This is part of an Open University Course on Mathematics. The BBC and Open University (OU) came to the Laboratory to see if there was interest in producing a complete series of animations for the new OU Mathematics Course. They required about 10 to 25 minutes of quite simple animation per week. The excerpt here is part of the first week that was developed using GROATS to see if it could be achieved. Including developing a font for the animation, this was achieved by Bob Hopgood, Graham England and Bob Asbury within a week.
Most of the work for later weeks was done by Jeffrey Lickess. He spent a year of his Brunel Undergraduate Degree at the OU as an OU Research Student.
Tony Pritchett was the main contact with the OU. He wrote:
The television programmes of the OU Course in Mathematics are making extensive use of computer animation. The course is a first year University level course and the animation is used in a very specialised way to illustrate mathematical concepts. we think of it as a magic blackboard. For instance, we have storyboarded films to show the effect of differencing functions. We have shown how polynomials change their shape as their coefficients vary, how to explore a surface to find maxima and minima, and so on.
The delight for us is a freedom to display lines and perform mathematical operations on them, how we can magnify parts of the screen by ten thousand or a million at will. The curves move in so precisely a calculated fashion that you get a different effect from conventional animations - you no longer seem to be looking at a diagram which represents the equations but at the abstract functions themselves.
We commission the films in a conventional way starting with a storyboard, and then begin discussions with the computer people.
John Prior at the Culham Laboratory produced the first films for the Course. This was followed by the one shown on this page. Final runs for subsequent films were produced on the SC4020 at the Atlas Laboratory by Jeff Lickess. Debugging was carried out using a Calcomp pen plotter.
The Level 1 software used initially was the basic set of picture constructing subroutines available in Paul Nelson's SCCFOR system:
The same routines were developed for the Calcomp plotter and also a PDP-9 with a storage tube attached.
On top of the Level 1 routines, a set of Level 2 routines allowed the users to define their own coordinate systems and provided scissoring and masking functions. On top of these basic facilities, a library of basic graphics routines and a data language for specifying animated film sequences.
The production flowchart evolved into:
Several sequences were in production at the same time so that each weekly programme had the animation it required.