Alice 3: Making Simple Animations with Actors

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Alice 3 Cookbook

Alice 3 Cookbook

79 recipes to harness the power of Alice 3 for teaching students to build attractive and interactive 3D scenes and videos

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(For more resources on on this subject, see here.)

Introduction

Alice 3 provides an extensive gallery with hundreds of customizable 3D models that you can easily incorporate as actors. This article provides many tasks that will allow us to start making simple animations with many actors in the 3D environment provided by Alice.

We will search for models of specific animals in the diverse galleries. We will locate and orient the actors in the 3D space. We will give some simple orders to the actors to create simple animations.

Browsing galleries to search for a specific class

In this recipe, we will create a new project and set a simple scene. Then we will browse the different packages included in Alice to search for a specific class. We will visualize the thumbnail icons that represent each package and class.

Getting ready

We have to be working on a project in order to be able to browse the galleries. Therefore, we will create a new project and set a simple scene. Follow these steps:

  1. Select File New…| in the main menu to start a new project. A dialog box will display the six predefined templates with their thumbnail previews in the Templates tab.
  2. Select GrassyProject.a3p as the desired template for the new project and click on OK. Alice will display a grassy ground with a light blue sky.
  3. Click on Edit Scene, at the lower-right corner of the scene preview. Alice will show a bigger preview of the scene and will display the Model Gallery at the bottom.
  4. Go to the Model Gallery and select Generic Alice Models Environments | Skies|. Use the horizontal scroll bar to find the ForestSky class.
  5. Click on the ForestSky thumbnail. Leave the default name, forestSky, for the new instance and click OK to add it to the existing scene. The scene preview will replace the light blue sky with a violet one. Many trees will appear at the horizon, as shown in the next screenshot:

    (Move the mouse over the image to enlarge it.)

How to do it…

Follow these steps to browse the different packages included in Alice to search for a specific class:

  1. Make sure that Alice is displaying the scene editor. If you see the Edit Code label at the lower-right corner of the big preview of the scene, it means that Alice is displaying the scene editor. If you see the Edit Scene label at the lower-right corner of a small scene preview, you should click on this label to switch to the scene editor. You will see the Model Gallery displayed at the bottom of the window. The initial view of the Model Gallery shows the following three packages located in the gallery root folder, as shown in the following screenshot:
    • Looking Glass Characters: This package includes many characters that perform realistic animations for the characters. For example, you can make a person walk with a simple call to a procedure.
    • Looking Glass Scenery: This package includes different kinds of scenery elements.
    • Generic Alice Models: This package includes models that provide the basic and generic procedures. For example, you can move a person with a simple procedure call, but there isn’t a procedure to make the person walk.

  2. If you don’t see the previously shown screenshot with the three packages, it means that you are browsing a subfolder of gallery and you need to go back to the gallery root folder. Click on the gallery button and Alice will display the thumbnails for the three packages. If you don’t see the three packages, you should check your Alice installation.
  3. Click on the search entire gallery textbox, located at the right-hand side of the gallery button.
  4. Enter rab in the search entire gallery textbox. Alice will query for the classes and packages that contain the rab string and will display the thumbnails for the following classes, as shown in the next screenshot:
    • Rabbit
    • Scarab
    • WhiteRabbit
    • Parabola

  5. Now you know that you have two different rabbits, Rabbit and WhiteRabbit. You can select your favorite rabbit and then add it as an actor in the scene.
  6. Select File Save as…| and give a name to the project, for example, MyForest. Then, you can use this new scene as a template for your next Alice project.

How it works…

Alice organizes its gallery in packages with hierarchical folders. The previously mentioned three packages are located in the gallery root folder. We can browse each package by clicking on its thumbnail. Each time we click on a thumbnail, the related sub-folder will open and Alice will display the thumbnails for the new sub-folders and the classes.

The thumbnail that represents a folder, known as a package, displays a folder icon at the upper-left corner and includes the preview of some of the classes that it includes. The next screenshot shows the thumbnails for three packages, amusementpark, animals, and beach. These packages are sub-folders of the Generic Alice Models package:

The thumbnails for classes don’t include the previously mentioned folder icon and they show a different background color. The next screenshot shows the thumbnails for three classes, Bird1, BirdBaby, and BlueBird:

The names for packages included within one of the three main packages use lowercase names, such as, aquarium, bedroom, and circus. The names for classes always start with an uppercase letter, such as, Monitor and Room. When a class name needs more than one word, it doesn’t use spaces to separate them but it mixes lowercase with uppercase to mark the difference between words, such as, CatClock and OldBed.

