Road Trip Effect Pro from Sol Robots is one of those interesting applications that addresses a need you may not even realize you have. Once I started experimenting with its map animation tools, however, I realized that there are all kinds of uses for an app like this.
Road Trip Effect Pro has one primary purpose in life: To let you create and animate travel routes on maps. Odds are youive seen the animations Iim talking about. If you have ever watched an Indiana Jones movie, itis the effect where the red line moves across a map to show where Indy is traveling to.
Road Trip Effect Pro.
The application ships with a set of maps showing various parts of the world, but if you need a different map, Road Trip Effect Pro recognizes JPEG, BMP, PNG, PICT, and TIFF formats. That comes in handy if you need to use a city map image, or maybe show the route you followed on your quest through Middle Earth.
You can use an icon to show the lead end of your route, and several basic icons are included. Like maps, if you need a customized icon, you can use your own graphic instead. JPEG, BMP, PICT, and TIFF images are acceptable, and you can also apply a mask to areas that should be transparent.
Showing multiple trails, or routes, on your maps is no big deal since Road Trip Effect Pro supports multiple layers. Each route can be built on a unique layer, and the animations can start and stop at different points in the timeline. I was able to use layers to build a fairly complex animation that started with a single trail, then branched out into three trails, and then branched again off of one of the new trails.
Each point on your route can be labeled, too. Thatis a nice feature if your intended audience needs help identifying individual point locations.
Each route can sit on its own layer and appear at different timeline locations.
Road Trip Effect Pro uses its own file format, but it does build QuickTime movies that you can use in other applications or as stand-alone movie files. Movies can be saved in NTSC, Pal, HD, and custom formats. After a movie is saved, you can place it in iMovie, Final Cut, Keynote, or any other application that recognizes QuickTime movies.
Saved animations are QuickTime compatible.
Aside from the obvious "This is the route we took on our summer vacation" use, Road Trip Effect Pro is also a great tool for creating animated maps showing wildlife migration routes, historical travels, demonstrating military maneuvers, and more. If you use an image of a timeline, you can even use the trail animations to show the progression of time and highlight key events.
Road Trip Effect Pro isnit expensive at US$24.95, but if you donit need multiple layers or the ability to generate movies in custom size formats, you can purchase Road Trip Effect for $9.95.
The QuickTime animations work in applications like iMovie.
Performance was acceptable, although PowerPC-based Macs may occasionally see some choppy performance. My 1.67 GHz PowerBook G4 with 1.5 GB RAM was occasionally sluggish when I was positioning route points or previewing my animation. Sol Robots recommends at least 1GB RAM, and I have to agree. The final movies I made, however, where perfectly smooth.
Even though you really donit need much in the way of documentation for this application, itis still nice to have some. When I couldnit locate a Read Me file or PDF, I tried the Help menu. Pretty much everything you need to know is there, but Iim a big fan of making it clear right up front where to go for instructions.
The Bottom Line
Road Trip Effect Pro is far more useful than it appears on first glance. The ability to animate routes on a map is great, but thatis just a small part of what you can use it for. Since the movies it creates are in QuickTime format, you can easily use them in iMovie projects, Keynote presentations, or on your Web site, which makes this a great tool for anyone that wants to add a splash to the maps in their movies.