both Windows and Mac OS .

Capture resolution up to 2560 x 1944 (which is actually higher than Academy Full Aperture 2K Film res. of 2048 x 1556).

Manual control of White Balance and Exposure.

Max. capture area of 12.75" x 17.25" (so this will capture the usable drawing area on 12 Field [12"w x 9"h ] and 16 Field [16" w x 12.75" h] animation paper.)

Image capture is much faster than scanning on a Flatbed scanner , but the capture resolution of the Simplicity Cam 5e is equivalent to using a scanner and the resolution is much higher than most webcams or mini-dv cameras that are typically used for pencil testing on a down-shooter.

Confirmed to work with TVPaint Animation running under Windows and Mac OS. (potentially works with any other pencil test software such as Digicel Flipbook, or Toki Line Test, or ToonBoom Pencil Check. But check with the Tech Support Dept. of the software you are using to be sure it meets the specifications for capturing images into your software)

NOTE: You'll need to add a peg bar and the base of the unit will need to be bolted down to a table top or a board so it can't be knocked over or jarred out of position (the base is weighted, but it needs to be completely locked down for animation) . 

This reseller has it listed for $178.00 (price visible if you add it to the cart) -

Lists for $199.00 from this reseller:

More information about this image capture station can be found HERE:



David McBride said...

Wow, this is great!!! Thanks for posting. It takes me quite a lot of time to scan and shooting with my camera stand delivers poor quality. $200 not bad.

David Nethery said...

David M. -

Yes, this HD document camera , the Simplicity Cam 5e seems to have a lot of potential as a test camera/capture station for pencil tests , as well as being high enough quality to capture final clean-up line drawings which can then be colored in the animation app of choice , such as TVPaint or Digicel Flipbook, etc. (the 2K resolution possible with the Simplicity Cam 5e is as high a resolution as would be needed for scanning most types of scenes at 12 field. )

I do want to mention that I have not yet personally tested the Simplicity Cam 5e , so I'm not giving it my personal endorsement just yet, but I think it speaks highly of this product that Cal Arts has purchased 10 of these units recently to use for pencil testing with TVPaint . The TVPaint Development team has also tested it with both Windows and Mac versions of TVPaint and reported good results for capturing line art. That gives me confidence that this unit would be a good pencil test camera. The specs seem right in terms of the resolution , the max capture area , and the fact that it is a simple USB connection to the computer , which means it should be universal, so in theory almost any kind of animation program should be able to capture images using the Simplicity Cam 5e ... I'm thinking of Digicel Flipbook , Toki Line Test, ToonBoom Pencil Check, MonkeyJam, etc. If any readers of my blog purchase the Simplicity Cam 5e and use it successfully with any of those other apps I'd be very interested to have it confirmed that the Simplicity Cam 5e works with those other apps. In theory there's no reason it should not , but I don't want to say that it absolutely will work with other apps like Digicel Flipbook until I know that for sure by personal testing or by a reliable report from another user. I can confirm from the reports posted on the TVPaint User Forum that this unit definitely works with TVPaint and is much faster than using a flatbed scanner.


David McBride said...

Right now I m using iStopMotion when I do pencil tests and for final clean up I scan them into Photoshop. I was just reading it comes with adjustable LED lights too. Sure makes my one from cartoon colour look like a dinosaur.

David Nethery said...

Interesting. I have used iStopMotion a long time ago, but for stop-motion puppets , not shooting hand-drawn pencil tests. Does iStopMotion let you have transparent layers , so you can shoot say two or three character animation layers on top of a BG layer and/or have an Overlay layer on top ? The main thing would be to have all layers be transparent so that for example you could have a character's head and arms layers animating on top of a held body layer , on top of a held chair chair layer , on top of the BG layer , and be able to see through all layers for the pencil test. So in iStopMotion do you have multiple layers that can be composited so they are stacked on top of each other and are transparent so the lower layers and BG layer can be seen?

As far as scanning into Photoshop for the final clean-ups that certainly works , but I don't know if this Simplicity Cam 5e unit works to directly scan images into Photoshop or not ? (you could email the company to ask) . What you could do is just capture all the images via the Simplicity Cam 5e and save them to a folder on your computer , then import all the images into Photoshop for post-processing (i.e. push the contrast to darken the character lines, get rid of the white pixels in preparation for Paint Bucket fill coloring the lines) and then coloring .

I'd still say for final production on your thesis film that you'd be better off with an application built specifically for animation production such as TVPaint or Digicel Flipbook. I know a lot of people really like ToonBoom Animate Pro , too. (I'm pretty sure your DS adviser, Rusty Mills, uses ToonBoom Animate Pro , so he can tell you about that.) Only thing is that the ToonBoom Animate Pro license tends to be more expensive than either TVPaint Pro or Digicel Flipbook PRO , except sometimes they have sales and Educational discounts that could get it for you at a much reduced price. As you know I really prefer TVPaint (also available at a special EDU Discount price. Ask me about that if you want to get it) but you can just use whatever software works best for you. Processing scanned drawings through Photoshop for animation works , but I think it adds too many extra steps that are time-consuming and tedious.

However, if you are going to stick with Photoshop for coloring your animation drawings you might want to check this out:

That video shows a demo and has a download link to a plug-in for Photoshop CS 5 Extended which assists in coloring animation drawings. Unfortunately I think it only works for Photoshop CS 5 Extended, not for older versions, so if you have CS4 or CS3 (like I do) then you can't use it.

David McBride said...

I don't think iStopmotion has transparent layers. I have a strange method. I just use it to capture the drawings then I export them to a folder on my desktop and compile everything in After Effects. For clean up or inked drawings I use the flatbed into photoshop. I want to get into another animation program like TVPaint but I'd like some time to play around with it and get use to how it works before I commit to it for a project. For transparent layers I take the ink drawings in photoshop use the magic wand to get rid of the white pixels then add a red outline effect temporarily so I can see the left over white pixels it didn't erase. I really do do a lot of steps so I think I am going to pick up this Simplicity Cam 5e even if just to cut down on the time it takes to digitize my drawings.

I am pretty sure Rusty and Jason use ToonBoom. For these programs I can use them with traditional animation as well as with a cintiq?

David Nethery said...

"For these programs I can use them with traditional animation as well as with a Cintiq?"

Yes, you can scan your pencil & paper drawings into programs like TVPaint (or ToonBoom) and then color the drawings and composite with the Backgrounds. Both programs also have camera tools for doing camera moves.

Lavalle Lee said...

I am putting this on my christmas list! Thanks David :)

Chris Diaz said...

In my first year of animation at school I went searching around craigslist and ebay for camera stands. There were plenty around, but I just couldn't justify putting down $200 plus shipping in order to buy one. Once I realized that a line tester is really just figuring out a way to suspend a webcam over a flat surface with a pegbar, I ended up just building one, which was way cheaper.

It may look a little ramshackle, but it did the trick superbly, incredibly cheap to build, and isn't hard to put together. If you're handy, I'm sure you could build something much more sleek and customizable.

I couldn't believe other students weren't building their own. But I was the only one who also put a pegbar on a clipboard (ripped off the clip part) so that I could animate during my non-animation classes.

And the best part: Back in 2006, I was using a Logitech Quickcam I had on my linetester. Since everything's moved to HD, all I had to do was swap it out for an HD webcam.

Emmet Paul said...

i going to have that pencil test thing for christmas so i want for christmas is cartoon and movie work. i can use this new animation pencil test capture station for my cartoons

Emmet Paul said...

i can do traditional animation too, David. i