The main packages contain hundreds of classes organized in dozens of folders. Therefore, we might spend hours browsing the galleries to find an appropriate rabbit for our scene. We took advantage of Alice query features to search the entire gallery for all the classes that contain a string. This way, we could find a simple rabbit, Rabbit, and a dressed rabbit, WhiteRabbit.

There’s more…

While you type characters in the search entire gallery textbox, Alice will query all the packages and will display the results in real-time. You will notice that Alice changes the results displayed as you are editing the textbox. The results for your search will include both packages and classes that contain the entered string. For example, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the search entire gallery textbox, located at the right-hand side of the gallery button.
  2. Enter bug in the search entire gallery text box. Alice will query for the classes and packages that contain the bug string and will display two thumbnails. One thumbnail is the bugs package and the other thumbnail is the Ladybug class, as shown in the following screenshot:

If you think that Ladybug isn’t the appropriate bug you want as an actor, you can click on the thumbnail for the bugs package and you will find many other bugs. When you click on the thumbnail, the text you entered in the search entire gallery textbox will disappear because there is no filter being applied to the gallery and you are browsing the contents of the gallery Generic Alice Models | animals | bugs| package.

You can add a Beetle or a Catepillar, as shown in the following screenshot:

Creating a new instance from a class in a gallery

In this task, we will add a new actor to an existing scene. We will drag and drop a thumbnail of a class from the gallery and then we will learn how Alice adds a new instance to the scene.

Getting ready

We want to add a new actor to an existing scene. Therefore, we will use an existing project that has a simple scene.

  1. Open an existing project based on one of the six predefined Alice templates. You can open the MyForest project saved in the Browsing galleries to search for a specific class recipe in this article.
  2. Select Starting Camera View in the drop-down list located at the top of the big scene preview.

How to do it…

Follow these steps to add a new instance of the WhiteRabbit class:

  1. Search for the WhiteRabbit class in the gallery. You can browse gallery Generic Alice Models | animals| or enter rab in the search entire gallery textbox to visualize the WhiteRabbit thumbnail.
  2. Drag the WhiteRabbit thumbnail from the gallery to the big scene preview. A bounding box that represents the 3D model in the 3D space will appear, as shown in the next screenshot:

  3. Keep the mouse button down and move the mouse to locate the bounding box in the desired initial position for the new element.
  4. Once you have located the element in the desired position, release the mouse button and the Declare Property dialog box will appear.
  5. Leave the default name, whiteRabbit, for the new instance and click on OK to add it to the existing scene. The scene preview will perform an animation when Alice adds the new instance and then it will go back to the starting camera view to show how the new element appears on the scene. The next screenshot shows the new dressed white rabbit added to the scene, as seen by the starting camera:

  6. Select File Save as…| from Alice’s main menu and give a new name to the project. Then, you can make changes to the project according to your needs.

How it works…

When we dropped the thumbnail for the WhiteRabbit class, the Declare Property dialog box provided information about what Alice was going to do, as shown in the following screenshot:

Alice defines a new class, MyWhiteRabbit, that extends WhiteRabbit. MyWhiteRabbit is a new value type for the project, a subclass of WhiteRabbit. The name for the new property that represents the new instance of MyWhiteRabbit is whiteRabbit. This means that you can access this new actor with the whiteRabbit name and that this property is available for scene. Because the starting camera view is looking at the horizon, we see the rabbit looking at the camera in the scene preview.

If you select TOP in the in the drop-down list located at the top of the big scene preview, you will see the rabbit on the grassy ground and how the camera is looking at the rabbit. The next screenshot shows the scene seen from the top and you can see the camera with a circle around it:

There’s more…

When you run the project, Alice shows a new window with the rendered scene, as seen by the previously shown camera, the starting camera. The default window size is very small. You can resize the Run window and Alice will use the new size to render the scene with a higher resolution. The next time you run the project, Alice will use the new size, as shown in the next screenshot that displays the dressed white rabbit with a forest in the background:

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