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Digital Anarchy Data Animator

Breathe life into boring charts By Stephen Schleicher

PowerPoint presentations that are not handled with care are some of the most boring events that transpire in our lives.  While they may be a great cure for insomnia, losing your audience halfway through a presentation on the shrinking population of the North African Pygmy Woohoo, will not get support for the cause.  Instead of using worn out charts, Digital Anarchy’s Data Animator allows you to create dynamic animated charts and graphs with ease.

Charts are not the most popular thing to animate because of the time and precision involved in getting just the right slice of a pie, or height of a chart.  Even worse are those times when the CEO needs data changed at the last minute to show company losses are not really his fault.

To help ease the burden of making charts and graphs more exciting, Digital Anarchy has released Data Animator for After Effects and Final Cut Pro.  This plug-in takes away the hassle by generating animated charts and graphs from a text file.

The text file can come from just about any spreadsheet application including Microsoft Excel, Open Office, Google Spreadsheet, and others that support exporting as a comma delimited text file.  Like most chart programs, Data Animator can read the data by row or column, making this plug-in versatile enough when dealing with a client who doesn’t understand spreadsheets that well.

Data Animator is applied to any layer in the Timeline.  In Adobe After Effects, this could be a Solid, footage, or Adjustment Layer.  In Final Cut Pro, the effect can be applied to any layer, but will probably be a gradient or solid color layer.

There are eight different charts that can be applied to the layer based on the end need. 

Once applied, chart data can be loaded from the comma delimited text file.  This simple first step can actually save headaches later on.  On any future launch, the effect will look for that same text file.  This means any updates made to the file will automatically update in the After Effects of Final Cut Pro project.  So, the next time the client comes to you with updated figures, it is a simple matter of launching the program and re-rendering the composition.

Working with the various charts is quite easy.  Users have the ability to create traditional 2D, 2D with depth, or completely 3D charts.  I have a feeling most clients will want a fancy 3D chart, as this plug-in allows you to animate camera and chart rotation.

The ability to have a chart or graph rotate in 3D space adds impact to the message being delivered.  Data Animator allows the user to animate the position and rotation of the chart, as well as the manipulation of a virtual camera.   While the virtual camera settings work great in Final Cut Pro, After Effects users are going to be disappointed to learn Data Animator does not utilize AE’s 3D camera.  This can be solved by using expressions to link the Data Animator camera to an After Effects camera in your scene.

Data Animator also has a virtual light, but it is very limiting.  You can only change the light type (point, parallel, or spot), color, intensity, ambient color/intensity, and so on, but you can’t move the light around in the scene.

All of the data can be animated over time, but not in the way one might thing.  Instead of setting keyframes for each data set, users enter a duration that Data Animator will use to build all the data.  For most charts, the duration will be the length of the entire build, but for Bar charts, the duration determines how long it will take each element to appear on screen.

I am really pleased with the numerous ways Data Animator allows the user to manipulate and display data.  However, with everything that is going on, Data Animator is incredibly slow.  Even with a fully decked out G5 with 2GB of RAM, making a single change to a camera position, color, or data order takes several seconds to update.

Even with slow update speeds, Data Animator is a great plug-in for anyone who needs to animate and spice up boring charts and graphs used in corporate and news presentations. For a 1.1 release, Data Animator is very solid, but updates in future versions will make it even more valuable to end users.  I give Data Animator a rating of 4 out of 5.

Data Animator is available from Digital Anarchy ( for $495.

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Stephen Schleicher has crossed the country several times over the last couple of years going from Kansas to Atlanta , Georgia, and Southern California. In his time traveling, he has worked as an editor, graphic designer, videographer, director, and producer on a variety of video productions ranging from small internal pieces, to large multimedia
corporate events.

Currently, Stephen shares his knowledge with students at Fort Hays State University who are studying media and web development in the Information Networking and Telecommunications department. When he is not shaping the minds of university students, Stephen continues to work on video and independent projects for State and local agencies and organizations as well as his own ongoing works.

He is also a regular contributor to Digital Producer, Creative Mac, Digital Webcast, Digital Animators, and the DV Format websites, part of the Digital Media Online network of communities (, where he writes about the latest technologies, and gives tips and tricks on everything from Adobe After Effects, to Appleâ??s Final Cut Pro, LightWave 3D, to shooting and lighting video.

He has a Masters Degree in Communication from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. As a forward thinker, he wrote his Thesis on how Information Islands and e-commerce would play a major role in keeping smaller communities alive. This of course was when 28.8 dialup was king and people hadnâ??t even invented the word e-commerce.

And, he spends what little free time he has biking, reading, traveling around the country, and contemplating the future of digital video and its impact on our culture. You can reach him at [email protected]

Related Keywords:digital anarchy, data animator, final cut pro, after effects, charts, graphs, animate, plug-in, powerpoint presentations

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  • Digital Anarchy Data Animator by DMN Editorial at Aug. 27, 2006 9:11 pm gmt (Rec'd 3)

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