If you believe everything you read on the world wide web (and don't we all?), then you'd believe that Apple is just about ready to release it's next generation operating system, Mac OS X Leopard (aka, version 10.5). Aside from the usual bells and whistles under the hood, the snazzy glassy and shiny facelifts, and the tweaked functionality of the existing built-in applications, it also brings about several advances in technology.

One of the most important new features for the projection designer will likely be Core Animation. According to Apple, Core Animation "lets Mac developers create applications and experiences without needing to know esoteric graphics and math techniques." In simple terms, this means that there are several animation features built right into the OS, and with the right combination of software and hardware, you should be able to create relatively complex animations with minimal effort.

Apple states that Core Animation can work with any kind of text; 2D graphics, such as JPEGS or PDFs; OpenGL renderings; and video, simultaneously. Core Animation combines all of these media layers and renders them together in real time while allowing the user to manipulate the layers with different effects (known as Core Image effects). In addition, if you alter the content in any of the layers contained in a Core Animation, it is automatically updated. As it is non-destructive, you can always remove any filters you may have applied. Another bonus is that Core Animation utilizes multi-core technology, so if your computer has multiple processors (all Intel Macs do), then Core Animation will use one processor while the application itself runs on another. This ought to prevent bottlenecking that occurs when processors share tasks.

While little else is known about Core Animation at this time, I suspect that working with it will be a behavior-based process, much like Apple's Motion software. Behavioral animation allows you to "play" the animation as if it were a musical instrument. For instance, rather than using keyframes to position an object along a circular path, you simply instruct it to "orbit" a point, and you control different parameters within the orbit such as speed. This type of behavioral programming allows for a much more fluid and natural sense of motion, especially when creating looped media.

In theory, tools such as Core Animation should help projection designers take big steps forward in terms of minimizing the time we spend sitting in front of our computers patiently waiting for a render to complete.