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Advantages and Disadvantages of Each Approach

Each of these strategies is totally viable for animating in Bryce. Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages.

With Auto-Key on, you always need to know when you are. With Auto-Key off, you need to know what exactly you're affecting and to be sure to record each change as you make it.

Auto-Key On

When Auto-Key is active, the good news is that any change that you make to an object over time will be recorded. The bad news is that any change that you make to an object over time will be recorded.

Of course, it all depends on whether the change that you made is one you intended for a certain portion of the time (the good-news scenario), or whether you intended to make a global change to an item for the entire sequence and actually made a local change for a portion of the sequence (the bad-news scenario). It's good when you want it to happen, and it's bad when you don't want it to happen.

The advantage to using Auto-Key is that your work is reduced to moving to a new time and then editing objects, the camera, or the environment. You are freed from the added thought process and actions needed to generate keyframes for each move your objects make. Auto-Key is quite a boon, especially when you're just starting out with animation in Bryce, because you can concentrate on questions such as "What does this thing do for animation?" and not have to worry about remembering to add the keyframe at each of the appropriate times.

The main trick to working with Auto-Key is to know when you are in relation to the attribute you are modifying.

Auto-Key and Scene File Size

At the same time, though, entrusting Bryce with the task of adding all those keyframes results in something we call "Auto-Key droppings," where initial keyframes exist for all items in your scene. The larger the scene, the larger the Auto-Key droppings pileÑand those droppings can create quite a pile of Auto-Key guano for scenes with lots and lots of objects.

A scene file filled with Auto-Key droppings is a larger scene file. Once Bryce considers an object to be animating, it allows scads more room to the file to accommodate all those real or mythical changes the object undergoes during the course of animation.

Our most flagrant example of conspicuous Auto-Key waste is the scene file for the Sierpinski object shown in Chapter 1. The scene file was constructed with Auto-Key on and has a total of 3,125 pyramids. Big mistake. The file size weighed in at over 27 MB and took forever to open and save (26 minutes to save the scene file!). When keyframes were removed from the scene, the scene took less than a minute to save, and the final file size was just over 7 MB. Auto-Key can get ugly. Very ugly.

Auto-Key Off

When Auto-Key is off, the good news is that you can exercise precise control when adding each keyframe to the sequence. The bad news is that you must exercise precise control when adding each keyframe to the sequence.

When Auto-Key is off, you need to be extremely conscious of each change that you are making to your objects or environment in your sequence. Not only do you need to know when you are, but you also need to know precisely what you are changing. For those attributes whose keyframes are set in tandem (Zoom X and Zoom Y, Moon Angle and Moon Tilt, sometimes Scale and Shear) you need to save keyframes for both.

You have to be master of each and every setting there is, including knowing which of the items on the Add Keyframe pop-up menu are worthless dead ends. Since we just provided you with the exhaustive list of what does what, it is possible to follow each and every animated attribute. If in doubt, you can always add a keyframe for All Timelines for a particular object.

The advantage of an Auto-Key off sequence is that you won't have any Auto-Key droppings that you need to manage. Turning Auto-Key off is essential for large scene files containing lots and lots of objects.

The drawback to turning Auto-Key off is that you may go to a new time, make a change, and then forget to record or add it. Once you have introduced time into your scene and are animating with Auto-Key off, you must record the result of each and every change. If you don't, once you press the Play button, Bryce will display whatever has been keyframed and will disregard anything not keyframed. Your oh-so-carefully applied edit will be completely lost if you inadvertently failed to record it. (Here's a hankie!)

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