Sunday, March 4, 2007

Book Review: AutoCAD Onstage

AutoCAD Onstage: A Computer-Aided Design Handbook for Theatre, Film, and Television was written by Rich Rose in 1990.

Why, you may ask, am I reading a book about a drafting program that is currently coming out with yearly updates that is 17 years old? Well, honestly, when I first purchased the book I didn't pay attention, and it wasn't till I read the description on the first couple of pages about the computer system that it was truly obvious. But, I have other books from Rich Rose that are useful, and frankly I have an interest in the historical view of stagecraft. I thought that there might be some use in understanding the early start of AutoCAD, since many of the older commands are still buried within the program.

While obviously, many of the commands are easier to get to, and often more complicated (there seem to be more ways to enter a line for example), it is surprising what was around in the 1990 version of AutoCAD. It is interesting to note that while things are drafted in Full Scale, the limits, and such are all set up to be representative of 1 piece of paper, and each drawing would be 1 sheet. There are obviously alot of changes made in this area of AutoCAD. There are even a few commands that are still in AutoCAD today that I didn't know about! For instance, in the Undo command, you can type the number of step you want to back up, or you can mark the location. Once a position is marked, you can easily undo to this point.

I often use the clique that AutoCAD is like an iceberg, and that most users (particularly theatrical users) use only a very small part of what AutoCAD is capable of. It is interesting to note that within the book, even Rose alludes to that as well- he will point out several options of a command (such as Arc) and then list the other ways and tell the reader to play with these and learn them, but that they won't be as useful generally speaking, as the 2 methods he pointed out in the text.

While certainly, the Rich Rose text is too far out of date to actually learn the program from the book, it is useful to flip through and gain a sense of the history of CAD, and perhaps an insight into command development. First to understand current commands better, but also to understand why some commands still exist (limits for example, are no longer very useful, and relative and absolute entry aren't used directly as often today).

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