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The first version of StageTools was developed beginning in late 1994 at the Geometry Center, a National Science and Technology Center sponsored by the NSF, as a companion product to their Geomview program. Geomview is a viewer for objects in 3D (and higher), but it does not have a mechanism for producing the objects that it displays. Rather, it relies on other programs, called modules, to generate geometric data for it. The usual method of doing this is to write a C program that produces the required data, and have Geomview display the results from it. To change the object, one must change and recompile the program, a process that is time-consuming, error prone, and not very interactive. The CenterStage component of StageTools alleviates this difficulty by providing Geomview users with a means of specifying curves, surfaces, polyhedra, vectors, and so on. These then can be combined into compound objects that are controlled by input devices such as sliders and type-in areas, so that the geometry can update dynamically in response to changes in the values of these inputs.

With the rapid growth of the World-Wide Web that began as StageTools was being written, and with the development of the MPEG and animated GIF formats, it became clear that animations could play an important role in documents distributed via the web. It is possible within Geomview to create single images that can be put together into a movie; indeed, Geomview has been used in the past to create several high-quality mathematical videos, but this involved substantial effort on the part of several highly trained Geometry Center staff members. A better and easier method was needed if Geomview was to be used to create the kinds of short animated clips that could be used in web-based research papers and educational materials. A second StageTools module, StageManager, addresses this need. It makes it easy to take the objects created by CenterStage and write a "movie script" for them that indicates when they enter and leave the "stage" and what actions they perform while there. Once the script is written, StageManager automates the task of producing the individual frames and combining them into a single movie.

An overview of the features of these two programs is given in the paper "The StageTools package for creating geometry for the web" [Skip], which can be found in my publications list. That material will not be repeated here; we assume that the reader already is familiar with the information it contains. The next section gives some advice on how to obtain a copy of StageTools; one can then follow the instructions in the short tutorials for CenterStage and StageManager that are found on the StageTools home page [Skip]. The remaining sections describe some of the design decisions involved in the program, the known problems with it, and its download and usage statistics.

All the images pictured on my artwork web page [Link] was produced using StageTools, except where otherwise indicated.

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Created: 08 Sep 2001
Last modified: 07 Jan 2001 06:00:05
Comments to: dpvc@union.edu
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