The first version of
StageToolswas 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
Geomviewis 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
Cprogram that produces the required data, and have
Geomviewdisplay 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
StageToolsalleviates this difficulty by providing
Geomviewusers 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
StageToolswas 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
Geomviewto create single images that can be put together into a movie; indeed,
Geomviewhas 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
Geomviewwas 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
StageManager, addresses this need. It makes it easy to take the objects created by
CenterStageand 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,
StageManagerautomates 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
StageToolspackage for creating geometry for the web" , 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
StageManagerthat are found on the
StageToolshome page . 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 was produced using
StageTools, except where otherwise indicated.