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Axiotron Modbook D3

DAY 3: Urban Legends of tablet PCs By Ko Maruyama
My hardware is better than your hardware.  You can't get around it, but the reality is that when the hardware does what it's supposed to do and can perform well when you ask it to, that's what the hardware should be.  It's no fair to make up specs to win the argument though.

For the most part, the modbook is a piece of gear that you need to have when you're a mobile user who needs to use a stylus.  This is most definitely not the machine that you need if you can sit next to massive monitors, a huge tablet and powerful tower computer.  Face it.  It's a 13" Macbook.  It has only 512 levels of sensitivity and a lack of bluetooth headset connectivity (at least on the MacOS side).  If you're chained to the desk, I'd take a cintiq.   But it's perfect if you need to walk around with the computer under your arm and sketch as you go.

I showed it to a few of the designers and animators that I know.  "Is this the touchscreen Mac?"  What touchscreen mac?  I suppose you can "touch" the screen with the stylus, but it's not finger-driven like the iPhone or iTouch is.  

urban legend: modbook is an iTouch that fell under a steamroller.
urban legend: lightning strike makes lower part of the modbook a touchpad section
urban legend: sharks leap out of the water to attack helicopters
urban legend: the book

Giant Touch Screen??  Honestly, I think that would probably be the worst thing going for a designer's tablet computer.  If the screen were skin-activated,  your hand resting on the screen surface or if your wrist passed too closely to the glass, you might risk the possibility of damaging your artwork.  Without a keyboard, "cmd-Z" isn't a simple two-finger stroke.

A traditional cell animator came over one afternoon and took the modbook for a spin.  He's been using regular Wacom tablets, and the studio is soon moving toward an all-Cintiq, completely paperless workflow.

"I like this, and I don't like this."  It was obvious which  part he liked.  He couldn't even look up from the modbook while talking - he was fixed to it, sketching all kinds of illustrations, and dropping down to create more and more new documents to quickly fill up the canvas with brush strokes.

"It's like salted peanuts."  I told him.  "You might be able to turn it down until you try it, but once you play with it, you can't put the pen away."

"Yeah - and now that you can draw anywhere, you'll always be working.  You can have the computer, tablet and internet connection with you everywhere you go."

I figure that the "tethered to work" was the part that he didn't like.  I like it.  

I like to sketch - usually in an analog format.  And with the modbook, you could sit and draw while in the passenger seat, on the bus - going to work, or outside under a nice shady tree.  You don't need to bring a Cintiq with you wherever you go as an extra device (and the modbook screen doesn't require additional power).

And then there's the story of a producer who brought his tablet PC around with him to check off the different steps of the production.  A perfect use for a tablet computer.  Unfortunately, a little too much pressure on his PC cracked the screen.  Although I wouldn't wheel over it with a chair to find out how durable it is, the modbook's screen is framed in an aircraft grade magnesium allow and is protected by a screen cover made of glass.

The idea of a producer walking around with a tablet computer is a great idea.  Rather than having the producer, art director or creative director lean over the shoulder of a graphics designer to make revisions - the modbook could simply be passed around.  When the final notes are made, they can be sent via remote desktop or email or via wire.

It's only a matter of time before more urban legends about sharks, producers, animators and modbooks spring up.

You can start or defuse your own rumors by checking out the modbbook from Axiotron:  There is also a fledgling forum for the hardware at the site worth taking a look at to answer questions you might have before buying one.

For rants, ramblings and general announcements - check out a chaotic blog in the BlogZone:

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Ko Maruyama is a freelance animator in Los Angeles.  In addition to working on film and broadcast animations, Ko teaches at Pasadena's Art Center College of Design - focusing on motion design.  When working, writing or testing software allows, you can find him lending a hand in the After Effects board and lurking among the Cinema4D, Visual Effects and Photoshop posts within the DMNForums.
Related Keywords:product review, mac, modbook, macbook, tabet, ciintiq, wacom, ko maruyama

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